April 21, 2015

A community of men

Going back to help set up the Pathways to Manhood programme at Te Arai Point was a homecoming of sorts. Getting the tent out (hoping all the bits were there), checking the camping gear (I’m not waking up at 2am with no air in the lilo this time!) was all part of the experience.

There’s a lot of stuff to pack for a couple of days camping. For a couple of city guys, my son Tim and I felt a little bit anxious about what to expect. We’d been there before as participants, and then it was challenging, even hard at times and I had felt the pull to return in some capacity. But we didn’t really know what to expect.

The main thing that stuck with me about being there last time was acceptance. No one judged, everyone was accepted.

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Finding our own Teepee

It was just the same this time. Although we were there to help we helped in whatever way worked for us. Tim and I were in the kitchen for quite a bit of the time, helping set it up, and that morphed into preparing meals for the men present. Some unloading of firewood during a downtime in the kitchen got the back moving (now maybe that was the start of the bad back that arrived on Sunday!).

In the evenings we all retired to the giant Teepee with dug out fire for light and heat. Jokes, poems, songs, music, stories and reflection. Tim didn’t seem in any rush to head to the tent, preferring the community of man around the fire.

Acceptance. It’s incredibly powerful and giving. Soon we’ll be on the Authentic Leadership Programme again, and with it I hope we will bring a sense of acceptance to those a little anxious at the beginning.

We all need our own teepee. A place where we’re accepted without judgment. A place to reflect.

Stephen

April 2, 2015

Decisions that change

We all have them in life. The decisions that change the course of your life, whether that be a personal decision or maybe a career change. Twenty-five years ago last week on 26 March 1990 with twenty others I gathered at 120 Mayoral Drive, Auckland as a new employee of the newly-created Serious Fraud Office.

We had an office, desks, phones and some basic computers. Parliament hadn’t passed the SFO Act so we had no statutory powers. But we did have quite a lot of energy and diverse skills and got on with the task of investigating allegations of fraud that had been collecting dust in other government departments. Some we took over from other agencies.

Our minister was the Attorney-General, the late David Lange who attended an opening ceremony and lived up to his lively reputation and healthy appetite. Charles Sturt, a police detective turned lawyer was the Chief Executive and Director. He got into quite a few tangles with other departments and politicians, one of which saw him retire from the role, much later. He had the vision to see that the SFO should not just be statutorily independent, but that it should operate independently of the police and others.

The cases were challenging, and the powers the SFO was given with the passing of the Act in July 1990 made the obtaining of evidence relatively straightforward. The powers were controversial, some not requiring judicial oversight, and it took until quite recently for the police and others to get similar investigation tools.

I knew that the decision to join was large but like all decisions, you can never know where it will lead you. The large part comes later, as life’s direction is altered irreversibly. There’s no going back to the former state. That is gone.

We might think carefully about these sorts of decisions, but do we know where they really lead? Of course not, even with a goal in sight.

Sometimes a decision to change is needed to break the old open and allow change.

Some of us twenty on that day would have fitted into that category, some, like me, slightly starry-eyed looking forward to a new thing without too much thought about where it might lead.

Turned out to be not a bad call.

Stephen

p.s. Test of a big decision: remembering the date I reckon!

March 12, 2015

A picture of leadership

I’ve already mentioned Selma in a recent blog. Then it was music. Now it’s a picture. This cover page from the New York Times says so much that is good in leadership: Out the front, sleeves rolled up, a purpose, all sorts of ordinary people on board, some real stayers who have been with the challenge since the beginning, reflection on past battles, never growing weary and together.

A picture of leadership's many facets.

A picture of leadership’s many facets.

What would your picture of your leadership look like?

Stephen

March 11, 2015

Imperfect

In the movie Force Majeure Tomas, Ebba and their two children are holidaying at a French ski resort. During lunch at the outdoor restaurant on the second day they observe what they think is a controlled avalanche. Suddenly it becomes apparent that it might not be controlled and a wall of snow is about to engulf the family. The children scream and Ebba attempts to protect them. Tomas grabs his cellphone and runs for safety leaving them behind.

It's  a perfect day, but you need to be ready for that to change.

It’s a perfect day, but you need to be ready for that to change.

It’s a false alarm, the wall of snow was fog and the avalanche had stopped clear of the resort. Tomas returns to find his family shaken, and they resume their lunch.

Nothing is said in the immediate aftermath of the incident but it places a dark cloud over the family and their holiday. Eventually Ebba confronts Tomas on why he abandoned his family in the face of such a devastating threat.

Tomas denies Ebba’s version, telling her she is entitled to her perception of events and suggesting that he couldn’t have run anyway, as he was wearing ski boots. A video of the event is produced which shows Tomas doing a runner but he remains unapologetic.

I couldn’t help think that Tomas’ behaviour was probably a “fight or flee” reaction, but leaving the children behind was not something Ebba (or others she engaged about the incident) could really understand.

Much of the movie was spent by me thinking “why don’t you just man up and accept it was a reaction, but wrong?”.

None of us is perfect, and neither is any leader. But we try. When we fail it’s time to man or woman up, acknowledge it, do what is necessary to fix it so everyone can move on.

Ebba and the children couldn’t move on.

Neither could Tomas – that was a big insight for me.

Anything you need to man or woman up on today?

Stephen

Next blog about a stunning picture of leadership.

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