Monday, October 23, 2006

Communing with the Sheep

So last week was a “leadership” training programme for a group of our senior management. We all absconded to a hill side as remote as remote can be in Britain. I couldn’t even get mobile reception unless I walked 50 yards away from the house and stood on a wall facing just so.

I’ve been on a few of these boondoggles over the years, but I have to say, this one was rather good. Though with the usual elements of a boys week out: canoeing, rock climbing, abseiling in pitch dark, a rousing talk by a chap who’d walked to the North Pole unaided, it also had some very practical elements.

Often these things are very HR wanky (as our HR Director sardonically calls it), and we certainly had some of those bits, but mostly it was very practical. The team organising had done a really effective job at putting together a string of exercises that built of a very action oriented view on our jobs.

Some of the exercises, like getting in actors to work on influencing and feedback styles, I’d done before. They can be good fun, though one of my colleagues got so upset that he walked (no, stormed) out of the room. I just enjoy it for what it is, a chance to done your acting robes and have a little fun. There were also the requisite “honest” feedback sessions on each other. Very Mao.

Yet what I particularly liked was a day by day build up, just asking quite practical questions about what goals we have to achieve, do we know the right steps to achieve them, who do we have to influence, and right back to do we really understand our goals. I considered it an absolute luxury to have a week out to just think about what I’m doing and how to get there.

For the most part I flatter myself that I’m on the right track, but the exercises were excellent in making me challenge my thinking and notice some gaps. Perhaps more importantly it helped me notice some blinkers I had in regards to others in our team, and how I needed to change my style to keep them working with me.

Management and politics are funny things. In a purely logical world they would be unnecessary, but ours is an emotional world. I find it marvellous that we have to change our words and actions to communicate. English is not English. The same word can have hugely different meaning to two people. I love that, as frustrating as it is at times. So it was a good week.

A few rather good bottles of wine, and some late nights playing poker or challenging each other on recognizing tunes from the first couple bars didn’t hurt in making it a good week too.


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