Business leaders get a boost

by Charles Mak

Kate Chan, associate dean
School of Business and Management
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Photo: Johnson Poon

Recent economic slowdown affords busy executives the chance to regain strengths

Over the years, many experienced business executives have taken part in a range of open enrolment programmes offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's (HKUST) Business School Executive Education Office. The programmes, which last from two to ten days, combine teaching excellence with market insights and networking opportunities.

As one of the top international business schools, HKUST offers a handful of executive programmes every year, each taking on a maximum of 50 students. Focusing on specific topics, these programmes cover themes such as leadership, decision-making, business positioning, negotiation and financial management. "Quality and effective learning is our promise," says Kate Chan, associate dean, School of Business and Management, HKUST.

Due to the brief duration of the programmes, students are rid of the pressure from exams and assignments. This allows them to be immersed in a relaxing atmosphere that encourages interaction and active participation. "Good learners always bring questions to the class and take home with them tools to tackle future challenges," Ms Chan notes. "Despite their diverse professional backgrounds, they find relevance in case studies and discover useful insights."

Learning keys

HKUST's campus in Clear Water Bay, with its state-of-the-art teaching facilities, provides the perfect setting for learning. This however, does not supersede the meticulous programme design.

"We've been running executive education for more than a decade now, so we understand the significance of no-nonsense teaching materials," Ms Chan stresses. "Aside from theoretical knowledge, our programmes offer market relevance and applicability."

Taught by acclaimed faculty members with rich experience in delivering undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD programmes, students of the short programmes can expect a "branded" learning experience.

Programme contents are subject to rigorous reviews, depending on the pace of change in the market. "Our faculty staff closely follow the rhythms of the corporate world," Ms Chan remarks. "Student feedback also helps to decide programme intensity, structure and delivery." A newly introduced programme "pricing for value creation" is the result of this market-motivated approach.

In Ms Chan's experience, senior executives not only seek job satisfaction but also self-actualisation. "Stepping up managers or middle managers can learn from their predecessors, but as they move further up the corporate ladder they will find themselves in a role that is expected to cascade knowledge and has very few opportunities to learn from within the confines of a company. These executives often feel that their learning has reached a plateau," she explains. "As such, a forward-looking corporation must provide sufficient stimulus in its talent pool so as to retain talented people and keep them interested in the job."

Leadership qualities

Caroline Wang, vice president
global business services
IBM China/Hong Kong Limited; adjunct professor
School of Business and Management
Photo: Ringo Lee
All responsible leaders are capable of building and willing to open up their decision framework, according to HKUST School of Business and Management adjunct professor Caroline Wang, who is also global business services vice president of IBM China/Hong Kong Limited. "Creating an open forum enhances mutual trust and team spirit —a ll the key ingredients for business sustainability," she emphasises. Profess Wang teaches two short programmes: managerial decision-making and leadership; and leading across diversities.

Tailored for corporate leaders and managers across the board, the two programmes cover an array of topics. While the former focuses on issues such as quality decision contents, setting priorities and building a habit of quality decision making; the latter emphasises managing workforce diversity, the influence of national cultures on organisational behaviours, effective leadership and managing high performances.

"A strong and healthy corporate culture is a corporation's competitive advantage," Professor Wang says. "For this reason, leaders need to shoulder the responsibility of building and instilling such a culture, so that their employees can excel in a motivating and productive working environment."

She adds that to achieve organisational goals, a business leader must do more than just talk. "It takes open-mindedness, self-awareness and an understanding of the company's culture," she says. "A capacity for diversity and the ability to manage differences are equally important."

Professor Wang stresses that managerial decision-making and leadership skills can be acquired, and that the key role of a teacher is one that helps students to be acquainted with the principles, frameworks, and methodologies applicable to specific contexts as well as their own situations. "Our aim is to help students learn by delving deep into theoretical principles and applying such principles in real life scenarios. By sharing an open framework with students, we enable them to approach decisions with confidence, which will essentially lead them to make the best decisions as they return to work," Professor Wang concludes.

Topping up

  • Workplace learning opportunities scarce for senior executives
  • Corporations must provide sufficient stimulus to retain top talent
  • Relaxing learning environment rids students of pressure and business obligations

Taken from Career Times 16 January 2009, p. A6
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