The Subtle Art of Saying No

Ever wondered why we tend to say “yes” to people when we really don’t want to? Blame it on human psychology or human beings being social animals. We find it extremely difficult to say no to anyone.  

We adore attention and feel gratified when others admire us, trust and look up to us. But when this takes the form of constant requests and more work for yourself, you detest being the go-to person. People want to say yes because they are afraid, afraid to disappoint others. We feel personally responsible for letting others down if we decline their proposition or their request for help. During these troubled times, with businesses being in jeopardy, everyone is overwhelmed, constantly working, and juggling work and relationships. Everyone is over-extended, and it is not the best soil to grow ideas or make sound business decisions.  

Are you saying a “good yes” or a “bad yes”?

What begins as an intent to help becomes a bad “yes” – simply because you do not have the productive capacity or knowledge to complete the task. Such a “yes” is bound for failure. When there is so much asking around in an organisation and collaborative overload, one should focus on moving to good yesses and good nos to avoid failures.  

How to say No?  

You have decided that you are going to turn down someone’s request to undertake a task. Now comes the even more difficult part: actually saying “no”! How do you effectively communicate your decision?  

Begin with a positive statement by appreciating the opportunity extended your way, that you were considered worthy enough to do justice to the job. But present your “but” in a way that shows you have carefully considered the proposition and convey the “why” of your decision. Let them realise that you did not decide to say no lightly, that the “no” was not because you are lazy, un-zealous to learn, or simply being difficult.  

Saying no can be an onerous process but trust me, it will prove to be more productive for yourself and the business. Base your decision on this checklist:  

1.    Do not let fear decide  

If you fear that saying “no” will stress your work relationship, remember that saying “yes” when you cannot deliver the results will stress you and the relationship even more. If the working relationship turns sour just because you said “no”, then it was never meant to be. Let it go.  

A decision taken under duress leads to stress on oneself and on work relationships

2.    Evaluate the proposition  

I know from personal experience when we are new to an organisation or a job, we are eager to learn because knowledge is power. Gain that power but keeping in view the quality you are gaining. Ask yourself what ‘value addition’ can you get from this task. Ask questions such as why, when, and what is needed for the task. Doing due diligence on someone’s request is respecting them and yourself.  

3.   Remember what you want to be known for  

What may seem like an opportunity to learn for you could become an opportunity for others to learn a thing or two about you. When you say “no”, back it up with legitimate and fair reasons, tell them why the proposition is not worth your time or effort or simply that you do not have that kind of time to invest in this project. You already have enough on your plate. When the other person: your boss, your client, your colleague, hears your side of the story, they will understand your situation, and you will become known for your work ethics and values. You will be known for authenticity and for being a good decision-maker. Everyone will respect your decision when you say “no” the next time because they will know there is a genuine reason behind it, and it’s just not a lack of interest or laziness involved. They will even bring better propositions to you that you will find difficult to turn down. They will try to please you and not the other way round.  

When you say “yes” to someone’s request, you commit to executing and delivering results.

4.    Deliver results  

The only consideration that should drive your professional decisions should be results. When you say “yes” to someone’s request, you commit to executing and delivering results. You do not want to be in a position where you realise later that either you cannot, are not allowed to, or should not do so. Do not bite more than you can chew. Do not be hard on yourself thinking that you are being difficult. Convey that you are making a good business decision.  

5.    Provide options  

While it is not easy to say “no” to someone who had high hopes on your saying “yes” and was relying on you for completing the task, remember that people come to you because you are a problem-solver and are resourceful. If you cannot do the job yourself, give them other options on how to complete the job or provide solutions to resolve the issue. It will save your time and help build trust with team members that learnt something valuable when they approached you.   

You can also choose to defer the project instead of completely shutting it down. Offer them a plan where you can join the team at a later stage and be more valuable once the project’s gone past its conception stage.   

6.    Don’t be afraid to say the ‘C’ word  

The majority of the time, bosses try to use influence to get things done. Little do they realise that when they use power, they lose influence.  

Photo credit: Canva.com

Every employer has a budget, and the more he can get done without expending his budget, the better (the lesser the merrier, in this case). This is one of the most frustrating and de-motivating situations when you are asked to deliver more results and but are not “C”ompensated for that extra work. You might say “yes” to the extra load now and then, just to be nice or on the pretext of learning something new, or simply because the boss asked you to do so, but this will eventually burn you out. Be firm to tell the work is simply beyond your pay scale and justifies an extra dollar or two.  

It is a misconception that you must be a “Yes Man” or a “Yes Woman” to be successful and boost your career. Remember Jim Carrey’s movie – Yes Man? The film is a classic story where the protagonist is encouraged and made to promise to answer “Yes!” to every opportunity, request, or invitation that presents itself. After a series of interesting events in his life, he realises that the covenant was merely a starting point to open his mind to other possibilities, not to permanently take away his ability to say no if he needed to.  

So, are you the go-to person at your workplace? Do you always end up saying yes? How do you strategically say no? 

Attribution, to avoid retribution: referencing and citations for academic writing

In my previous blog, I wrote a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective abstract for academic papers. Continuing further in the same direction, this week I would like to discuss referencing and citations. As I mentioned earlier, writing an abstract is not rocket science, and neither are referencing and citating.  

Now, referencing is an important academic practice. But it becomes even more important when you are studying at University level. It is thus imperative to understand the correct way to reference and cite your sources in your master’s degree assignments, academic papers, or dissertation. This blog is your one-stop shop about what, how and where, style guides, and examples of referencing and citations.  

PC: Canva.com

Let’s begin! 

So, first things first, what is the difference between referencing and citations? 

While undertaking your masters’ studies, you will constantly hear from your professors to reference your work and cite the sources of your research and ideas.  

Referencing 

As the name suggests, referencing refers to the source of work that you used in your paper. The readers should be able to find and read for themselves the original source of information that one has read or considered in their academic piece.  

Citations 

Citations, on the other hand, are brief mentions of the author or the external source used in writing the paper. A citation is, in other words, an abbreviated reference. While both inform the reader of the sources of information used, there is a fine difference between a reference and a citation.  Here are some key differences between references and citations: 

Scope  

A reference is a complete record of the source that has been sought or cited in the paper.  

A citation is disclosing the source within the main body and thus is also referred to as an ‘in-text’ citation. It provides just basic information such as the authors’ names, year of publication, and perhaps the page number if a sizeable quote is provided.  

Placement  

References are listed at the end of the document, on a page having its own title (“List of references”, “References”, “Works cited”). 

Citations are presented within the body of the document where we speak of the ideas or results of the source we are citing..  

Format  

References provide the reader with information such as the authors’ names, the publication date, the title (of the book or article), page numbers, publisher and place of publishing, etc. 

A citation provides less information, such as the last names of the authors and the publication year, such that it does not disrupt the reading flow. 

Both references and citations give credit to the authors whose ideas have been discussed in your work, in addition to supporting or criticizing an argument. This is additionally critical to avoid plagiarism in academic writing (topic for another blog!). 

PC: Canva.com

Different styles of referencing and citating 

Different academic disciplines prefer specific referencing styles. In business programmes (such as the MBAs, MSc’s), you will often be asked to use Harvard or APA styles, whereas in Law programmes (LLM, LLB) you will most often be asked to use Oxford or OSCOLA. You should always check the programme handbooks and assignment briefs, and in doubt, with your instructor what referencing style they expect for the assignment or academic paper you are writing.   

The references should be regrouped on a new page at the end of the paper. This list gives the complete information to identify and locate all sources used in the paper. There should be a corresponding entry in the list of references for all in-text citations that were used. References typically follow an alphabetical order of authors’ last names but under certain styles the order of appearance will rather be used. 

Among the different styles used by different disciplines, here are the 6 most frequently used styles in writing academic papers, each with a very specific purpose they fulfil: 

  1. APA (6th or 7th Edition) 
  1. Harvard 
  1. Oxford (OSCOLA) 
  1. Chicago 
  1. Vancouver  
  1. MHRA  

The style guides specify the kind of information and how it should be displayed for different types of sources (books, articles, websites, images, ebooks, etc.) – ensuring consistency across not only your work, but across the entire field of study that uses that style. 

At first look, these may all seem complicated, and daunting, but there are tools that can help you manage your sources, references, and citations. 

Graphical user interface, application, Word

Description automatically generated

For example, Word has a tool called “Citations & Bibliography” which allows you to enter your sources in a database (“Manage Sources”), to insert in-text citations that are automatically updated if needed (“Insert citation”), and to generate your list of references (“Bibliography”) according to the specific style you need (“Style”). 

External tools also exist, such as Zotero, Mendeley, EndNote, or CiteThemRight – which have pretty much the same functionalities – managing your references with one of these tools will save you a gigantic among of time and effort, so by all means, pick the one that works best for you and run with it. 

Examples 

I promised you some examples, so here goes: 

Harvard / APA styles 

In-text citation 

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2019), or Saunders et al. (2019), when the author’s names are part of the sentence, or (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2019) or (Saunders et al., 2019) when they are not. 

Reference list entry 

Saunders, M. N. K., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2019) Research methods for business students. Eighth Edition. New York: Pearson. 

Oxford style (OSCOLA) 

In-text citation 

OSCOLA uses numeric references, with the full reference given in a correspondingly numbered footnote. So, in your text, you would simply put a superscript number by inserting a footnote1 and then the footnote would contain the reference as: 

Mark NK Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill, Research Methods for Business Students (Eighth Edition, Pearson 2019). 

Reference list entry 

Saunders MNK, Lewis P and Thornhill A, Research Methods for Business Students (Eighth Edition, Pearson 2019) 

Note the difference between the footnote reference and reference list entry – in the footnote, you give the author names in “firstname, lastname” format, whereas in the reference list you give it in “lastname, f.” format. 

If this looks complicated, it is! 😊 Which is why I reiterate my advice to use a reference management tool – whichever one works for you. 

Hope this prepares you well for writing your academic paper or assignments.  If you are stuck or have any questions, our highly qualified, world class faculty will guide you through using the correct methods and techniques for referencing and citations.  

7 ways to improve your Critical Thinking

One of the things that I dislike about corporate culture is the many different terms that get thrown around to describe a logical and an otherwise common-sense action. Many managers and companies like to create new terms and abbreviations for actions and rules they have incorporated. However, the thing is, the more popular terms like ‘critical thinking’ are still around for a reason – they work.

The word ‘critical’ might have a negative connotation, and you might wonder – “What is the point of thinking negatively?” But where ‘critical thinking’ actually helps is in understanding all the flaws in an argument or a decision, counter or correct the process, and finally arrive at the stated objective. 

Critical Thinking is: Independent Thinking + Information Analysis = Arriving at a Judgement

What do critical thinkers do?

They think, they question, they do not accept everything at face value, using their ability to reason and to solve problems through logical reasoning. This is why most employers would be keen to employ critical thinkers because they are the catalyst that will propel the company forward. 

So, what can you do to become a more critical thinker? 

Ask questions
  1. Asking questions – Don’t be afraid to question everything, don’t take anything at face value. Ask:
    1. What are you trying to achieve?
    2. How have you arrived at this conclusion or decision?
    3. How would I know what you have told me is accurate? Show me the proof and explain it to me.
    4. What might you have missed out or overlooked?
  2. Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups – One of my majors during graduation was physics, and one of the things I disliked was the proof of every theory started with “Assume…..”, which is why we used the headline of this point as our motto during physics class. But leaving our childish assumptions aside (because who are we to question some of the greatest scientific minds ever), in our mundane lives assuming things will just make an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me). So, question all assumptions. 
  3. Self-reflecting – Critical thinkers must be able to reflect on themselves. Ask yourself if your beliefs are based on logic or emotions. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and analyse your decisions or belief, recognising if you have any bias and if it played a role in your decision-making process.
  4. Listening – When you discuss something with someone, don’t get ahead of yourself and start thinking, but listen to their point of view. Only once you hear and understand their point of view can you have enough data to analyse and evaluate, and offer alternatives if required. 
  5. Understanding the motive – Understanding the motives behind the source of the data you are basing your decisions on is essential because the data will always be skewed towards the source’s beliefs. For example, in the US media, the same story on President Donald Trump or President Joseph Biden will be covered in a completely different way by Fox News and CNN. That is why you have to question what you are being told. 
  6. Researching – Today, we are blessed with endless sources of information, and all of them easily accessible. Do your research taking advantage of all these sources of information and use your critical thinking to arrive at the best decision possible. 
  7. Keep an opened mind – So, you looked at data from multiple sources, applied critical thinking, and arrived at a conclusion. But still, going into a discussion with the assumption that you are right is wrong. As mentioned in point number four, if you assume you are right and are not listening, you will fall into point number two.

Learning to develop your critical thinking skills will go a long way in helping you analyse data and arrive at the best decision possible more often than not. Comment below if you know any other way in which we can develop critical thinking skills, we would love to hear from you!

Analyse data to arrive at decisions

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and master’s degrees, in general, will help you in developing your critical thinking skill. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and information on discounts we might offer.

Can Corporate Social Responsibility help in developing society?

Star Trek is the best tv series ever made! That is, at least in my opinion. I have watched almost every single series of Star Trek several times. It makes me happy. You might be wondering why I have started off talking about a tv series, and the answer is that it shows us what humanity can achieve—our unlimited potential as a species.  

Commander Spock and Captain James T. Kirk, played by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, pictured here in Star Trek: The Original Series

But the reality is we are lightyears away from achieving even a fraction of this potential. And I am not just talking about the challenges we faced in 2020 (which doesn’t seem to be improving in 2021). Even before the pandemic, our global society was struggling and teetering on self-destruction. Poverty, global warming, population, crime, natural disasters, fake news, illiteracy, unemployment and untrained labour, and healthcare are just some of the challenges we faced even before COVID-19.   

Society has been struggling with questions such as – how can we ensure healthcare for all? How can we ensure economic development and technological progress that benefits humanity?  

Typically, we would just bump this responsibility onto the government, the United Nations, or to some NGO. And while the lion’s share of the responsibility does rest on them, the fact is, if we need to achieve anything, we all need to work together – citizens, government, companies, NGO’s, everyone.  

United Nations

To simplify things, let’s say our goal is to ensure economic progress and social justice for all while preserving our environment. What is the responsibility of a company in this? Well, companies’ success depends on people – employees and customers. If employees have job security and job satisfaction, they will work hard, be loyal to the company, and invest in its success. Likewise, if people have the money and an understanding of the company and its products and services, they will invest in the company. Therefore for a company to truly succeed, it must contribute towards the development of society as a whole. 

Typically, a company would view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as something they have to do to keep the government happy and maintain a positive brand image. These are just some of the side benefits of an acceptable CSR policy. If properly executed, CSR could be an excellent tool to develop society, benefit all company stakeholders, and contribute to the company’s growth while minimising the impact on the planet.  

How a company implements CSR will depend on several factors such as location, government, industry, etc. The COVID-19 vaccine has just hit the markets worldwide and was developed in record time by several pharmaceutical companies. Consider the pharmaceutical industry as an example to highlight what companies in this sector could consider when developing an effective CSR doctrine.  

Pharmaceutical industry is big business
  • Offering safe and quality medication to as many people as possible. 
  • An effective pricing strategy that can benefit all players involved.  
  • Ongoing support to patients. If the company can show that they are not just interested in the sales of their medication but is also committed to the patients’ recovery and wellbeing, they would have earned the customers trust and loyalty.  
  • Having effective human resources, training, and safety policies that ensure all employees are taken care off. 
  • Compliance to all laws and regulations of the land (both local and global). 
  • Defining ethical business practices (read our previous blog on Business Ethics).  
  • Reducing environmental impact and carbon footprint.  

Hence, for a company to have an effective CSR doctrine, they should contribute to being an economically efficient, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable development. While ensuring growth and profits by encouraging innovation, reduce costs, fostering a sense of ownership among all involved in a project.  

An effective and well thought out Corporate Social Responsibility doctrine can spark innovation that will drive your company onto new heights.  

Do you consider CSR to be a driver for positive change in society, a spark of innovation for the company, or do you think CSR is just another thing a company has to do not to be shown in a negative light by its competitors? Comment below, we would love to hear your views! 

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and CSR is an integral part of it. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering in these particularly challenging times. 

How to declutter your life and get more organized

It has been on my to-do list since as far as I can remember - to declutter my life and get more organized. While I do get organized occasionally, it does not usually last for long. It is more of an effort than being a habit or a blessing to be born with.  I believe one wins half of their battles, personal or professional, if they are organized. Other attributes, such as better time management, efficiency, etc., are correlated and codependent. 

Better time management and efficiency are co-related

Moreover, this is one of the most common advice our current students and alumni give to the prospective students: to be organized right from the beginning of the master’s programme (please follow our #DILO series for more alumni experience and advice).  

“Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.”  

Christina Scalise  

We usually see clutter as a tangible physical item around us. However, clutter exposes a much deeper issue than what you can see with naked eyes. It stems from a mind full of unmade decisions. It may be seemingly small initially: clutter permeates every aspect of your life, affecting your personal and professional lives. One may feel overwhelmed, anxious and defeated even with simple things in life.   

Though it is not an overnight process, and the inherent procrastination will make it even more challenging to achieve, decluttering brings with it a plethora of benefits. It may require a great deal of motivation and inspiration.   

Here are some benefits of decluttering:  

  1. Less is more: Minimalism as a way of life. The fewer things you have, the fewer things you have to worry about.   
  1. Improves focus: With fewer things to manage, you will have improved focus on things that matter the most.   
  1. Save time and energy: While earlier you could be struggling to find time to finish even basic tasks, you will be surprised to have adequate resources to start the book you always wanted to read or hobbies and passions you wanted to pursue.   
Decluttering helps save time and energy
  1. Builds confidence: You will feel more confident when you are in-charge and in-control of your life.   
  1. Better decision making: Once you master the art of decluttering, you will become better with your decisions.   

Now, it is easier to preach than to practice. But I found some easy and effective ways to declutter life and become more organized overall. Here are five ways how:  

You’ll never get organized if you don’t have a vision for your life.

Linda L. Eubanks
  1. Have a vision: It is challenging to plan a journey if you do not know your destination. So, it is essential to set the ground right with an unobstructed vision for your personal and professional goal.   
Have a vision for a personal and professional goal
  1. Start small: Living in a cluttered environment brings a lot of stress and anxiety. Even after gathering all courage and motivation to declutter your life, it might be overwhelming to bring in the new change. Start by taking small steps and get accustomed to the changes.   

“Tidying is the act of confronting yourself.”  

Marie Kondo
  1. Be true to yourself: Everyone has some idea (and if not, they should!) of their strengths and weaknesses. Make a concerted effort to win over your weaknesses (and play to your strengths) and make sure weaknesses do not hinder the achievement of your goal.   
  1. Make a schedule/calendar: Create a daily schedule for yourself and note down your priorities. Cluster similar tasks and optimize them. When you are set in the routine, make weekly and monthly tasks’ schedules and write down everything. The calendar will help you stay focused and enables you to stick to your priorities.   
Create a schedule and set your priorities
  1. Be positive: It is essential to remain positive during the entire process of decluttering. As it is a gradual and ongoing process, do not lose your calm or give up. Stay focused on the benefits you would receive from decluttering.   

How do you declutter your life and become more organized? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Business Ethics – 4 steps to ethical decision making

Cutting corners, that is what we as human beings do. Now, that by itself is not wrong, finding a more comfortable, simpler way to get a job done is smart. But the line that separates ethical behaviour from unethical behaviour is narrow, and if you are not careful in your search for the smartest way to work, you could just end up crossing that line!

Before proceeding with the blog, I would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year 2021!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

What is ethics? 

It is merely the belief of what is right or wrong based on the individuals’ morals/values, which in turn might be dependent on the society or culture to which the individual belongs to. So, what does this mean? Simply put, ethics is very individualistic; what I believe to be right or wrong might be antithetical to what you believe to be right or wrong.

Having said that, as a society of human beings living in the 21st century, we generally have a consensus on what humanity considers ethical and unethical behaviour, as a result of which, laws are created to uphold and protect what we believe is ethical behaviour. Now, some of these laws might differ from region to region; however on the whole, most laws are put in place to protect the innocent and to uphold what society considers ethical.

Laws

Formal laws typically represent a consensus on ethical standards.

For companies and organisations, the laws and standards that are used to judge the ethics of an individual can be extended on a much grander and more detailed scale thus incorporating the ethics of society on a corporate level. So, if a company is known to follow the law, by implication, it is an ethical company. But that need not always be the case.  

Yes, laws can be looked on as a standard for companies to follow; however, they are just a basis for an ethical discussion. Because at the end of the day, the legal ethics will depend on whose eyes they are viewed from. For example, while stealing is considered illegal everywhere and therefore unethical, it is unfortunate and criminal that in some countries child labour is still legal and therefore ethical (at least from their point of view), even though a majority of the nations will consider it unethical (and in my personal opinion, it is).   

Ethical decisions

There are several factors, such as values, morals, culture, etc., that can have an impact on ethical decision making. For example, if you ask a group of individuals a precise and narrow ethical question, you might get as many answers as there are individuals answering the question because each person is influenced by their upbringing and life experiences.

There are also some circumstances when an otherwise unethical behaviour may be looked upon in a favourable light. For example, a town devastated and cut off from aid by a natural disaster might force some desperate people to contemplate unethical actions like breaking in and entering an abandoned home or store to scavenge items and materials required for survival. Is this behaviour ethical or acceptable? Maybe not. But until we are put in a situation like that, who are we to judge?!

The point is when we make a decision, all we can do is to make the best decision we can at that moment.

Ethical decisions in organisations

Most organisations today have a diverse and multicultural workforce. While this is undoubtedly beneficial, there are also a number of challenges to be overcome, especially when aligning decisions with ethics.  Not everyone is going to agree with the ethicality of a decision! Also, you don’t want an organisation where everyone thinks the same – “groupthink”.

So, how do organisations work towards overcoming these challenges? 

  1. Code of conduct/ethics – Organisations need to start a ‘written code of ethics or conduct’. It has to be a written, physical document that is easily accessible, prominently displayed (on notice boards, company intranet, etc.) in the organisation, widely circulated among employees, made a part of induction for new employees, and made a condition for employment. What a code of ethics does is outline what the organisation considers acceptable behaviour, giving a baseline of what is ‘okay’ and what is ‘not okay’. 
  2. Ethics programme – Set up training programmes for employees that will educate them on what the organisation considers ethically acceptable decisions. The best way to learn is by example, so ensure that most of the training is situation-based.  Show examples of decisions made in the past, the challenges the decisions makers faced while deliberating, their logical reasoning, and finally why they arrived at the decision they did. Make it into a case study to get an understanding of what the new employees think and the decisions they would have arrived at in the current work environment.
  3. Ethics hotline – Most organisations do not want unethical behaviour to go undetected for a long period of time. The longer unethical behaviour takes to come to light the greater the damage to the organisation. Most people do not want to be labelled a ‘snitch’; it is a good way to lose the trust of co-workers and get isolated within your organisation. It could also have an effect on your reputation, which will, in turn, have an impact on your promotions and future employment. But for the benefit of the organisation, unethical behaviour needs to be brought to light, and the sooner, the better. Setting up a hotline that guarantees anonymity, and gives protection to the whistleblower against retaliation will encourage reporting against unethical behaviour. However, the organisation also has a responsibility to investigate comprehensively and arrive at an independent conclusion to not only protect against false reporting but to protect all the parties involved.
  4. Leadership by example – We throw the term ‘work culture’ around quite often.   Work culture is corporate behaviour which is set or determined at the top and trickles down to the rest of the organisation, and ethics forms an integral part of this behaviour. Most people in any position of authority usually set an example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, which clearly send the wrong message to their underlings, and this is what usually ends up being the norm that is followed. There are very few leaders that are able to set the right, positive and ethical example because of the temptation to bend ethics in favour of greater profits. Actions speak louder than words and leaders have to set the example at the top for the organisation to follow.

These are just a few guidelines an organisation can follow to develop and encourage ethical decision making. What are the steps followed by your organisation to encourage ethical decisions? Any instances that you know of where companies have cut corners in their search for easy profit, and what were the consequences? Comment below.

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and business ethics forms an important part of it. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

5 key skills and attributes for effective Legal Leadership

Leadership is a subjective term. We see and hear about effective leaders leading a department, a company or a country. But it is difficult to really quantify or describe what leadership is. You can recognize good leadership examples when you see them but it’s difficult to define. Some leaders are ‘born leaders’, they are a natural, and excel at what they do, while others learn to become good leaders by cultivating attributes and skills, behaviours,  or sets of competencies, that are practiced and mastered to become an effective leader. 

I have talked in the past about Sustainable Leadership in our blog – what it is, and what its principles are. There could be several styles and types of leadership, and areas where leadership is required. One such areas is law and that is called legal leadership. Legal leadership particularly identifies how leaders behave, and how they govern others directly and indirectly, by controlling organizational structures and processes in a legal department or a law firm. 

Douglas B. Richardson says, “All great leaders do five things well, Imagine, Invent, Inspire, Inform, and Influence”. Though all leadership is fundamentally the same, legal leadership can take many forms, involve distinct roles and have different objectives. In a legal department, leadership has many faces: the chief legal officer (CLO), the managing attorneys, the servicing lawyers who work each day with the clients, and all of them should be leaders. Therefore, a legal leader is faced by a unique challenge of leading leaders as more often than not they end up leading other lawyers who are independent identities, individual contributors, pretty much people who do not follow anyone, do not like to be led, trust their own gut, and do not collaborate easily.  

Phew! Legal leaders have to be one hell of a leader!! 

Legal leadership can take many forms

Being a leader in a legal environment is challenging and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. So, what is required to be an effective legal leader? Law firms and corporate legal departments have identified some basic qualities and attributes that a leader should possess. Here are the five skills and attributes that are important for effective legal leadership: 

1. Collaborative skills 

Legal leaders usually find themselves managing large teams and complex cases. They usually have different and difficult sets of people at both ends of their stick. On one end are their own team members. And at the other end are the clients from diverse backgrounds, personalities, education levels, experience levels and requirements. The legal leader plays a key role in coordinating all the aspects, and people in bringing out the desired legal outcome. 

Exercise collaboration with effective communication.

A good legal leader should hit the ground running through effective and early communication amongst the team members, and letting everyone know their tasks after a brainstorming session. Follow up and make sure to listen to their colleagues’ ideas or the issues they are facing, and help them overcome their obstacles and provide the resources if required.  

A legal professional must weigh in everything, facts of the case, potential risks and their consequences

2. Good Judgement 

Success in any profession is highly dependent on good judgement, and this is especially true for the legal profession! It is one the most critical attributes that a legal leader must possess – to apply good judgement and make sound decisions. Legal professionals are faced by situations every day where they must make complex decisions by weighing in the facts of the case, evaluating potential risks and their consequences on the case and on the firm/organization.

Good judgement also requires excellent problem-solving skills. A good legal leader must be able to pre-empt the issues, and must have ideas and many solutions to a problem.  

However, the leaders must not isolate themselves or feel solely responsible for a decision. Though they are leaders, they are still a part of the team, and must seek input of their peers and other experienced legal professionals on critical matters.  

Self-awareness is an important quality of an effective legal leader

3. Self-awareness 

While most of the legal professionals, lawyers, and para-legals would call themselves lone-wolves and individual contributors, they are still part of a legal team. As they become leaders, most lawyers face a hurdle what’s called ‘expert identity trap’.  This means they identify themselves as subject matter experts but do not necessarily see themselves as a leader. Though several attributes are required to be a good legal leader, self-awareness is one of the key qualities of an effective one.  

All legal professionals are bound by the model rules of professional conduct

4. High ethical standards 

The legal profession is heavily based on trust, and each member’s ability to demonstrate highly ethical behaviour. Failure to do so will have many adverse outcomes such as not being able to gain the trust of their client and/or colleagues, and even more critical, being disbarred or legally charged and disciplined for misconduct. All legal professionals are bound by the model rules of professional conduct and they must understand their responsibility as the stakes involved are high! 

5. Diplomacy 

Diplomacy is one of the skills that a legal leader must have to climb the ladder of their legal career. A good leader must exercise diplomacy in handling clients, project the professional image of the firm, and must be respectful of their colleagues. The legal profession is an intensive and demanding career. It is critical for leaders therefore to keep calm and show virtues such as understanding, compassion, and integrity. Diplomacy is not something that one can learn overnight, it is a gradual, self-grooming process that can be effectively used to resolve any conflicts, and manage differences and disagreements. 

To be the best legal leader, it takes lot more than just being book-smart too; one needs to be street smart. Our MBA Legal Leadership prepares you just for that by providing a deep understanding of the key concepts and theories of leadership and their application in a law-oriented organization. Talk to our advisors today to learn more about the programme. 

#DILO (A day in the life of) a master’s student – Beatrice

Through the #DILO series of blog posts we have been bringing you insights into the life of our master’s students, sharing their thoughts and opinions, ups and downs, and key learning points during their online studies. The whole idea behind this series is to make you aware of realities of online studies, and help you in decision making.  

This week we take a look at a day in the life of our MBA student Beatrice. Beatrice is an electronics engineer with over 19 years of experience working in IT. She is currently studying for the MBA in Management Consulting, offered through our exclusive partnership with York St John University, UK, and working for an American company as an IT Project Manager. Along with handling a full-time job and a master’s programme, Beatrice manages a busy household with a husband and two daughters. Here is an insight and some words of wisdom that Beatrice had to share from her own experience. 

With the MBA Management Consulting you gain an understanding of consulting techniques and develop a range of transferrable skills

An Introduction 

Which Uni are you studying with? 

York St John University (UK) 

Which programme did you choose and why? 

I chose the MBA in Management Consulting programme. It allows me to improve my knowledge and complete my profile as Project Manager. 

The Study Plan 

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week? 

Prepare a study plan and pick a time of the day that works best for you

I planned the modules to avoid overlaps and could make it as planned. It is important to allow at least four to five hours a day, 4 days a week. This can be increased to 5 hours a day when approaching assignment deadline. 

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?) 

Allow yourself enough time for each
assignment

What worked best for me were early in the morning and late in the evening, when there is no distraction (work, children, etc.) 

How much time did you devote for each assignment? 

Generally, 4 to 5 days. Sometimes more, depending on the topic. 

Travelling and Communication 

How did travelling impact your ability to study? 

When travelling, other activities make it more difficult to find the required hours to study 

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences? 

We used e-apps that allowed delayed interactions (email, campus portal, WhatsApp). 

A typical day as a master’s student 

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you? 

1. Spend 2 hours early in the morning, reading and watching class videos  

2. Spend 1 hour at lunch time to review and make some researches  

3. Spend 1 to 2 hours at late evening to write or complete researches 

‘Research’ is an important aspect of Master’s studies. Learn to research effectively.

Any advice? 

It is important to have:  

1. The support of your entourage  

2. A schedule that includes your studies, work and personal activities, even leisure. Follow it as much as possible  

3. A contingency plan 

Well indeed, incredibly helpful advice from Beatrice. A contingency plan not only saves you from an unpredictable situation but also helps you follow your study plan with confidence. To get you through the master’s studies we have a great faculty who are subject-matter experts, guide and encourage the students to achieve their potential.  

If you have been dreaming of joining a master’s programme or have had this personal goal to gain a higher education, now is the time! Take the valuable advice from our current students, gain from their experience, add your own unique study strategies, and make your own success stories! I would love to feature you one day on our college blog. 

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

What I wish I knew before starting a business -Robert Kennedy College Blog

Once upon a time (about twelve or thirteen years ago), I decided to try my hand at starting a manufacturing business. Why? I was in my 20’s, with an MBA and a few years of work experience under my belt, and I had a dream – to leave my mark on this world, to become the next Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, and I figured, if things go to hell, I was young enough to risk it and still have time to bounce back!

There is of course a lot more to this story and my thought process that lead to my decision, but this is not the point of this post. The point is, when you do decide to start a business there is this steep learning curve, and as the business is your own, there are a lot of factors that must be considered while making decisions. 

Many factors that must be considered while making decisions

Like me, if you came from the corporate world, still early in your career with limited managerial experience, you probably just had to look after a very specific task – sales, marketing, a small part of finance, etc. But when you are the head of your own business (no matter how small), you need to be involved in everything! Business Plan, Finance, Revenue, Marketing, Sales…

Strategic Management

When you have so much on your plate there is a risk of your dropping the plate and causing it to break into many tiny pieces (the “plate” here is your business :D).

Understanding how business works, the points to consider before making a decision, and knowing and correctly identifying the different sources of information on which to base your decisions is paramount for the success of your business. This is where strategic management takes on a whole new importance in your thought process. It does not matter how big or small your business/company is, start thinking strategically!! 

Think Strategically

Three principles underlying strategy: (1) Creating a “unique and valuable” [market] position (2) Making trade-offs by choosing “what not to do”, and (3) Creating “fit” by aligning company activities to one another to support the chosen strategy 

Prof. Michael E. Porter, Ph.D., Harvard Business School

The simplest definition of strategic management is “the formulation and implementation of the major goals and initiatives taken by an organisation’s top managers on behalf of owners, based on consideration of resources and an assessment of the internal and external environments in which the organisation operates.” Strategic management provides overall direction to a business and involves specifying the organisation’s objectives, developing policies and plans to achieve those objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the plans (source: Strategic Management for Voluntary Nonprofit Organizations, Roger Courtney).

A system of finding, formulating, and developing a doctrine that will ensure longterm success if followed faithfully.

Dr. Vladimir Kvint, Chair of the Department of Financial Strategy at the Moscow School of Economics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University

So, how do you go about making your life (business really) easier by implementing strategic management?

First, identify your goals – let’s say your goal is to increase annual sales, but what does that actually mean? It is just too vague. Quantify and be specific. As an example, our goal is to sell 100 ballpoint pens and 200 ink pens by the end of the next financial year.

Now, how do you go about achieving this goal?

  • Start by identifying what goods you are going to be manufacturing (in our example they are pens), then the market to which you will be selling these manufactured goods.
  • Next, organise the resources you will need to achieve your goals, like putting in place purchasing and supply chain management to ensure a timely supply of raw materials, people and equipment to carry out the manufacturing process, marketing and sales team to bring in clients, and employing or contracting an adequate support staff (if you are unable to do it yourself) to carry out other support functions.
  • There are also a number of external forces that can have an impact on your business strategy. One of the tools most used in understanding these forces and helping in developing a strategy is Michael E. Porter’s Five Forces Framework which is a business analysis model that helps explain why various industries are able to sustain different levels of profitability. The Five Forces model is widely used to analyse and determine the corporate strategy of a company.

Porter’s five forces are:

  • Competition in the industry
  • Potential of new entrants into the industry
  • Power of suppliers
  • Power of customers
  • Threat of substitute products
A graphical representation of Porter’s five forces

Understanding the principles behind strategic management might take time, but when it comes right down to it, you will find that it is basically logic. The challenge is in getting the right data from the right sources on which you can base your decisions, and of course the methodology you use to analyse the data to arrive at your decisions. A wrong strategic decision may end up costing you dearly.  


This is why strategy and strategic management is an important module in a number of our online master’s degree programmes

You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time.

Top 5 differences between an MBA and an Executive MBA. Which one is better for you?

Pursuing the master’s degree is a big decision in many people’s lives. Choosing which programme will be most beneficial for one’s career development can be nerve wrecking too. Because there are choices – too many choices! For example, one might decide to go for an MBA programme, however, there is a choice to pursue an Executive MBA (EMBA) too! As an aspiring student, which one should you choose? Let us explore the differences, pros and cons of both so that you can make an informed decision. 

1. Admission criteria 

One of the foremost differences between an MBA and the EMBA programme is the admission criteria. For most of the MBA programmes minimum experience required varies between 1-3 years. Sometimes, even fresh under-graduates can also apply for MBA programmes given a good academic record.  

On the other hand, an EMBA typically requires candidates to have on average 3 to 6 years’ work experience with at least 2 to 5 years of managerial work experience. Our current MBA students and alumni for example, possess on average 5 to 10 years of work experience, holding leadership and management titles in companies such as risk and quality managers, heads of sales, senior corporate trainers, marketing directors, lawyers, consultants, politicians and diplomats, company presidents and CMOs. 

2. Pace of study 

The MBA programmes are typically pursued on full-time or on-campus basis, and have very demanding schedules. They have more traditional and rigid course structures. An EMBA on the other hand, offers a more flexible study schedule, and are typically delivered in blocks (weekends, once a month, etc.) or online. The majority of the EMBA students are working professionals with busy work schedules. Thus, to optimize their time, EMBAs offer lecture sessions at rarer, but more intense intervals than their MBA counterparts. When done online, these really put flexibility at the forefront. 
 

3. Intensity of the programme 

While both programmes focus on the same core modules, the degree of intensiveness in both varies. For the EMBAs, I will use an analogy of a multi-vitamin supplement – a power packed mix of various vitamins all together in one. Similary, EMBAs are intensive, and one should be ready to absorb a lot of knowledge in a short period of time.  

A regular MBA programme however, spreads the modules over a period of time. The course material is widely distributed and thus is comparatively less intensive than EMBAs. 

Group of students at the Residency in Zurich (At the moment we are conducting Online Residency in light of Covid-19 restrictions).

4. Curriculum and focus 

In an MBA programme, since it accepts candidates with fewer years of experience, the focus is on teaching and developing management knowledge from the basics. It has a broader choice available in terms of the electives that a student can choose from. An EMBA programme, however, has a higher bar set in terms of experience from its candidates. While some of the core modules are same as an MBA programme, an EMBA programme has a more focused approach.  
 

Celebrating our Graduates – University of Cumbria

5. Financial implications 

An EMBA wins over an MBA programme any day when we talk about financial implications of both. Firstly, an EMBA candidate can continue their day jobs and get paid to support their education. MBA programmes with full-time study schedules make it more difficult for students to continue with their jobs. Secondly, since a large portion (or in our case, all of the programme) is studied online, one saves a huge amount of money in travel and living expenses. Thus, the return on investment on an EMBA is typically much higher than a regular MBA programme.  

Money matters..

There is of course the issue of programme cost – these vary wildly though, and you can find really expensive programmes in both EMBA and MBA settings. 

I hope the above provides a few points to help you make the distinction between an MBA and an EMBA programme. 

Robert Kennedy College offers online MBA programmes – which are much closer to EMBAs than they are to MBAs because of their flexibility and incredible value for money. We do that in exclusive partnerships with the University of Cumbria and York St John University. Check out the list of various MBA progammes that we offer and choose the one that best suits your interests and career.