Author: Damian Hecker, Director of Learning & Development at Leaders of Evolution. May 8, 2018.
The gruelling 15-hour flight from LAX to Tullamarine provides plenty of time for reflection, albeit in a cramped (even for me at 165cm!) and uncomfortable reflective learning environment. The excitement of coming home from a month of learning in America was tempered with a feeling that the surface was only just scratched in my time there.
So, what was the real impact of investigating the various institutions I visited and what subliminal learning lay buried in simple observation and experience? I have put this together to not only put a full stop on communicating the Leaders of Evolution (LoE) Study Tour but also attempt to share my learning to perhaps inspire some action on your behalf as well.
I hope you find some value in my experiences, here’s the wrap up of what I learnt in the U.S. of A.
Who’s responsible for your ongoing development?
For an emerging business every dollar counts. In this instance, my business partner Jon Shepherd and myself had to weigh things up – get paid or head to the States? Forgoing the monthly salary to invest in personal and business growth was our choice and the early indicators would say this decision is vindicated.
However, this made me think more deeply about learning and development and who really is responsible for this. In the professional world there is a mindset that the business is responsible for employee growth, especially in terms of investment. No doubt this is plenty of truth to this.
It also caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with a mentor a year or two back about a couple of his staff who were unwilling to co-invest in an overseas professional development opportunity. Their belief was the organisation should cover all of their expenses.
When faced with this conundrum what would you do? Would you be prepared to forego the monthly wage to enhance your professional capacity and marketability?
Based on my experience, I could only advise to seriously consider putting your hand in your pocket if the opportunity presents. I’d be surprised if you regretted it.
The many faces of leadership
It was inspiring to observe a number of effective leaders in action in the varied environments I was provided access. I noticed some commonalities amongst them.
- Humility – Most of the people I met had every right to tell me how good their organisation was.What I noticed is they very humbly explained what they were seeking to achieve and why this was their strategy. Every one of them established an environment of inclusivity and shared curiosity, even respectfully listening to this Aussie bloke’s weird accent and stories from Down Under!
- Respect, Rapport, Relationships – I’ve a long-held view from my teaching days that developing respect, rapport and relationships builds a healthy foundation for engagement and growth.This was evident at Syracuse University when Professor Rick Burton casually opened doors and conversations with countless colleagues. To a person every coach, athlete and administrator invested in our discussion on this whistle-stop tour. Without the afore mentioned ‘3 R’s’ and Rick’s capacity to develop these, I’d be surprised if this approach would have been as successful.
- Work ethic – In a world built for efficiency, we are all somehow busier than ever. The work ethic I witnessed was impressive and as much as we must ensure balance in our lives, there will be no substitute for a relentless approach to achieving goals.
- Establishing a safe environment – Each and every person I spent time with went out of their way to establish a safe environment. The hospitality was out of this world and it really is the simple things such as this that can foster long term relationships. I hope we can repay this kindness one day and it was a huge reminder to focus on getting every aspect of the environment right and always analysing the culture you are striving to promote.
Good things happen outside the comfort zone
It wasn’t until the tin bird was about an hour into flight that it dawned on me – this trip is a big deal.
Travelling to the other side of the world, meeting and presenting to people I’d never met and balancing the importance of learning with establishing partnerships for the future. This was new territory for me, it was daunting and there was pressure to perform.
Throw in the added anxiety of driving solo on the wrong side of the road in another country and there was enough going on to push me well outside of my comfort zone.
Through belief, open-mindedness and a clear understanding of why I was there representing LoE, I was able to ensure the intended outcomes we had set out were achieved. A highly functioning GPS on my phone didn’t go astray either!
Without stepping out of my comfort zone I’d never have known if I belonged in that arena.
This trip has been the greatest professional learning experience of my life and I am incredibly grateful to those who spent the time on giving LoE a chance. The most exciting thing now is continuing to foster and grow the partnership opportunities whilst putting the learning into action back in Australia.
We love an underdog story in Australia and although LoE may only be small, we will continue to dance down the wicket in pursuit of individual and business growth.
Even if the American’s don’t understand our cricket metaphors!