Last Christmas, I received one of the best gifts in years, one I could never have anticipated, when my family and I participated in an event at the University of Pittsburgh that He provided an abundant festive meal to people in need. My job was to serve salad, clearly not in glamor work on a day when stomachs competed for turkey, ham, potatoes, salsa and desserts. While distributing the greens, I also had the challenge of thinking about how well in business schools we are preparing our students to serve their communities.
People had three options at my station: Italian dressing, ranch dressing or no seasoning. I quickly realized the challenge of my homework when two people passed by with plates full of meat and sides and two pieces of cake. They had no space to hold a salad, either in the hand or in the stomach.
How to sell salads in such an environment? I chose to thank people, talk to them, wish them a Merry Christmas and offer them a salad. It was amazing how well my approach worked. Each person has a special salad. Some chose the one they wanted, others wanted me to choose. However, during the course of my three-hour shift, I distributed each and every one of the salads prepared in the cart.
The most rewarding part of my day were the conversations. In each interaction I learned about interesting new perspectives and more. One woman said she hoped she would not take her comment the wrong way, but she knew that I was in business school, and her experience with business graduates, especially with an MBA, was that they only cared about the money and for themselves . She said it seemed we did not do anything to show the students that life was more than just the pursuit of wealth. She asked why we were like that.
I explained that if we provide students with opportunities to give back, we tell the students that the obligation to improve the community comes with success. She listened politely, but I do not think she sold it as well as I gave the salads to people.
Reflecting, I think there are many reasons why business schools have not been as effective in teaching generosity about greed. One is that we rarely place ourselves in circumstances that make us change our way of thinking about people, problems or the cost of poverty and abandonment. Second, because we are very busy and mostly connected to a certain type of person, it is easy to assume that everyone can do just as well if he or she just tries. Another reason is our assumption that some problems are too difficult to correct for any individual, so we can also use our time effectively (effective time management is one of the lessons we teach), and that means leaving those problems so that others can solve them. . Finally, we may be guilty of spending so much time looking in the mirror that we no longer see anything other than what we want. We become blind to people and things that we want to ignore.
These reflections are reduced to three important observations: first, any gap in the education of the business school exists on purpose. They reflect the decisions made by leaders, teachers and staff. It does not have to be this way. Second, it is our community and our world. I can not solve our problems without help and neither can you. But I guarantee that we will never solve our most pressing problems if the vast majority of successful people choose not to act and engage with them. You need to crawl before you can walk. Finally, I learned that it is enormously satisfying to take time to give to others.
The enjoyment of volunteering far exceeds the imposition that creates in his time. In a world where many people see few solutions to the problems we face, a simple answer is to be a friend. By doing so, you will make a difference and you will feel good. In my case, I learned these lessons last Christmas, where the simple act of distributing salads to people in my community was a very enriching experience.