ACE classes provide low-risk setting to test newly learned business skills

Part of being a successful leader is learning what individual leadership styles are effective in your environment and applying them. Experimenting with new and different styles is key, but this can be a delicate matter in the workplace. Jill Perry-Smith’s course, Leading Groups and Teams, which I took over the winter session, was exactly what I needed to help broaden these capabilities.

This class taught me new skills and allowed me to practice them in a low-risk classroom environment. We focused on important managerial topics such as conflict, team structure, team performance, social networks and team decision-making. There were a number of terrific exercises throughout the class, and my favorite was when I was assigned the job of being a secretly disruptive individual on a team, otherwise known as a “mole.”  This was a big behavioral departure for me. As a former journalist, I pride myself on being a good listener and focusing on facts — two of my core strengths. My role now was to unsettle the team dynamic and steer them off course to prevent them from solving the business problem at hand. I inserted false information that was not in the case reading, was brash and spoke over others. These are all terrible things that an Emory MBA student would not typically feel accomplished about. But for me, it flipped a switch. Subtracting out the unprofessional behavior, I realized that hanging back and playing the role of quiet observer is sometimes not the best option in a fast-paced, dynamic business setting.

The course is considered an Accelerated Course Elective, which is condensed into a three-week versus the traditional three-month format at Emory. It’s also a “flipped classroom” where many of the lectures are prerecorded and you listen at your own pace. The learning is rapid-fire and the rewards come quickly. As a result, I could apply new techniques immediately.

Perry-Smith ran the class very effectively, and provided us with tricky, real-life scenarios to tackle during class. One such case had us trying to convince heads of a company to buy into our agenda. Some of the tactics I saw included negotiations, reminding colleague of previous support and bold-faced position reversals — all behaviors that can happen in a real business setting. Another bonus was that we were exposed to different teams, sometimes as many as three a day in class. Perry-Smith has a software program that groups people together, easing the tension of picking a team and allowing students to form new relationships.

Trying on new roles in a low-risk business setting is key to changing behaviors. I would highly recommend this class, as it is very relevant to improving one’s leadership and intrapersonal toolkits, which are so important in today’s team-based organizations.

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Mandy Carranza

Mandy Carranza 18WEMBA is a senior group leader for the Weather Company, a division of IBM. She is responsible for securing digital content and leading breaking news coverage for, a top-20 U.S. website. She is passionate about applying new technology to today's business problems at IBM. Her background is in journalism, and prior to joining IBM, she worked for for over a decade and was a producer on the Dr. Drew TV show. Mandy began her career in Columbus, GA as a line producer at WTVM-News Leader 9. She has a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Arizona State University and is earning her Executive MBA from Emory University. When Mandy is not studying for school, she's plotting a way to get to the beach.

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