“When making friends, don’t start with strong opinions.” This has been the overall guideline that I have followed when meeting new people. Strong opinions can separate, they can generate distance and selection; not helpful when starting to work or spend time together. There is a time and a place for an open, truthful and trust-based conversation – but like most good things, trust takes time.
The unknown unknowns
Right at the beginning of our Full-time MBA programme, all 43 of us were “thrown” into a team-building weekend, the “Leadership Camp”, having spent very little to no time face to face previously. Every single one of us chose this programme looking to meet a strong and motivated group with a diverse cultural and professional background. To learn, to be challenged by the unknown and shaped by the unexpected – and the unexpected started on day one.
At the beginning of the weekend, the majority were in agreement that team building consisted of trust falls and chair circles, and not much else. We were wrong. Both days had different structures, but similar effects. We were split into small groups, competing against one another. Right after this competition, we were all brought together again, this time acting jointly, all working together in one large cooperation.
For example, making our way through a rainy forest blindfolded in smaller teams, fully relying on complete and open communication, having to trust every single member of the group at all times was tricky. When joining to become one large group again, new and successful approaches were shared, competitors became companions, individual struggle turned into cooperation and listening led to learning.
Never stop listening
The more time you spend with people, the more they tend to open up, share ideas, fears and opinions. Now, you usually get here after a few months, maybe years in a relationship, maybe never. This is where things can get complicated: When voicing opinions, one tends to face disagreement. There is no easy way through this. It takes work, it takes dedication, it takes compromise, and it takes courage. You also need to be willing to listen, like, a lot. I began talking about my fears, about stress and expectations, and I was listened to and I felt heard. Positive feedback, support and kindness confirmed that even though the exchange of ideas and approaches can be daunting and complicated, I am convinced that it is always worth doubling down and working it out.
Forward unto dawn
Trust is earned, it is given too, but it needs to be earned. Trust was THE recurring topic throughout the entire weekend. Every exercise we completed seemed to accelerate us through the stereotypical hurdles and bumps of trust and relationship building.
I joined the MBA programme expecting to meet competitors, and that was fine. I was looking forward to be challenged and prepared for my future endeavours. What I found instead was friends, people to learn from and grow with, and I have to say, I prefer the latter.
The Frankfurt MBA offers ongoing opportunities for personal and professional growth. The classes, in my experience, have been outstanding in their academic foundation and industry relevance and working on a wide array of group projects is marvelously challenging. Also, my decision process of coming here was long and complex and it needed a little more than FS ‘just’ having an excellent track record, historic ties to a large chunk of German industries and being perfectly located in the business hub of Germany (and possibly Europe – thanks Boris and Nigel!). It also convinced me on the “human side” as well, with its student body, administration, and academic staff.