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Leadership Playgrounds

Leadership Playgrounds

I’m not a fan of the short cold days of late Autumn, when November and early December seem to maliciously drag on before there’s a chance for a break. Yet this time of year naturally puts me in a reflective space, looking back at the year, what went well and what I wish could have been a Groundhog Day.

There’s nothing so powerful as learning by falling flat on our faces, or at least bruising ourselves a little.  I’m sure we’ve all had a few of those moments this year.  Remember in the park playground when you learnt how to climb or when you learnt how to ride your bike?  Memorable minutes of pain when you learnt so much.

Learning sticks even better when we take time to process our mistakes, when we work out how to avoid them in the future and push on to have another go even though we risk failure. We learn so much by adapting and changing and I’ve certainly had to do some of that this year too.

In business, I’m interested in how we can create playgrounds where people explore with the same bravery as they had as children.  Places where we can make mistakes, explore ideas and test things out.  When so much is at stake and every step needs to show a return on investment or the hitting of a performance target, the idea of a playground can sound risky.

In my twenties, five of us were given newly created roles with free reign to experiment with tenant engagement so that people on estates were involved in improving the places they lived in.  It was ground breaking in an era where the term “resident involvement” hadn’t even been coined.

The learning here wasn’t group work on a course or a project as part of a qualification – our jobs were in the political spotlight and the organisation’s success as well as our reputations were at stake.  Back then, learning came down to my own motivation for self-reflection and “trial and error” conversations with my peers.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What would I do differently next time?  Who was doing better than me that I could emulate?  Who was doing a terrible job that I could learn from?

Individually, in teams and as organisations, these are questions we can all benefit from.  Questions asked without blame but with curiosity and a desire for growth are powerful.

Now, many experiences on, I build workshops and programmes for teams, individuals and groups, asking these same simple, direct, searching questions.  Questions that are easy to shelve when the day becomes filled with tasks, especially when they touch on sensitive issues about ourselves.

Between now and Christmas, I know I’ll be carrying out my own reflections about what needs to shift before the year runs out so that I can feel in good shape for the next.

If you think you could benefit from reflection time too, being asked the questions that get you questioning and help you take stock of your leadership, give Sarah Smith a call on 07958 732803 or email her.



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