Discovering an elite peer network and team dynamic

If you told me prior to enrollment at the Goizueta Business School, that I’d graduate with approximately 50 new, quality friendships, I would not have taken you seriously.  My motivations for enrolling in Goizueta’s Weekend MBA for Executives program were to:

  1. Expand my breadth of business knowledge outside of my core job experience (in sales and marketing).
  2. Reprogram the wiring in my brain to be more data driven.

I certainly achieved these objectives in my studies, but my biggest takeaway was the collective learning from my classmates.  The cohort (the students in my class) surpassed my expectations. This diverse group came from a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences. Thanks to the flow of the program, I was fortunate to have worked on teams with nearly all of them.

Here are some of my key takeaways on teams:

  1. Establishing team norms and expectations at meeting No. 1 is critical.
  2. Drafting a Team Charter (i.e. contract) enables you to memorialize your team strengths, weaknesses and goals.
  3. Communication is paramount. In a high-functioning team. If someone isn’t prepared, let the team know up front.  If they are regularly unprepared, the team should have a feedback system installed to address the issue.
  4. After Action Reviews (AARs) are your friend. Taking time after a project or presentation to honestly assess your team performance leads to quality improvement.
  5. Meet Early. High-performing teams meet well in advance of a due date.  They meet at the earliest opportunity to outline the project road map and establish clear milestones.

The cohort experience also provided me with invaluable learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

The more you grow within your firm or industry organizational chart, the lonelier it becomes.  The lack of professional peer relationships created a void for me prior to entering the program. During the program, I was promoted in my company. Meanwhile, within my cohort, I was surrounded by people with similar years of experience who challenged me to be a better teammate.  It’s a lot easier to lead when you are the manager with direct reports.  By default, you are often the voice.

The Goizueta MBA experience allowed me to create my own voice in an environment which was comfortable, yet challenging.  I will carry this new leadership voice with me for the rest of my life.

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Bill Fagan

Bill Fagan is Chief Operating Officer at The Aspire Group Inc. and a member of the Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2017.

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