It feels a bit odd for me to write a blog on the Leadership Experientials – even as the leadership professor for the stream – as I am not at the center of this important event. Rather, I am operating from quite a “backstage” position. This week (which is actually two sets of three-day experiences) is mainly driven by the amazing MBA Leadership Coaching Team. The students, their coach, and their small coaching groups are front and center. That said, this entire week is designed to bring to life so many of the themes and topics explored in the coming year of leadership work, including but not limited to, team dynamics, influence and persuasion, communication, conflict management, and managing diversity.
There are a few things that distinguish this week and make it so memorable for both students and coaches.
- It is anything but theoretical. Yes, of course, theory plays a role. But the week is super practical. In the “get your hands dirty” sort of way. Literally. You might show up all clean and shiny. But depending on the weather, you go home with sweaty skin, dirt on your pants, and muddy shoes. This all adds to the experience.
- It is difficult. On top of the sometimes crappy weather and fighting the elements for the Outdoors Day, this experience exposes your strengths but also your weaknesses. And you can’t fake it. Because the days are so fast-paced, intense, and maybe even stressful, there is little opportunity to “self present.” Going through one exercise after another, you see what you do well and what things are more challenging – meaning, those things that hold back you and your team from success. And if you don’t notice these yourself, I guarantee that your team will bring them to your attention! For this reason, the Experiential Week is one of the most “exposing” weeks of your MBA career – making it particularly challenging, since it comes so early in your IMD experience.
- It builds crucial relationships. Not only with your coach but with your fellow classmates. Because the only way to be truly successful in this experience is to work together as a team – to collaborate rather than compete – it is an amazing opportunity to bond through experiencing shared struggles and triumphs. In addition, in order to get the full experience, you need to let down your emotional defenses and be vulnerable to your fellow teammates. This vulnerability creates connections and trust. And through the insights of your leadership coach, as well as the one-on-one meetings, you start to develop a relationship with him/her that will last throughout the year.
I am honored to have a role orchestrating this impactful experience. But I also need to accurately acknowledge and express my gratitude to the ones who do the real work here: the coaches and the MBA students.
Professor Jennifer Jordan