In 2017-2018, I was very fortunate to be able to participate in a leadership journey that was delivered in the spirit of Essere. I was part of a cohort that consisted of most of the company’s international leaders. This meant that there were people from all of the countries where we had business units which included Australia, China, Japan, India, several European countries, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and U.S. In additional, international heads of departments were there. It was about 30 people with very diverse backgrounds and ideas about leadership. That is one of the things that made it so incredibly rich.
This journey took place in 4 x 2-dayretreats over a period of one year. The setting was a rustic farmhouse on a hill in the Vosges mountains in France. It was incredibly beautiful to look out over the rolling hills each day. The hotel we stayed in was a nice 15-minute walk downhill from the farmhouse which meant each morning was an uphill hike. Nothing like a little morning exercise to cure the jetlag!
Serge Borg, our facilitator was magical. His voice was soothing and calming with just the right depth to allow a feeling of peacefulness to carry across the meeting room. There were no desks and office chairs. It was a large open room in a loft with sofas and armchairs around the perimeter. Each day started with a short meditation where we could realign our focus on the coming day and clear the prevailing work thoughts from our brains. Then the magic would begin.
During the 4 weeks that I spent with these people, I developed a strong and deep connection with each and every one of them. In a safe space, we were able to share our strengths, challenges, weaknesses, victories, pains, and fears. You may wonder what all of this sharing has to do with leadership. I did too. But now I know. In order to be a leader that inspires others, you must be able to be completely comfortable with who you are. This allows you to come across not only with confidence but with compassion and empathy for others. The only way to become comfortable with who you are is through self-discovery, through acknowledging and accepting all that you are, good and bad.
In addition to the enriching self-discovery and sharing sessions we had, we also learned how to communicate with others in a meaningful way. We practiced listening without interruption or judgement. We practiced feedback by resonating what we heard beneath the words. We learned how to coach others to find solutions on their own. All of these skills are essential to bring humanity, connection, and trust to leadership.
The fact that the company was having all of its top-level managers go through this training was very exciting for me. Imagine an entire company whose leaders’ practiced authenticity, active listening, constructive feedback, and coaching! As I completed each of the 4 weeks, I made sure that I practiced what I learned. I started to see the connection and trust building with my team, many of whom had experienced the same training. It became very clear that leading my team in the way I knew in my heart and gut was the way needed to create an environment of inclusiveness, psychological safety and as a consequence, high performance, was the only way I could ever lead; completely aligned with my values. I made one more step towards becoming a BRAVE Leader.