Leonard

28th November 2008 

Martin Schmidt, German, is the author of today’s diary entry. He shares with us his experience and pleasure of having become a father whilst completing his MBA at IMD.

What were you guys doing last January?“ This was the question that Benoit Leleux, our Program Director, asked after congratulating me on the birth of my son Leonard. With three “MBA babies” born in October, this was indeed a fair question to ask. So if next year’s MBA program gets even more demanding and stressful during its first month, I fear I might be partly to blame.

That said, the support we had from the IMD community was fantastic. Mareike, my partner, moved to Lausanne when she was already six months pregnant, and without the help of IMD staff, other participants and partners, things would have been a lot more difficult.

I know that some Diary readers are prospective MBAs who may be considering starting a family during their time at IMD. Having gone through the experience myself, I can wholeheartedly recommend it, so let me try to resolve some of your doubts*:

  • You think that becoming a father while doing an MBA adds more stress to an already stressful period of your life? Maybe so, but the joy that a baby can bring by far outweighs everything else. It also puts things into perspective: The company you’ve just applied to announces mass redundancies and experiences a 50% drop in its share price? Things like that do not seem to matter so much if you have a wonderful little baby son waiting for you at home.
  • You are worried about your wife giving birth in a foreign country? I had my doubts too, but as it turned out, hospital staff in Lausanne are very much used to catering to an international clientele. Also, language was much less of an issue than I expected: Most doctors and many midwives speak perfect English, and in any case, during birth language becomes secondary; in fact, if you understand the French verbs “pousser” [push] and “souffler” [breathe], you have already covered 90% of the required vocabulary.
  • You fear that you will be the odd one out as an IMD father? The following picture, showing only the parents with babies that were born during the year, should prove you wrong:

Looking at this picture now, I can’t believe how much Leonard [the one in the front, dressed in light blue] has grown already! But before I start boring my audience with stories about all the little miracles Leonard performs already [he just started smiling], I will stop writing and spend some more time with our son…

Good night to you all,

Martin

*I don’t want to be sexist, but I’m afraid my advice applies only to male participants – for obvious reasons, things would be a little different for female participants.

Talking about a generation

Making generalizations about an entire generation is a perilous exercise. Stereotypes are not helpful! That being said, for employers, cracking the Millenial code is essential to recruiting – and retaining – new talent.

This week, a panel of five MBAs had a lively dialogue with the participants of the IMD Transformation Summit, an event for Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs). What better way to dispel stereotypes than to bring generations together in the same room?

Here were some of the hot button topics in this week’s discussion of Millenials in the workplace: Bosses, job offers, patience, purpose, ambition and loyalty.

What is your idea of a good boss?

  • Someone who creates a mentoring and coaching relationship. Someone who explains the “why.”
  • Authentic, honest about the pros and cons of the company and the role I am being recruited for. During the job interview process, it’s important to create trust. It should be a dual exchange and not just being evaluated on a checklist.

What would make you reject an employment proposal?

  • A lack of transparency in terms of where and when decisions get made in the company.
    There has to be fairness and also recognition.
  • It’s about mindset. I love to challenge the status quo. I like smaller brands, not a big, successful company.
  • It’s essential to have responsibility and room to manoeuvre. I need space and safety to develop ideas.
  • I need to feel a passion for what I do, passion for the product.

How long are you willing to wait until you get to the leadership role you’re aiming for (whatever your ambition is in terms of the level of leadership role)?

  • I’m flexible, as long as I can keep growing. It’s about assembling building blocks for the future. I’m looking for a role where I’m completely utilized, where my talents are used.

What big thing would you change in the business world?

  • Short-termism. When you have profit targets, going quarter to quarter limits your options.

Millenials are perceived as being less loyal to the companies they work for and more likely to move around a lot. Is this true? How do you see loyalty?

  • I’m loyal to my co-workers and my boss, but with the company it’s a contract.

What are you looking for in terms of work-life balance and job evolution?

  • A more fluid and flexible schedule: if my task, output and time frame are clear, it makes sense for me to organize myself in the way that suits me best to deliver.
  • I’d like the possibility to move in 3D (industry, geography, function) and to have transversal roles.

Imagine we are a company undergoing a transformation from a traditional and hierarchical organization to a new model. How do we retain you though this process? Inspire you?

  • Show me that there is light at the end of the tunnel: create a career plan for me, map the steps clearly.
  • Be honest and open about the realities of the transformation.
  • Seeing progress is important – even small progress. Show the plan for change. Demonstrate that you’re implementing feedback.
  • The company has to make sure the flame is still there!

Chairing the discussion was Jennifer Jordan, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour. To frame the discussion, Professor Jordan gave an overview of the unique characteristics of Millenials (see Cracking the Millenial Code). For example, Millenials are the first generation brought up with a child-focussed and emotional style that arose from 1960s counter-culture. They are also the first to grow up in a rich media environment offering complex and non-linear computer games. Values also differ: when asked to choose an object that represents freedom to them, Baby Boomers choose the car whereas Millenials choose the mobile phone, closely followed by sneakers!

Anouk Lavoie
IMD Research Associate

“It was very beneficial to be part of the panel as I had the opportunity to debate what the main challenges are that companies have attracting Millennial talent. I felt that companies have this matter on the top of their agenda, and are striving to create environments where Millennials can have a meaningful career.”

David Ruiz
IMD MBA 2018 Candidate

Let there be light!

As I looked outside my hotel window into the horizon on the eve of Diwali, a million lights glimmered at me and made me wonder about the power of precious light and the hope that it brings along with it. They say that one must know the darkness before you can really appreciate the light. There were several instances in the last ten months when everything around seemed completely bleak and dim. However, I realized over time that wherever my story takes me, however dark and difficult the theme, there is always some hope because I’m an optimist at heart and there is always always light at the end of a menacing dark night! Continue reading “Let there be light!”