Panel Explores the Role of Managing Relationships in Careers and in Organizations
At a talk on September 24, Yale SOM alumni and students discussed the ways in which managing relationships-—whether personal and professional networks or organizational contacts—can be a critical skill for a leader. The panel discussion, titled "Managing Yale SOM Relationships: Alumni and Student Perspectives," was a part of Yale SOM's Reunion Weekend. It featured two accomplished graduates, Edward J. De La Rosa '81 and Martha Finn Brooks '86, and two current students, Jason Harp '12 and Dorothy Halsey '12, and was moderated by the school's senior associate dean for the MBA program, Jeanette Gorgas.
Gorgas launched the discussion by saying that one priority shared by her and Dean Edward A. Snyder is to make Yale SOM great at managing relationships. She asked the panelists to enlarge on their own experiences in this area.
Edward De La Rosa '81, founder and president of De La Rosa & Co., said that one lesson he's learned through a long career in investment banking is: "There's always a person on the other side… And over time, that person forms an impression of your trustworthiness and your competence that will affect how they act toward you." He added, "Some say markets are impersonal, but I don't think that's true."
Martha Finn Brooks '86, who is the former president and chief operating officer of Novelis, Inc., said that in the industries she has worked in—Novelis is a global leader in aluminum rolling—it was always important to understand her customers' businesses and to promote a two-way exchange. "If you have to work with a company for decades, it's not going to work well if you're just trying to get what you can out of each transaction," she said. In addition, this sort of strong relationship can promote innovation, as one company anticipates the needs of the other. "My general approach to people has been one of listening and learning," she said.
Both students on the panel said that they have learned a lot about building relationships in their time at Yale SOM, both through formal and informal channels. Jason Harp '12, who completed a summer internship at Bain & Company, described how the Negotiations course taught him to see himself in other people's shoes. Dorothy Halsey '12 said that she really appreciated the value of the Yale network during her internship search, as she easily found people in the company she wanted to work at who could provide advice and guidance.
Gorgas pointed out that one of the challenges leaders face in managing relationships lies in prioritizing the many constituents that a contemporary organization must engage. Brooks responded, "It's your first priority to make the organization grow and thrive…so that all the constituencies can benefit." And she added that most groups understand that. She also said it was important to talk with groups that might seem adversarial, so that they know you understand their point of view.
The conversation turned to how the Yale SOM integrated curriculum prepares students for this crucial aspect of modern business and nonprofit management. Halsey said she learned how to work with others and solve problems together through her assigned study group. Harp described how the Organizational Perspectives, core courses which are structured around the various constituencies a manager must engage and lead, helped him build "intuition" about those groups.