No answers, just better questions
Folk's Managing Director goes to Harvard Business School

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Like everyone at Folk I have a professional development plan – learning goals and objectives. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to improve how I work and what I bring to my role at Folk. I go to countless events, read constantly and each year I normally sign up to something as a bit of stretch – something to stop me ducking hard questions. In 2015 I did the Australian Institute of Company Directors “Directing Growth” course which was rewarding and worthwhile – I learnt a bunch of stuff from both the sessions and the good people I met through the course which I now find myself applying to my work at Folk, and with our clients.

This year, mostly on the recommendation of Grant Butler, MD of Editor Group, I went to Harvard Business School in Boston for the “Leading Professional Services Firms” program. Grant attended last year and wrote this excellent Blog post which was quite handy in preparing to get the most of the program.

Leading Professional Services Firms is specifically designed for people like me who, for the most part, lead professional services firms. The majority of the people attending hold senior roles in law, accounting, management consulting and investment banking. There’s also a subset of people who lead engineering, technology and you guessed it, creative services businesses, which includes architecture and design.

The programme itself is quite intense between the advance reading of case studies and the long days while you’re there. To quote Grant, Harvard Business School is part education, part experience. The campus is well set up to make sure you’re focused while you’re there. Brilliant facilities, library and gym, but no bar, not even a café – which caused some interesting behaviours amongst those relying on caffeine to get them through their jet lag in the first few days. Never before have I seen someone consume seven Nespresso pods in a two-hour period.

The professors at Harvard are, to state the bleeding obvious, the real deal. Their commercial experience at the highest levels means they bring an edge to teaching the cases, particularly when they were personally involved.

I managed to score a front row seat in the lecture room. This, coupled with my accent, meant I had a large target painted on my forehead for the first two days. One professor, Tom DeLong, was kind enough to quietly ask me if I didn’t mind being the focus of his attention...

In my cohort there were a bunch of very smart and interesting people from a wide range of related firms in different geographies. Together they shared alternate perspectives on common issues in professional services – brilliant for getting you to think differently about your own circumstances.

The structure of the days included specific blocks of time to reflect on the discussions and then relate it back to your own circumstances. For me this reflection time was amongst the most challenging periods – making sense of all you’d read, heard, seen and discussed. And to figure out how it related to you, your work and your firm.

Which leads me to what I took from the program. What it wasn’t about was magical answers to common problems - 6 ways to…, 5 things you need to know about… Far from it.

The professors did a brilliant job of constantly putting it back on you – “Does it? I’m not sure, what do you think?

So back here at Folk, for me, it’s all about better questions.

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Written by:
Michael Broadhead,
Managing Director