All you wanted to know about Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

As promised in the blog about referencing and citation, this week, we bring you information and facts about academic integrity and how to avoid plagiarism.   

As a master’s student, expect yourself to be surrounded by deadlines to submit assignments, academic papers, and dissertations for most of your academic life (follow our #DILO – A Day in the life of an RKC student series to know more). Academic integrity is a crucial aspect of academic studies, and strict protocols must be followed to abide by the rules of academic writing.   

So, what is plagiarism? 

When one submits another person’s ideas, writings, words, images, or data as their own, it is termed plagiarism.   

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Source: https://mimiandeunice.com/2010/07/30/thief/ Author: Nina Paley, 1968 

Plagiarism is among the four most common forms of academic dishonesty, the other three being cheating, academic misconduct, and fabrication. While looking for ideas and information is good research, not giving proper credit for the work cited becomes plagiarism. It is easy not to recognise potential plagiarism in one’s writing. Here are some examples:  

  1. Using information from the internet is commonly considered public information. However, it is still required to be cited.   
  1. When one paraphrases (i.e. puts someone else’s ideas in their own words) and does not provide credit to the original idea.   
  1. When one sources information from reading material provided by the professor, it still needs to be cited.  This is considered poor academic practice though, as you need to demonstrate independent research, and go directly to the sources mentioned by the professors in their lectures, rather than cite the lectures themselves. 
  1. When one copies their own ideas, used in previously marked work, and submits the same material for a new paper. This is commonly known as self-plagiarism.   

How to avoid plagiarism?  

As complex as it may seem, plagiarism can be avoided by simply citing and referencing your work wherever necessary and giving due credit to the original ideas, theories, words, quotations, images, or graphs.   

It is essential to make sure an appropriate style of citing and referencing must also be applied. Commonly used styles include Harvard, APA, MLA, and Chicago. You can check out detailed information on the blog: Attribution, to avoid retribution: referencing and citations for academic writing.  

Don’t panic. We’ve got help!  

Studying for a masters, working full-time, juggling work-life-study balance itself seems daunting. Do not get lost in trying to find the correct way to present assignments and avoid plagiarism. There are various sources that you can use to ensure effective writing every time.  

  1. Access the electronic library through your University account – there is always a guide to academic writing, referencing, and tutorial support directly from librarians  
  1. Ask for help from the tutors and student support services, who can help you get unstuck and direct you towards the resources that can help 

I hope this prepares you well for authoring your academic papers and 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 to follow academic integrity. 

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.  

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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!). 

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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. 

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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.  

#DILO – A day in the life an RKC Master’s student – David

As a former Education advisor, if I had to pick one of the most frequently asked questions by prospective students, it would be “How many hours do I need to study?”  

The vast majority (if not all) of our students are working and leading hectic professional lives. Some are motivated and have already decided to undertake a master’s, while others contemplate the unknowns of an online programme. In my experience, two things affect their decision the most.   

First – finances, and second, being able to strike the perfect work, study, and life balance. While I cannot completely help you with the finances (partially yes – check out the discount offers currently being offered on our online MBA, MSc, and LL.M programmes), I thought what I could do to help was to bring some facts to light about the other unknowns – what does a typical day in the life of an online master’s student look like?  

I asked a few of our students from different walks of life, occupations, and personal situations to answer a few questions on their study tactics and strategies, plans and reality, and so on.  So, through our ‘#DILO ‘a typical day in the life of a master’s student’ blog series every month, we bring to you one of our actual students or alumni sharing the insights.   

Today, we’re looking at David’s typical study days. David, an RKC & University of Cumbria soon-to-be graduate, offered us these answers:  

An Introduction  

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Which programme did you choose and why?  

David Andaclio (DA):  MBA – International Business. I chose this topic based on my experience and the UoC partnership with Robert Kennedy College in Switzerland and the global diversification of international students.  

Stayed focused and consistent

The Study Plan   

VK : 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?  

DA: I dedicated time during the week and each day, stayed focused and consistent, and it took approximately 4 hours a day.  

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

DA: Early mornings were more suitable for me.  

David allocates approximately 4 hours a day for study

VK: How much time did you devote for each assignment?  

DA: I devoted about 8-12 hours.  

Travelling and Communication  

VK: Did you travel for work? How did travelling impact your ability to study?  

DA: Not at all  

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

DA: Not an issue. [Editor’s note: Interaction is mostly asynchronous through discussion forums] 

A typical day as a master’s student  

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

 DA:I had to learn to balance everyday work and family matters and dedicate time out of each day to the online master’s program. Being consistent and focused was key to managing the process.  

Any advice?  

VK:Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies.  

DA: Yes. Map out a study plan, identify the hours you will spend, develop a framework to stay ahead and once again, be consistent with the task. No procrastination.  

Develop a framework to stay ahead and no procrastination!

Alright friends, this was a sneak peek of a typical day in David’s life as a master’s student. I hope you find it insightful and informative and that it gives you an idea of what to expect when you enrol for our master’s programmes. Watch this space as we have many more interesting insights coming up! 

#DILO – A Day in the life of an RKC Student – Ms. Hall 

Through the #DILO series of blog posts, we have been bringing you insights into our master’s students’ lives, 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 the realities of online studies and help you in decision making.    

Here are a few insights and some words of wisdom that one of our online master’s students had to share from her own experience.  

Who you are, really?  

Nicola Hall, a full-time employed junior manager, with a small family, including a primary school child.  

Which Uni are you studying at?  

University of Salford  

University of Salford

Which programme did you choose and why?  

I chose Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management because of the growth in demand for skills in the field.  

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?  

I had planned to devote five to six hours each evening for four days a week to the module, and 8 to 10 hours on the weekends spread conveniently. The reality was that I sometimes barely got 2 hours of work done after getting home from work. I had to get my time covered in patches during the night after resting for 3 or 4 hours. I got no work done most Sundays, so I ended up doing a great deal on Friday and Saturday nights. Coming closer to when my assignment was due, I had to take a few days of study leave away from work and give it 10 to 12 hours a day.  

The best time to study is night time or early mornings before going to work

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

My best study time is at nights; the next option is early morning before getting ready for work. Friday nights were very good for me as well, as I didn’t have to get up for work on Saturdays.  

How did travelling impact your ability to study?  

The only travelling I did was my daily commute, which was 2 hours of driving time. After RKC launched their mobile app, I used my travel time to listen to lectures and go over to catch up on anything I may have missed.  

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

Being mindful of the time difference, I would send my email/queries in the evening and check my email early the next morning for a response. I had a few colleagues with whom I worked closely given our cultural background, and I kept a mental note of the time in their region if I needed to call or instant message. It worked out pretty well once the time difference got stuck in my mind.  

How much time did you devote for each assignment?  

I tried to start working on my assignment from the second week. And throughout each day, I may get ideas that contribute to the assignment, and I’ll make a note on my phone.  

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

I get up at about 3 am and get some theory covered by 5:30 am. Then I will get an hour’s rest and begin getting ready for work. While I’m making breakfast, I may have Microsoft Edge read an article in PDF to me. Once at work, I don’t usually have any downtime; I’ll use my lunch break to really have a break and not rush my meal. But when work ends, I’ll spend the rush hour at my desk doing some schoolwork instead of sitting in traffic. After getting home and attending to any home affairs and kids homework, I would settle into my own studies at about 10 pm. I will go online, read through the forums, research for any weekly assignments given, then make my own contribution. I go to bed at about 1 am and go at it again the next day. On the weekend I’ll make sure to get time with the family and go to my schoolwork when they are asleep.  

Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies.  

It would be ideal to go on study leave to pursue your masters, but if that isn’t possible, the Robert Kennedy College online master’s degree program is such a flexible program. There is usually a break in-between modules, and this time should be utilized to get up to speed on theory ahead of classes beginning and assignments being posted. Always seek to defer a module if you feel pressured but do use the free weeks in between to focus on covering as much theory as possible.  

If you have been dreaming of joining a master’s programme or have had this personal goal to gain a higher degree, 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. 

Business Strategy – The art of corporate war

From the title of this blog, I am sure some of you might be wondering why I am channelling Sun Tzu.

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan

Let’s start with the origins of the word ‘strategy’. ‘Strategy’ is originally derived from the Greek word ‘strategos’, which means the art of the general. In other words, the origin of strategy comes from the art of war, and specifically the role of the General in war. In the 2nd century B.C., when Sun Tzu wrote the ‘Art of War’, his writing’s message was plain – to win. 

Despite ‘strategy’ becoming an often-used buzz word in management, there still seems to be a lot of confusion between ‘goals’ and ‘strategy’. To explain this and in keeping with the war theme, let us consider Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia. Imagine a time long ago, Alexander has decided to strive for immortality by creating a true world empire. He calls his generals together and states that his strategy is to build this empire. 

Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece

I am not saying that he said that in those exact words because there is no way of knowing what he thought or who he consulted. Hypothetically, if he said that this was his strategy, then that is the wrong use of the term strategy. That was his ‘goal’ – to conquer the world. How he went about conquering the world was the strategy he used.

Now that we have established that ‘strategy’ directly correlates to a general’s role, let us understand what the role of a general is?

A general’s role is not to fight the war but to tell others how to fight the war. It is the general’s vision of how the battles are to take place that is to be carried out, and his orchestration of all the different pieces that will result in the failure or success of his vision. His role is to see the big picture, see what the unit commanders cannot, see the whole, and orchestrate all the units’ positioning to achieve his vision.

Business is also a kind of war, and the casualty of this war is the shareholder’s investment. The Chief Executives’ challenges are similar to that of the generals – to develop strategies that will lead to victory. 

So, how do executives develop strategies that will lead to victory?

In my opinion, four key questions need to be answered by your strategy to be classified as a good strategy.

Where is our market?

You must identify the battlefield that will provide you with the best advantage, like Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, recognised a field near Waterloo in Belgium to defeat the might of Napoléon Bonaparte. It is essential that an executive correctly identifies the markets that will maximise the profits or reduce costs for his goods and services. 

Field Marshal His Grace The Duke of Wellington

What is our unique selling proposition (USP)? 

During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoléon Bonaparte, for the most part, was the undisputed ruler of Europe. Logically, he should have strangled and run England into the ground. But England had correctly identified two of its biggest strengths – trade and the Royal Navy and used them to not only stay afloat but to ultimately win the war. So, identify the unique value(s) your product or service offers and how it will best benefit the identified market.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

What are our resources and capabilities?

Resources refer to the things we have in our toolbox that can be brought to bear for our benefit. It may be capital – either human or monetary, superior technology, something intangible like brand equity, or tangible, like a diamond mine. How well you utilise what is in your toolbox for maximum benefit depends on your capability. During the Napoleonic Wars, England had a mighty naval fleet (resources), but that by itself is of no benefit as France also had a mighty fleet. What England had were great sailors and leaders like Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, among others, capable of wielding the resource (Royal Navy) more effectively.

Vice-Admiral The Right Honourable The Viscount Nelson

Sustainability

Once you have identified your USP and identified your capabilities and resources, how can you sustain in the markets you have identified – to continue to win over time. Even after Admiral Nelson’s death during the Battle of Trafalgar, England did not fall apart; they continued to martial their resources and continued to develop their capabilities to hold France across the Channel.

While the above points give us an idea of what strategy we should employ, they also indicate what we should not be doing. We should not operate in markets where we add no value or do not have the resources or capabilities to maintain sustainable growth. 

A good strategy, while letting us know what we should be doing and why, should also inform us where our boundaries are and what we should not be doing.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you all that this blog is in no way comprehensive and barely scratches the surface on business strategy or strategy in general. Please feel free to add value to it by sharing your thoughts and experiences on developing ‘strategy’. Happy to hear from you!

Please watch this space for similar posts. Strategy forms an integral part of most of our online master’s degree programmes. You can chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for details on discounts we might be offering at this time.

Can entrepreneurship and innovation be taught? 

Can you think ‘out of the box’?

When I was in school, let’s just say a decade ago.. okay two decades ago, I remember being taught the principles of economics – theory of demand and supply, demand and supply curve, market equilibrium, price ceilings and floors, so on and so forth. Later as a business student at university, I learned about economic models and even more complex financial terms about running a business, such as behavioural economics, macro and microeconomic policies, government policies, international trade and its impact. I have no recollection of ever being asked to or being taught to ‘think out of the box’ (the economics book in this case).  

The businesses, usually large traditional corporations, family-owned companies big and small, ran on the business theories and principles established many years ago.  

Fast forward to the 21st century; I see a new world around me. The businesses are no longer just large corporations run on an old-school of thought. There has been a paradigm shift in the way the companies are run and how they are conceptualized in the first place. I am sure everyone remembers the time of late 90s and early 00s – ‘the infamous dot com/bubble era’ that vowed to change the world and as a matter of fact, it did change the world! 

The bubble burst vowed to change the world

The bubble era engendered a trend of entrepreneurship of a scope like never before. The entrepreneurs – the new gurus of the business world – worked on very different business principles and business plans. Business plans were mainly driven by the strategy of growing big fast, being ubiquitous, insanely high stock market valuations, and focusing on branding and marketing to gain market share. And to establish a new trend, the essential ingredient was innovation.  

Hence, the birth and rise of entrepreneurship and innovation.  

In today’s evolving business environment, entrepreneurship and innovation have become increasingly popular. There has been a notable rise in the entrepreneurial activities around the globe in the last decade. Even the corporations are paying heed to the increasing value of innovation and the entrepreneurial mindset in the workplace. It is now believed to correlate to organisation’s profitability and growth directly.  

There are several forms of entrepreneurship, such as Innovative entrepreneurship, social, scalable start-up business entrepreneurship, big and small entrepreneurship. To give some real-life examples, Tesla aimed to innovate the automobile industry by introducing luxurious yet affordable and efficient electric cars. On the hand, Uber, a scalable start-up business entrepreneurship, started with an idea to disrupt the taxi industry and attracted various capitalists’ interest and bagged millions of dollars in investment, scaling the business to an otherwise inconceivable level, growing the company worldwide.  

All entrepreneurs have one thing in common – Innovation

And all the entrepreneurs (and their companies) like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Walt Disney, J.K Rowling, Jeff Bezos (the list cannot be exhaustive), have one thing in common – Innovation. Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, Tesla, Facebook, and Amazon witnessed tremendous business success through innovation by triggering a paradigm shift or evolving an old product with new technology.  

The benefits and increasing importance of innovation and entrepreneurship are manifold. As mentioned earlier, corporations are also realising their impact on their success. A study by Microsoft and McKinsey states that organisations show a direct correlation between employee retention and innovation, and innovative firms are more likely to retain employees. The study also reveals that companies that were assessed as having ‘innovative cultures’ were twice as likely to expect double-digit growth.  

So, the question remains if someone is a born Entrepreneur, is naturally innovative, or such attributes can be learnt, and whether individuals can be  adequately trained to be innovative entrepreneurs.  

The question remains if someone is a born Entrepreneur

“Profound growth requires innovation and, to foster innovation, you need people to feel trusted and supported to experiment and learn. There can be real returns for leaders who learn to let go and coach teams to constantly improve.”

Dr. Parke.  

To answer the question, yes, entrepreneurship and innovation can be taught, and with proper education, these skills can be mastered. By studying entrepreneurship and innovation, you can learn the underlying principles of starting a business, how to avoid common pitfalls, pitch ideas effectively, validate your product, develop a solid business model, and how to set yourself up for success in a field where failure is common. A good entrepreneurship and innovation programme will expose you to the challenges, contexts, and implications of entrepreneurship and provide you with a sense of the difficulties inherent in starting up and running a new enterprise. You will develop a critical understanding of contemporary discourses surrounding entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship as they are found in a range of national cultures and organisational contexts. The programme brings together relevant contemporary academic theory and research with a practical understanding of activities.  

We offer an online MBA Entrepreneurship and Innovation programme specifically designed to foster entrepreneurial and innovation skills to enable you to have a career managing innovation in existing firms and found new ventures. You will learn how organisations build value by applying entrepreneurial practices, the challenges and opportunities typically facing new and existing businesses, and the ability to design and implement creative strategies. Talk to one of advisors to find out more about the programme. 

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. 

Express gratitude this holiday season

2020 has been nothing but challenging for everyone in one way or another. Some people experienced greater difficulties than others. Nevertheless, everyone’s life, career, family, ambitions, dreams, and expectations from this year were affected. And as if matters were not bad enough, the world witnessed and was torn apart by numerous natural and man-made calamities: floods, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, civil unrest, humanitarian and refugee crises. 

Now I do not want to sound all negative. There is another side to the coin too, a side that we very often fail to recognise and acknowledge. It’s the positives, no matter how small, that happened in our lives amidst this mayhem. We should acknowledge every little moment of happiness, joy, and success we received in the past one year and be grateful for it. Someone might have a new job (even in the pandemic), got a raise, bought a new house, started a family, explored local places (as it is advisable not to travel), got healthier and fitter, had time to be with family during quarantine, enrolled for that online master’s programme that was put on the back-burner, something that positively impacted one’s life. 

Let’s reflect and be thankful for everything! 

For me personally, the holiday season brings a sense of joy and happiness. I forget my worries and enjoy the holiday cheer and bright lights that are all around. It humbles me in many ways. 

Expressing gratitude may sound easier than it actually is, because humans are prone to complaining, blaming, finding fault, and making comparisons with others. However, I would urge you to take a moment and instead understand your own shortcomings and if you do compare, compare yourself with the less fortunate. You might come to realise how blessed you actually are! 

There are many ways to feel thankful and express gratitude: 

1.  Introspect: self-introspection can be very powerful to analyse one’s true self. 

2.  Have faith: it pays off to be patient and trust that everything happening is part of the bigger picture and it will help in developing you in better ways. 

Give back to society

3.  Give back to society: you can make your contribution and give back to society in various ways by volunteering, providing food, shelter, clothing to the needy, providing financial  or emotional support. It will make you feel better and useful. 

4.  Maintain a gratitude journal: as it is said, a man is but the product of his thoughts. The more you write about positive happenings and events in your life, more your thoughts become positive. 

Your thoughts become positive when you capture positive happenings in your life

5.  Express yourself: It’s important not only to feel grateful but also to express your gratitude and spread the cheer to your near and dear ones. 

Gratitude plays a very powerful role in transforming lives. Express your gratitude towards your family, peers, friends, colleagues, bosses, teachers and professors. I am grateful to all our readers who have enjoyed reading and have benefited from our blogs. 

Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays! 

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. 

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.