I learned some surprising lessons during orientation.

Traditionally, Fuqua students get the experience of working with Triangle Training, an organization that uses interactive, problem-solving exercises to build teamwork and address leadership topics. What I appreciated most from those activities was that Triangle Training enabled everyone to participate and contribute, regardless of whether you were attending orientation virtually or in person.

One activity that left an impression on me was the LEGO tower exercise. Each of our learning teams was split in half. In my case, the three of us who were virtual were assigned manager roles, while the other three who were in person were assigned worker roles. Our objective was to replicate the LEGO structure shown in a picture. The catch: the workers did not have access to the picture and had to rely on the instructions of the managers to build the structure. Also, managers were given only one minute to provide direction, and workers were given one minute to build. The total exercise went through six or seven iterations of this.

It was much harder than it sounds.

We completely blundered the first minute we were given. Even though all three managers were looking at the same picture, we all had different approaches to giving instructions, and we ended up confusing our workers. However, immediately after our first attempt, the managers debriefed, and we devised a strategy and method going forward.

Then we ran into our second obstacle: we never asked the workers about their operating environment. We assumed the workers had all the parts they needed but failed to confirm this, which is why when we started calling out shapes by their color (blue and purple) the workers got even more confused. It wasn’t until the second or third iteration that we learned our workers had red and yellow shapes and needed to trade with a neighboring team.

We eventually hit our stride and managed to complete 75 percent of the tower correctly. However, this wasn’t after until a few pain periods and some self-reflection. My three main takeaways were:

1. I’m not as effective of a communicator as I thought I was (and that’s OK).

After some yelling, I realized that to achieve success I needed to quickly change my approach. What makes sense in my head may not necessarily be heard the same way for a colleague or direct report. What helped me during this exercise was having other managers to collaborate with. We coached one another and gave each other feedback.

2. We all inherently have assumptions about roles.

Sometimes workers need to pull from managers, and not just the other way around. Our team’s conversations were initially very one-sided, but when the managers started collecting feedback from the workers it wasn’t long after that our LEGO tower started getting taller and taller.

3. Carve out time for after-action review meetings.

After-action reviews are a useful way of understanding why things happened, why those mistakes or blind spots are important, and how to apply those learnings going forward. As a result of this exercise, my learning team adopted this practice. We now meet after every team assignment to debrief and study our failures and successes.

Orientation doesn’t just get you prepped for the classes you eventually take during the Term 1 residency—the learning starts right then and there. You form relationships, develop problem-solving skills and learn about your leadership style even before you step into a Fuqua classroom. Teamwork is at the heart of Fuqua’s culture, and teambuilding activities like this will change your understanding of how teams organize and operate effectively.