Leadership Development in Multi-National Teams and a Virtual Environment

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Daniela Blettner, Beedie School of Business

Project team: Mila Lazarova, Beedie School of Business, and Darin Rowell, Vanderbilt University

Timeframe: November 2014 to March 2016

Funding: $6,960

Course: Americas Executive MBA Capstone Project

Final report: View Daniela Blettner's final project report (PDF)

Description: Students in the Americas Executive MBA (EMBA) program at SFU complete a Capstone Project in multi-national teams.  Each team involves five to six students, with at least one from each of four countries: Brazil, Mexico, US, and Canada. The students solve a problem for a client over the course of nine months (August to April of the following year).  Students often run into challenges because they are largely inexperienced as leaders in situations that are characterized by cultural challenges, uncertainty, technological challenges, multiple stakeholders, etc. In the past two years, we have facilitated this process by supporting students in an ad hoc manner. However, we see this as an opportunity to develop students’ leadership capabilities in a more structured way.

We propose to add a leadership development component to this course. Specifically, we plan several interventions during nine months of the second year of the Americas EMBA cohort (40 students) program. First, each student will take the Hogan Assessment Test online. The students will receive a report and have a personalized session with our coaches, Darin Rowell or Daniela Blettner. This one-hour individual coaching session has several objectives. First, it raises awareness for potential and the challenges that each student faces in their leadership practice. Second, the coach identifies with the student areas for improvement and develops a learning plan with the student to address challenges identified during the coaching session. After the plan is developed in October, the participants practice their leadership skills while working in the multicultural, virtual team for three months before they have another session with their coach at the end of January.  In this session the student will describe their attempts to improve their leadership. The coach will spend time discussing how to improve even further. The final conversation takes place in April when participants formulate their goals for being better leaders within their Capstone Project team.

Questions addressed:

  • Do students report that the process improved their leadership skills?
  • Do student experience development as leaders?
  • Do students perceive increasing leadership skills in peers over the course of the academic year?
  • Do students who experience the process report higher levels of satisfaction in terms of their development of leadership skills than students in two previous years with the same coaches?
  • How effective did faculty find the development process? What are their suggestions for improvement of the process?

Knowledge sharing: We will invite faculty of Graduate Programs at Beedie and some colleagues who pursue other coaching certifications for a brown bag to present and discuss our results.