The annual off campus leadership seminar at Saint-Cyr Military Academy is often a highlight for MBA participants. This year, the Class of 2016 (both Full-time and Part-time participants) headed to Brittany to participate in and lead a series of field exercises under the supervision of French army officers.
On the first day, the MBA participants travelled by bus from HEC Paris to Saint-Cyr and upon arrival were greeted by the various French officers in charge of the seminar. The military officers gave an overview of the program and explained the rules and regulations.
The students were then divided into teams of 12 and assigned an army officer. Army uniforms were distributed along with the rations that they would need for the following day.
Rise and shine; early morning wakeup call at 6 am. Following a quick breakfast, the teams split up and started a series of warm-up exercises. Whether manoeuvring a series of boards to get a team across an imaginary mine field or using ropes to walk across a v-shaped metal beam, the participants took turns leading their group through the exercises.
The afternoon activities continued with an even more daunting list of challenges.
Bridge: Build a bridge made of wood logs and rope to lead a team across a lake
Fort: Use a set of materials to traverse a fort and rescue an injured colleague
Raft: Construct a raft out of floats and rope and figure out how to get a team across a lake in the most efficient manner
Tunnel: Lead a team through a dark underground passage while remaining calm and collective
At the end of each exercise, the group shared their thoughts on how the activity went, if the goal was accomplished and how the group leader performed. These periods of reflection allowed the students to properly see not only how they lead a team but also how they work with others in high pressure situations and under tight deadlines.
Another early wake up call. The bus left the Saint-Cyr Quotquidan campus and headed towards the Brittany coast. Destination: Fort de Penthievre on the Quiberon peninsula. While the 2nd day concentrated solely on group activities, this 3rd day combined both group activities and individual exercises.
Walking across a tightrope above a rocky cliff? Zip-lining with a view of the Atlantic Ocean? Working as a team to climb up an inverted wall? Check, check and check!
The business and military spheres require many similar qualities: leadership, decisiveness, commitment, and self-knowledge, to name but a few. These activities challenged the student’s physical and mental toughness and prepared them to tackle obstacles they previously would never have imagined. Starting a new project or learning a new skill requires the same sort of mind-set. Motivating someone to cross a high beam is not so different from encouraging a team to complete a project that has been confronted with various hurdles.
Participants in previous years have described the experience as unforgettable, as marking a real change in their educational and professional development, a sentiment echoed by Xavier Boute, who is both an officer in the French army and an affiliate professor in Economics at HEC Paris.
– “When students say what they remember from their MBA, they remember two things: one of them is always this seminar […] Because there is a clear before and after.”
Listen to what some MBA students have to say about their experience on SoundCloud:
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