Business schools are committed to shaping the next generation of leaders – people who can maximise a company’s performance and manage organisation-wide transitions that will lead to more sustainable ways of doing business.
Business school PR experts Stephanie Mullins and Jamie Hose from BlueSky Education explore how a more holistic view of personal and professional development has become the norm and why coaching is such an important part of the teaching and mentorship offered at business schools.
“Modern business schools should reflect the modern business environment. A vital tool for learning in any leader’s toolkit is access to coaching to help them understand themselves more, make better decisions, and learn from experiences. Why should it be any different for business students?” says Professor Maxted Neal, Senior Director of Student Development at Hult International Business School.
“The world we are preparing students for is messy – it’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – and if we truly aim to prepare our students to thrive and excel in this world, we need to give them the tools to do that while they are at business school. Coaching is an essential tool to do this, to make sense of the modern world of business,” he adds.
The intrinsic value of coaching
At Mannheim Business School, career support services work to coach the student body and maintain a relationship based on open communication.
“Within the full-time MBA programme, a well-structured curriculum guides students through re-entering the job market after graduation. For other programmes, we offer Career Counselling on an as-needed basis. This change was implemented a few years ago when we realised that many participants felt compelled to seek counselling just before graduation, even if they weren’t yet ready for their next career step. Whether during their studies, or months or even years after graduation, we are here to provide the necessary guidance and support,” says Dr Sven Stromann, Director of the Alumni Relations and Career Development Office at Mannheim Business School.
The school also partners with ESSEC Business School (ESSEC) to deliver the ESSEC and Mannheim Executive MBA programme.
“Coaches guide participants who need to improve their leadership and management skills or undergo a career change,” says Elodie Luquet, Director of Part-Time Post-Experience Programs at ESSEC Executive Education.
The ESSEC Executive Education Talent Center is a career support service dedicated to supporting participants in 14 executive education programmes. It offers an à la carte package that includes one kick-off coaching session, four individual coaching sessions, and three short “flash” counselling sessions per academic year for each of the 800 participants.
Being coached and being a coach
Of course, it’s not just important for leaders to be receptive to coaching – they also need to be able to fill the role of coach for others. Aalto University Executive Education and Professional Development (Aalto EE) integrates coaching as an element in its MBA, EMBA, and many customised programmes.
The school’s various MBA programmes include a six-month-long coaching exercise where participants study different coaching methods and practice coaching and being coached. This provides them with additional tools to help further their self-development.
“Coaching can be very influential both when it is offered as part of larger programmes or on a more separate basis, as long as it is tailored to meet an individual’s and an organisation’s needs. Tailored coaching supports employees in the best way in the midst of change or when they are, for example, taking new directions in their career. It is crucial for both individuals and organisations that transitions from one role to another take place smoothly, and personalised coaching helps in this,” says Laura Tötterman, Senior Programme Director for Degree Programmes at Aalto EE.
Empowering students for success in the workplace
While programmes like the MBA and Executive MBA often require a certain level of work experience before candidates can apply, Isabelle Chevalier, Head of Talent and Careers at NEOMA Business School (NEOMA), also highlights the importance of coaching for students who are not as experienced in the professional world.
“The vast majority know very little about professional sectors when they leave secondary school. What’s more, business schools offer an extremely wide range of career opportunities, and so it’s part of the training to help them discover all these functions and gradually guide them towards a match between these careers, the skills required, the skills they possess, and their values and interests,” she says.
At NEOMA, students receive dedicated instruction on the likes of creating CVs and cover letters. After this, coaching is taken over by panels of experts on certain sectors students are interested in entering, who focus on optimising their employability. Examples include the fields of Finance, Consulting, IT, Marketing, Supply Chain and Business Development.
It’s clear that, within business education, coaching can help from the point where someone chooses their career to the time when they face their biggest professional challenges.