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Donna Burnett reflects on the Women’s Leadership Program – 2016 (Leadership Victoria)

Donna Burnett

By Donna Burnett

Not another ‘training program’ on how to be an effective leader” I said to myself as I was reading the invitation to attend this this three-day residential intensive.

Having spent the past 10 years in the Tertiary sector, the past 8 in supervisory/Management roles, I was closed minded to the idea that I could actually learn anything from attending yet another one of these ‘soft skills’ programs.

With a ‘prisoner’ closed minded attitude, I reluctantly signed up and made the journey to Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley. (I know – woe is me!)

The purpose of the program was to draw on the experience of expert facilitators, dynamic guest speakers and a diverse group of peers in the room, to explore self-awareness, empowerment, activation, profiling and networks.

Within 30 minutes of the program commencing, I was no longer a ‘prisoner’ but an active, captivated and energized ‘Woman in Leadership’.

Never before had a program been so personal in its approach and design, nor had I ever attended a program that would have a profound impact on everything I do and hold dear.

The program highlights included:

  • High-profile speakers – honest, inspiring, personal stories of leadership from industry trail-blazers, including:
  • Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Bronwyn King, Radiation Oncologist at The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Epworth Healthcare; Founder/CEO of Tobacco Free Portfolios
  • Melissa Lewis, Founder / Personal Brand And Image Specialist, Style Confidante
  • Jacqui Cooper, Olympic Aerial Skier
  • Carmel Arthur, Victoria Police and Victorian Parole Board
  • One-on-one coaching
  • Psychometric assessment and debriefing
  • Harvard peer consultation method, focused on individual workplace challenges
  • Improvisation exercises and hands-on, scenario-based learning activities – assisting with overcoming the fear of improvising, building confidence and teaching how to listen actively, enabling reaction, adaptation and the ability to act gracefully with the unexpected.
  • Deep-dive into complex leadership issues
  • Focus on gender
  • Building networks with peers across sectors

At the conclusion of Day 1, I was an emotional wreck. I was exhausted by the mind blowing personal stories of success and failures and inspired by the resilience these amazing individuals have shown, not only in the face of adversity, but in their everyday world.

Mid-way through Day 2, I was lost for words – something that doesn’t happen to me all that often!

Through the experiential learning activities, psychometric profiling and feedback and coaching, I was beginning to develop an understanding of values, motivation and ethics; authentic leadership and identifying my authentic self. The concept of personal branding and building a courageous sense of self was something I had not considered as part of my daily life (although the understanding the need was more profound than ever expected)

Leadership and management as we know, are two very different things. The ability to develop skills in influencing, negotiation, positioning, effective communication, assertiveness and stepping up, power of intentional impact, and resilience or “bouncing forward” are not skills we are born with. They are not traits like so many people assume come naturally.

How much weight do we give to our circles of moral concern? Are we focusing too much on family, community, other? Perhaps the shift needs to be made to focus on our self and ‘doing our best better’ before we can truly lead others.

Being exposed to these real life scenarios and workplace challenges was an incredible way to expose these skills (or lack thereof) in a safe ‘falling softly’ environment and challenge the way in which we think, behave and act.

By the end of Day 3, I had a new found respect for not only the leaders I work with and for, but a new found respect for myself.

Building one’s capability in strategy, networking and connectedness, utilizing the power of collaboration and being able to design my own individual activation pathway has challenged me, forced me out of my comfort zone, made me rethink what is important (and what is not) but most of all, what I can do as a leader, and what I want to be doing moving forward.

Some points from my own action plan:

  • Ask for what you want if you think it is right
  • Ask for help
  • When people don’t agree with you – keep talking
  • Do your homework
  • Say yes to every opportunity
  • Be patient, bold and savvy
  • Empower others to make the decision
  • Have faith in yourself – believe in your capability
  • Get someone in your corner to support and champion you
  • Be consistent
  • Don’t let adversity define you – acknowledge it
  • Timing – get it right (don’t react), Stop – think – reflect
  • Own your own career – make connections
  • Be realistic – don’t try to obtain the unattainable
  • Biggest risk is not taking a risk
  • Engage with people you have an AUTHENTIC interest in
  • Be conscious of how you make others feel
  • Prepare for difficult conversations
  • Listen to the wisdom of others
  • Wear a ‘Shit Shield’ – to bounce off the negativity
  • Take your shoes off – You can’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes if you still have yours on

As a woman in a leadership role, I do not need to be confident, I simply need to be brave.

To learn more about the Women’s Leadership Program, visit the Leadership Victoria website.

1 Comment

  1. Well done Donna and thanks for the de-brief. I know in my professional life I was all ways pleased when staff would report back and incorporate learning in the work place from such opportunities. It seems like a very positive experience.

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