Spencer Brasfield, MBA 15, is the founder of Mindshare Law, a boutique law firm in Gray, Tennessee. He entered The Berkeley MBA for Executives Program in May 2014.
Here, he shares his thoughts on the EMBA program's Leadership Communication immersion (one of five immersive experiences), held in Napa:
What did you expect of the week and how did it match (or not) your expectations?
Truthfully, I was pretty skeptical and expected a fair amount of "getting in touch with my feelings" jargon that would amount to almost nothing useful in business terms, much less any appreciable personal development. In short, I was completely wrong.
Now, there was a great deal of "getting in touch" but it was all directed toward facilitating genuine leadership and communication—even in public speaking scenarios. It wasn't until I saw this alternative to "biz" speak and stats-based leadership, that I appreciated the strength of being human and approachable.
This very powerfully juxtaposed the "norm" with the potential we all possess to be exceptional, powerful, and memorable. Nothing—and I do mean nothing—can capture the fullness of the experience in Napa and the profound mark it left on all of us.
What was your biggest takeaway?
Be present, and be courageous enough to be vulnerable—even at the risk of rebuke or failure.
What surprised you?
That by addressing the touchy/feely stuff, my hard communication and presentation skills improved dramatically. Unexpectedly, the inter and intra-personal issues really emerged in my "hard" presentation skills, things such as hidden nervousness, guardedness, etc.
What it was like to share this experience with your classmates?
Expressing raw emotion in front one another through the course of our assignments and presentations exposed us to the deeper and more "real" side of one another, giving us great appreciation, respect, and friendship than could have ever been produced through any amount of purely social activities.
I am certain that this course alone drew us closer than we would have been otherwise. Of course, developing lasting friendships (aka network) is the entire purpose and most lasting takeaway from B-school. So, it's possible that this one course achieved the entire purpose single-handedly.
Why should anyone who wants to be a leader engage in such a process?
Leadership involves leading people, and people require a sense of trust to give them comfort in following. Building and maintaining that trust over time requires presence, genuineness, and vulnerability (aka honesty), and an above average mastery of the art of communication. This course demands all three and is completely devoid of the shortcuts that would deliver less than long term results.
In the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program, 25 percent of learning is experiential. We invite you to learn more about immersive learning in the program.