I was privileged recently to interview a number of participants of past programmes for a short video. We didn’t know what they were going to say, although it’s fair to say that if you agree to go on video you probably have positive things to say!
Be that as it may, it was amazing to hear the ongoing benefits from authentic leadership development being embedded long after the work on the programme had concluded. As I’ve said in the past, leadership development can get a bad rap for adopting a “sheep dip” and/or “break ‘em down to build them up” approach, something we do our best to avoid.
The answer is to give the development time. Time on programme, time back at work to practice and reflect, more time on programme, time to embed an ongoing reflection habit, and then allow sufficient space for participants to own the development opportunities presented to them.
One of those I interviewed referenced the Leadership Walk as being one of the most powerful parts of her development. She didn’t call it by our anointed name, but the meaning she took out of it and then applied back at work was very gratifying to hear. Another said that the most powerful feedback moment he took was, well, about feedback. He has adjusted how and when he gives feedback to his team and said it’s made a material difference to his team leadership.
Whether we’re on a programme or just genuinely focussed on pushing our own development, giving ourselves space between learnings to reflect, try new stuff, embed and try again, is vital.
That creates a sustained leadership development journey, whether that be a formal or informal process.
Cornwall Park was gifted to the people of New Zealand in 1901 by John Logan Campbell. It’s my favourite city park – and it doesn’t hurt that I’m within striking distance – for a good walk. I was there over the weekend after dark for a 10 kilometre loop out and back home.
Last year I attended a wonderful talk by the lead landscape architect, Thomas Woltz, engaged by the Park’s Trust Board, to oversee a 100 year transformation. Excitingly some of the projects are already underway. At the Manukau Road end of the Park, which I suspect many people don’t think of as an entrance to the Park, the statue and surrounds have been lovingly restored and invigorated.
From Manukau Road through to the Green Lane entrance past the sport’s grounds it’s a great route that I never tire of. Cornwall Park “proper” (my phrase) is full of mature trees, farmland, rock walls and Twin Oaks Drive. There’s nothing quite like it.
At night it’s completely unlit which is rare in the city and ideal for deep thought.
Getting feedback can be tough. As leaders we welcome it, embrace it, even ask for it, sometimes via formal systems like a 360.
But sometimes it’s not easy. Working with a new team, a different boss or chair, or, unfortunately, not exhibiting the behaviours others expect of us, can lead to some unpleasant reading.
I always encourage people to prepare for written feedback by preparing for reflection, ensuring they have the context in their head, have some support available, but above all, seek to find the real “juice”. Most people who give feedback do so with the best of intentions to help us. Not everything said will calibrate, but there’s almost always something in it that you can find and own.
Yes, own. Own that feedback, return the love, thank the givers and start planning on making changes.
I visited the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial in January. It’s a reflective place. Full names on the wall with some couples’ names together. We visit a similar memorial in Auckland on the Authentic Leadership Programme. It’s dated and less impressive. But equally a reminder of those of us gone, unexpectedly. Reflective.
I re-read my thoughts at the time and three years ago today. A lot has changed in Christchurch especially in the last couple of years, and there’s a lot still to be done.
Those that lost loved ones will feel today very deeply. This includes quite a number of families from other countries. Their names were read out in a roll call today at the Memorial.
When a team is struggling to connect, a bit of courage from everyone involved can make all the difference.
On some recent leadership development work, instead of the participants recording their reflections in private notebooks, everyone put their reflections on flipcharts in the open area.
It took courage and having courage can mean taking a risk. This new process was not without risk and even one team member not being ready could have derailed it.
But this team plainly was ready, and so we took it a step further and had the team members record feedback on each others’ flipcharts.
In doing so, a permanent and meaningful record of a crucible event was created.
I heard after the session that the team has already made great strides.
I’m calling this new process ReflectBackᵗᵐ. I would welcome the opportunity to use it with your team to cut through challenges you’re having. Yes, you do need to be brave and I suggest not using it without supervision.
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Its seems like just the other day I was returning from Europe, although it was over two months ago. I’d been saying that as soon as Boxing Day (or St Stephen’s day as it also is!) arrives, I’d be happy. Christmas day arrived, I was well prepared with a nicely decorated tree thanks to my son Thomas and his wife Dannii, and I had gifts for everyone I needed to. It felt quite relaxed. Work too, is under control (I think).
So some time off which stretches out, but isn’t long at all, although it’s always after Christmas. Which creates a buffer of sorts at the beginning of the holiday to hold the holiday proper out just a little bit before it begins.
Christmas as a boy was a very large tree with dozens of presents, the family car well polished, a trip to Dad’s boss’ house for a drink, a chicken roast and a lazy afternoon with new things. Those Christmas’ always had a familiar ring about them but they were temporary, or passing. There have been recent Christmas’ with visits to grandparents and great grandparents who were laid to rest at Waikumete Cemetery. That was a norm for a few years for me. It stopped this year with a different Christmas morning.
Christmas day is a special day for me. Each time is different, but always special in its own temporary way.
The memories we create from any shared event are those that give the joy beyond the day. It might be that someone or some people weren’t at your Christmas this year and that left a gap. But the day is the day. Reflecting on my day, which started differently for logistical reasons, it was a great day and brings me happiness to think about it.
I won’t try and do the same next year – it might happen – but I won’t be bothered how the day pans out. As long as there’s family and friends, an unseasonably hot roast and a couch to snooze on at in the afternoon, it’ll be perfect.
Knowing that, for once, I’m almost looking forward to it!
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.
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.