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A Tangible Conversation

posted 14 Jul 2015, 14:25 by Carol Conway

It has become an annual phenomenon that I am simultaneously winding down and winding up at this time of year.  Winding down for a Summer holiday with the family and winding up for one of the most stimulating three days of my calendar – the Tangible Ireland Summer School which is taking place once again in the beautiful town of Kilmallock at the welcoming Deebert House Hotel from 18 – 20 August.

I must declare an interest since I have had the joy of moderating this event for four of the last five years and yet I claim very little credit for the amazing content that has emerged year on year.  It’s a unique event where the audience are the contributors, the “great thinkers” and “keynote speakers” are as likely to be around the table as behind a podium.  As the three days progress, themes, shared passions and connections simply coalesce into a challenging, diverse and yet somehow seamlessly coherent conversation.  I always come away with more energy than I arrived with, feeling stimulated, inspired and generally rearing to go as we face into a new school year!

This year, as with previous gatherings, our over-arching themes are Leadership, Excellence and Inspiration.  Some of the thoughts in my head as I anticipate the Summer School include:

Leadership – How do we go back to basics?  We often have the structures but leadership is about purpose so do our structures follow purpose?  How do we stay “on purpose” when the structures and systems start to grow? 

Excellence – Can we create a framework for excellence using shared language that connects across sectors and allows us to learn more effectively from each other and work more effectively with each other?

Inspiration - Envisioning the Future.  Facing into a centenary year, do we have the capacity to stretch our horizons and look towards Envisioning 2116? What could we achieve in the next 100 years? What kind of Ireland would we like to create?

While these questions are the ones uppermost in my head, I am as intrigued to hear what others bring into the room – both their questions and the answers that emerge.

So I finish with a thought in relation to going back to basics on leadership. Télhere is a timeless piece of wisdom that I first came across over a decade ago and revisit from time to time as it offers some of most practical leadership advice I know and it is this:

 ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN

(a guide for Global Leadership)

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

      Share everything.

      Play fair.

      Don't hit people.

      Put things back where you found them.

      Clean up your own mess.

      Don't take things that aren't yours.

      Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

      Wash your hands before you eat.

      Flush.

      Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

      Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

      Take a nap every afternoon.

      When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

      Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

      Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.

      And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.  

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

[Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum.  See his web site at http://www.robertfulghum.com/  ]

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Building on this simple wisdom, I’m looking forward to exploring what a credo of Tangible Leadership Behaviours might look like.  What do we do when we are at our best as leaders? What are the behaviours that let us down?  And let’s not fool ourselves, we can have all the strategy and structures we like but culture trumps strategy every time and culture is all about behaviour – what we do and how we are when we’re too busy to think about it!

The true value of the Summer School is in making time to think. Join us and help shape the conversation while reaping the benefits for yourself!

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