Month: March 2016

Executive MBA: Achieving your potential weekend


Edward Dixon Executive MBA 2015

Edward Dixon
Executive MBA 2015

This post is a reflection on the “EMBA Achieving Your Potential Weekend” held after exams at the end of the first semester.  The weekend is held in a conference venue outside London and is attended by the whole cohort, one week after the first round of exams. It is an intense 48 hours and proved to be a real turning point in the first year…

When they first told me we’d be going away for the weekend after exams I wasn’t sure what to make of it. After five months of slogging through the first six modules and a week of exams, the prospect of decamping to Buckinghamshire to reflect on my career wasn’t the most attractive. To make matters worse, the weekend fell on Valentine’s Day, which meant partners alone at home after what had been a pretty tough few months.

The launch on Friday night was well received, an icebreaker which worked well to get us all in the mood, but still left a few skeptical faces around the room wondering what it was all for. I think at this point we were still completely unaware as to where the weekend would take us. You can imagine how Friday night ended with 44 EMBAs away from all their responsibilities with their cards behind the bar; I won’t go into it.


Saturday morning started early and we got straight into groups of around eight, meeting with our coaches for the weekend. The coaches are typically behavioural psychologists or professional coaches and are a mix of ages and backgrounds. The groups are structured in a clever way, with a blend of your old mentor group and new. This marks an important point in the MBA because you’ve been with the same six people for the first semester and grown pretty attached to them, so to set out into the new semester with new faces seems like a big deal. EMBAs are as much about the cohort as they are the subject matter and it’s this sort of interaction that really helps you to learn from each other.

The Saturday session is split into two parts; learning the basics of coaching which gives you the techniques you need to get through the rest of the weekend, and analysing your own report results, based on a ‘Happiness at Work’ questionnaire filled out the week before. The questionnaire doesn’t work for everyone but for me it really hit home, asking some tough questions. Do I honestly enjoy my job? Am I good at it, or might I be better at something totally different? Asking these questions and giving yourself an honest answer sets you up for Sunday, which is something entirely different.

IMG_0991The premise of the Sunday session is that if you find your energy at work, if you can recognise the moments when you have flow and build on those, ultimately you will be happier. For some people this is about extrinsic rewards but the nature of the EMBA is that most people have accelerated in their careers to a point where money doesn’t cut it any more – people are looking for something deeper. What you’re looking for is not a job or even just a career; it’s a calling, something which helps you to find your life purpose and work towards fulfilling it. I can’t honestly say that one person had their life purpose defined but we certainly left knowing more about what it might be.

The really tough part of the weekend is halfway through Sunday morning. Tired and under-prepared you present your predicament to your peers. Where are you? What do you want from your life, from work? This is fairly routine but the tough part is turning around and hearing the rest of the group discussing your case. For some reason having your back to the room makes the rest of the team talk freely and openly about where they think you should be going. Of course everyone is supportive but it really hammered home the whole reason most people are doing the EMBA in the first place – to learn more about what they are really capable of.

By the time the exercises finish on Sunday afternoon everyone is completely exhausted, physically and emotionally. For me the weekend served as a wakeup call, a reminder that if you want something more from life then you need to go out and make it happen. Great careers, happy relationships and a perfect home life don’t just materialise, it takes planning and it takes hard work. You have to know yourself and understand your strengths and weaknesses – you have to understand what you really want.

“The modules give you a dartboard to throw something at but these weekends are the flight on the dart which helps you to land where you want to be”

edPutting this weekend in the context of the MBA, it’s this sort of learning which helps you to make the decisions you need to make about what to do after graduation. The modules you study are useful but you’re not learning finance, you’re not learning accounting or strategy; you’re learning about yourself and finding out what you really like to do. The modules give you a dartboard to throw something at but these weekends are the flight on the dart which helps you to land where you want to be. Cass definitely knows how to get this right and I left the venue knowing a little more about myself, a lot more about the cohort and a whole lot more about where I want to be.



In a climate where there is considerable interest in wider issues relating to women in business and the relevant drivers, I believe that International Women’s Day is a day for us all to reflect on not just women but the growth of our nation as a whole and its relationship to the world. Understanding what is good for women is to understand what is good for business.

Healthy societies equals healthy workforce which is key to good business and astute decisions being made with integrity. Women entrepreneurs are acknowledged to be effective in enhancing the economy generally, and evidence indicates that women-owned businesses have a beneficial community impact.

Unlocking this potential for myself holds a poignant moment of reflection on this year’s International Women’s Day. This year I have been given the opportunity to develop my own potential by beginning my MBA with Cass Business School and its Modular Executive MBA.

In taking this on, I am delighted to have been awarded Cass’s ‘Women in Business’ award. Not only does this help to reduce my fees but allows me to advocate for the role of women in business. All the world’s a stage, and it’s up to us to decide how to use it.

I feel an MBA will help me to  find better solutions and business models to bring business, local Government and Charity together to find effective ways of social financing to support corporate social responsibility which is good for business and community.

One issue and one message I wish to impart on International Women’s Day is to highlight the growing driver of maternal mental health. As Executive Director for the organisation Parent Infant Partnership (PIP) UK and as a senior parliamentary researcher my day job is concerned with mental health and in particular the minds of women in the antenatal and postnatal period of pregnancy, birth and parenthood. It is a growing concern to many about how well we are supporting this driver of the wellbeing of parents to be in the workplace and community life.

In the context of mental health shocking statistics show a far reaching impact for women and their families, and indicate why this is truly everyone’s business:

  • More than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby
  • Over a third of domestic violence begins in pregnancy
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for women during pregnancy and the year after giving birth
  • Taken together, perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis carry a long-term cost to society of about £8.1 billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK

Attitudinal change is required to tackle this issue

This is not just about supporting parents to be in our workplaces but reducing the impact upon the next generation who will equally be the future workforce in our business, corporations and stock markets. Mental health in the marketplace matters and perhaps no more for women in particular in the perinatal period.

Earliest relationships matter for future workforce matters and it is why supporting women and their families in the perinatal period is key to tapping into workforce potential. James Heckman, the Nobel Prize winning economist advocates through his research at the University of Chicago which promotes models for growing human potential – that the biggest bang for your buck lies in investing into our earliest relationships.

Leading economists have joined forces to advocate for business investment through social responsibility into community ventures which nurture the earliest years for the future workforce. It is in the interest of each business to get on board and strategically position its social responsibility to reap benefits from human potential and growth in its future dividends.

It is relationships that matter to the marketplace – why not begin by investing into early relationships in which the earliest foundations of our minds are laid which grow potential for a business mind of innovation, ingenuity and productivity.

I believe women are key to sustainable and productive communities – growing their potential grows relationships and community potential. Business must offer further flexibility and see within their profit making margins that the image of healthy relationships equals a healthy society equals good for business. This is how I am going to use my stage.


Clair Rees
Modular Executive MBA, 2016 Cass Business School

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