Gaurav Lal, Executive Director, Innovation & Alliances, Merck & a Kellogg Executive Education scholar who, having also earned his MBA at Kellogg, has demonstrated a deep commitment to life-long learning. He's a regular attendee of Executive Education programs and frequently brings colleagues and direct reports with him so that his whole team benefits from such programs as The Sphere of Leadership, Leading Into the Future, and Energizing People for Performance as a group. Gaurav was kind enough to spend some time with us discussing what his Executive Education experiences have meant for him and his team at Merck.

Why did you and your team members attend Kellogg Executive Education programs?

I use Kellogg Executive Education for a talent-management approach with our top talent, our emerging talent, and our early talent who are going to be leading Merck in the future. It helps develop and round out their leadership profile. We choose topical areas and go through the experience together. We then take the concepts we learn at Kellogg and apply those ideas and learnings together back in the workplace, which is the most important part of the process. And we hold each other accountable.

Have you observed an immediate positive impact from sending your people to Kellogg Executive Education?

In my most recent program, The Sphere of Leadership, I brought four of my direct reports. We returned with some ideas about time management and prioritization. We’ve already applied them, and we think it’s going to help us become a more organized, better-prioritized team that manages distractions. There were some very good tips that we've already put to work for us.

Has Kellogg helped you personally fill a competency or leadership gap?

I got my MBA at Kellogg in the mid-‘90s but come back every other year for a program. The leadership journey is something you never quite finish. You continue to grow as a leader year after year, and I've seen that personal growth in my journey as I round out the edges on areas such as executive presence and emotional intelligence. I've certainly picked up knowledge, suggestions, recommendations and tips from either coaches or Kellogg faculty; it continues to make me a better and better leader over time, and I'm certainly not finished learning. It's just something you don't get in the workplace. We're running so hard most of the time that we never pause to sit down and have a conversation internally. So it's good to come to Kellogg and network with people outside of our industry and company—to get ideas from them and the faculty. That's why I've enjoyed the experience of going back.

Is lifelong learning a focus for you and your team?

My leadership team and I define the whole idea of career as a journey. As they approach their career development, the mindset that I've tried to create over time is that they own their own development plan. I'm here as their coach and leader to support that and provide recommendations. However, they have to drive it. I encourage people to choose one or two skill areas they want to sharpen at a time as opposed to making it overwhelming, where they're trying to tackle five or six areas of development simultaneously. I think it is something that you have to commit to throughout your life, and you have to make the time for it. You can't go on with the excuse that you don't have enough time because you’re so busy at work. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to your people to continue to grow.

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