Be. Leadership September 2016: Diversity – Taking off the Rose-Tinted Glasses and getting critical

by Jase Ranchhod

This session was an opportunity to revisit the stories we tell about ourselves and each other. We also examined the assumptions we make unconsciously (and consciously), and explored the role of leadership in highlighting and changing these stories and assumptions.

Day One
We arrived at our session's first day, after a bit of a rushed, early morning getting to Wellington airport for an early flight. We made it to Auckland excited and headed to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) premises in Penrose. It did feel unusual not catching our yellow bus to the Sudima Airport Hotel from Auckland Airport.

At the MDA, we were welcomed wholeheartedly by CEO Ronelle Baker. She gave us such a lovely welcome and we sang a beautiful waiata.

Our day started with the duty syndicate opening up our session and welcoming our first speaker, Kim Workman. Kim spoke to us about his time in the police and his change in role working in the prison system. He had also completed post graduate degrees in Religious Studies, in response to the outcome of a career assessment he had done. He talked to us about the monoculturalism in the prison system and the relationships with prisoners and correction staff. He also talked to us of the importance of culture, not making assumptions and being open to new ways of innovation.

After our delicious lunch from Eat My Lunch, we then had our second speaker for the day.

Cissy Rock was really candid and it was a joy to have her speak to us. She started her session talking about some of her stories. She spoke about her change in role from being in the Council and then working for the Living Wage. She touched on having 'core values' and spoke about her original ways of having meetings.

Both Kim and Cissy told us about their leadership styles and the unconventional ways of bringing meetings together and making them work. They both shared their individual family journeys and the impact they have had on their lives.

Within our syndicate we reflected on our speakers, the challenges of leading diversity, and the common themes that both Kim and Cissy shared about diversity.

Then Red, Soana, Sean and Maria shared their site visits – they all went to the most interesting places. Soana and Maria both went to the police, and Maria also spent time with Borderless Productions. Red spoke about his journey to Wellington and spending time with Jacinda Ardern at Parliament for the day, and serendipitously meeting Etta at an education protest outside Parliament. Sean talked about his time he spent with Barnadoes.

We also had the last of Our Futures – Soana, Bruce and I shared our goals for our futures and where we hope to see ourselves.

Late in the session we discussed our graduation and had a general rundown of the night. It's unbelievable that it is almost here and we will look forward to our final night together. We enjoyed having pizzas for an early dinner and those of us from out of town headed off to the Jet Park Hotel.

Day Two
On Day Two Ronelle Baker returned to speak to us. Ronelle shared her own leadership journey, from working in a District Health Board to now being the CEO of the MDA. She is the first CEO at the MDA with lived experience of muscular dystrophy. Ronelle is absolutely remarkable, her journey is inspiring and she shared her insights into her own personal development. I think I speak on behalf of us all that the favourite part of her talk was about the poutama as a symbol of parallel process. The explanation of poutama and the spiritual and physical aspects of it being a Stairway to Heaven is a learning that I know we will all cherish.

The similarity of our three speakers was the importance of values, their roles in society and having a strong vision.

After our lunch of Indian food, we all went away in our syndicates and discussed our new insights on diversity, themes and notions of diversity and how to lead in this space.

Philip then ran a workshop on reframing diversity, which included his music video on labels. We then discussed how we unconsciously label people and how we categorise diversity. One of my favourite things that Philip always mentions is how there is more diversity in decay than in growth. I think this sums up our uniqueness well.

This session was very challenging for us at a personal level because several people were absent for various reasons. Maree was missed on both days, as was Etta on Day One and Red on Day Two. It will be great having everyone together again in our final retreat in November.

Thank you to Philip, Lesley, Sam and Hannah for organising the sessions and always making us challenge ourselves and our ways of thinking. Thank you to Ronelle and the team at the MDA for hosting us. Thank you to the Jet Park Hotel for accommodating us out-of-town people and, to the Tribe, thank you for being part of this wonderful continuing Be. Leadership journey.