Conferences foster learning and new connections, and provide fuel for existing passions! This week I had the opportunity to attend a conference hosted by Central 1 in Vancouver for Canadian Credit Unions. The adventure started off seemingly on the wrong foot with my flight being cancelled due to fog. Once I realized that this was my new reality I raced for the ferry. Once I arrived I overheard a lady sharing her story about her flight being cancelled and hoping she could find a ride. Normally, I would not offer a complete stranger a ride, but for some reason this seemed like the right thing to do. She accepted my offer and this started a seven hour marathon of heartfelt and passionate conversation about our families, careers, leadership and leading with questions (the coach approach). In our short time together I learned so much and was inspired by her leadership within the school system and with future leaders. My biggest take away from our seven hour conversation was her systems thinking perspective of the importance of a learning organization to achieve her vision, and her desire to build the next generation of leaders within her organization. Her vision is to move from ‘pockets of brilliance’ to a ‘system of brilliance’ within her school district. Brilliant!
This delightful encounter directly linked to the first conference speaker’s message. Dr. Nick Bontis spoke about surviving in the knowledge era, and how knowledge is power. He emphasized the importance of social connections for sharing and transferring knowledge, rather than our dependence on the convenience of sharing electronically. It reminded me of one of my favourite quotes “cheating in a learning organization is having knowledge and not sharing it”. Bontis shared his thoughts on how ‘un-learning’ is more challenging than ‘learning’ for the human mind. His premise is that when change happens, resistance occurs because it is more difficult to ‘un-learn’ old ways than it is to learn new ways. This was a perspective I hadn’t considered, but it definitely makes sense. Perhaps paying more attention to the need for ‘un-Iearning’ would support people to understand what they need to let go of and be more equipped to embrace new learning. In a session on the coach approach, Dave Busse emphasized the science behind why the coach approach is so effective. He shared that asking questions gives people a chance to hook their learning to existing information in the brain, which leads to those sought after ‘aha moments’.
My favorite session of the conference was the closing keynote from Drew Dudley. I loved his perspective on leadership being about every day moments, rather than a few extraordinary moments. Leadership is often seen as something for others of greater esteem, but in actual fact, each of us play an important role as leaders and followers in our every day lives as parents, colleagues, friends and community members. Dudley said “Leadership is making one big decision to make a bunch of small decision that matter”. He suggested that leadership begins with defining personal values and what they mean to you, and asking yourself daily if you are living your values.
My takeaway: Everyday leadership happens when we live our values and positively affect the world around us.
Sandra McDowell, MA, PCC
Author Sandra McDowell is a Certified Executive Coach with a Masters in Leadership and a Certificate in NeuroLeadership, and Vice-President Communications & Culture for First Credit Union & Insurance.