How Mentoring Led to Success at Crisis Challenge

by | Feb 9, 2018 | Leadership Crisis Challenge

Meet two participants from our January 2018 and 2017 Leadership Crisis Challenge (LCC), Rishabh Jain and Edward Wajda II.

Rishabh is a current student and a Ross Leaders Academy fellow, and Edward is an alum who participated in the LCC as a judge and member of the board of directors.

The two met at the 2017 LCC when Rishabh’s team presented their crisis strategy to Edward and other alumni on the board of directors. Rishabh’s team did not end up making the final round last year. However, after the challenge, Rishabh reached out to Edward, and they have kept in touch throughout the year, speaking about leadership, career goals, and crisis management.

The recent 2018 LCC represented a new opportunity for Rishabh. He once again signed up for LCC, knowing that Edward would be there again too. Armed with experience and new insights, Rishabh and his team made it to the final round and won the runner-up prize.

While Rishabh attributes much of his team’s win to their dedication and diversity in thought; he also credits the lessons he learned from Edward after the 2017 challenge.

Read more about their unique story in our interview below.

What drove you to participate in LCC initially?

I decided to participate because crisis leadership and management skills are a unique set of skills. It is important that all business executives have crisis management skills and protocol since a business organization will experience at least one crisis.

The 2017 case was directly focused on the intersection of business and public health, which was in line with my career goals. I was also interested in networking with MBA students from Ross as well as improving my teamwork, critical thinking, and presentation skills in a fast-paced environment.

The two of you met in the boardroom at LCC 2017. Can you tell us more about that?

I met Rishabh (and his team) at the 2017 LCC when his team presented to the board I participated on. It is safe to say his team learned a life lesson about what not to do during a business crisis after meeting with our board. However, Rishabh’s team embraced our advice as constructive guidance to improve upon.

The two of you kept in touch after the 2017 LCC. Were there any particularly insightful discussions or tips you learned from one another over the course of this past year?

Ed really personifies the “Michigan Difference” in all forms. He constantly made himself available to me to chat via email, phone, and over coffee despite his hectic schedule. One of the biggest lessons he taught me was to stay humble and remain eager to learn when I first go out into the workforce next year.

In particular, what advice did you give or receive about competing in the 2018 LCC?

One of the key concepts I brought with me came this year from a famous saying Ed learned from his work in Asia. It roughly translates to: “You can’t live long-term if you can’t eat short term.” During our feedback session in 2017, he really emphasized differentiating between the short term and long-term objectives in the event of a crisis and the importance of prioritizing immediate questions the public will have.

Ed also taught me to dedicate a significant portion of my time on the human aspect of the crisis, which was a something I repeatedly emphasized to my teammates.

Finally, from my past experience in being in Ed’s boardroom, my teammates and I weren’t afraid to reach out to the board when we did not have answers to pressing questions and needed help in devising our strategy.

I told him to not make the same mistakes his team made in 2017, and to remember that when lives are at stake during a crisis, empathy has higher priority over profit. Make sure the company and management show “a human side” first.

Rishabh’s team ended up in Edward’s boardroom once again this year. Tell us how that went.

This year’s boardroom presentation was a complete 180° turnaround. I was pleasantly surprised to have Ed as my judge again because I wanted to demonstrate to him and the other alumni how much I had learned.

Our team was able to deliver a comprehensive, fact-based plan, giving the board members confidence in our abilities to lead the company out of the crisis. We weren’t afraid to admit knowledge gaps and utilize feedback from the board during the final round press conference.

We received incredible feedback from Ed and his fellow board members, including their appreciation of the way we organized our information and the commanding presence our CEO and fellow teammates had in the boardroom.

I was proud of the year on year improvement…the team nailed it!

After the boardroom presentation, Rishabh’s team made it to the final round press conference and ended up winning the runner-up prize. What was the experience like for both of you?

Proud. I love mentoring students and seeing them grow through the mentoring. It was rewarding for me to see the year on year improvement.

Ed graciously stayed to watch our team during the press conference. Presenting in front of him, my fellow students, and other esteemed Ross alumni made it a truly rewarding experience, especially reflecting on how far he has seen me come in the span of a year.

From both of you, what is your top takeaway from Crisis Challenge or in Edward’s case, your career?

Successful crisis management is dependent on effective cross-functional teamwork and cohesion. It is critical that all team members contribute their functional business strengths/expertise to the overall success of the crisis at hand.

Interdisciplinary teams bring forward the most innovative and unique solutions. Our team was comprised of 3 MBA students, 2 public health students, and a life sciences PhD student. We were really able to harness the strengths and perspectives of all team members in the development and communication of our solutions.

The Leadership Crisis Challenge is held twice per year, once for graduate students and once for undergraduate students. It is open to all current Michigan students. We also recruit volunteers from our alumni network.

2018: Edward with Rishabh’s team, including: Yurika Ishikawa (Michigan Ross, Global MBA ’18), Edith Jones (School of Medicine, PhD, ’21), Alfredo Novoa (School of Information, MHI, ’18), Ozge Sahin (Michigan Ross, MBA ’18), and Brittany Volz (Michigan Ross, MBA ’18)

Rishabh Jain

Rishabh Jain, MPH Candidate 2018, Epidemiology University of Michigan School of Public Health


Edward Wajda II

Edward Wajda II, EMBA ’17, Senior Vice President, Briggs & Stratton Corporation and Michigan Ross Advisory Board Member