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How to build and lead teams
Sanjiv Kathuria
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August 22, 2007

A B-school endeavours to simulate the business environment and make you "better" prepared to handle practical business situations.

It tries to mimic practical business scenarios to enhance the understanding of how best these could be dealt with in a day-to-day working environment. However, like most simulations, this, too, falls short of reality!

Business school education churns out a jargon-spewing graduate who is goal-oriented, with excellent information gathering and analytical skills, and a good general awareness of various areas of business management. Where it fails to provide adequate inputs is in the areas of people management, building and managing teams and leadership.

Just consider these examples:

A course in organisational behaviour teaches you about the typical behaviour of people, different leadership styles and so on, but it can't teach you which leadership style would suit you the best. All B-school graduates have to find their individual leadership style the hard way.

A class in negotiation skills will make you aware of the nuances and tactics of negotiation, but it can't make you a skilled negotiator. It is only when you start applying these learnings in practical scenarios that you evolve as a better negotiator.

A class in sales management may teach you the various techniques in selling, sales forecasting, budgeting and so on. Getting an "A" grade in sales management will not ensure that you are the best sales manager.

It is the day-to-day fire fighting, motivating the team, handling tough customers and the ability to handle the high pressure of achieving targets month on month that will get the best out of you.

Also, while the case study method followed in B-schools is a great way to teach about real-life business situations, it has one lacuna - it is written "post the event", and thus suffers from all the biases that are a result of the capacity of the human mind to rationalise and justify the actions taken.

A typical case study also gives huge amounts of data and lulls you into believing that business decisions are taken with deep analysis. In reality, that is not the case; more often than not, the everyday business realities unfold gradually and business decisions are taken in "foggy" conditions.

In sum, a B-school no doubt enhances your knowledge level and the ability to think and solve problems, but it is only on-the-job experience that transforms a management school graduate into a business manager.

Sanjiv Kathuria graduated from IIM, Bangalore, in 1991

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