I'd like to share with you three of my favorite classes at Kellogg.
1. Leader as Coach
This is a class that has fundamentally changed how I think.
Let me start from how I ended up taking the class. As you may know, we have a ton of long breaks during our time at Kellogg. Many of us without family obligations spend these breaks traveling to various locations with fellow MBA students. I personally traveled to Ecuador, Seattle, San Francisco, Brazil, Peru, Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), and South Africa.
One of the trips that has had the greatest impact on how I think was the trip to Patagonia. I travelled with a group of ten friends to this remote location at the southern most tip of the American continent.
One of the things that we talked about on the trip was about our favorite classes. Chris and Karen said that their favorite class was Leader as Coach. They said that the idea behind the class is that one way to exhibit leadership is by acting as a coach. A professional coach according is different from a mentor in that a coach does not provide solutions to a problem but rather asks powerful questions so that the coachee can reach a solution on his or her own. Chris and Karen went ahead and demonstrated the method by coaching Mary about the leadership challenges she faced in her New Venture Discovery team and her student organization. Chris and Karen both had their own coaching style. Chris spent more time encouraging Mary to continue elaborating and asked soft questions that slowly, but pleasantly, lead Mary to a solution. Karen on the other hand asked insightful questions that quickly lead Mary to a solution. I was amazed to see how delighted Mary was coming out of these conversations, and decided to try coaching Adam, another member of the group. It failed miserably. I was unable to actively listen and ask the right questions. So I decided to take the class the following quarter.
The class turned out to be one of my favorite classes at Kellogg. Until then, I was a believer in classes that taught hard skills like finance, accounting, and marketing through a team environment. I had been trying to prepare myself to become the best solution giver and team player through technical classes with a heavy teamwork component. Leader as Coach opened my eyes to a totally different approach.
Through the class I coached one undergraduate student majoring in theatre, a PhD student in psychology, and two fellow MBA students. Each class the professor would teach us coaching skills and we would apply these skills outside of class with our coachees. Through the coaching sessions, one of my coachees realized that she was experiencing conflicts in her team because they had not explicitly discussed and established team norms. Another coachee realized that she was frequently causing conflict by setting overly optimistic expectations for her team. I realized that I could have an impact on people without acting as a provider of solutions.
Now when I have the opportunity to help someone, I ask the person or myself "Should I give recommendations, or act more like a coach?"
2. Federal Policy
Another one of my favorite classes is Federal Policy. It is a case based class where we prepare for each class by reading and analyzing a case about a public policy decision faced by a country. For example the decision faced by South Africa to deal with inequality or the decision faced by Pakistan regarding Polio eradication. During class, we have a group discussion (with the professor as the facilitator) about what the country should do. I love case based classes because I love coming up with solutions to challenging problems, and it is especially fun in a group setting. The class also has two group debates regarding a public policy.
What is special about this class is that it covers public policy. It was refreshing to leave the context of optimizing for profitability and to talk about decision making with various other criteria. The class also also covered cases from around the world rather than focusing on the US. Also the professor (Professor Besanko) is very articulate, logical, organized, committed, caring, and passionate. He is the writer of half of the cases that was covered.
3. Global Entrepreneurial Finance
My third favorite class is Global Entrepreneurial Finance. The title is misleading because the class has little to do with entrepreneurship. The class is a case based class about global financial decisions. It is one of Kellogg's most competitive class with the heaviest workload, but provides a lot of learning. It is the class that people take after taking the core finance classes, core accounting classes, Financial Reporting and Analysis, Financial Decisions, and International Finance. Each class covers a case in a different country regarding a financial decision faced by a company. Almost all cases involve a global buyer investing in a foreign firm, written from the perspective of either the seller or buyer.
Although I am not going into investment banking or private equity, I want to deeply understand corporate finance. The professor encourages intense debate within the class so that the class can 'kill' the case. He is also extremely caring and dedicated and individually emails students after class to make sure that each student understands the content.
Classes at Kellogg
There are a wide range of classes at Kellogg to chose from, but we can’t take all the interesting classes. Do I want to take a class that I enjoy or one that will likely help me in the future? Do I want to pick a class that will help me in my short-term career or one that focuses more on the big picture? My preferences have evolved over my time at Kellogg as my life after Kellogg plans evolved as as I learned more about myself. I’m glad that Kellogg provided a wide enough range of classes to suit my evolving needs, and I am extremely happy that I was able to take the three classes that I talked about here.