1. Outline tangible objectives
“One of the main challenges in any executive-education course is to maximise the value the students take out of the [time] they spend in class,” says Dr. Gad Allon, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management. To do so, he adds, students ought to prepare both short-term and long-term objectives as well as “specific challenges they want to be able to address in their current position.”
Looking to just “learn more”? Allon says you’re likely to take less away from your course.
Dr. David L. Bradford, Senior Lecturer Emeritus at Stanford Graduate School of Business, agrees about the importance of specific learning goals. “Having those goals moves the learner into an active role,” he explains. “They are more likely to ask questions, as well as engage in the active thought process of ‘how does this material apply to my goals and how can I use this?’”
Questions you can ask yourself to hone in on your goals:
- Why have I chosen to develop my skills through an executive-education course?
- What am I hoping to gain from the programme professionally and personally?
- What skills do my business or leadership team expect me to bring back and apply?
- What challenges within my company need attention or a new perspective?
2. Know your company's expectations
In many cases, you will be attending your executive-education programme to bring fresh ideas to your business or to face particular challenges that have arisen. By having a pre-programme dialogue with your boss (and colleagues, if appropriate), you can identify takeaways from your programme that will be most beneficial to your team.
If you are attending a custom programme designed specifically for your company’s needs, there are additional ways you and your colleagues may choose to prepare.
3. Speak with the programme faculty
"To get the most out of custom executive-education programmes, make sure you engage with the program faculty in advance and offer them the input they need to truly understand your context and your pain points,” says Dr. Mohanbir Sawhney, also a professor at the Kellogg School of Management.
Sawhney urges participants to continually take on an active “so what?” attitude during their courses and to translate what is being taught into actionable outcomes.
This advice is best heeded for those participating in non-customised programmes, as well.
4. Debrief when you return to work
It's essential to include in your initial plan a scheduled debriefing session for the conclusion of your study. Debriefing will allow you to share what you’ve learned and work with your colleagues to implement your new skills in a real-world setting, outcomes that are inherently valuable as well as strategically smart should you hope to ever pursue further education in the future.
This article originally appeared on The Economist Executive Education Navigator blog.