Posts Tagged ‘leadership camp’

Day 25: The End

23 April 2010

Dear J-

Well at this point it’s all over but for the shouting — we’ve just wrapped up the last bit of class work and I’m now trying to kill the moments between that and our graduation dinner. I do owe the first course a huge bouquet of thanks for having us end on Project Management instead of some presentation from a division on what they do; I understand that these things are important, but I’m not convinced that I ever engaged my brain last week. This week, on the other hand, I’m staggering out of classes convinced that I have the answer to everything (again). Those parentheses are important.

I was already mentally checking out (let’s call it summarizing or senioritis) during lunch; for a leadership course there was very little emphasis on the mechanics of leading people. There were three days of that, which I found dry but vital; we paid far more attention to learning about yourself. Why? In the end, who can you really control? Your actions, or theirs? Your reaction, or theirs? We spent some time learning first the what, but the important lessons were in exploring the why. I’ve gotten two things out of that: first, why I am as crazy as I am, and second, confidence to be who I am.

Our mentor today gave me a singularly useful piece of advice that I intend to take forward: define first for yourself what a good leader is, and then figure out what you need in order to meet your face in the mirror every night. After all, I can’t make people follow, but I can make myself worthy to lead.



Day 05: The Return

26 March 2010

Dear J-

As it turns out the intimidation was mostly in my mind; we were never in any real danger (strong ropes and strict protocols) but my brain still isn’t able to keep my feet from shaking when placed, solidly or not, on quarter-inch wire rope. I’m glad we went through it, but I’m also glad to be back home where the new normal is watching half a TV program as we keep putting figgy back to bed, picking up the toys strewn on the floor, and dealing with the reality of a nigh-three-year old. Leadership or not, it’s humbling to come back home — sixty miles and a world away — and remind yourself of your true place in the world.

Seriously. I have a friend who was always going to self-help seminars and motivational speakers, which I regarded in the same light as Scientology and Moonies. It seemed so easy to apply lessons immediately and in such perfect support this morning; now I look at it with a bit of rising panic wondering how I could effect change in the world — personal world, work world. Deep breath. Remember this morning, then; remember the steady stream of feedback and information, keep it simple, stay direct, eye contact, panic quashed. Is there really any doubt?

I said that I left Warner Springs believing in the power of the group, and I stick by that assertion. Earlier in the week we didn’t know each other well enough to have even attempted some of those stunts this morning. Throw us together in and out of class, though, and suddenly we’re a well-oiled machine; why can’t that happen more often in real life? I know, sure, this week was real life but it takes on an air of unreality when I try to poke back at it now; much of the growth was internal (a good deal went to my belly) but there are tangible benefits too. Head higher, back straigher, and all the way forward; I am excited to see what and how the changes will ripple through my life.


Day 04: Pole Vault

25 March 2010

Dear J-

Today we all had the opportunity to jump off a log (okay, a utility pole); I was almost more interested in all the safety gear that we got to fit up with, but suffice to say that the challenge demanded, like all our challenges lately, laser-like focus and attention. Between the numerous commands and checks (we are sending people off a utility pole, after all) I didn’t even notice how cold it had gotten until we stopped and went over to the next station (a preview for tomorrow, which I will informally dub “The Intimidator”) to listen to the basic rules. It’s funny; the more we progress through these challenges the more I catch myself thinking I can instead of I can’t.

As this week has passed by the more I appreciate the opportunity to find out more about myself — the way I respond to pressure and challenges and therefore the way the world sees me. First know thyself; isn’t that right? I think I surprised myself most of all when I volunteered to go first up the pole today; if I hadn’t, I’m not sure that I would have had the courage to go up later. Actually, no; scratch that — I would have still done it, but perhaps not for the right reasons that bubbled up inside me and pushed my hand up.

One of the J-s in my life once told me that when he came to the States, he was determined to make a change: new school, new country, new faces, no intimidation. Back at his old school, he said, he was pretty shy and retiring, so he forced himself to be completely the opposite: it wasn’t comfortable or easy, but he’s made himself into the hilarious, crass person he is today — and a great friend to know, by the way — and we’re all better for it. One of the equations that’s popped up in the past few days is that because resistance to change is always greater than zero, you have to overcome that resistance with the product of three factors: dissatisfaction (with the status quo), vision (a compelling vision is much easier to follow), and first steps (you won’t get anywhere by standing still). Make that your lesson for the day: what have you done lately that you’re not happy with?


Day 03: Mistakes Happen

24 March 2010

Dear J-

We spent much of the day failing at our assigned tasks and consequently learning quite a bit; there’s nothing like a little mistake to make you re-examine why you’re doing something, and why besides. After all, most of what you learn from success is how it feels, not necessarily what you did right to get there. First, though, a word on what we did: the first part was passing our team through a web obstacle; the second, we went around a playground balance course with tightwires and balance beams. More time outside, and therefore more fun, right?

Inside class we ran a blind maze — the instructors laid out a grid and controlled our movements by buzzing us out when we stepped on the incorrect square (they had secret maps laid out to show safe paths). Therefore it was an exercise in trial and error; if anyone says that they never learned from their mistakes, either they’re perfect or a liar. I will say that the key mistake we made was in communication; the surprising result that made the maze simple could have been uncovered by keeping everyone informed.

Outside class we ran the activites above — passing the team through the web was simple so long as you kept your wits about you and tried not to spoil the soup with too many cooks. But it was the playground maze that taught us the deepest lesson today; it’s okay to fail. Ultimately, we didn’t fail the assigned task, but we did have to reset early on, which caused us to refocus our energy as a team, rather than a collection of individuals wending their way through an agility course; suddenly it was less about getting through and more about getting them through. It’s a subtle lesson, but one worth making explicit: success depends on the entire group’s focus.


Day 02: Lean Into It

23 March 2010

Dear J-

I wonder if it’s better to approach each day with as much apprehension as I have; for me the apprehension is at least equal parts excitement and fear. I’m genuinely excited to be getting out and doing some of the promised physical activities around here, yet at the same time I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I like the schedule as a guideline, though, and not knowing what’s next gives me something to look forward to each day. The talking part of the course hasn’t been as intimidating as I thought — folks who are here are willing and ready to learn — it’s the Survivor-ish challenges that my mind has cooked up that are starting to loom.

Today’s physical activity was a trust walk; imagine an obtuse isoceles triangle of wires that gets to roughly six feet apart at the widest side. Now, with a partner, lean into each other and go from narrow point to narrow point. As it turns out the challenge has nothing to do with matching up physical height or weight; it’s got everything to do with learning to trust your partner (if one of you lets go at the thick part, you’re both going down) and the coachings of your peers and mentors, who’ve gathered enough experience to guide you both through.

It should be clear that we keep reciting the words that trust permeates the organization without stopping to understand them; the freedom to speak your mind and point out issues without being labeled a troublemaker or worse, having to fix the problems you point out shouldn’t be taken for granted. I know that moving out of my comfort zone and providing constructive feedback — this causes the gnawing in my stomach that I’ve generically attributed to dread — isn’t my favorite thing in the world to do, but here’s the lesson for today: if you don’t mind receiving feedback, why should you be hesitant in giving it? Shouldn’t you give the receiver the benefit of the doubt — aren’t they just the same way (and grateful for the opportunity to improve)?