Leadership and Team Simulation: Everest

Cohort 12 – Leadership and Team Simulation:  Everest

During the Executive MBA Cohort 12 Management & Leadership course, students participated in a simulation exercise called “Leadership and Team Simulation:  Everest” by Harvard Business.

Students explored various group dynamics, the impact of individual vs. team goals, and the significance of clear communication to succeed as an overall team. Dr. Michelle DeMoss facilitated the simulation as student groups navigated various factors and problem-solved in this active learning challenge.Pic1

The overall goal was to summit Mount Everest. The students were assigned a role (photographer, marathoner, environmentalist, physician or leader) in each of their teams.

Each team member had their own personal goals they were trying to achieve throughout each part of the simulation.Team members may have been asked to sacrifice their personal goals in order to benefit the team commented Melanie Johnston and Tom Sharman, but ultimately it was up to the team’s leader to ensure the goals were met in the best way possible.

Complicating the work was the weather, food supply, medical supplies, health and mental acuity of the climbers, distribution of information needed for the ascent.Pic3

 The teams had several “a-ha” moments when information was individually being shared that would impact the overall performance of the team. This is when critical communication and decisions needed to be made for the team to succeed as a unit.

The valuable business lesson was that individual goals don’t always coincide with the team goals.

A valuable lesson that reinforces that each member brings unique strengths to a situation and by sharing them with integral members of the team, the entire group will perform better, whether that is in a virtual world or at work.

Leadership Starts with Self-Awareness

Greg McCann (2)

EMBA faculty & program director, Dr. Greg McCann

Executive MBA students in Cohort 11 are eager to share their Professional Development Plan (PDP) with their course faculty, Dr. Michelle DeMoss and Dr. Greg McCann. This month long project involved strenuous focus, soul searching, and discussions with professional leaders/co-workers and personal friends/family alike.

Dr. McCann, with expertise in leadership development, utilized the Professional Development Plan, which has been time tested over 15 years, “because all leadership starts with a deep-dive into self-awareness, a framework develops as a result, and then a  practice  is cultivated to move towards success.”


Professional Development Plan Dashboard

The purpose of the Executive MBA Professional Development Plan is to help students analyze who they are, what they value, how they define success, and what all of this means for them both professionally and personally.  This will serve as the foundation for monitoring their progress during the 19-month Executive MBA experience.  A Professional Development Plan dashboard will reside on their iPad, keeping each mindful and accountable for their goals each term.  The Cohort Coach will use the dashboard to guide their future coaching sessions and collaborative discussions.

Both the faculty and the cohort coach agree that there is no magical formula in these individual Professional Development Plans. Each individual’s issues, history, journey, and goals will be varied. Each individual will be held accountable for following their plan, paying careful attention to both the personal and professional aspects. The Coach will help facilitate adherence to these goals and success as the student as defined it!

Executive Students “Support Systems” Impact Success

 Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 10 students participated in our 1st “Family Day” in late October, co-hosted by Dr. McCann and Dr. DeMoss and the Executive MBA team.  The event was held for two purposes:

1) To be introduced to the cohort’s “support system”

Pablo Chavez and his wife, Kristen

2) To hear from both students and their respective “support system” the impact the Management & Leadership course has had on their personal and professional lives over the past 2 months.

The Management and Leadership course, scheduled at the beginning of the EMBA program, provides each student the opportunity to craft a Personal and Professional Development Plan while receiving faculty facilitation, expertise, and suggestions from an “executive coach”.  The students will use this Plan as they practice these goals and work/life behaviors during their 19-month EMBA Journey and beyond.  During this process, each student noted the significance of their “support system” and how these individuals will be instrumental in their practice, journey, and overall success. Therefore, we felt that it was extremely important to wrap these members into our larger “learning community” as quickly as possible!

The students’ “support system” arrived and shared lunch and a discussion regarding their signifi

Judy Ashbrook and her daughter, Kelsey

cant other’s growth since starting their Stetson Executive MBA program on August 10, 2012.  Guests included spouses, fiancées, children, cousins, mentors, alumni from their respective workplace, and even an undergraduate professor, Dr. Allan Hall, who recently retired to Celebration and was the instructor to one of our EMBA graduate students. 

This event was definitely another “learning opportunity” in which all participants benefited greatly. 

  • Students introduced their peers to their support system
  • “Support system” members felt validated in their role as “coach” and “supporter” and the significant appreciation of their student
  • Stetson course facilitators, Dr. Greg McCann & Dr. Michelle DeMoss, were able to glean progress made based on the students diligent efforts and ongoing “practice”

 Wendy Lowe, Assistant Director, shared her understanding and significance of the “support system’s” role in the EMBA experience having once played that role herself.  Wendy encouraged family members to stay involved and as a result of this time together, the EMBA team will be formalizing the “Support System’s” participation in upcoming events with all current students and their families and future cohorts.

Why not now? Finding the right time to start my MBA

Christina Laemers (Cohort 9) and Darcy Clark (Cohort 7) bond over their Executive MBA experience.

By Christina Laemers
Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9 student
Walt Disney Co. Communications Manager

“It was the most difficult and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

This was the sobering, yet optimistic testimonial I collected from Darcy, a long-time colleague and friend who, only a month prior, had donned a cap and gown and accepted her diploma as an official graduate of the Executive MBA program at Stetson University. I had just been accepted to the program and I was searching for a sign that the time was right to embark on such a major life event, and Darcy was in the perfect position to share some advice on the matter.

To back up a bit, I should explain why I sought advice on such a personal decision. I am someone that consistently struggles with the question, “where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s not because I am particularly wishy-washy or aimless; I do have goals and dreams I plan to accomplish. It’s just that so far, opportunities have presented themselves and if it felt right, I went for it. Now faced with a decision to tie myself in one place for 19 months, it seemed like a big commitment. Not the time, per se, but the freedom that makes it so easy for me to jump on any opportunity: company travel, impromptu vacations, weekend adventures, even a special assignment abroad. The way my career has developed so far, who knows where I might be in 19 months?

Thus began my search for some sound input on the decision, and my mentor and friend Michelle echoed Darcy’s sentiment. “It’s a challenge, but you’re up for it. You won’t ever find ‘the right time,’ if that’s what you’re waiting for.”

Christina Laemers prepares for a graduate experience of a lifetime!

Was it what I was waiting for? Michelle’s words sparked something. I was so concerned about what I might miss that I actually missed the bigger picture: this was an opportunity I would regret letting pass by, and really, now was as good a time as ever. I just had to get out of the “I can do that later” mentality, and consider the “why not now?”

Cohort 9 has just started this journey and I’m still searching for equilibrium (vocab word from Econ!) among my social life, career and being a student; but so far, I find that “right now” was right on the money. I still don’t know where I’ll be in five years, but with the support of my leaders, family, and 24 new best friends, I know exactly where I’ll be in 19 months: donning my own cap and gown as a part of Stetson’s MBA graduating class of spring 2013.

9 takeaways for Cohort 9

Stetson University Center at Celebration was buzzing with excitement last night, Aug. 10, as a diverse group of 14 women and 11 men from nine corporations gathered for the first time as Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9.

The Cohort 9 orientation dinner was an opportunity for the students to meet each other, members of the staff and a few alumni. The new students left with a little bit of inspiration, as well. Here are a few select pieces:

1. This program will be tough, but you will make it through. “Look to your right and look to your left,” said Dr. Stuart Michelson, dean of the Stetson School of Business and director of the Stetson University Executive MBA program, as he told students an anecdote from his school days. “That’s what my professor told my class as we were beginning our doctorate program. ‘Half of the faces you’re seeing won’t make it through this program,’ he told us. But I challenge you to look to your right and look to your left,” continued Michelson. “I expect that we’ll see everyone in this room tonight still together 19 months from now as Executive MBAs. You will get through this, and you’ll do it together.”

Cohort 9 assembled for the first time as a group at orientation, Aug. 10.

2. Help us help you. “We want you to succeed, and we want you to have everything you need,” said Wendy Lowe, coordinator for the Executive MBA program. “Help us help you. Tell me or Dr. Michelson if you want or need something,” Lowe continued. “We’ll do the best we can to accommodate you.”

3. Change your perspective. “What a journey you’re going to be on,” said Dr. Richard Pernell, a director at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a Management and Leadership instructor for the Executive MBA program. “You’re going to change so much over these 19 months. It’s going to be super.” Pernell held up a photo of a lighthouse and asked what direction the light was shining. No one could tell. “From your perspective, you don’t know what direction you’re looking,” said Pernell. “So, change your perspective.” Once he moved the photo closer to the students, they could see that the title of the photo was Evening Light, so it was obvious that the direction was north. “You just had to change what you were looking at to get the whole picture. These are the types of things we’ll discuss in class, which begins Friday: leadership and management (which are not the same thing), and critical thinking.” Pernell ended with a question for the students to ponder that they’ll pick up discussion on tomorrow: If a turtle loses its shell, is it naked or homeless?

4. This is your program; shape it. Michelson and Lowe started preparing the students for their international trip, scheduled for June 15-24, 2012. “You get to help select the destination,” Lowe said, and Michelson asked for a quick vote by the students on where they’d like to go. Among the top spots were Brazil, Chile, Shanghai and Morocco.

5. You are more capable than you think. Denise Edelmaier, an executive in Cohort 8, told the new students that time management and prioritization are extremely important, and sometimes your three “buckets” (personal life, work and school) require a demanding juggling act. But, she said, “You are way more capable than you think you are. You can do this. I realized I had a lot more strength than I knew before I started this program.”

6. Use technology to your advantage. Shariq Khan, a classmate of Edelmaier’s, said it’s best to relax and enjoy the program. The best way to do this, he proposed, was to organize yourself and manage your time. “Use technology to your advantage,” said Khan. “Use Blackboard and Skype for meetings. Manage your schedule online. Make sure you make time for all the parts of your life.”

7. Pay attention to those who matter. Walter Kurlin, a graduate of Cohort 7, said to be sure to pay attention to the needs of your significant others and spouses. “They’ll be one of the most important parts of your program,” said Kurlin. “You’ll need their support.” Cohort 8 student Khan agreed, adding that students should be sure to not neglect their families during this rigorous program. “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy,” Khan said, joking about the stress of keeping everyone in his home comfortable while also maintaining his duties at work and in school.

8. Focus on the concepts, not the grades. Whereas you may have focused on getting good grades in undergraduate studies, spend time now on learning the context, said Tyler Reed, a graduate of Cohort 4. “I would have done better in the beginning of my program if I had worried less about getting a good numerical grade and more about understanding the meaning and application of what I was learning,” she said. “I did figure it out, though, and then the program was much more fulfilling.”

9. Enjoy the routine. “You’ll find yourself planning your life in two-week increments,” said Craig Feldman, a graduate of Cohort 5. “It’s like a video game, with each weekend being a new adventure and progressing through stages to reach a new level, earning knowledge and gaining success along the way.”  Feldman also echoed Dr. Pernell’s sentiments about change: “The experiences you’ll share with your cohort are life-altering, and you’ll come back from the international trip a different person with a more global view and with more business confidence.”

In less than 24 hours, members of Cohort 9 will begin their journey. As they build their network, strengthen their leadership skills and increase their career versatility, these students will change their perspective on business, life and their day-to-day work. And one year from now, some of them likely will be giving pointers to the incoming Cohort 10.

3 ways to balance MBA coursework with work and family

It often feels like 24 hours isn’t enough time in a day to get your job done and your home organized, especially when you’re also trying to raise children, energize your marriage or exercise and eat properly.

So how could you possibly fit in an MBA program on top of all that and expect to remain sane?

Kelly Glassburn and Penny Miller, who both graduated from Stetson University’s Executive MBA program in May 2011, managed to juggle the demands of school and a rigorous career, and Lofton Barnes and Shariq Khan, two current students, are getting into the groove of the balancing act. This foursome has a few pointers for balancing everything at once.

1. Establish a Support System

Studying requires dedication not only of the student but also of the student's family members and colleagues.

“The key component is family support,” said Shariq Khan, “or there just is no balance.” Khan was promoted to director of product yield management at Wyndham Vacation Ownership in Orlando only a few months after joining the program.

“It’s been tough,” said Khan. “Learning a new job takes a lot more hours. But I’ve got a great infrastructure — a supportive family and understanding bosses — and I’m very fortunate that I do.”

Khan’s classmate, Lofton Barnes, echoed his sentiment. “Your family must support you,” said Barnes, a father of two. “My wife has been phenomenal in taking on chores that I can’t dedicate myself to right now. It’s been a great experience because of that so far.”

Recent Stetson Executive MBA graduate Kelly Glassburn asked for the support upfront as well. “My first exercise in establishing balance was to get a firm commitment from everyone who would be affected by my decision: My husband was 110% supportive, even though he knew that he was likely going to be a single parent for the next 19 months. My leaders at work were equally supportive, and although no work moved off of my plate, their commitment to my success helped to alleviate any stress going into the program.

2. Stick to a Schedule

“I live on my calendar,” continued Barnes, who not only works as the assistant director of human resources for Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort but also owns Ladybird Academy in Winter Springs/Oviedo.

“I am forced to be very organized,” he explained, “because I have a lot of demands at work, school, business and home. I ensure that I get home by a certain time every night so I can spend time with my wife and kids and spend the rest of the evening focusing on schoolwork.”

“I dedicate my weekends to schoolwork,” said Khan, also a father of two. “I carve out time every day to interact with my wife and children, and I steal a couple of hours during weekdays to study if I can.”

Like Khan, Glassburn was promoted soon after starting the program. “That turned my work balance on its head! The only way I survived the transition period in my new role was in keeping with the rigid schedule I had set for myself.”

Glassburn abided by a rigid study schedule, which included work time first, then family time, then study time each night. “That often meant that studying happened from 9 to 11 p.m.,” she said, “but committing to a set schedule made it easier for me to get the work done and still maintain my family and work priorities without being too disruptive. I also set aside a specific area for studying, which helped me to focus on the work I needed to get done.”

3. Lean on Your Classmates

Members of the Stetson Executive MBA Class of '11 relied on teamwork to get them through trying times.

Penny Miller, a human resources business partner at The Walt Disney Co., said her cohort of 18 executives came to an agreement on the first weekend of class. “We committed that we wouldn’t leave anybody behind, knowing that at some point, each of us would be the one down.

“We discovered areas of strength and weakness among the team and used those to manage the ebb and flow throughout the program,” explained Miller.

“Regardless of where you are in your life, there is never enough time to get everything done,” lamented Glassburn, who was in the same cohort as Miller. “But for me, the single most important recipe for success in balancing a busy family, an overwhelming professional career, an accelerated Executive MBA program and my sanity was by tapping into the strength of the cohort. No matter how difficult life was, my cohort stuck with our mantra from the first class, ‘No one quits and no one gets left behind!’

“The cohort support was invaluable to maintaining a healthy sense of balance throughout the program,” continued Glassburn, “and in the end, I achieved my goal of completing the program and made some lifelong friends and business partners.”

Self-discipline pays off for Cohort 6

EMBA’s Cohort 6 -- Back row: Anne Hamilton, Brian Sward, PJ Baro, Andre Hale, Shawn Byrd and Eileen Bowe. Middle row: Abdullah Qasim, Kelly Long, Damaris Jimenez, Mark Snider, Carlos Escobar, Doug Steele, Derrick Guss and Melissa Emley. Front: Bryan Tabler, Deborah Gustafson, Jennifer Small, Melania Lavezzi, Shibani Kyani and Melissa Holycross.

Consider this business proposal: Build a luxury hotel resort condominium on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast that will have rapid initial sales and maintain high occupancy rates. Call it the Tropical Sands. Give it 84 two-bedroom units with many amenities, including balconies with views of both ocean and jungle. Build it in the country’s hottest destination, easily accessible and environmentally rich.

Or what about selling cars online, or operating an adult daycare center or selling wine or developing and selling smart phone apps?

They are all entrepreneurial ideas of students in Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 6, who graduated from Stetson University in May 2010. The detailed business plans, some of which may become reality, are a critical exercise that comes at the end of 19 months of rigorous study.

Awards, surprises, friends and good food made a festive finish for a cohort that went a long way together — all the way, in fact, to the constitutional monarchy of Dubai on the Persian Gulf, 3,700 miles east of the cohort’s classroom, for the international field study element of the group’s studies. In Dubai, students met leading financiers and managers of businesses with a global reach. They also walked the sands of the Arabian Desert and met a few camels.

Students voted lecturer Peggy Stahl of the Management and International Business Department as their “Distinguished Professor.” Jennifer Small was voted “Top Student Overall.” The award for best business plan, decided by Drs. Monique Forte, Ted Surynt and Stuart Michelson, dean of the School of Business Administration, was Tropical Sands, developed by Anne Hamilton, Melania Lavezzi, Abdullah Oasim and Doug Steele.

Among other accomplishments, Cohort 6 left its mark on Stetson by developing a Code of Ethics for future cohorts.

The EMBA program is designed for students with years of real world experience. Cohort 6 is a combination of regional residents, employees of Celebration area businesses, and some who traveled more than two hours to attend class every Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

But that wasn’t the hardest part, said PJ Baro. “Making the decision to obtain a graduate level degree was the most difficult part,” Baro said. After that was merely a matter of “great discipline and focus to balance family, work and school responsibilities.” The reward, he said, has been meaningful relationships, a wide professional network, advanced business knowledge and acumen that will “make a lifelong impact.”

Baro was one of six Cohort 6 members tapped to join the honorary society Beta Gamma Sigma. The others are Eileen Bowe, Melissa Emley, Jennifer Small, Doug Steele and Brian Sward.