Held virtually this year, the EMBA Leadership Conference brought together expert speakers, faculty, students, and alumni for learning, sharing, and networking.

Virtual Executive MBA Leadership Conference Prepares Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

By Mia Gleason

Human interactions involve emotion. Effective leaders recognize this, drawing on emotional intelligence in decision-making and communicating with employees.

“It is impossible to make a decision—whether it’s choosing where to go to dinner or how to change company strategy—that isn’t emotional,” says Andrea Luoma, a Seattle consultant specializing in neuroscience-based communication and leadership. Luoma was one of the guest speakers who presented at the Carson College of Business’s 2020 Executive MBA Leadership Conference.

To communicate effectively during emotional times, “you must create connections that make people feel safe and assures them their ideas and beliefs are valued,” she says.

Leading during times of change was a common theme of the September 28–30 conference, which is an annual event for the college’s EMBA program. The conference brings together top speakers, students, and faculty for learning and networking.

As a result of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, the conference was held virtually this year. To increase networking opportunities in the online format, the conference included a virtual “Coffee and Conversation” and a happy hour game night. A panel discussion featuring EMBA alumni also provided opportunities for conference attendees to network and hear how alumni have found opportunities by applying the concepts they learned in the EMBA program.

“We appreciate the value of this event in person so that as a community, we can connect with one another over the course of a few days,” says Cheryl Oliver, associate dean for professional programs. “We strategically reorganized sessions this year to provide maximum value for students while also enabling plenty of time for them to attend to work and family life, something we couldn’t have done in a face-to-face environment.”

“I was really surprised at how much networking there has been this year, even though the conference was all virtual,” says Annie Carter (’21 EMBA), one of the conference attendees.

Listening louder for effective relationship building

Luoma is known for her work with team dynamics, trust, and cooperation. She has been a corporate coach at multinational companies such as Microsoft, Honeywell, Westinghouse, and Treetop Inc. She is also a WSU alumna, earning a doctoral degree (‘99) in leadership and a master’s degree in organizational leadership (‘92) in Pullman.

With every interaction—conscious, verbal, intentional or not—people pull others toward them or push them away, according to Luoma. NeuroLeadership uses neuroscientific principles in areas such as leadership development, management training, and change management, she says.

Businesses and other organizations lose productivity when employees are mistrustful, Luoma says. During periods of rapid change, leadership and communication addressing the emotional backdrop help ease the transition, she says. In her talk, “Listen Louder than You Speak,” Luoma left students with three tips:

  • Create an environment that makes others feel safe.
  • Determine how the information you share will make others feel before you say it.
  • For listening to occur, you must craft the conversation from their point-of-view.

Using LinkedIn to create business opportunities

Attendees also had the opportunity to attend a LinkedIn workshop offered by Andrew Cohen, an enterprise account executive for LinkedIn. In his talk, “The Executives’ Playbook to LinkedIn,” Cohen gave tips for helping professionals up their game with social media, content marketing, and the LinkedIn platform.

“LinkedIn is not just a place for your profile or your résumé; it’s really there to drive your business,” Cohen says. “Companies and their social media presence are now more important than ever. Over 80 percent of employees say they would rather work for a CEO who is active on social media. Think about making LinkedIn a part of your day.”

EMBA student Amy Keene (’19 EMBA) says the session offered valuable advice.

“I used to only connect with people I knew,” Keene says. Now she sees LinkedIn as an opportunity to get her message out to a broad audience of other professionals.

Applying transformational leadership techniques

Conference attendees were able to join small group sessions with Philippe Chapel, Founder of Blue Lane Factory.

Chapel, an entrepreneur, business leader, and boardroom coach, works with business leaders and stakeholders of organizations on transformational leadership, team performance, and negotiation skills.

Chapel also offered one-on-one meetings with session-goers.

“My aim is that students will design their concrete action plans based on their session takeaways,” he says. “My role is to support them in the realization of their personal action plans and ensure a follow up.”

Learning from EMBA alumni

At the alumni panel, Jeffrey Laub (‘14 EMBA), Chad Heese (’19 EMBA), Christie Wakefield (’20 EMBA), and Shane Sullivan (’20 EMBA) talked about how the college’s EMBA program shaped their lives and advanced their careers. They also provided tips to current students about how they juggled work, family, and studies.

Students and alumni also spent time reflecting on why they chose WSU’s online EMBA program.

“This program helped me land my dream job of teaching in higher education,” Kristin Minetti (’15 EMBA) says. “The name value of WSU is incredible. Everyone is impressed when they hear I went to WSU.”

“I am at the president level already, so this education adds no extra monetary value to my salary,” says Robert Marsters, who plans to graduate on or before spring 2022. “But it does have great emotional and intellectual value.”

Learn more about the WSU Carson College Executive MBA program.