With a week to go before attending the strategic deal making and negotiation program at Harvard, I asked John, Kiah’s MD, what I really wanted to know: how he’s feeling and if he’s ready.

Bravely, he told me. Here’s what he said.

With one week to go, are you nervous, excited or both? (cheekily, I nudged “no bravado”)

A little nervous actually.  Every report I have had suggests that the level of “brains in the room” – students and lecturers – is astounding. This is an executive program of very experienced people.  Hoping I can keep up!

The volume and quality of pre-reading and prep. for Harvard courses is legendary. Is it true? How much reading is there and what sort of thing (if you can disclose)?

The reading isn’t insurmountable – as long as you don’t have a day job.

Actually, the reading is easy, it’s the thinking that’s hard and I don’t want to be the dummy in the room, so I am doing some hard thinking.

The reading so far is a mix of preparatory case study information and excerpts from various books and articles.

There’s worldwide competition for places. How many and what sort of people are accepted into the course and what did they say you bring to the group?

I understand that this particular program has a maximum of 60 participants.

One had to offer a breadth of experience and senior levels in business.  They are very clear that the program relies on both the skill of the facilitators/lecturers and the contribution by the participants.  

What are you least looking forward to?

I think managing the cold.  To be honest I even have some anticipation of that experience – it’s not our normal experience. Protecting from sun is one thing, from arctic winds is another!

What are you most looking forward to?

The Harvard Experience.  Their residential Executive program starts with breakfast at 7, first class at 8, run through run to 1700 with dinner at 1800 and evening prep in syndicates from 1900 – 2100. It seems you have your own room (with en-suite!) around a syndicate work area complete with PC, projector and whiteboards.

The Harvard reputation for case study teaching.  Everything to date has been extremely professional and polished.  I am looking forward to the Socratic experience, albeit with some trepidation.

No checking emails nor social media during the day. Is that true? Assuming it is, while the cat’s away … what do you think and hope your team will be up to when you’re away?

So it seems.  PCs/IPADS etc are not used in the lecture rooms.  As part of the application a candidate had to get their “boss” to acknowledge that they would be unavailable for work during the program.  To be honest, in this “always on” business cycle I will be interested to see how successful Harvard are with this.

I think “going away” is part of how you develop a team. They need to ask guidance and approval on some issues, but fewer than they think.  Not being available forces them to back their judgement.

By the way, this is not all about them. It makes me give control, to let go and not stick my fingers in.  A dose of courage to let go, encouraged by long lines of communication.

They will need less of me by the time I get back, which means I can do more elsewhere.

Three words that sum up what you think/ hope will be or feel different after the course.

Knowledgeable, confident, re-energised.

Thanks for your honesty (and your confidence in the team), John. Be ready for more “just being curious” questions when you‘re back. Have a great time.