outside view of Harvard building

I was lucky enough recently to spend a few days at Harvard Business School taking one of their Executive Education Courses entitled Achieving Breakthrough Service. I will say it was by far one of the most awesome experiences I’ve been a part of.

Prior to going for this course, I had been to Boston once before, and walked through the Harvard campus. It was a gorgeous campus with lots of historic buildings in a energy filled college town.

Arriving to Harvard this time was different, being on the Business School campus, I could tell I was in for one of the most unique learning experiences. And I was right, the experience was unlike any other learning environment I had been part of before.

Here are a few things I learned while there:

From the course itself:

  1. Create clarity — create clarity in all things that you do. If you aren’t clear in your business, both your customers and employees suffer, as this allows room for ambiguity on all levels. Don’t underestimate the importance of this or the impact it can have.
  2. Define your values — determine what your companies key values are that you bring to your customers. What do your customers come to you for and what do they value most?
  3. To make radical changes, bold strokes are required — if you want to really make a big, transformative change, sometimes you have to make big, bold leaps of faith and go for it.
  4. Do the hard thing — To be different, you have to do the hard things that no one else wants to do. Do these things and do them well and you can be wildly successful.
  5. Customers tell you that you’re excellent — You, as an organization, can think you are excellent, but your customers are truly the ones that determine if you are excellent or not.

From this experience:

  1. The diversity of background and culture and caliber of leaders that attended this course was incredible — Being around all of these successful, and open-minded people pushes you to think differently, be better, to want to continue to grow and learn and push yourself to succeed.
  2. Stepping out of your comfort zone — Sitting in a classroom of 32 executives, I happen to be seated front and center to the professor. I was called on to answer the first question from both of the first two sessions. It definitely forced me to speak up and share my thoughts and ideas immediately. I didn’t have time to be nervous or hide and wait for the “perfect time” to share. When I didn’t fall on my face it reinforced my confidence and why I was there.
  3. There are amazing teachers out there — so passionate, knowledgable, and they have the power and ability to bring excitement and ideas alive.
  4. Customer experience — the whole experience while on campus was world class. From the check-in to the communication on knowing where to do and what to do, to the course design, everything is done with a purpose and to lead to a great experience.
  5. Great leaders are vulnerable — they are great storytellers who can connect the macro to the micro and why its important to them and their people. They share something of themselves in just the right way to get others to understand and buy-in.