#10 Be. Leadership July 2013 - Starting new conversations

By Wayne Forrest

On Friday, 5th July we kicked off another great "Be. Leadership" weekend. Mishaps and a bit of bad luck had left Gareth and Alison absent in May so it was good to have everyone back together.

On Friday morning we sat down in our syndicates to contemplate our three big days ahead. After our welcome and outline of the day we prepared ourselves to be photographed for the website, which came more naturally for some than for others. There's something very uneasy in trying to show off while getting your photo taken. I must say I felt very self-conscious, but I hope we did the photos justice.

During the morning we reviewed our leaderships goals as well as sharing our learning from the organisations we had visited in June that interested us and fit with our future leadership aspirations. Overwhelmingly people had found the visits useful.

With full stomachs after a good lunch we got into some sign language with Peter which as always was entertaining. We learn a little bit more every time; Peter has such a skill with the way he teaches New Zealand Sign Language, which makes it very enjoyable.

The lovely Minnie graced us with her beautiful presence and spoke about the honour of winning a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award. We heard about the glamour of the evening and of course the beautiful dresses and shoes. Minnie told us about some of the other recipients of the awards and the great things they had done.

We moved on to "My Journey" where Alison and Gareth shared. Listening to both of their stories made me aware what amazing people we have in this group – like so many others in the group they had to overcome hardship to achieve and they are truly wonderful people.

After a short break we all gathered in the dining room for pre-dinner drinks and another great feed! Suffering from a nasty little cold I soon snuck off to my room leaving the rest of group with their desserts and great conversations.

On Saturday, we gathered in our syndicates to prepare for the day. As I was still not feeling well, the lovely Annie gave me some strange Chinese drug that seemed to give me a perk up.

Our first workshop of the day was about the conversations we have with ourselves and the world. Philip had a lovely diagram that helped us to understand and ask ourselves if our current dialogues are authentic. Man, did that start up a discussion of its own.

Our first speaker of the day was Stephanie McIntyre, Director of DCM – wow, what an amazing woman! For twenty minutes Stephanie talked about how DCM worked with homelessness from a "Housing First" approach. This was followed by some great questions.

The afternoon started off with our very own Philip Patston, who was a little nervous in his "speaker" role. Though it was quite unusual to see Philip uneasy, it didn’t last very long. As always he soon had us captivated and spellbound so that 20 minutes flew by. Philip changed things up and asked us to have a discussion, instead of the usual 40 minutes of questions. Not sure if I remember right, but I think it ended in a debate about why people and society had to label us by our disability instead of seeing our uniqueness.

Our third speaker of the day, John McCarthy, General Manager of Lifewise, was a great ending to the day. He gave a natural and honest insight into the way he had worked to change the old charity model of the Methodist Mission into the modern social development model of Lifewise today. The 20 minutes truly flew by. So interested were we in what John had to say that we went over time with our questions – not too bad considering we all had such a big day. Like Friday we ended the day with a few drinks and another meal together. John joined us and it was wonderful to finish the day in the company of a truly honest and generous man.

I think we were all a little bit weary on Sunday morning, after two big days and three great speakers. I for one had to have a few extra coffees to prepare for the day. By this time Annie's Chinese drug had kicked in and I was feeling better and ready for the last day, which was just as well because it was our syndicate, the Curious Monkeys, on duty.

After a quick outline of the day, we went straight into speaker number four, Tommy Hamilton from Rainbow Youth. Tommy's topic was gender and sexuality – a wonderfully diverse and interesting subject. I can only speak for myself, but I thoroughly enjoyed Tommy as a speaker and his subject.

After lunch we had a quick reflection on the four speakers, then the final workshop was looking at the new conversations we want to have about social change. My insights and learning from the workshop was that we must ensure that what we say is aligned with what we think! This makes us authentic, better leaders and helps us find ways of having truly NEW conversations.

For me this weekend was full of information and, as always, I came away with some amazing insight and knowledge. I would like to finish with a personal insight: we need to get society to see disability in a new light. We need to start the conversation with those individuals that define people by the negative perspective of disability rather than the uniqueness of the individuals. If we can get the masses open to those conversations, the possibility is that society might not need the label of disability and people will only see the uniqueness of the individual.

Clear as mud!