Looking back on a successful Orshof week

The Leading Strategic Change module is a special module in our Executive MBA programme. Our students come together in a thought-provoking off-campus environment in Belgium for an intensive educational week. They learn how to open up to possibilities not yet imagined, stay open minded when their view is being challenged, and let go of inhibiting beliefs. We talked with students Bence Balogh, Lars Gärtener and Gabriele Genyte before and after the module, to find out what their expectations were and what came of them.

High expectations of Orshof

Bence Balogh had high expectations of the module in advance. “This is a unique module that all MBA graduates talked about extensively and with great admiration”, he said. “I expect to be challenged on my perceptions, blind spots and reassuring beliefs.” “I am keen to experience the Leading Strategic Change module”, Lars Gärtener told us. “The students I spoke with who have experienced this module, all say that it has left an impact on them and that they greatly appreciate the week.” Fellow student Gabriele Genyte also looked forward to the week in Belgium: “My expectations are very high. So far, I heard many positive opinions from students who already participated.”

Takeaways before

Gabriele was clear about the key takeaways she expected from the module: “Better change management skills, an improved leadership style, learning to learn together and becoming a better person.” Bence expected that his way of perceiving and approaching change, interaction, dialogue and listening would reach a deeper level. “I feel that I am just scratching the surface of this concept and I believe that this week will help me get better at it.”

“I think my main takeaways will be new insights into who I am and how these insights can help me grow further as a person and as a leader”, Lars added.

Rollercoaster ride

What followed was an intensive week at the rural Hotel Orshof at the end of November, led by Dr. Peter Berends and Drs. Jeroen Duijsens. In addition to the theory, the programme included yoga sessions, walking sessions and dance exercises.

After experiencing the so-called ‘Orshof week’, Bence, Lars and Gabriele are all very positive. Gabriele: “I had many expectations for this module. One of them was to go through the whole Theory U journey as described by Otto Scharmer. What was pleasantly unexpected for me was that this journey was experienced both personally and collectively.” Bence adds a little extra: “It was a learning experience like a rollercoaster ride. Nineteen individuals came together, all highly motivated and extremely ambitious professionals, and then in five days we became a circle of friends who are even capable of playing music together without any musical knowledge or instruments. We came to understand what leading strategic change really requires: listening. Once we reached the turning point in this concept, we immediately began to communicate with each other in a more conscious way.”

Lars is also positive: “It was an interesting week in which we, as students, seemed to connect extra because of the design of the module: a ‘remote’ farm hotel in the middle of nature and the emphasis on looking at yourself and how you can become a leader in strategic change. I went to ‘Orshof’ with an open mind on what to expect and I can say that I am glad I have experienced it.”

Authentic leadership

Her view of her own authentic leadership skills has not changed during the module, Gabriele indicates. “What this module gave me is an experience of trust. You will never be a good leader if you do not have trust. At the end of the week, I had received clear guidance on how to create an environment of trust. Now I am more aware of others and their needs, I understand why that is important in leading change processes and I have tools on how to deal with difficult situations. In short, my main takeaways of the week are trust, intention and openness.”

“My key takeaways of the module are diverse, but the basis of everything, for me, is that a true leader is someone who listens and empowers others to find a common voice to be able to build and create together”, Lars explains.

Bence: “During this module, I experienced in real-life interactions what vulnerability means and how important it is, along with the release of manufactured personas or unsustainable ideas about yourself. There are several important takeaways for me. First, there is a huge gap between thinking that you are listening openly and actually listening openly. Secondly, the intentions of the intervener influence the outcome, which means that the approach is critically important. Finally, I know that I am an active influencer in every change, even if it seems like I am just a drop in the ocean.”

Do you want to know more about the Leading Strategic Change week? Click on this link to read more!