Gurmehar Kaur (MSc Human Resource Management) reports on a Leadership Workshop hosted by the Student Development Team at the University of Edinburgh Business School. The workshop included guests Charles Milroy, Major in the Army Reserves; Susan Deacon, Board Member and Chair of Home Scotland; and Patrick O'Meara, an Ambulance, Healthcare, Risk and Public Sector Leader.
Winning team pictured with Susan Deacon and Patrick O'Meara (far right) and Stuart Fenwick (Student Development Team, far left).

The Student Development team recently conducted a one-day Leadership Workshop for Business School students at the University of Edinburgh. The workshop was an immersive experience centred on activity-based learning and complex problem-solving in teams. Participants were divided into four teams of between six and seven members who worked together for duration of the day. Here are the three key skills I developed during this workshop.

Effective communication

Charles Milroy hosted an enriching learning opportunity to start. Not only has he been a Major in the Army Reserves for over 40 years, but he is also an incredible leader with excellent communication skills. His workshop emphasised that building effective communication skills is a stepping stone to becoming a successful leader.

teams working on the drawing task with walkie-talkies in a room

The learning activity involved each group being split into two and placed in separate rooms with one walkie-talkie each. One group had to give instructions to the other group using the walkie-talkie to describe an image only they could see. The other group then had to draw the image based on the directions they were being given.

On comparing the initial image to the image drawn from audio-only instructions, students were able to reflect on the difference between people's perceptions, the common assumptions we have and the significance of paying attention to detail. Charles concluded this segment by helping participants identify their dominant traits when working in groups, those which help to contribute to high performance outcomes, especially when paired with effective communication.

Overcoming challenges

We welcomed Susan Deacon and Patrick O'Meara for the second workshop session. Both Susan and Patrick are prominent leaders in their sectors: Susan is the Board Member and Chair of Home Scotland, and Patrick is an Ambulance, Healthcare, Risk and Public Sector Leader.

In this session, Susan and Patrick shared some real-time crises from within their respective sectors. These crises involved leadership challenges around Scotland's housing shortage and within the Scottish Ambulance Service. In our groups, we were asked to brainstorm solutions for one of the topics and make recommendations to overcome the challenges they present. Each group then shared their suggestions, approaches and rationale to the wider student audience – with Susan, Patrick and Charlie as judges – and the Student Development Team. Susan and Patrick concluded the session by sharing their feedback with a focus on the quality and practicality of each group’s recommendations.

Reflecting on successes

The final session of the day involved a reflective exercise in which each group reviewed their team performance by analysing: a) What went well? and b) What could have been done better? We also provided constructive feedback to our team members, highlighting their strengths and areas for development. This was followed by a prize-giving to the winning group by Charlie who shared his concluding thoughts.

Charlie addressing the assembled students on the concourse

The Leadership Workshop significantly helped to build our communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills – all crucial for great Leadership. These skills are applicable not only in our professional careers but also to our academic journeys at the University of Edinburgh Business School, whether working in group projects or during classroom interactions. If developing key leadership skills is something you’re interested in, I highly recommend attending this session. It has proved to be an incredible learning experience for all!

Gurmehar Kaur is an MSc Human Resource Management student (2022-2023).