#EMBA Insights : What management really means!
Executive MBA / 21. Oktober 2016
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EMBA Class of 2018
Laura Massilamany, Cultural expert, EMBA´18 Student. “Follow me throughout the year during this exciting, demanding, life changing EMBA experience with the class of 2018!”


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Seeheim – Lufthansa training center –  Friday 7th October, 10h.

Bring 45 high educated professionals, all responsible managers for an intense day of team building activities together, give them instructions and goals. Let them figure out how to achieve these strategically in a new group !  interesting right ? indeed, this intense day revealed talents and personalities!

14595608_255311558198052_9219464611271393951_nEMBA´2018 crew  

Different activities, different perspectives

At first sight, the games don’t make any sense until we understand the ingenious idea to convert complex business situations into teambuilding challenges. I won’t reveal here too many exercises content in order for newcomers to find their own creative solutions. Hence, I want to share our challenges, experiences, and takeaways from this intense session.

#The introductory game can be called process optimization exercise. Passing balls between team members with an initially given method and then increase the difficulty, rapidity of the task gradually with adding new components.  

First objection : We can´t ! it seems impossible! So, we need to find shortcuts. “If you want to be efficient → change process, be creative. That´s what we learn immediately. It seems that our brains resist enhancement, strike leaving the comfort zone until it becomes easier to reach the goal in 5 seconds. So, what makes us think we are not able to reach much, individually, in a group? Certainly, the mental strength makes the difference.


In the same mindset : Find a way to drop the pencil as far a possible without touching the ground. First, we were asked to elaborate a method in a small team and then to reach the results with the whole group. This easy task is a pretty subtle game which tests our ability to cooperate, delegate, and assess our capacity to take results-oriented actions by cooperating in a team.

#2nd challenge : With this exercise, we have 5 teams with pipelines to deliver 2 balls in buckets. Reach the last bucket all teams at the same time. Learning decision making & involvement are our goals.

14517593_255311551531386_934336594372459066_n 2The pipeline team game

How to deal with challenging group dynamics ? such as alpha singularity, with too many leaders? Can the language be a cultural challenge ? How to deal with emotions, with over energized, calm, focused behaviors ?

First and foremost, we reach better, further with a team. With a mutual encouraging, we achieve more than individually. With a healthy competition, we have overcome obstacles. Besides, the obvious personalities differences (introvert vs. extroverts, risk takers, consensus-oriented decision makers..) and different level of experiences, communication was the key. In a practical way, we learned that a specific method for a person is counterproductive for another team member. Are we trained enough ? or do we take the risk ? Practice is important for the fluidity of the process, to rectify mistakes.

We all come from different boards, have different personalities and complementary skills. Some of us are more talented with project management tasks, or strategical planning, or  communication & motivation. By delegating, assigning the right people to the right tasks, we create synergy, reach a higher level. When we understand strengths and weaknesses of team members, we achieve better together.

Steve jobs  : “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

#The Ikea exercice. This very abstra
ct assemblage exercise is obscure for me. I just don’t know how, where to start with this. Anyway, few colleagues are already trying to figure out how to assemble the pieces together. Meanwhile, I figured out that by building pieces simultaneously we can be quicker and reach the given time than assembling pieces separately which will take way longer. I tried pretty hard to share this method, but no echo in the team ! We continued with the initial sequence assembling process and losing precious time.

IMG_2699The Ikea team game

What have I learned from this experience? I wasn’t quite happy because I wasn’t able to convince my team knowing that it was the best strategy. Talking with few of my classmates, they gave me good tips and examples how I can improve my managerial skills.

Reflections perspectives 

-Don´t give up your idea when it´s worth fighting for it and get the presence by showing an engaged body language.
-Define clearly leaders, doers, speakers roles, delegate and ask people to do the way it should be done.
-Time is an essential to consolidate respect from competencies
-Sometimes influence instead of inspiring!

I am very grateful for these advice. 

Group brainstorm, reflection session

This teambuilding event has been highly inspirational. To wrap-up, the ground rules & principles for the executive MBA team are tolerance, mutual support, motivation, focusing, open-mindedness to new ideas, fair play, networking as a must soft skill, life balance, and always have FUN !

Key competencies for working effectively in cross-cultural teams

I have been often asked about my cultural view on this journey and group interactions. I am really happy to get to know better my colleagues professionally, we have been selected for our skills, personalities, and diversity.  

So each cultural group gives its children’s a different set of instructions in order for them to be successful in their own environment. When we grow up, we adopt these national concepts which become our core beliefs. So, we see other cultures as different as ours and judge them, deviant. Hence, there is no such a thing a right or wrong in a culture because all cultural specificities are equally valid in their own environment. This is the basis for our common understanding.

The language is embedded in the culture, even communicating in English can be a challenge. Therefore, few keys elements such as respect, trust, openness, willingness to share and learn, acceptance & accepting help, patience and flexibility are a must have soft skills-set to get inspired by diversity.

How to be a successful manager

-First, overcome the chaos in your own universe! If there is nr.1 must-have competence for a manager, is to be able to manage oneself : master your organization methods, strive to be a role model, master your emotions.

-The right combination at the right moment. As managers, we have a repertoire of tools and skills but ultimately the genuine task is to select to use the right attitude at the right moment. When to use tolerance, guidance or authority.. and how can I combine these?

-Trust is a powerful connection for the team spirit.

Culinary delight

img_1122 (3)Preparing the Irish beef steak  

Giant shrimp Kurbis soup – Irish beef steak heated in only 1min each side – Creme brulé. All prepared and cooked by the 2018´EMBA crew ! Feeling amazing @  Simply delightful, I can’t think of a better way to close this insightful day.

To conclude, the opening ceremony speech a day before the EMBA kick off, reminded me of something important. When I was 20, I was full of enthusiasm and expectations entering the professional world. At 35, after many years of professional experience, the reality seems to suggest differently.

We often forget that managers are not simply process-optimizers, giving instructions, guidance but leaders with intuition, capable of innovation, creativity and ability to make events happens, improve, push further. For that, we need the best tools and knowledge available to lead with vision and be able to impact the world positively. Our society is changing deeply, structurally with the digital media era. This opportunity in combination with our managerial mindset, shape for the best our near future.

“Vision without action is a daydream, action without vision is a nightmare.”

Stay tuned for more Executive MBA stories!


Laura Massilamany