Remember 30 Rock? Yeah, it's kinda like that.
In one of my favorite episodes of 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy drags Liz Lemon along to a corporate retreat. There, among fellow managers and industry gurus (Jack is the CEO of General Electric), he participates in team building exercises designed to hone soft leadership skills. As Jack reconnects with his fellow business bigwigs (each of whom "embodies a pillar of the Six Sigma Business Philosophy: teamwork, insight, brutality, male enhancement, handshakefulness and play hard"), Liz is left alone first to observe and eventually participate in the strange docket of workshops. During L.U.N.C.H. ("Lego Utilization to Negate Crisis Hierarchies"), Liz and her teammates build a Lego robot according to blueprints that only Jack can see; during C.L.A.S.S., ("Consuming Lunch and Simple Socializing"), Liz and others join banquet tables to network with new friends; and just prior to the keynote address (to be delivered by Jack), Jack psychs himself up, makes a fool of himself and then saves face with the help of Liz. While "Retreat to Move Forward," as this episode is called, finds the humor in team building retreats, it also oddly parallels the last week at SOM. Since Monday, the first years have engaged in a week-long mini-course called "Managing Groups and Teams". With our first round of finals behind us (insert sigh of relief here!) and Fall 2 still 9 days away, these 8 workshops are a respite from problem-sets and Excel and opportunities to discuss and reflect on all things team-related (building teams, leading teams, persuading teams, you get the idea.) We've formally analyzed our leadership and communication styles and have likewise explored the leadership personalities of our seven fellow Cohort Group teammates. By taking the time to deliberately weigh our strengths and preferences, we hope to maximize our personal growth and the experience and results of our team over the next year. A diverse array of hands-on activities has structured all of this introspection. On Monday, we learned how to interpret our "Insights Discovery Profile," which placed us in one of eight leadership style categories based on a survey of questions that we answered. The profiles highlighted our strengths and our potential "blind spots" as leaders and even indicated our "opposite style type" and how best to manage that type. Tuesday was seemingly spent in explicit homage to 30 Rock: creating trusting relationships with members of our cohort groups in the morning and team-constructing a "LegoMan" from a model that we could study and draw from memory but not physically handle. The exercise tested our abilities to coordinate, specialize and strategize so as to produce a final product as quickly and efficiently as possible. Today, we watched and discussed persuasive and leadership tactices in the 1957 Sidney Lumet classic, Twelve Angry Men. As we consumed copious amounts of butter and cheddar popcorn, we contemplated the dynamic management style of Henry Fonda (famous and compelling juror #8), applying the lessons of game theory and problem-framing to his subtle manipulation of his fellow jury members. Interdisciplinary learning certainly comes in unlikely packages around here! Although many consider "Managing Groups and Teams" week the cakewalk of the first-year curriculum, I'm finding myself just as stretched and just as tired as in the days of Spreadsheet Modeling. Until now, I've never spent much time or energy dissecting the kind of manager I am or how and why I interact with groups the way that I do. The games, the films and the role-playing of this week have been fun, but even more importantly, they've initiated this critical process of self-discovery for me. Learning how I "manage groups and teams" and how I can improve these skills is pivotal to my becoming the kind of leader I hope to become. Organized workshops on teamwork are entertaining and enlightening. The creative minds behind 30 Rock saw and capitalized on the potential for the former. Kudos to the creative minds behind SOM for seeing and capitalizing on the potential for the latter.