The value of pop stars as business role models

Michael Jackson 1958 - 2009This morning I read GOOD’s post about a new class titled “Michael Jackson: The Business of Music” that will start at the MBA of Clark Atlanta University. Veteran entertainment attorney James Walker will teach how Michael Jackson “negotiated and his tours, recorded deals, and merchandising“, as well as “how he revolutionized legal practices related to entertainment copyrights, trademarks, licenses and more“.

That’s not the first attempt to leverage Michael Jackson’s fame into something that can be taught. For instance last year and Zack O’Malley Greenburg from Forbes is currently writing a book titled “Michael Jackson, Inc“. Joseph Vogel also tried to give Michael Jackson entrepreneur-like qualities: vision, willpower, considering new products (sic – I thought music was a cultural thing) as events, etc.

So one day we will have an entire MBA dedicated only to past (preferably dead) stars … At Vlerick, we already had

  • “How to Negotiate like in Mandela‘s days?” with Prof. Venter (Negotiation Skills)
  • “How to eat and energize yourself like Dominique Monami?” at a closing seminar
  • “How to understand economics like Yves Leterme?” with Prof. Gerooms (Economics)

And I am wondering if we will have the following classes this year:

  • “How to excel in marketing like God Steve Jobs” with Prof. Debruyne (Marketing)
  • “How to avoid Field Marshall Rommel‘s operational mistakes in North Africa” with Prof. Boute (Operations management)
  • “How to think like Daniel Lebeau, CIO of the Year 2010?” with Prof. Viaene (Value-Added Enterprise IT)

Now I am wondering if one really needs those star-oriented classes? Of course having real-life example is really nice – especially if you are fan of Steve Jobs or Michael Jackson. But a whole course on how someone was good in some particular topic (or -worse- on every business topic)? We saw last year that students were fed up with a little bit of Steve Jobs everywhere for everything and anything. In a general MBA course, my opinion is that we need more examples from different industries first. Once the basics are acquired you can of course have specific session per industry. IMHO – YMMV.

Photo credits: Michael Jackson 1958 – 2009 by bernissimo, on Flickr (licence CC-by-nc-nd)

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Bringing a bad news to a consultant

You want to manage projects? Ending contracts with nice people is part of the job!

UntitledYou can read whatever books you want, you can follow whatever HR course you can, ending a contract with a nice person is not easy (same goes for firing people, breaking a bad news, etc.).

The theory says that it’s best to have a third person in the room, that the news should be broken in the morning preferably, to find humane ways to tell the truth upfront, meeting in a neutral location, keeping it clear, describe what comes next etc.

Practically, there are mainly three points I would emphasize …

Objectivity is key. For this first point I hesitated between objectivity and preparedness. But both go hand in hand. First keep aside he is a good guy, your relationship will inevitably suffer. Align what was the objectives and what was achieved. Describe quantitatively how objectives were achieved. Leave room for discussion on how you measure achievements and how the other person would perceive his achievements – but in the end you are supposed to know your business and the reasons why you stop this contract. Just be sure to put objectivity behind your decision. Strive to keep the atmosphere businesslike and free of emotion. But also listen to the other party.

“What should you do in my shoes?” or let him come with alternative solutions. Both approaches will put some lights on “reasons” that might not be directly on the table but played a (maybe minor) role nonetheless. Shedding light on these aspects might make people realize they personally are not to blame (if it’s the case) but other factors exist. On top, they’re more likely to adhere to what the solution is.

Have a plan for the future. After hearing bad news, people might find it hard to believe that the you care about them. But you should be prepared to give employees tips on how to avoid the problem in the future (if it’s appropriate). It’s easier for consultants as by definition they should not stay in the same job for long periods of time – but knowing your cv is kept in the database for specific jobs can be interesting in the long term. Also knowing what to improve for the next job assignment can be useful. Don’t overdo this however – giving advices for the future when you just brought bad news might look like being obnoxious (rightfully).

What are your thought on firing someone?

Photo credits: Untitled by Danny Guy, on Flickr (licence CC-by-nc-nd)

Course structure added

I thought something was missing in this blog: direct access to posts related to a specific course. Previously you had to know the course’s exact wording (and search for it) or you could find it in the cloud of tags on the right. Now you can also browse in the Course category (*). Hope this helps!

(*) I hope the category will appear – let me deal with the blog theme for a few moments to fix potential glitches …

Restoring confidence, investing in growth

Or so was nearly the title of the EU presentation Pablo sent to me recently. The exact title is: “Restoring growth. Investing in our future.” (slides in English and in French).

The presentation was done by J.M. Barroso, President of the European Commission, to the European Council of 28-29 June 2012. GDP, the EC measure of growth, was more or less constant since 2011 so restoring that growth is seen as a “pressing priority”. Other indicators are not that good (to say the least): recovery is limited, unemployment reached high levels, performances were already weak before the crisis, there are large current account imbalances, etc. So the future EU budget must be a “growth budget”. Then you have a list of actions that the EU (co-)promoted, sponsored or simply saw as very positive in the EU.

The very nice thing with this type of presentation is that you see in action “things” you may have thought are very theoretical and far from daily practise. This time, we’ll take the Economics class. Remember Economics? It was one of the first classes we had during academic year 2011-2012, with professor Hans Gerooms (by the way Prof. Gerooms was/is also a long-standing financial adviser to Yves Leterme, now at OECD). OK, I see you don’t remember ;-) Anyway … So for example the link between exchange rate and competitiveness … The only country that, each year, had a relative gain in competitiveness is … Germany (what a surprise!). Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy are all on the other side of the bar (another surprise!). The only absence in this carefully selected chart is Greece … Is that a Freudian slip from the EC? ;-)

Another interesting slide is the one about the big differences between a European budget and a country budget. On top of the difference in total amount, the EU budget:

  • is multi-annual (7 years),
  • can never be in deficit or run up debts,
  • hasn’t any tax raising power,
  • has only very few own resources (payments come mostly from member states),
  • forecasts less than 5% for administration and 1% for pensions,
  • and has grown much slowly than national budgets (however I wonder if this last item shouldn’t be considered as a consequence of the tight rules before rather than a spec in itself).

Before letting you dive into the presentation, I would just highlight one last slide. French are considered to be chauvinistic – why can’t we be a little bit ouselves? On slide 18 the EC lists the top 20 organisations participating in the 2007-2013 EU FP7. By “top organisations” the EC means the ones that get the most fundings (in hundreds of millions of Euros). The more you get/spend money may be an indirect indicator of the more excellent and competitive you are (at least that is what is implied here – but for having seen the requirements for FP7 in a previous life, that might be the case). Well, I digress again … So, in these top organisations, the first Belgian organisation is the KULeuven: 11th (and 5th top university). Yes! :-)

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