What are you hoping for this Christmas? Something wrapped under the tree? Or something more original?
How about a gift worth £30,000? Two people will hear this week that they will get an unusual present: a place on the Senior Executive Programme at the London Business School.
I used to have mixed feelings about what is called “executive education”, ie courses offered by business schools of relatively short duration, often run exclusively for one employer. It seemed to me a lot of work, often almost as much as for an MBA, and yet there is no piece of paper at the end of it.
I used to liken it to doing evening classes in, say, Mandarin but not sitting a GCSE. Surely better to obtain proof of your commitment and hard work? Qualifications validate experience. They give you confidence, and act as independent testimony to your capability.
I see a lot of CVs (our London office alone reviews about 3,000 a year) and, increasingly, people do include their executive education.
I used to be dismissive of this. Why did they not sit an exam? Did they just turn up and snooze their way through the classes? I sweated for my MBA and have the piece of paper to prove it.
But then a few years ago, I became a consumer of executive education. Not for myself, but for people in my team. Here I must declare an interest: I am an LBS alumna, and so I turned to LBS when I decided that key employees would accelerate faster if they had a stronger business understanding.
I sent a colleague on a programme for emerging leaders, and then more recently another on a course designed for people who are moving to general management. These were “open” executive education courses (ie not confined to staff of a single employer). They cost a lot of money, which for a small business is a challenging decision.
But I saw how valuable the people I sent found them, how much they advanced as a result and – crucially – how they didn’t get any time to snooze.
They both found it tough to put in the time. One, a woman, was married with a child and faced the usual issues of having to be away from home for the residential section which required 24/7 focus. Would I do it again? Yes. I have revised all my views.
The two recipients of places on the LBS programme that I mentioned earlier are the winners of the 30% Club Scholarship. This means both are women and, as it happens, both are single parents. (There was supposed to be only one winner, but the judges could not choose and LBS doubled the prize.)
Yasmin Becker, who leads a change programme at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and Andreea Moldovan, who runs Avon across eastern Europe, will be busy in 2015. I cannot think of a better, more well-deserved, Christmas present.
The original article appeared in Mrs Moneypenny’s regular FT column on 4th December. Mrs Moneypenny is a Steering Committee member of the 30% Club