I have facilitated 2 x 3 hour workshops for the Senior Leadership Group of Metropolitan-South Institute of TAFE, which focused on supporting their thinking around a significant change management issue that is going to impact the Institute over the next three to four months: the Queensland Public Sector’s Voluntary Separation Program. This program will see significant numbers of staff exit the organisation, some with deep corporate knowledge, expertise and skill. While this presents challenges on a number of fronts: knowledge management, operational strain and business process disruption, it also presents a number of opportunities: reinvigorating the workforce, career and leadership development opportunities and cultural change. One of the most significant challenges for this medium-sized leadership group (over 40 members) is that they are geographically dispersed, occupy a wide range of levels within the organisation and hold different functional responsibilities.
I posed to them that this change management challenge is a gift. It is “the” leadership experience and will most certainly shape who they are as a person, as a leader and as a member of the senior leadership group who are shaping the future of the Institute. In our work with our individual coaching clients, we support them to create these leadership challenges for themselves, so that they can really experience how to sit in the heat of an experience, hold on to their goals and their vision, set boundaries so that they can think through the challenge and stay connected so that they can get the support they need.
When everything is going well, leadership is easy. In fact, it is probably more about keeping out of people’s way and letting them get on with it. But when there is a leadership event, it requires great mindfulness, an ability to think flexibly and ultimately a calm discipline. What lies at the heart of this challenge is our ability to create a space and hold a space for thinking. Too often, managers give away the gift of time to others and allow themselves to become pressurised. Too often managers allow other people’s poor planning to become their emergency. And because this happens too often, it has become a habit and by consequence, their thinking has become a habit.
So in the workshops, I created a space and held the space for the managers to spend time reflecting and thinking about their internal current reality (hopes, concerns, thoughts, feelings) and their external current reality (in the form of a consequence map based on known facts). Based on this rich picture of the current reality, the managers spent time thinking about what they wanted and what might be the biggest obstacle for them. As the old saying goes, a problem well-defined is a problem half solved. From this they developed individual leadership goals. Finally, they worked together as a group to develop a high level goal that was ecological: it supported them as an individual, it supported them as a senior leadership group and it supported the broader aims of the Institute.
The second workshop focused on exploring preferences, strengths and differences according to a number of perspectives. The core questions I kept asking were: “What does this mean for you as a leadership group going forward, now that you know this? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities? How will they shape the future based on this and knowing that great uncertainty is about unfold?
Their journey has only just begun, however it is a journey that leads to a bright future.