Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Leadership Academy All-Night Mission

By Samantha Sieloff, Second-year MBA, Marketing



Gathering at 6:30 PM to start our 10 hour mission
At 6:30 PM last Thursday, seventeen MBA Leadership Academy students arrived at the edge of the IU cross-country course, ready to embark on an all-night leadership exercise. Yes, we voluntarily signed up for sleep deprivation in 45 degree weather with no food and no idea of what to expect. Bye, bye comfort zone!

We were thrown into the deep end right from the start and tasked with finding paintball guns and supplies marked on a map, meeting up with a questionably reliable farmer for information and then trekking several miles into the woods to find a hypothetical plane crash. Our radios were squawking with ominous laughter from an unknown source, the popping of paintball guns from a distant ridge let us know we could be attacked anytime, and we had very little idea of where were going.  

All said and done we were supposed to be able to get to the plane crash site in about 30 minutes. Instead, it took us about 90. But that's okay because the end is not what matters. What really matters is everything we learned while getting from point A to point B. Communication, contingency planning, and engagement with all levels of organization bubbled to the surface during our post-trek discussion.

Trekking as a group

I had the opportunity to lead the next part of the mission that occurred between 11 PM and 2 AM (that's me in the blue coat in the picture). Using what I had learned from our previous failures, I decided that instead of only thinking about what I had to get done, I would re-frame the problem in my head to think about how I could get everyone around me to operate at their best. What did each individual person need – more direction or more freedom? Did they feel like they had enough information to know what was going on and why their role was important in the overall goal? Were their needs of hunger or fatigue being recognized? Did they feel like they had a voice to help troubleshoot problems or offer suggestions for improvements? 

By taking this approach the team fell into place as a high-functioning, collaborative group and we moved quickly to complete our mission. I split our team in half leaving a smaller unit to guard our weapons while taking some of us at a quick speed farther into the woods. We came to a clearing that had a gravel parking lot, a river and a bridge. In between on-coming car headlight flashes from a nearby road, we pumped up three life rafts and cast off in the water to find the black box from our fictional plane crash located somewhere along the base of the bridge. Once recovered, we had to rejoin the rest of our team and then as one seventeen person unit, retrace our path through the woods in the pitch blackness to make it back to our original starting point before 1 AM. By explaining the plan to everyone and asking if we were all in agreement as to how to handle surprises, we worked together to make it back. 

11:30 PM - crossing a river as part of the 2nd mission

I am days away from graduating and I cannot thank this program enough for all that I have learned getting from point A in 2012 to point B on May 9th, 2014. I dove in head first when I got here and I advise all of you future Kelley first-years and second-years to do the same. The more you give to this program, the more it will give right back to you. In fact, just like in this leadership exercise, the more you make your MBA experience about everyone else instead of about yourself; the more you will find yourself growing into a totally different person.  

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