Archives For School of Hard Knocks Series

As you may have guessed, I have come to realize very clearly over time that there is a remarkable gap between what we learn in business school and what we need to be successful in the ever-evolving world of global business – as such over the past few weeks I have focused on some of the more critical items. Understand that I am the beneficiary of some of the finest universities and professors in the world (and respect and honor both greatly), but I am also a realist who has been out there long enough to know with certainty that there are certain skills just not taught in business school that are indeed critical to success, and often survival, in global business. I realize there are many I have not covered, but the goal is just to bring the challenge to the forefront so we can begin to proactively discuss the issues and identify ways to ensure the success of our global executives. Here is the last installment in this series with two final(for now) important aspects of global leadership that are not typically taught in business school:

1)   How to Acquire Talent That Drives Your Success

Why is it that leaders can not be instructed in business school as to how to hire to facilitate their own success? I come across more global leaders that were just not taught how to build strong teams through talent acquisition or development. Why aren’t leaders taught that it is actually detrimental to your success to hire people just like you? It would seem to be common sense that a leader would hire to fill his own gaps, thus making the leader, the team, and the organization much stronger…but it is not.

Here are a few high level tips:

  • Rule #1: Understand your own strengths and weaknesses – until you do, you will never build exceptional teams.
  • Rule #2: Have a vision. Set your goals. Know what you are trying to achieve. Then, and only then, hire for that impossible future – you will be far more likely to recruit those who will facilitate your success if you hire with the future in mind.
  • Rule # 3: Do not hire people just like you. If you hire good candidates that have the same strengths and weaknesses (yes, we all have them) you have, you will never fill in the gaps and create a sustainable model that drives your success. A well-rounded team that compliments your skills will take you much further, much faster.
  • Rule #4: Hire for diversity, not continuity . The more diverse the individuals, the bigger pool of knowledge and talent resides on the team and in the organization. Continuity will emerge naturally – through a much more interesting variety of people.
  • Rule #5: Hire for accountability & ability to execute. Make sure you have people who consistently deliver – great ideas and an enviable vision are useless if there is no accountability for results and an inability to execute.

2)   How To Incorporate Cultural Orientations

In today’s global marketplace, it is almost impossible to work within a single culture. The skill to work across cultures is such a critical need, yet it provokes little interest in a university setting. Because cultural orientations affect our assumptions and perspectives, it is important to understand what a cultural orientation is and how it affects worldviews. Everyone has specific orientations, or ways of perceiving the world around them, primarily derived from our cultural background and the way we were raised.  These orientations, or world-views, combine to determine who we are and how we see the world around us.

If global leaders were given the knowledge and opportunity to leverage orientations to better understand their own perceptions, as well as helping them to understand the complex network of cultures surrounding them, they could begin to leverage cultural orientations as a communication tool for discovering creative solutions to problems. This would highlight the unique potential of everyone involved, from every culture, and would provide significant leverage to achieve success on the journey toward high performance and fulfillment –  providing the opportunity to far exceed expectations.

If the concept of cultural orientation was taught in business school, leaders would have an enormous head start – allowing them to discover new options, shift perspectives, and quite possibly, to leverage differing orientations to move between and amongst different geographies, functions, and cultures to generate exceptional business results.

Those skills not taught in business schools are so deeply rooted in the day to day operations of global business, perhaps they are not well suited to traditional university teaching. If this is the case, where and how do we ensure our global leaders are learning these critical skills? We know that corporate training can often be ineffective and retention rates are low – especially for busy executives that make decisions and interact on various levels all day, every day. If we are to tool our executives with the skills to accelerate their organizations, we will need to better leverage non-traditional learning to provide reinforcement models so that learned skills become ingrained in everyday actions. We will need to look to effective, ongoing methods – often based in experience rather than theory – to facilitate organizational success on every level.

This week I would like to challenge you to get involved and make a difference in a young leader’s life – teach those skills, and develop those characteristics, that are not taught in business school. How are you going to engage in a young leaders life and make a difference on an ongoing basis?

I would love for you to engage the discussion, and let us know how you believe that current global business leaders can make a difference and fill the gaps that business school may leave. Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next installment of Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.

High potential global leaders quickly realize that there are challenges and roadblocks that they were not prepared for and that had not previously been contemplated.  Topics such as politics, networking, accountability, challenging the status quo, mentoring/coaching, execution, big picture/small picture balance,  etc. are not necessarily taught in business school, but these obstacles can derail careers and cause people to question their commitment to global business. If we are to successfully evolve leadership on a global basis, it is vitally important that we understand these challenges and ensure they are addressed – if not in business school, then certainly within our organizations. Here is the second installment with two more important aspects of global leadership that are not typically taught in business school:

1)   How To Navigate Organizational Politics

The definition of organizational  politics, or (more importantly) how to navigate them, is simply not taught in business school, yet the ability to master the political chessboard is absolutely essential to every executive’s success. A critical component to organizational success is sponsorship and stakeholder engagement. If you engage support from above, laterally, and below, you are likely to succeed. This equates to political influence. To influence others requires building relationships of trust and persuading others to follow, thus leading to power within your domain. To ignore politics in your organization is to ignore those underlying forces that account for the difference between success and failure between equally talented people.  People who understand and use politics to their advantage are much more likely to succeed than their politically naïve counterparts.

Leaders need to quickly identify those likely to support them and build strong coalitions aligning individual needs with organizational goals. You must realize that in addition to power and influence, organizational politics is a function of culture – and that politics will always serve both individual and organizational agendas. In order to master the political chessboard, you must to take a strategic approach to politics and should employ the following tips, while recognizing this is not an exhaustive list:




  • Spend time with opponents: Most of us spend time with our allies, who we trust and who agree with us… when the people we have the most to learn from are our opponents.
  • Never take anything personally: If it’s not personal it is far easier to maintain focus on what we are trying to achieve. It is our choice whether or not we will personalize things that happen.
  • Constantly reframe: It is natural to assume that it is “all about us” – the alternative is to recognize that much of politics is about people working to get things done within a diverse community of interests.
  • Leverage power dynamics: Recognize that power comes in several forms: legitimate, referent, reward, expert, and coercive power. Much of politics is based on power – who’s got it and how you can use it to your advantage.
  • Build on mutually beneficial interlocking relationships: The better you are at networking, the better you will be at organizational politics.
  • Focus on interests, not positions: In the interest of finding common ground, care about people’s interests and ask more questions.

Leaders need to inspire people to act by creating clarity and unity of purpose – building synergies through organizational values. We can leverage political skills to manipulate others… or to influence them to achieve more than they ever thought possible. As a global leader, which do you believe will accomplish more and move the organization forward faster?

2)   How To Find A Strong Mentor / How To Be A Value-add Mentor

Seeking a qualified mentor is as difficult as becoming one – and business school does not prepare our leaders for either scenario. Early in a career, a mentor is invaluable, and having the necessary skills to seek out and convince a value-add leader to invest in you can expedite your career exponentially. It’s hard to overestimate the value of a confidant from whom you can seek feedback on your ideas, advice on strategy, or a little support when things are not going as well as expected. But cultivating a mentor can be difficult – it takes perseverance to find the right person (with the right skills, position and attitude) that is willing to invest significant time and energy into your success. Unfortunately, the knowledge and wisdom to engage a mentor or coach early in a leaders career is not something that is readily facilitated in business school,  nor once out in the workplace when it could be truly effective and meaningful. Do not make the mistake that so many executives do (at any stage in your career) – find an exceptional mentor or hire a phenomenal coach.

Here are just a few qualities to seek,  either as an individual trying to identify a mentor or as a mentor seeking to maximize your value:



  • Willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise – A good mentor teaches what s/he knows willingly, understanding that good mentoring requires time and commitment. S/he is willing to share information and their ongoing support.
  • Acts as a positive role model – A good mentor exhibits the personal attributes it takes to be successful. S/he continually demonstrates the specific behaviors and actions required to succeed.
  • Takes a personal interest – A good mentor does not take his/her responsibility as a mentor lightly. S/he feels invested in a protégés and is committed to helping them find success and gratification in their chosen profession. Overall good mentoring requires empowering a mentee to develop their own strengths, beliefs, and personal attributes.
  • Provides guidance and constructive feedback – One of the key responsibilities of a good mentor is to provide guidance and constructive feedback to their mentee.
  • Good Listening Skills – a good mentor will genuinely listen, know your interests and commitments, and be able to ask you, first hand, how things are going.
  • Engenders Respect at all levels of the organization – A good mentor is someone who is well respected and whose contributions are appreciated.

The question remains – Can we facilitate the success of high potential global leaders through the acquisition of critical skills not taught in business school?

Because this is supposed to be a blogpost and not a book, I have addressed just two additional critical skills not taught in business school – the remainder of the abbreviated list will appear as next weeks post. I would love for you to engage the discussion, and let me know what skills you believe are critical to global business that are not taught in business school. Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the final (extended) installment of Business School or School of Hard Knocks?

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We go to business school to learn all the right skills, but what are the right skills? Of course we all need to know the fundamentals of basic business management, but what about  those critical, but less obvious, competencies that global executives must know in order to succeed? What are those essential skills not taught in business school that often cause high potential leaders to derail and never achieve their potential? Here are a few important aspects of global leadership that are not taught in business school:

1) How To Create A Global Vision:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizon are limited by obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were.”   ~ John F. Kennedy

The problem with this statement is that many global leaders do not know how to create a vision, do not realize how very vital it is to the success of their organization, nor what to do with the vision once they have finally figured it out. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Work backward from your imagination, rather than forward from your past –  the old adage, “What got you here, will not get you there” is an absolute truth.
  • Remember that whatever you can imagine, you can accomplish
  • Ask yourself some revealing questions as you develop your vision:
    • What is an enormous strategic opportunity within your domain/organization/industry?
    • What would change your business and your clients business forever?
    • What is missing that would truly revolutionize the products/services/processes/etc.? (Think Apple, Netflix, Facebook…)
    • What will take your company/domain from status quo to breakthrough?
    • What are you so passionate about that you would be willing to transform not only your company, but yourself?
  • Think through and understand what it is going to require of you and the organization to realize the vision: Realistically ensure the benefits outweigh the costs
  • Document and Publish an explicit, living, breathing, step by step plan that senior leaders, peers and staff can buy into and share ownership.

2) How to Execute With A Results Orientation

They don’t teach the dogged determination that creates the ability to execute in business school, but this quality is more important in making people successful and in executing in global business than any other. However, if that is all it takes to execute, why do so many executives lack this ability? Because there is no system, formula, strategy, or tactical plan behind the vision – there is a weak results orientation and a lack of process knowledge to support forward movement (aside from a few additional factors we will cover next week). Naturally, it is important to begin with the end in mind, but many executives are so focused on the end, they end up chasing their tails and accomplishing little. Here are some straight forward ways for executives to facilitate their ability to execute:

  • Focus on the process, not the prize – concentrate on what will produce the results, rather than the results themselves.
  • Get and stay connected – identify key strategic partners that can help you get where you want to go and consistently engage.
  • Have both a tactical and a strategic plan.
  • Execute one step at a time – By the inch it’s a cinch, by the yard it will be hard.
  • Consistently engage ALL key players across boundaries & borders – without the buy-in and commitment of critical resources you will never succeed.
  • Listen, don’t just hear – listen to what your subject matter experts are telling you and remain flexible in your gameplan.
  • Incorporate strict accountability measures – if no one is openly accountable, little will get done.

3) How To Network For Success

There is great power in knowing you can reach out to your network whenever you have a problem to solve, to be able to reach key influencers at conferences and meetings, to make an impression on audiences, to project confidence and trustworthiness, and to make friends with other successful people. The ability to connect on many levels is essential to success in global business – in fact many top executives say networking is one of the top reasons for their success. Surrounding yourself with successful and intelligent people will  allow you to consistently think smarter, as well as having access to brilliant people that will support your objectives and provide valuable insights. Networking presents opportunities to interact on a personal level and to develop profitable relationships. Most people have a reluctance to connect with strangers, however in business talking to strangers is essential and the only effective way to generate interest and support for what you do. It is so easy to stay within your controlled environment, however if you only talk to people you already know, you will miss significant opportunities to make new connections, establish valuable connections, and position yourself for success.

The greatest people in business have certain attributes in common. Some are natural gifts, others are learned attributes.  Beyond personal qualities –

Can we prevent the derailment of high potential global leaders through the acquisition of critical skills not taught in business school?

Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for Part 2 of “Business School or School of Hard Knocks?”