Pre-MBA: The Brathay Experience

Three days back from the Manchester MBA Brathay experience and I’m only just starting to recover from the exhaustion induced by three days of adrenaline-fueled high-jinks, liver abuse and lack of sleep all mingled with that great Lake District leveller – the inclement weather.So what is Brathay? As part of the Pre-MBA period, MBS send their full-time students to the Brathay Trust in England’s Lake District. It isn’t just a three day jolly. The time is packed with various outdoor activities that have the dual aim of bonding you as a team and also making you look inward at your own strengths and blind spots.

So what did we actually do there? Day one proper kicked off with a number of classic team building exercises like working out the fastest way of pulling five people through a rubber tube. Fortunately for our team, we were able to complete our tasks under the sanctuary of the Brathay marquee. Some of the other teams had to conduct their tasks under the Lake District rain which was then falling in biblical proportions. Meeting up at lunch the blue lips and numb hands were on show.

Brathay Rowing Manchester MBA

Mucking about on the lake..and numb hands were on show.

The afternoon began with a healthy rowing session on the beautiful Lake Windermere. The weather largely held up so we were able to pleasantly scull across the water, enjoying the view. Following a session working our way round a wire based obstacle course we finished the day with a team theory session before retiring to our rooms at 9pm (no late night boozing or poker games – honest!)


Day two was high wire day. It started with a leap off a fifteen metre pole and moved on to propping ourselves against a partner and shuffling down two near-parallel high wires. If that sounds scary to you then you’re 100% right – it was absolutely terrifying. Trembling feet were the order of the day across the board. Once the shakes had calmed down we settled in for the evening feedback session. This was perhaps the most useful part of the Brathay experience. I’ve never been in a feedback session that was so honest. Having said this, our team were generally pretty polite in their comments so no-one’s nose was put out of joint. From what I’ve heard, some of the other groups were more forthright in their criticism which lead to some very intense, but productive sessions.

Manchester MBA Pole Jumping

Jumping the pole

The last full day of activities involved having to complete a number of tasks (climb a mountain, make a human chain round Brathay Hall, sing a massed version of ‘The Manchester Rambler‘) within a time limit. This was followed by every team presenting a piece of art (canvas, 3D or performance) to the whole Class of 2014.

So what did we gain from the process? The first things that spring to mind are perhaps what you might expect – teamwork, trust, bonding. We also, however, developed a better sense of self-awareness. We were forced to really consider how others might see us. Someone may view themselves as dynamic and a leader whilst their team perceive them as overbearing and a poor listener. Another person might think that they are analytical and considered whereas their colleagues view them as quiet and a non-contributor. It was these insights that will stimulate and motivate the class as we begin the MBA proper.

Having said this, that wasn’t my number one memory. The biggest buzz for me came on the final day. As everyone was running through their presentations you could feel the visceral sense of support among the crowd. Everyone was pulling for everyone else. As we belted out Hey Jude at the top of our voices and tears fell in the audience I thought ‘yes’. I am excited and awed about spending the next eighteen months of my life with these people.

We came to Brathay as individuals, we left as a cohort.


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