We all expect to cover topics such as political correctness, negotiation, influencing and coaching on a leadership program. What I didn’t expect was that my biggest learning from this final part to the Women’s Leadership Program was that sometimes – no matter how uncomfortable – we need to learn to stand in other people’s shoes before we can even begin to lead effectively.
Yesterday we considered political correctness, led by the charismatic Dr Martin Davidson (www.leveragingdifference.com). I’ve loved all the presenters this week, but Professor Davidson was definitely my favourite – for his energising effect on the class, his obvious intellect and above all good humour. The concept of the different layers or dimensions to diversity was new to me and has changed my thinking – whilst I am a woman, and therefore less dominant in some situations such as the boardroom of a financial institution, I am also a white anglo saxon – which in different circumstances of cultural mix, has the potential to make me more dominant. If we perceive discrimination against us on the basis of one dimension, we need to question ourselves carefully about what the other party is thinking, seeing and feeling before we label that behaviour . In most cases, especially with working mothers, there are other issues at play that have nothing to do with being female and everything to do with parenting and work/life balance. I can’t fully express here how much impact this session had, maybe after I’ve read Prof. Davidson’s book I can be more enlightening…so watch this space.
We had heaps of fun practicing negotiation skills, which provided some very useful tips for the next shoe or handbag sale I attend as well as for the workplace! Then we moved to the auditorium to practise our leadership presence on the stage – using some very liberating voice and body exercises. The point to this was firstly, to relax, and secondly, to gain more understanding of the mix of visual and vocal tools we can use to more fully engage an audience of any size and better convey our message. Again this has left me wanting to study more in this area as I am starting to believe it’s something I can become really good at if I practice.
On the final morning, we got to deliver our own response to the question “How’s Business?” – to leverage these leadership presence tips in a 2 minute soundbite of our choice. At the last minute I decided to correct something which has bothered me since the 24th June when I was awarded the Women in Banking an Finance (WiBF) Turkslegal Scholarship to come to Darden. On that particular day, I had been told I would be named at the WiBF lunch where 500 people were waiting to hear from David Gonski, a well regarded Australian public figure. On arrival, I was informed I would be presented with my award on stage, but would not be required to say anything – which I found quite a relief! But of course, on receiving the award I was asked if I would like to say a few words – and promptly flushed, shook my head and exited the stage. I’m sure there were a few people who admired my humility, but as I walked away all I could think of what what an idiot I had been to miss an opportunity to say something even slightly memorable in front of 500 well connected and important people. I had failed to grab the mike when offered. Unforgivable.
If I walked in the shoes of the audience that day, even though they were really waiting the hear from David Gonski, I would have felt disappointed that the award recipient didn’t even speak. So today I re-enacted that moment properly. OK, so there were only 12 people in the room – but the feedback was great. I will keep practicing.
As our final closing today we all chose to write a word on the blackboard (yes they still have those here!) saying what this week meant to us – as this is the last Eyes Up @ Darden, I’ll leave you with some of them to ponder – and perhaps LuluLemon might like to re-do their bags with them! I know I’ll keep coming back to these as reminders of this week – as I put myself in others’ shoes and see where my potential can take me. Eyes Up will be back soon… stay tuned.
Pay it forward – practice – believe – recharged – authentic – mission focus – encouraged – energised – acceptance – blessed – inspired – courage – prepared – meaningful – change – eye opening – network – calm – unfinished – connections – chemistry – inspire