Retreat One of The NZ Leadership Programme was completely unexpected. This is what I expected:
Awkward ice breakers
I also expected I would:
Drink too much coffee
Awkwardly make half-hearted conversation with the other participants
Listen in a daze to the speaker and watch them roll out beautiful slides
Think about how I would apply the learning with increasing anxiety
This is not at all what we got. (I did drink too much coffee, but that was a personal choice).
Instead, we talked about the essential but invisible world of human connection; a fitting theme for the first retreat of a programme founded in part on peer coaching.
To my surprise and delight, within hours we were having real, authentic conversations with each other, and I was already having ‘lightbulb’ moments thanks to the excellent speakers.
The schedule was demanding; I woke up at 4:30am to catch my flight on the first day, and three very full days later I collapsed in a jelly-like heap of new thoughts, new friendships, new realisations about myself, and a genuine excitement for what the year will bring. I then poured all those jelly-like thoughts into the ears of my patient partner - and I’m sure I made no sense at all.
But the next week, things started to make sense. I was changing. I had a challenging situation at work: I used what I’d learned. I took on a project with a new confidence. I saw the world in ways I had never seen before.
Yesterday I listened to Hidden Brain (one of my favourite podcasts), and the guest speaker used an excellent analogy that applies perfectly to this retreat: Imagine analysing a piece of music. You start, like a scientist, with its component parts. You have an A sharp, E, some Cs and so on. But if you tried to smash those notes together you’d have just sound; you’d have nothing. What’s missing is the silence. The pauses between the notes link them together into one coherent whole.
It would be completely understandable (for those amateur music lovers like myself) to think of music as just a lot of notes strung together. Likewise, it would be easy to think of leadership training as a lot of individual strangers learning a lot in the same general vicinity.
But this would be missing the essential part of the music: the invisible space that connects us is what turns a lot of individual notes into your favourite song.