How to work effectively on teams in Goizueta’s WEMBA program

Team work and business school go hand-in-hand. Even when I knew very little about MBAs, I understood that the degree involved working in small teams on (often) intensive projects. Going into the WEMBA program, I was both excited and apprehensive to get my first-term team assignment. I was anxious about what skills I would add, how we would communicate and what our various expectations would be. Despite my apprehensions, the program office set us up to succeed in ways that I think are singular to GBS. In each of the following three semesters, I have learned important lessons about myself and how to work more effectively in teams.

At work, we are often on “teams,” or have projects with colleagues, and, as in all relationships, chemistry, skill, collaboration and communication are key. However, the dynamism of completing coursework together while learning new subjects and getting to know each other is different.

As we come to the close of our third term — and the end of our core coursework — I wanted to reflect on what I have gained from working with my classmates on teams:

  • You aren’t the same person on every team and you shouldn’t be.
    With each team rotation, you have the opportunity to experiment with how you show up and engage in a fairly low-risk environment. And, because of the WEMBA peer assessment process, you get feedback to help you adjust the ways you work together and build relationships.
  • Collaboration has many meanings.
    When working with others there are the obvious ways to collaborate (division of work, good listening, etc.), but there are also more subtle ways that can inhibit or enhance group work. Intention is half the battle and by identifying team members’ strengths, being willing to teach each other, being aware of “over contributing” and building cultural awareness, you can significantly boost collaboration.
  • Allow yourself to be surprised.
    We are all learning new things, and, as I’ve written in past posts, it is often really uncomfortable. Being open to surprise — whether it’s a newly discovered strength or weakness of your own, the willingness to learn something totally new from someone else, or just letting go of a past notion — can lead to delight and deeper relationships with team members.
  • Don’t dismiss your talents (or your weaknesses).
    When you have a strength and the opportunity to teach others, it is more likely than not that you will also need to learn from a teammate. This creates a balancing effect. Being open and honest with each other about strengths, weaknesses and learning objectives can make team projects more effective and efficient.

The people I’ve had the chance to work with on my WEMBA journey have taught me so much about relationships, coursework and life. It’s one of those nice surprises about the program.

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Claire Hennessey

Claire Hennessey is a 19WEMBA student and Director of Foundation Relations at Emory University. With over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector, she is now excitedly learning all about business.

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