#15 Be. Leadership 2014 - The First Retreat

By Richard Reid

I walked into the room at Sudima Hotel on a beautiful sunny morning to be greeted by a few smiley faces. Slowly the room filled up and we were allocated to a table, which would become our syndicate for the next few months. I looked at the names and I saw that I was the token male, although I secretly hoped that the name Sam would even up the stakes a bit. But no, it turned out the guys are out-numbered in this group of diverse people.

I really enjoyed the great bunch in my syndicate, and the group as a whole, especially as the three days of the retreat progressed. We experienced the discussions and realised the strength of character everyone brought to the group.

We all got to meet Philip Patston and Lesley Slade, who had interviewed us on Skype, and got to finally put a face to Michelle Jurgens after getting emails throughout the past few months.

Our first session was an introduction from the CEO of Be. Institute, Minnie Baragwanath, who after a brief overview of Be. Leadership, introduced us to John Allen, the Be. Institute, Chairman of the Board.

John gave us a history of his working life — starting off in a law firm, moving to NZ Post where he became CEO after 8 years and then after 14 years at NZ Post, he took on the role of CEO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Throughout his talk he gave me an insight of how his own leadership has evolved to work with his managers who had differing leadership qualities and style. After a 20 minute presentation we had an hour for Q & A after some time to prepare questions. These questions were compelling and challenging, giving us an insight of John’s leap into a political world that he had not experienced before.

Lunchtime gave us a taste of the food that we came to expect over the 3 days and we also were able to experience excellent customer service that helped the Sudima Hotel receive a Silver in the Be. Welcome programme.

The afternoon was spent being introduced to most of the Be. Institute staff who demonstrated that the culture there means laughing is compulsory. We also met the Be. Leadership Alumni from 2013. Each told us how they have grown from being part of Be. Leadership. We quickly learned how the group managed to gel as a team and how much fun they had throughout the previous year. They then joined us for drinks, dinner and building a vibrating cell phone tower.

On Day Two we had two speakers. First up, Minnie Baragwanath returned and shared the reasons behind the creation of Be. Accessible and spoke about her role. She also explained her frustrations working in a large council organisation with seven managers above her, and how that was a catalyst to take the plunge to initiate the Be. Institute.

The second speaker was Les Morgan, the Operations Manager of Sudima Hotel Group who also manages the Auckland Airport Hotel. His discussion and answers in our Q & A session gave us an introduction to a common tale of people who did not have high aspirations when young, but who have taken the opportunities that have arisen and grown to become leaders. Les gave us a candid discussion, and it evolved that his was not a leadership style that some of the group expected to be uncomfortable with. On the surface, it seemed difficult to reconcile his leadership values with the results that have been achieved at the hotel.

The final session of the day was called Reflection, which was the most interesting session of the weekend for me personally. Most of the reflection was about the presentation from Les Morgan and how some of his methods used were difficult with some of the members of the group. We concluded that the background and life experiences of individuals have a significant impact on how you react to different leadership styles, and that different leadership styles fit different business or cultural environments. Therefore, we recognised that each person will not be comfortable with all styles of leadership.

On Day Three, we worked in our syndicates, exploring our intentions for the year and how we can work together over the course of 2014. We discussed what books should be read from the "Book Club” and reflected on how the retreat went, with some constructive feedback given to Philip and Lesley. Also discussed, was our journey to our future retreats, which we are all looking forward too.