I am a Director at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a hospital that is recognized as one of the best pediatric hospitals in the world. Part of my role involves managing a hugely diverse team of 30 interpreters from 15 countries who speak 11 languages. Given that we have a high achieving and professional team, I was fairly confident I possessed solid skills in managing multicultural teams. However, this confidence was tested when I began my International Healthcare Management MBA programme.
Frankfurt School highly values building the collegiality and effectiveness of their MBA cohorts. One of the first ways this is achieved is through the Intercultural Teambuilding module, which I thought would be a piece of cake, or as you say in German “Kinderspiel”.
Our cohort was divided randomly into multicultural groups of four to work together for the first time on a group presentation. The topic we had to present on was new to all of us, so fair play for all! Eagerly, we jumped right into gathering the content, developing the timeline and then dividing the presentation into four parts. Cultural differences or various communication styles were not considered as we all safely assumed we were global citizens working successfully in diverse work environments. During the development of the presentation we observed that each member of the team had a different approach and style of communication to the task at hand, however we did not stop to acknowledge and discuss this as we had our prime focus on the final presentation.
A safe learning environment
Well… That was a lesson learned the hard way.
To our audience, our presentation seemed ill-prepared. There was a lack of cohesiveness and alignment among the four presenters that was due to the fact that we did not take the time to work through questions and concerns to create a unified vision for the presentation. Fortunately, the MBA program at the Frankfurt School of Business and Management creates a safe yet realistic environment to experience and learn from downfalls.
There are various enlightenments I had after this experience:
- Don’t underestimate the impact of style of communication and culture within a multicultural team.
- Don’t be too confident in your own expertise, there is always a new aspect to learn.
- Listen to your professor and take the time to create a team charter to build a high performing team – it’s worth it!
- Even if you experience failure, keep calm and move on. Resilience, perseverance and adaptation are leadership skills that can be only learned through failure and mistakes.
- Be grateful for the experience.
A supportive class
I appreciate the collegiality, friendship and support of our IHM MBA Class. It made it easier to recover and move on after a good dinner, long walks, good talks and maybe a wine (or two). Not only is this a group of excellent professionals consisting of a range of cultures but also a group of outstanding human beings who are supportive of each other and who want to see each other succeed. After only two modules, the MBA IHM program has without doubt, been a transformative experience. I am looking forward to continuing this exciting journey and seeing what else is to come.