It has been three weeks since we came back from the summer break, and while we’ve already achieved a great deal, there is still a feeling that we’re in a liminal space. Here we all are, on the second and final stretch of the MBA, and recruitment has commenced in earnest. The weather, too, seems to have gotten the transitional memo as recent rains, while a welcome respite from summer’s relentless heat, signals the beginning of the transition to autumn as we begin our journey from student to corporate life. In the middle of this ambiguity, MBAs have found ways to center themselves.
For me, I have taken long treks along Lac Léman, especially on weekends. Last week I achieved a personal goal of doing a 10-mile (16 kilometer) walk that took me from Lausanne all the way to Grand Lavaux and back. Between interview preparation and assignments, it’s easy to take for granted not only the beauty of the IMD campus, but the fact that its location affords us some of the most stunning views in the world.
For my friend and classmate Gabriel Lising, finding his center means venturing beyond the Lausanne environs for a four-hour hike to Lake Oeschinensee, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Gabriel said, “I find that using one of Switzerland’s most available resources, its beautiful landscapes, is a great way to reflect and escape from the busyness of the MBA.”
On the other hand, another friend, Shimpei Fukagai told me that his center is to be found in a creative space as he turned back to his first love – music. Aided by Finance Professor Arturo Bris, who provided the equipment (and taking full advantage of the drum kit we discovered last week), he and other candidates have taken to letting it all out during jamming sessions in the basement of Bellerive 32.
Reaching across the aisle
Speaking of spaces, our leadership class this week was all about learning to lead across cultures. Post-MBA, and in our ever-globalized world, the chances are we would find ourselves in corporate spaces with people who don’t have the same cultural backgrounds that we do. Do they come from high-context or low-context cultures? How do we interpret their body gestures? How do we read between the lines to understand what they are saying – and, more importantly, what they are not saying?
For a class consisting of 40 nationalities, our Module 1 teams gave a preview into this aspect of corporate life as we were thrown into the deep end of learning to adapt to each other’s communication and working styles. Coming from a relatively homogenous society of Nigeria, so far I have worked with candidates from nationalities as diverse as India, Japan, China, Malaysia, New Zealand, Canada, and Italy, among others. While it has not been without its share of friction, the reward is in the learning and growth from these experiences.
After a spirited, honest, and open discussion (a hallmark I have come to expect from IMD’s famed leadership stream), Professor Jennifer Jordan equipped us with some tools to effectively manage across cultures as we go out into the real world, especially in terms of communication and if given negative feedback.
By the end of the session, we learned to:
- Be cognizant of the extent of shared context of people of different cultures. In low-context cultures, communication is often more direct, while in high-context cultures, one may have to read between the lines.
- Have empathy when we find ourselves in multicultural spaces. This means asking questions, seeking to understand where others are coming from, and mapping out cross-cultural communication, while also understanding your own situation.
- Be intentional. Especially in bridging out subtle ways to communicate and connect with members of your team.
- Genuinely connect. By doing so, we can effectively lead.
As we prepare to embark on the second leg of our Discovery Expedition, these lessons could not have come at a better time.