It Might Be Subtle, But It’s Important

August 12, 2018 at 7:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It was such a quick turn after my question was asked. Like there couldn’t have been enough time for a thought to precede it. There definitely wasn’t any signs of overwhelm in his eyes though. Just a purposeful resolve that to make a decision like this there’d need to be consultation. It all happened so quickly. Then with their answer communicated we were ready to play.

“Let us be a little humble; let us think that the truth may not perhaps be entirely with us.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

The scene I describe above happened a few weeks ago. It’s been playing on my mind since because even though it might be subtle, it’s definitely important. It very well could of gone unnoticed though. But to the group, and me, it made a massive difference in the process of learning by doing, with reflection, that happened next. That’s the best part of using experiential learning as our vehicle of choice. We all assume the position of learner and teacher as we’re exploring the possibilities, discovering potential, and acting authentically together.

“Without a sense of fairness and justice, no leader can command and retain the respect of his followers.” – Napoleon Hill

So much of what I/we notice, lights me and participants up, and becomes teachable moments within a program experience fall into this category. It’s where leadership really comes to life. The subtle but really important purposeful practices that are being used to make a difference for self, others, and the world around us as individuals and groups. I am inspired constantly by the kind word, caring hand, creation of space, resilience to try again, courageous sharing, to name just a few, thoughts, words, and actions that leaders embody each and every day. Many can go unnoticed if we’re not paying attention. But all are so very important.

“It is when we are under pressure that our true colours come out.” – Jill Uchiyama

Maybe it all comes back to intention. What are we looking to achieve? Is it having or executing a power over others? Or is it empowering self and others within an ongoing process of making a difference? The quote that underpins our leadership development programs immediately comes to mind, ‘Leadership is action, not position’ – Donald H McGannon. The Year 5 boy I described above definitely embodied leadership within that moment. I’m so grateful we were able to notice and celebrate his contribution because even though it may have been subtle, it was definitely important.

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” – Mary Dunbar

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It’s What I Wish

August 6, 2018 at 7:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As we sat on the train after a big day, heading home from the first Impact Day within our year long Let’s Lead program, one of the participants said something that really moved me. ‘That’s what I wish for all, that you’re tired at the end of each day from doing activities you love’. Her poetic and genuine phrasing drifted around me for a moment before it really found a home. It seemed such a simple wish on the surface, but as we reflected more on the experience we’d just been on and the program we were apart of its importance began to really sink in.

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humour to lighten the burden of your tender heart.” – Maya Angelou

12 of us from the group had met excitedly at Wollongong Train Station at 8:25am on Saturday morning. All of us were on time and eager to see what the adventure would involve. This Let’s Lead group is a partnership we have with SCARF (Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families) here in the Illawarra. Now in its second year we work with young adults from a refugee background to develop leadership potential, as we journey together as difference makers in our own and others lives. And what a journey it’s been. This year we’ve also been able to add two Impact Days to the program through the kind support of The Outdoor Education Group. Saturday’s one was first stop Kiama Station.

“Sometimes we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

We navigated and walked the coast track from Kiama to Minnamurra. On paths. On sand. And on rock platforms. We shared stories, ideas, and conversations. As individuals. As small groups. And as a whole group. We played, laughed, and connected. Because having fun and deepening connection is so important to all that we do. We experienced challenges but reached the Minnamurra River and then changed speeds by paddling as pairs in canoes. Learning to steer. Learning to stop. And learning to trust ourselves and others. The list could just keep going on and on and on for what happened during the day. But we were all left feeling so filled with gratitude as we reflected in our final circle.

“This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.” – Maya Angelou

The day was perfect. Not because everything was perfect. Or that we are perfect. Or that everything went to plan. But because each of us chose to show up fully, stretch our comfort zones, and make the best out of whatever unfolded. We each played our part and contributed to the whole. Remembering that, ‘Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal, it’s the courage to continue that counts’ – Winston Churchill. It’s such a joy to be surrounded by such inspiring leaders like these. So, if you were sitting there tired on that train at the end of a big day, what would you have said was your wish for all?

The Really Important I in Team

July 9, 2018 at 7:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Words matter. They help shape our thinking, and if we’re not mindful can really have an adverse effect on our individual and shared ongoing thoughts, words, and actions. It’s always interesting though when we try and simplify complex themes through catchy sets of words. We all do it. Catchphrases get repeated and carry certain messages, albeit interpreted slightly differently by us all.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It’s about one life influencing another.” – John C. Maxwell

One that comes up a lot within our spheres of influence is, ‘there’s no I in team’. It’s usually when a participant is trying to articulate the intangibles whilst working together with others. We get it, it’s hard to sometimes pin point exactly what purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours are being used as a group of individuals transform into a team in front of your eyes. But what about the really important I in team that allows all this to happen?

“True leaders bring out your personal best. They ignite your human potential.” – John Paul Warren

The I we’re referring to is not the egoic I. The I we’re referring to, the really important I in team, is influence. The egoic I is driven by control: What’s in it for me? How do I get others to do what I want? I know best. With influence as the compass a leader emerges knowing that their thoughts, words and actions matter as it’s the way they make a difference for self, others and the world around them. They also know and embody that others thoughts, words and actions matter also.

“The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” – James Buchanan

We love watching this come to life as participants take on challenges within a program day. We also love fostering language around what’s happening so that participants can more effectively process, own, and maximise their contributions within their spheres of influence. Developing leadership potential has a lot to do with the quote above this paragraph. We’re so fortunate to be in the position of engaging, challenging, and inspiring participants who are, can, and will ‘be the change they wish to see in the world’.

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Ken Blanchard

Think of someone within your spheres of influence who embodies this really important I in team: Influence. What is it about the way they think, speak, or act that opens up opportunities for them to positively impact those their surrounded by and help transform groups of individuals into teams? What could we learn from them as we too make a difference for self, others, and the world around us as leaders? What’s one thing we could do more often that would open up more opportunities to choose influence over control within our interactions? Thanks for being on this journey with us!

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Process

June 18, 2018 at 4:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Learning, growth, and development are definitely a process. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability. And that’s for all involved. We’re just so incredibly grateful to be entrusted with being a part of this process within our client schools. Especially when you consider how transformational the process can be.

“Don’t judge. Teach. It’s a learning process.” – Carol S. Dweck

Over this past week we’ve had the privilege of reading through reflections from a Year 6 cohort we recently spent 10 weeks supporting through our L.E.A.D. with Me Program. It’s an amazing journey to go on, with each of the 3 classes taking part in an hour and a half session each week, as well as receiving a reflection opportunity that can be completed in class before the next session. Our mantra for this year as you know is Cooperative Advantage. It fitted perfectly with the brief we received from the client as we prepared for the program, and we’re so excited it has enthusiastically become an anchor for them as well at their school (as seen in the feedback we received below).

‘Cooperative advantage was something that stuck with the children and has been woven into other areas of our program. The YouTube clips each week were powerful for the students to visualise the week’s theme and to break it open. The discussion my class had during these reflections was so rich!!’ – Year 6 Teacher

What aspects of the learning, growth, and development process inspire us most? Firstly, it has to be the authentic application of the participant’s transferable skills, attitudes, and behaviours into other areas of their learning and leadership journeys. We’re not just interested in what happens while we’re there. We’re passionate about what ripples are being created when we’re not there as well. It’s such a humbling experience when we receive feedback like we have below that shares more of the cohort’s inspiring journey with us as well.

‘Their attitude to tasks/situations that they may have previously found difficult. I see many students stepping outside their comfort zone and more willing to give things a go. They have been supportive of one another and are not afraid to recognise one another’s achievements. The students have learnt to appreciate what makes each of their classmates unique and can verbalise their gratitude for this to them. We have been doing the ripple jar with great success – they love it!’ – Year 6 Teacher

Secondly, it has to be the deepening of connection participants experience and what that opens up for them (and us as well). Connection is the glue that holds our humanness together, allowing us to take more appropriate risks and contribute most effectively within those spheres of influence. Pathways to learning, growth, and development become clearer when connection is present. So we loved receiving comments like these below from participants to describe how this important element showed up for them during, and now after, the program experiences.

‘I made new friends during the L.E.A.D. program because I got to know my classmates better.’ – Year 6 Student

‘A leader isn’t someone who goes up onto a stage and orders people, a leader is someone who is responsible enough to not leave others behind, and to help other people succeed.’ – Year 6 Student

‘One was “We rise by lifting others” and the other was that a leader is not on a megaphone screaming orders, they are helping and interacting with the task.’ – Year 6 Student

Finally, it has to be the fulfilment of what we’re most passionate about, the development of leadership potential. Leaders have the courage to see things differently, and that opens up opportunities to think, speak and act in ways that engage, challenge, and inspire. Embracing and making cooperative advantage real is all about moving beyond seeing just the one dimensional, us vs them, winning or losing, not easy = not trying, etc. The way we interact with self, others, and the world around us is able to really come to life. We lead, owning that our thoughts, words, and actions matter, with making a difference being the ultimate why. Below is some more participant reflections that reminded us of this part of the process.

‘Leadership isn’t about the role, it’s about the goal.’ – Year 6 Student

‘I also learnt how hard it actually is to be a leader and how to deal with that struggle.’ – Year 6 Student

‘I have learnt that leading isn’t controlling, it’s contributing. I now always try my best to contribute and listen to what others have to say.’ – Year 6 Student

Thanks you to all the client schools, teachers, and students who welcome us into the process of learning, growth, and development. We love sharing this journey with you!

What’s Unlocked

June 11, 2018 at 12:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love my job! I know I’ve said it before but I need to say it again. Being able to share my passion for all things leadership, and then through experiential learning help participants to also grow and develop their capacity to lead, is such a privilege. I am constantly being reminded of this. In big ways, small ways, and every way in between. Especially when we’re so poetically reminded of why leadership’s the vehicle, like what happened last week when a particular Year 6 student shared with such depth what leadership actually is.

“Your vehicle of leadership is fueled by your willingness to learn. You can’t lead if you can’t learn!” – Israelmore Ayivor

The picture above is a tweet from one of the Assistant Principals who was in the room for the workshop I was facilitating. Kip’s (Year 6 participant) response really moved me and the group at the time of hearing it, but to then get home and see it had been shared more widely was such a joy. Opportunity is always there when we choose to view our interactions, challenges, complexities, etc. through a leadership lens. The key to unlocking what’s in front of us is then our awareness and purposeful use of our own and others developing skills, attitudes and behaviours as we courageously strive to make a difference.

“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” – Sheryl Sandberg

We love this quote above. What’s unlocked when we own our capacity to lead, and surround ourselves with others who are also courageously choosing to navigate life in this way, is change. Really importantly, change starts with us though. I say often to groups that one of the greatest gifts I’ve experienced throughout my learning and leadership journey is the wisdom to know that the more of me I be, the greater opportunities I’m presented with to create ripples that positively impact my own and others lives. But this more of me I be isn’t a fixed, rigid or independent state. It feels to me more like evolving, unfolding, remembering, sharing, growing and developing.

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow

Are we willing to embrace and stay with vulnerability long enough so we can experience further cracking open to let our individual and shared light out? None of us have all the answers, wisdom, or tools, we absolutely need each other. If we’re interested in being change agents then interdependency is what a leader’s thoughts, words, and actions really unlock. This is why the group I was facilitating for last week also really inspired me. We had student leaders and teachers/assistant principals in the room from 5 different school communities, who together know they can bring about, support and inspire more change together, than they can apart.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis

Leadership Isn’t Political

June 4, 2018 at 6:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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At the end of our program experiences I love gauging how the participant’s thoughts, beliefs, and ideas around leadership have grown, changed, or been challenged. Sometimes that happens through direct questioning. Other times it’s through an individual or group reflection. And then there’s also when a participant just comes right up after we finish and shares a particular learning with me. However it occurs, it’s always inspiring to be reminded that leadership has a purpose, not an agenda.

“Remember that leadership is about influence and impact, not title and accolades.” – Robin Sharma

The other week a Year 5 boy summed it up perfectly. He said, ‘Before today I thought a leader was more important than and stood above others. Now I think a leader works with others to make a difference’. What great courage that took to share his growth experienced within the program day. Especially when you consider how dramatic the change in his thinking had been. It’s the most important part of any development opportunity though, can learning be made real by the participant and translated into transferable skills, attitudes and behaviours beyond the intensity of the experience?

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” – Ralph Nader

The title of this post is intentionally two fold. Firstly: So often our leadership lens can be adversely impacted by the notion that a ‘leader’ must be elected and then they join an exclusive club. We can see leadership as individuals being in competition with others to get the badge. Then that title bestows leadership on that person so they are now in control. And finally that its primary function is the narrow skill set of standing on stages giving speeches, as well as executing the ‘you’re either with us or against us’ divisiveness that’s evident in arenas such as Question Time. What a destructive narrative this provides. I’m not saying being elected disqualifies you from being a leader. I am saying though that being elected doesn’t guarantee you’re a leader.

“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” – Albert Einstein

Secondly and really importantly though is what I wrote earlier: leadership has a purpose, not an agenda. How we view, challenge and navigate these powerful paradigms can have a significant impact on the ripples created by our daily thoughts, words and actions. It’s why we’re so passionate about the development of leadership potential. Within our spheres of influence we purposefully use experiential learning and ongoing communication to assist in the fostering of ‘informed, connected, and empowered individuals believing deeply in their own and others potential’. What a privilege it is to be able to engage, challenge and inspire 21st Century learners, who then continue to motivate us through the courageous difference they make as true leaders as they grow and develop.

“Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.” – Brene Brown

A leader’s path is filled with vulnerability, questions and out of our comfort zone learning. This is why we need each other. To remind. To reassure. To recharge. To reimagine. To recommit. To reengage. And it’s also why as leaders our purpose, not an agenda, is always close at hand. Each of us really can ‘be the change we wish to see in the world’ as we explore the possibilities, discover potential and act authentically. Will we have the courage to consistently and compassionately do this though? Thank you for being on this ongoing journey with us. None of us can do it alone!

“Be a voice not an echo” – Albert Einstein

The Field We Love Playing On

May 13, 2018 at 11:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

The quote above has stayed closely with me ever since I first heard it many years ago. It’s a theme that I strive to personally embody (imperfectly) and professionally foster (again imperfectly) each and every day. Our individual and shared journeys of potential can at times feel littered by judgement and competition (a combination of our own and others). Whether that judgement and competition is real, perceived or feels embedded and immovable, it’s presence can have a significant impact on our ability to lead and make a difference in our own and others lives.

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” – Virginia Burden

Cooperative advantage for us is how we change the game. Unpacking, fostering and leveraging it within our own and others lives opens up pathways to purposefully reconnect with the field we love playing on. Interconnectedness is our innate way of being as humans. It’s also how we most effectively bring leadership to life. This past week I got to witness another inspiring example of what’s possible when we consistently reflect on, practice and celebrate cooperative advantage within our spheres of influence.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S Truman

The Year 6 students were completing their 9th L.E.A.D. with Me weekly session. The three classes have only got one more program day this week that will conclude this part of the program. The reason I say this part of the program is we are always committed to connection to meaningful action beyond all our program experiences, whether it’s through ongoing communication, reflection opportunities or the continued practice of the student’s developing skills, attitudes and behaviours. That’s why last week’s session was all about how do we bridge the gap, between where we are and where we can be.

“The real challenge is for each of us to determine where we feel we can make the most impact.” – Jay Samit

In a particular challenge two groups became one. They weren’t told to. They didn’t need to ask permission to. And they certainly weren’t looking for recognition from others for doing so. They just noticed, and then acted on, that the combination of people, resources and time would be so much more effective this way than trying to go it alone. It was powerful to watch. Especially because in the now bigger group no one needed to be in control. There were invitational questions, each group member was heard, everyone bought in, everyone played a role, and really importantly everyone celebrated the journey up to and post completion. It was cooperative advantage in action.

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work.” – Vince Lombardi

Which Question?

April 29, 2018 at 11:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love asking questions. The potential responses they open up, the responses themselves and the subsequent questions inspired by those responses give me such a buzz. I tell this to participants all the time, I’m a full bodied learner. On many occasions the buzz created within me by questions and responses becomes visible so others can see it as well. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.” – Lou Holtz

About a month ago a friend and I spent the weekend on the Royal Coast Walk, camping overnight at the picturesque North Era. It was all up about 30km walking over the two days, so there was plenty of time for questions and responses. We had great conversations around a number of areas but it was one particular question I asked my friend that’s had me asking a lot of other people the same question since. ‘What is the most important or valuable question that you ask yourself or others each day?’

“We live in worlds our questions create.” – David Cooperrider

I loved his response. It was a work related one for him, with its perceived simplicity getting me hooked straight away. My friend shared the potential gateway his question opens up to so many positive, connection filled and empowering thoughts, words and actions for their students that can follow because of it. Within lives an invitation to get playful, curious and engage with self, others and the world around them. I love the power of questions.

“Questions are the engines of intellect – the cerebral machines that convert energy to motion, and curiosity into controlled inquiry.” – David Hackett Fischer

It’s been so much fun asking many people this question over the past month. There’s been such a variety of responses, and a million subsequent questions arising from those responses. There have been some similarities of course, but mainly it’s opened up for me a greater understanding of what uniquely makes each individual tick. It’s such a privilege to listen. So what would your response be? There’s no right or wrong, just an opportunity to reflect on what role questions play within your individual and shared journey of potential.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein

 

Planting Seeds

November 13, 2017 at 3:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s spring time here in Australia and the gardens are blooming. I love this season, warmer weather, being back in the ocean and of course the incredibly beautiful flowers, plants and trees that are in full bloom. It’s had me thinking though about the journey through the various seasons to get to this point. Seeds need to have been planted and tendered to if we want to reap the benefits when it’s finally time for them to blossom.

“Leadership’s not a title. It’s a behaviour. Live it.” – Robin Sharma

I love how we’re able to plant seeds right throughout our program experiences and within our ongoing communication with our client schools. There’s nothing like the feeling of creating fertile soil as participants open up to the key messages and themes that are explored within the day. You can see it in their eyes, body language and engagement, when something resonates deeply there’s a physical response. One such example in the last few weeks or so has reminded me why we’re so passionate about the development of leadership potential in Primary Schools. What a privilege being on this journey is.

“Leadership is about the decisions you make, and the actions you take each day. The world is waiting. Leadership is a choice – and it starts with you.” – Alyse Nelson

It was the end of a great day with 113 Year 5 students. I’d been so impressed with their engagement, depth of thinking and contributions right throughout the program. As the students began moving back to their classes at the end of the day a few came up to me to shake my hand and say thanks. I was incredibly grateful for all their reflections but it was the final boy who had hung around who really humbled me with his heartfelt remarks. He said, ‘I just want to say thank you because before you came I thought leadership wasn’t for me, now I want to put my hand up and lead’.

“Recognise that every interaction you have is an opportunity to make positive impact on others.” – Shep Hyken

Wow, I could tell this had taken a lot of courage for him to come up to me like this and share his reflection. I was so humbled and thanked him for that, as well as his efforts throughout the day and the difference he’ll be apart of making as a leader. How often do we get trapped into thinking that something isn’t for us because of a perceived lacking (a particular skill, attitude or behaviour), rather than owning that a leader uses their daily thoughts, words and actions in purposeful ways to create ripples (e.g. not just standing on a stage giving a speech at assembly because you’re wearing a leaders badge). When we embrace and make real anything it comes to life, and the energy that’s created throughout that process will inevitably be felt by others.

“When I found my why, I found my way. When I found my way, I found my wings.”

We don’t need to be elected to be a leader. Leadership isn’t a badge or position. As the John C. Maxwell quote suggests, ‘It is about one life influencing another’. I really am so privileged to be surrounded by so many inspiring leaders each and every day.

It’s Not About Arriving

October 30, 2017 at 7:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I can’t believe that we are almost at the end of our year long leadership program for young adults within SCARF here in the Illawarra (Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families). What a ride it’s been, and such a privilege to spend time with incredibly inspiring difference makers each month. We’ve had the opportunity to pull apart what leadership is, and then over the months develop transferable skills, attitudes and behaviours that will assist us all along our journeys. Saturday’s session was definitely no different, but with an added bonus thrown in.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

We were delighted when we heard that Manal Younus (http://www.manalyounuspoetry.com) would be in Wollongong and joining us within our Let’s L.E.A.D. session on Saturday. She was a special guest for SCARF’s major fundraiser over the weekend (Art for Refugees) and graciously made time to join in on our learning and also share her gifts and talents as well. I love spoken word poetry, and Manal is so talented in it. Our whole group was transfixed as she shared a few of her pieces of work at the end of the session and then created a discussion that supported the learning and leadership journeys that we’re all on.

“Spoken word poetry is the art of performance poetry. I tell people it involves creating poetry that doesn’t just want to sit on paper, that something about it demands it be heard out loud or witnessed in person.” – Sarah Kay

One line in particular from the first poem Manal shared really resonated deeply with me. I couldn’t, and still can’t, get it out of my head. It comes from the poem linked in the YouTube clip above from her first ever National Poetry Slam entry a few years ago. The line is ‘… and prefer to be in planes that are taking off than ones that are just landing’. It couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m thinking about this idea of ‘the end’ of this year long leadership program. Leadership, and this process, is definitely not about arriving.

“Real leadership is less about seeking applause and rewards and more about doing the best work you’ve ever done and having an impact you’ve never imagined.” – Robin Sharma

Each moment is a new opportunity to take off. Each moment is a new opportunity to learn. And most importantly, each moment is a new opportunity to contribute. We’re not reaching ‘the end’ of our year long leadership program because that’s not what leadership is about. I can’t wait to continue being a support to, and being supported by, these incredible difference makers. As leaders do!

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