This week marks the end of my participation in the Coaching for Leaders Academy 2017-2018 cohort.
I was accepted to the Academy last October for 12-month training program and I just cannot believe that those 12 months have already passed.
It has been 12-months of waking up 4.30 a.m. every second Wednesday to make sure I am bright and ready to contribute with my leadership group, The Mavericks.
They’ve mostly seen me with a cup of coffee but still.
True, the time difference did not favour my participation, but I’ve only missed a handful of sessions and mostly because I have been sometimes travelling for work.
Many friends have asked me what I find the most useful about the Academy.
One even demanded to know “exact practical examples” of what I have done with the training from the Academy.
I thought I’d share some reflections this week why I decided to participate in the Academy, and what I have gained through participation, and also reflect a bit more broadly on key leadership principles that I have gained and wish to maintain in my life.
My journey that led me to the Academy
I came across the Academy at a time when I really needed support in both my professional and personal lives.
I had just left my husband at a time, was embracing single motherhood, and kept thinking that there must be some very practical ways I could start developing my leadership skills both at work and at home.
Dave Stachowiak hosts one of the best and widely listened leadership podcasts, Coaching for Leaders, that really aims to equip people with sound leadership principles, and encourage people to reflect on their leadership skills and abilities.
When I heard on the podcast that Dave was going to open up applications for the Academy, I jumped at the chance.
The Academy is essentially a 12-month training program around personal leadership that is grounded in biweekly teleconferences with Dave and a leadership group.
The beauty of this program is that you can be wherever in the world and still participate as the Academy uses zoom platforms for all of the meetings.
For someone like me who is a single mother and has limited capacity to travel, this form of Academy training is ideal as I don’t have to be away from work, I don’t need to travel or worry about paying for babysitting.
Each session we reported on our leadership commitments, tracked our progress, and discussed key mechanisms in how to take the next steps in our leadership journeys.
Consistency is everything
The Academy has made me consistent in ways that I never imagined was possible.
It has instilled me “a fanatic consistency” in attending the sessions, following through on my commitments, and showing up even when I have not felt I am in the mood to contribute.
Such consistency is essential for leadership and this is what true discipline is, as noted by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen in their book “Great by Choice”:
“Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action- consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time… True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to confirm in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations” (p. 21).
True leadership is then exactly that, following up consistently, keeping the big picture goals and visions in mind, and making sure that our actions are aligned with what we are fanatic about.
For someone like me who has immersed herself in leadership and management theories and principles as of late, such statements seem now common sense.
Yet, this is not always the case.
For example, I recently attended a media workshop where the presenter pretty much told us in the first 5 minutes that social media is not about consistency, academics are busy people and should not care about developing a consistent media strategy for themselves.
I had hard time staying quiet, but I did, mostly because I did not want to embarrass the presenter.
But anyone who is one bit familiar with branding, leadership and management literature would say that consistency and discipline are the first and the core principle.
And social media in particular is about creating your brand and being consistent with it.
This is what Academy has really instilled in me, that I can be and become consistent in what I do, but that I don’t have to worry about doing it alone.
The Mavericks and Dave have truly kept me to my word, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to get to know these amazing people all around the world.
Practical examples and change
There are several other things that spring to mind when I think how I have changed in the last 12 months.
I finally had the courage to establish my own website and I have followed through my commitment to write and publish a blog each week.
This has not been easy by any means as I often have struggled finding the time to write (like now am writing on a Sunday afternoon that is not an ideal time to publish).
I have learned about different ways of handling conflict at work, about the differences between managers and leaders, how to start building my own leadership ideas and principles and what not.
But it is not just about practical examples of what I have done.
It is the way that I have grown as an individual, the way that I have been able to share my journey with the other leaders, and how over these last 12 months I have gained profound insights into who I am and who I want to be.
That is priceless.
And it has been life changing.
The academy has really given me the skills (and btw no, Dave is not paying me to write this) to understand leadership better and in a far deeper level than before, to keep moving on my goals and targets, and not forgetting that life is really about work and family, intertwined.
I am therefore saddened to leave the Academy but I don’t have the financial support from my institution to continue this time around.
And buying a house does put other demands on my own finances.
But change is good, and I suppose the ultimate test of leadership training is how I use those insights and lessons learned from such opportunities in my everyday life.
I wish and hope I can keep up my consistency even without our biweekly calls with The Mavericks, and keep the friendships going, which I have formed over the past 12-months.
I do want to say a heartfelt thank you to Dave for opening up the Academy for emerging leaders like myself.
As I’ve learned over the past year, one of the key principles is to keep moving.
For me, I will continue walking my leadership talk, and hopefully I’ll be back for a second round soon.
ps. Imagine if we could say similar things about learning how to adapt to climate change… someday we hopefully will.