Friday, September 14, 2012

Leadership Training

How does an elite business school mold tomorrow's captains of industry? By dressing them in matching t-shirts, loading them onto a dozen buses, and shipping them 2 hours north to Lake Geneva, WI for two and a half days of outdoor activities, team building exercises, and cohort competitions. Thanks to Chicago Booth I pretty much relived my days at Camp Is-Sho-Da Girl Scout camp, albeit in a co-ed setting with better accommodations and four drink tickets.  This excursion known as Leadership Orientation Retreat (or LOR as Boothies call it) is the kickoff to Booth's only required course, LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development), the six-week class designed to help students develop our leadership style by giving us a deep and accurate view of our strengths and development needs.

The jury is still out on how adult summer camp relates to leadership, but it's definitely an interesting study in human behavior.  I have come to realize that Sunil Kumar and his crew are sadists who enjoy having 20 and 30 somethings make fools of themselves.  From the moment we stepped onto our buses we were asked to sing, rap, and tell our embarrassing stories all in the name of earning points for our cohort. Amongst the captives there are those who embrace the foolishness and others who do their best to avoid it.  I tend to embrace it.  I have found that half assing these things only makes a person look more awkward.  It's better to fully commit.  Besides, a little "Call Me Maybe" never hurt anybody.  However, let's be very clear.  There is a line.  It is perfectly acceptable to tell the story of the time you puked on yourself in your future mother in law's new Infiniti.  It is TMI to tell everyone in your cohort about losing your V-card.  And that right there is the biggest challenge of LOR: how to fully participate without doing something to ruin your reputation before classes even begin.  My goal for the "weekend" (Monday - Wednesday felt a lot like Friday - Sunday) was simply to not be "that girl." In the past I have dug myself into social holes out of which I could never completely climb and wanted to avoid making the same mistakes during one of the only times that the entire class would be together.  I think I made it through LOR unscathed. 

Initially I was reluctant about the LOR experience.  I am not a fan of huge crowds or forced bonding time and tend to require 8 hours of sleep to function.  However, it wasn't that bad.  In fact I actually had a really good time.  I worked up a sweat running around the Abbey Resort and introduced one of my male classmates to Mac Lip Glass (Russian Red) during the scavenger hunt.  Side note: Does anyone know who won the scavenger hunt? I don't think it was announced. I was having so much fun the first night that I neglected my need for sleep.  Not only did I dance my old ass off at the party in the bar, I also hung out at the after party until 3 a.m.  That was not a good decision considering the fact that I had to be on a bus in four hours.

In spite of the lack of sleep I did make it to the bus on time (unlike some people).  However, I didn't fully wake up until I was balancing on a wire, holding onto a rope above my head.  I was in no mood for the ropes courses when I dragged myself out of bed but got into it as my squad scaled a 14 ft wall (I really need to work on my upper body strength).  I will admit that I got a bit of a rush experimenting with ways to get the final group member over the wall without the assistance of a boosting hand.  If we didn't have to discuss our feelings afterward I would have given the challenge a perfect 10. 

What does get a perfect 10 are my classmates.  That evening at the year's first theme party I saw just how creative and imaginative these people are.  There was a black Elvis, a male Missy Franklin, and a legion of preps (kudos to the dude who managed to wear SIX popped collars).  We played twister, ping pong, poker, and cornhole while complaining that the only way to get through the event was with copious amounts of liquor.  Awww, I think thou doth protesteth too much.  My decision making abilities improved dramatically that night as I only attended one after party before calling it a night before 2 a.m. Yay for 5.5 hours of sleep!

The bus ride back to Chicago was noticeably different from the ride to Wisconsin.  There was no singing, no storytelling.  The bus was nearly silent as we all passed out from exhaustion and alcohol. I was knocked out before we made it to the interstate.  I woke up about an hour outside of Chicago and surveyed my sleeping cohort.  That's when I noticed the biggest difference that had occurred over the last two days.  The seat pairings had gone from unisex to co-ed.  But that is another story for another blog post.


Alison said...

So basically there is no way to go to a top b-school without reliving some horrific ropes course nightmare from my 6th grade trip to Frost Valley, is there? Sigh. I have been scouring blogs to get the details on the various orientation experiences from the schools I'm interested in and they always seem to end in something resembling the show Wipeout.

I hope you made a nice friend on the ride home :)

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you have continued to blog into your MBA experience. Quite refreshing and unique to get an inside look into the mysterious 1st year. Hope you continue to remain honest and unbiased about the value of the MBA!