2016 MBA@UNC Global Immersion: Chapel Hill Day Two

MBA@UNC Global Immersions are offered four times a year as unique opportunities for students to travel to major domestic and international business destinations with their fellow classmates, participate in engaging discussions with their professors and elite industry leaders, as well as apply what they have learned to real-life problems.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Organizers of the MBA@UNC Immersion program say that in student surveys collected after each Immersion, one of the most popular outcomes is the practical advice imparted by UNC Kenan-Flagler faculty. Skills the students can apply immediately after returning to work.

On the second day of the 2016 Chapel Hill Immersion, it was clear that Dave Hofmann, a professor of organizational behavior and UNC Kenan-Flagler Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, has taken that data to heart. He told about 50 MBA@UNC students in one of four leadership development tracks Saturday that the entire point of his session, “Effective Team Dynamics,” was to give them tools “which you can take back and use with your team Monday morning.”

And Hofmann achieved his goal, at least with some students. T.J. Jalbert, a regional director of sales for wire and cable company Anixter International in Boston, said in an interview that he was going to use an exercise of Hofmann’s involving a $10 bill when he returns to work. The lesson, which dealt with the factors influencing motivation, forced the students to examine their own behaviors—as they perceive them, and as they’re perceived by co-workers.

“I run a large team, and 18 of them I manage directly,” Jalbert said. “It was a good exercise, especially when [Hofmann] had us look at the way others perceive our actions. I’m definitely going to do this one with my team.”

Two students mentioned an exercise they’d done the previous day in a session called “Executing Strategy Through People” with Dave Roberts, Assistant Professor of Marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Roberts’s exercise also required students to take a hard look at their behaviors and their ability to solve problems more creatively.

Alex Buls, an anesthesiologist in Honolulu, leads a team of 10 people, and said for him, Roberts’s exercise was “high-yield stuff that forces people to think differently right away.”

Jaap Veneman, who works in strategic corporate finance in Philadelphia, said he planned to introduce the exercise to his team.

“In a short period of time, you go through the experience, you have an ‘aha’ moment, and then you can’t stop thinking about it,” Veneman said.

Hofmann started his session by asking students to name characteristics that defined great teams (competent, trust, motivated, clear goals) and bad teams (poor leadership, lack of communication). The group also discussed Patrick Lencioni’s work from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which are: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results.

Hofmann also had lessons about listening and motivation.

“When you hear ‘because,’ in a sentence, and the ‘because’ is followed by a description of someone else’s motive, that should be a red light and red siren,” he said. “What they’re attributing about someone else’s motives tells you more about what’s in their own head than the other person’s.”

And he counseled the students to be aware of how they are perceived by others on their team, to learn from those perceptions and be open to change as a result.

“As much you’re complaining about them, they’re complaining about you,” he said. “And the only way to solve the problem is to understand their complaints about you.”

Mike Roberts, from Richmond, Va., reached back to Friday’s morning session led by Associate Director of Leadership Development at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Lisa Mashburn, for inspiration he’ll be taking back to his job in operations and logistics for consumer goods company Altria.

“I want to explore how leaders understand their own style of leadership, and what that means about the ways they recognize how others want to be led and communicated to,” he said.

Katie Segien, who works for a venture capital firm in Boston, reached back even further to Thursday’s Women’s Leadership Forum for input that she’ll definitely put to use.

“I work in a male-dominated field, so advice about climbing the corporate ladder as a woman is important,” she said. “Especially when you know that 30 percent fewer women than men ever even ask for a raise, advice about negotiations—especially about salary—is really useful.”

Carley Campbell discovered a nugget during a group assignment task that she said she’d be taking home to Greenville, S.C. Campbell thought another student’s description of an accountability matrix called RASIC (for "Responsible," "Approving," "Supporting," "Informed," "Consulted") could be especially useful in her position as director of product design and development for a wool yarn manufacturer.

“It’s about a clear understanding of goals, and it makes people responsible for their work,” she said.

The leader of the section’s afternoon session, Robert Goldberg, founder of consultancy firm Organization Insight and an associate faculty member who works with UNC Executive Development, said in an interview that self awareness was itself practical knowledge.

“Being aware of your strengths and limitations can yield profoundly healthy relationships and, consequently, great results,” Goldberg said in an interview.

In his session, called “Sustaining Personal Change: Emotional Intelligence at Work,” Goldberg told students that his objectives were to help them “understand more about the impact of emotional intelligence at work, understand what holds us back from making the changes we say we want to make, and identify how to stop holding ourselves back from sustainable leadership development.”

To that end, he took them on an introspective tour of self-discovery, helping the students evaluate their emotional awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management. In doing so, Goldberg gave them bits of wisdom to take back to their office.

“If you want useful feedback, the worst thing you can do is to ask for ‘feedback,’ ” he said. “Ask for specifics.”

He called human beings “anxiety distribution devices,” and advised, for those working with remote employees, that “silence means agreement in person, but in a virtual situation silence means disagreement.”

In the end, Goldberg said, most challenges that we run up against are about improving ourselves. “They’re not technical challenges, but mindset challenges,” he said. “They’re adaptive challenges—how we change our thinking about something.”

That’s the kind of practical guidance Kayti Curtis of Wilmington, N.C., was hoping to get from Immersion weekend. Curtis said she’d spent years in the energy and utility industry, but was at a crossroads about what kind of position to pursue next.

“This kind of discussion is so valuable because it forces introspection,” she said. “What are my strengths that I can lean on when I’m pitching myself, or during interviews? I can think about these ideas to help me focus on improving in order to make myself valuable to a potential employer.”

In his morning session Dave Hofmann ended where he’d begun—a place he knows Immersion attendees are interested in.

“I hope everyone has something written down, somewhere, that will help your team do something different next week,” he said.