Orestes Peristeris was HEC Paris Industry Club President 2016 and is an HEC Paris/Yale SOM MBA graduate. Currently he is an Optness Associate and Six Sigma professor.
Coming into business school is a very exciting time. For many students, it is an experience in a new country with a diverse set of classmates, and a change from your previous working environment. It presents you with a range of opportunities to engage in which will contribute to your personal and professional development, including student government, class representation, recruiting, social and cultural events, and travelling over weekends and vacation periods. One of the best opportunities that combines something from all these activities is leading an MBA club at your school.
Taking a leading role in an MBA club is one of the best ways to practice leadership, create value for your class, and engage with the alumni community of the school. Having served as the president of the Industry Club at HEC Paris during my MBA, I can provide the following advice to anyone going into a leadership role of a club.
Get advice from previous club presidents
A great starting point is reaching out to previous club presidents for their advice and learnings during their time leading the club. There are many school and context specific topics that they can advise on, including how to arrange venues, transportation, catering, provide templates and platforms for promoting events and engaging with club members, providing contacts with alumni networks, and outlining initiatives that were in development but the team didn’t have time to execute.
Build a great team
A major predictor of success for any leadership group is the team dynamic and diversity of skills and experience around the table. It’s important to pay attention to team selection in terms of having diversity of motivation, past experience, and skill sets. You should also focus on team building by establishing relationships and trust among the team members and developing a common vision for the club during your time in office. What are peoples’ expectations? What are their strengths? What do they want to achieve? How much time can they devote to the club? All these points should be discussed openly.
Plan your agenda early on
The leadership tenure for MBA clubs is usually short; anywhere from 3 to 6 months. As anyone that has done an MBA will tell you, time flies. That’s why you should set an agenda in the very first meetings of what the team aims to achieve. Set ambitious goals, leverage contacts and ideas, and provide ownership so that each person has the opportunity to be creative, take actions and make decisions while eliciting the support of others on the team.
Finally, put target dates on each initiative based on the overall calendar of the MBA program, paying attention to test periods, career treks, and assignment deadlines which could affect class participation.
Keep it informal, be flexible and have fun!
Remember that leading a club isn’t like managing a project or department; you’re all peers and classmates. Being involved in a club is voluntary, and club activities are taking place in between academic projects, recruiting, networking, sport, and social events.
Time should be spent to create a positive environment where people can come up with ideas, try things out, develop themselves, and achieve their personal goals. Aim to make the time spent on club activities enjoyable for all involved. This includes meetings; make it casual, have food and drinks involved, and choose a nice venue. You can be successful and have fun at the same time!