#17 Be. Leadership May 2014 - Convening New Conversations

by Blake Leitch

By this month's session, everyone appeared to have settled into the general routine quite easily. There didn't appear to be the nerves that had accompanied us the prior two months, more just a feeling of excitement for what would be on offer over the next two days. The month's session was focused around the theme, 'Convening New Conversations'. Needless to say, every speaker had their own special focus which resulted in a number of diverse conversations.

After arriving at the Independent Living Service in Royal Oak (the facility for the first day's festivities), everybody settled in and prepared for the day. The Fusion syndicate was in charge of the first day, but unfortunately Lucy was unable to attend. As a result, Fusion had to buckle down and pull a little bit of double duty.

Robin would end up hosting the first part of the day and would also chair for our first speaker, Lorraine Murphy. The Chief People Officer of Air New Zealand focused her talk around the topic, 'From Good to Great'. In a nutshell, she taught that the only way to get from good to great is to focus on oneself. One should always be open to constructive criticism and, if one has the ability, prove negative criticism wrong.

Something else which came to fruition – albeit, on a bit of a tangent – was an interesting and heated discussion on sexism and bullying. While I'm not entirely sure whether any conclusions were made, it did prove that we were becoming a somewhat more vocal crowd.

Following lunch and a reflection session which saw the sexism/bullying debate continue, we had former Rainbow Youth Executive Director, Tommy Hamilton, talk to us about what he called, 'The Wobbly Continuum: Gender and Politics in NZ today'. I would take the chair position for Tommy and enjoyed a good bit of chin-wagging pre-talk.

Although he was slated to speak about gender and politics, he admitted that he only submitted that title to fulfil Philip's wishes. He would end up focusing his discussion on the meaning of gender. However, it wasn't so much the exact definition of gender that Tommy focused on — it was more the importance of gender as an idea. His ideas seemed to be focused around the fact that gender is no longer binary, and when we treat it as such, we lose focus of the greater conversation of equality.

Following the two talks for the day, the groups would convene for a final workshop where we filled out what were essentially Johari windows (albeit, with a Philip Patston twist). The day ended quite quietly before the majority of us headed for drinks and dinner at the Ibis Ellerslie Restaurant with the first ever Be. Alumni group.

The second day saw everyone from the Be. Leadership and Be. Alumni programmes meet at CCS Disability Action for a joint opening lead by the Fruitburst syndicate. Jan would host the morning half of the day commencing with a group singalong of Bruno Mars' 'Count on Me'. We then separated into our respective programmes, and to begin each syndicate gave their first review for the Book Club.

Following the Book Club (it was quite a short affair really) we were treated to our first speaker for the day, Red Nicholson, chaired by Richard. Red's talk was entitled, 'Raising the bar: Why being unique isn't enough', and focused primarily around the importance of being part of a community when it comes to social change. He was very much of the mindset that a leader wasn’t necessarily at the front of the group, but helped in whichever ways they could from where they were.

One of the key reflections noticed of Red by the syndicates was that he was very willing to discuss some issues that he was grappling with. He provided an excellent portrayal of somebody who is still in the early stages of their leadership role.

Our second speaker was Auckland City's Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse, and she was chaired by Lisa. Penny didn't have a title for her talk, and it was surprising when she didn't focus purely on politics. What Penny offered was in fact completely in sync with Red's talk from the morning; that our community is key and we should not forget it. Something else which Penny really nailed down was the necessity to learn to say 'no'; by no means at all times, but when 'yes' simply isn't an option.

That would end the weekend: obviously, there were many more discussions and far deeper talks, but this is what I feel was the crux of the weekend. Everybody found their new syndicate partners for the next three months, packed up their gear, and headed on their separate ways.