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Leadership NZ Alumni Retreat : Safe space to share

by Cheryl Bowie, Director at VisionOn

When I reflect on many historical group interactions, I'm aware there's always a smaller or larger piece of myself that is given up in those types of interaction. This is something I've previously accepted as part of the unspoken contract of creating positive interactions and relationships, but aware I'm giving something up in order 'to get' something in return.

At the Leadership NZ alumni retreat, this previously held view was challenged right from the outset when Christian Penny shared his reflections from his year on the Leadership NZ Programme. He talked about his confidence and ability to stand strong in his own space not feeling the need to give anything away, whilst still being able to privilege the other persons in their space and their right to be them. This created the start of a shift for me and allowed me to be truly present and open to fully absorb the weekend's experiences. I experienced a sense of calm and flow that had previously alluded me in other group situations, where sometimes I’ve felt anxious about others judgement, not acting the 'right way' or possibly overreaching.

Much of the credit for this has to go to my alumni colleagues and the Leadership NZ team for creating the safe environment that allowed me to be fully 'me'. The shared experience of the Leadership NZ Programme regardless of your year is so deep and powerful that it clearly connected and bound us as previous strangers in a most unusual and beautiful way. The superficiality and more transactional nature of other outside conversations and connections seem to pale in comparison to the authentic, genuine and deeper conversation that occurs when we are in each other's presence. The speed with which we are able to go there with each other is both calming and enlivening.

As I walk away from this weekend, I am reminded of the soul food I gained from my experience in 2007 and how timely this re-engagement is for me in a period of professional change. I felt loved, validated for who I am and much more at peace with the journey I am taking, confident in the knowledge that I have the support of an outstanding group of individuals who have my back. I am reminded of my favourite Maori saying - he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. I have reconnected with my tribe.