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Understanding Student Leadership and MBA Success

December 29, 2020
Team Exercises

MBA leadership training is a critical component of a graduate program. For Chico State alum Lain Hensley, asking the right questions is an indispensable part of that education.

“Why is it important for you to have an MBA? Why is it important for you to be a leader?” he asks students in workshops. “Because leadership is taking risk. Leadership is putting yourself out there. Leadership is making a decision that might not be right or wrong, but you're the one that's made the decision.”

Lain Hensley

Hensley is the co-founder of Odyssey Teams, a California-based, team-building and leadership training company. This fall, he organized two virtual workshops for Chico State’s online and on-campus MBA students. These student leadership programs provide the opportunity to dig deeper into what they’re hoping to achieve in their careers and better understand what motivates them to achieve it. For Hensley, the workshops align closely with why students decide to earn their MBA.

“The goal is not to confirm everything they already know about themselves,” Hensley said. “The goal is for them to come in and get humble about what they know so far—and begin to challenge and really restructure who they know themselves to be.”

For workshops like these, it’s important to Hensley that students don’t just worry about what they’re getting out of an MBA program. They should focus on what they’re becoming with an MBA. Workshops and professional training can give them the tools to reflect on how they’re engaging with their family and friends, within their company, and at their job. From there, they can start understanding how to start developing into a stronger leader.

“Now you got an MBA—okay, cool—but there are lots of MBAs out there,” Hensley said. “How are you going to separate yourself? There's a lot of athletic people, but how do you make the team and become a gold medalist?”

MBA Leadership in Many Forms

Hensley’s history with Chico State goes back to his days as an undergraduate. Odyssey Teams was founded with another alum, and at one point, he notes, it was staffed exclusively by its graduates.

Odyssey Teams Logo

The organization holds about 300 live events each year, many of which combine individual development with literal hands-on team-building. Over the years, their workshops have built and sent out nearly 60,000 prosthetic hands and 50,000 bikes around the world. In addition to company events, Odyssey Teams holds workshops at other universities, including the other schools and departments at Chico State. In the past they’ve done etiquette dinners, staff developments, retreats, as well as the Wildcat Welcome for all incoming and transfer students.

“I love Chico State,” Hensley said. “There is really an invitation for your teachers to be your friends and your friends to be your teachers. If you can connect like that and really collaborate with the experience, they're all in for you. I was blessed with that same thing. I'm still friends with some of my professors from 28, 30 years ago.”

Working with students offers Hensley and his team a different experience from when they present at companies, where events are mandatory (or feel like they’re mandatory). Students are often more open to taking advantage of an opportunity to learn and grow.

“It’s awesome because they are people who have invested in themselves,” Hensley says of MBA students. “They've set a goal and then they're making a lot of sacrifices to achieve the goal. These people, they're invested. They want to learn. They want to grow. It just takes a little push, and then get out of the way.”

The two workshops held this fall tackled two different subjects for MBA students: One was leadership training, which Hensley describes as the “cutting edge of common sense.” It stressed the importance of being more self-reflective and making smarter decisions in the moment. The second focused on using technology smarter. It covered the practical, lighting your workspace, being mindful of your background, as well as the thoughtful, being mindful of how you articulate and present yourself in a virtual space.

While it might seem small in the scheme of things, looking disengaged can have a real impact on how you’re viewed on the other end of that call, Hensley points out, especially if a student who seems distracted during class is hoping to ask for a letter of recommendation down the line.

“That reflex isn’t going to work well when you become a leader or when your professor is looking at you,” Hensley explained.

More Than Just a Degree

Hensley recognizes that the students at Chico State are not simply pursuing an MBA. They’re working toward much more. He regularly does an exercise with students asking them to recognize the deeper motivation behind earning their degree. Usually it’s about more than getting ahead in their career or making more money. It’s about more personal motivations, like peace of mind and a sense of security for themselves and their family.

With Chico State’s Online MBA program, students gain the opportunity to learn from Hensley and others who can help them identify and embrace successful strategies for leaders and teams. From the curriculum to professional development opportunities, our Online MBA program provides students with knowledge to make a difference in their career. Learn more about Chico’s online program and start your application today.