Sunday, March 9, 2008

self help

I spent three hours last Friday morning in the first session of a sixteen-week leadership development workshop. The seat was graciously offered by my dean (she has a standing offer with the company that developed and delivers the series). I didn't really know how to take it. Does she think I'm a crappy leader? Do I consider myself (or worse, does she consider me) a leader? When you work in a department with four other people, do you have to be a leader or a good manager, peer, and representative? What does my dean know that I don't know? Am I paranoid? Should I be paranoid?

I entered the workshop room on Friday morning with a fair amount of skepticism. I could tell by the body language and lingering around the coffee urn in the back that my skepticism was shared by at least half of the other 20 or so attendees. Ten years on active duty will make you skeptical about almost any situation that requires you to consider your "inner leader."

After the obligatory round of introduction and personal statements about "what I want to get out of the workshop," the moderators moved us through a range of definitions of leadership. During one segment they introduced the Pareto principle as a means to illustrate how eighty percent of people in any organization will use only twenty percent of the opportunities (the safe paths) open to them. I found myself wondering if I'd find twenty percent of what I hear and see over the next fifteen weeks useful.

I left the session with a personal commitment to be open to the instruction. After all, I did state that I thought a good day was a day in which I learned something new. Cliche? Yeah sure, but it did get written on the poster paper taped to one side of the room. I honestly think that I'll enjoy the discussions intended to help us focus on what's important; of how not to think like a manager; of visualizing the next step; and how to maintain a positive attitude. These aren't ground-breaking or new topics (Peter Senge does a lot of this in his discussions about learning organizations), but they're good to revisit and reconsider in different contexts.

While I'm not big on self-affirmation, I'm seeing a lot of these next fifteen weeks including a fair amount of introspection and observation. Who knows, maybe it's the kick-in-the-ass I need to organize the clutter and refocus my efforts on my exams.

The coffee was good, the company pleasant, and the muffins just soft enough to not crumble onto the pages of the HUGE three-ring binder. That, to almost everyone, is a Friday morning well-spent.

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