In my third week with Blackswan I embarked on my first international outing with the team and have returned full of ideas, a broader depth of Romanian history and a need to give my Linkedin profile a bit more personality.
Last week Blackswan delivered the third workshop of the Leading Edge Programme to an audience of Genpact employees - the workshop focusing primarily on remaining Politically Savvy in the workplace and Smart Socialising. As an introduction to the work that Blackswan deliver and as an opportunity to meet an important client and a couple of members of our well qualified ‘bench’ of associates, I was offered the privilege of flying to Romania to be the photographer in residence.
Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to have climbed Everest and also the first English-speaking woman to climb the Seven Summits, delivered the morning session. Using her experience of mountaineering and collected anecdotes of her peers in the world of extreme adventure, Rebecca outlined fundamental lessons in navigating a changing environment when objectives are at stake and there are relationships to navigate.
In a very eloquent and collected manner, Rebecca took the group through a range of interactive exercises and case studies designed to challenge the thinking of the group and to highlight the considered, systematic and ethical approach politically savvy leaders take in attaining their objectives.
The morning was very entertaining from an observer's perspective as, through a series of tremendously executed role plays, the group often realised that the obvious answer was not always in the best interest of achieving the overall goal, and that the necessity to deploy politically disruptive and underhand tactics disappear when one can effectively map and employ effective influence.
A key learning, among many highlighted by Rebecca, was that Political Savvy leaders will avoid any situation where the answer will be “no”. Using her friend, a polar explorer, as an example, Rebecca showed the group that it is far better for an individual to invest the time in building a strong foundation for their objective, and to take a path where they can be sure of a successful outcome, rather than to rush headstrong over unnecessary and energy sapping peaks where catastrophe could lie just around the corner, and where they run the risk of sabotaging their own project and missing the end goal.
The issue of TRUST in leadership and adventure was also highlighted throughout the session.
Smart Socialising - staying present and connected
Wheeling a suitcase stuffed full to the brim with a wealth of strategic communication and political navigation experience into the room, John McTernan was tasked by the group, to unpack a series of tools to bolster their personal brand, online profiles and future approach to communication.
An influential commentator, John writes regularly for a number of global publications and is a fierce presence on Twitter. He holds a wealth of business and political experience, perhaps most notably as Director of Communications for Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. I was fascinated to hear what experience he would bring to bear.
Building on points raised in Rebecca’s workshop, John again highlighted the importance of taking ones time. John, stating that “you can’t fix a broken argument”, and highlighted how important it is to build the strength of your argument or position on something so as to eradicate as many weaknesses and gaps as possible. He suggests that this is as true in the profile you project to the outside world as it is in the strategy you present in achieving you objectives.
In order to build this argument effectively John explained to the room how important it was to build not just a depth of knowledge in your particular area of expertise, but to develop both a broader professional knowledge and also to pursue knowledge development in other areas that peak your interest. Having invested this additional effort in knowledge procurement in recent years, I am a true advocate of this informed approach to leadership.
In exploring the use of social media, it was interesting to learn that Twitter doesn’t currently have a large uptake in Romania with Facebook used both to project a personal profile but also to support political activity and as a strong vehicle for business. We all left the room with work to do on our online profiles with a particular focus on adding more ‘personality’ to our far too professional Linkedin profiles.
The workshop was a great success. I feel that everybody, including myself, left the day better informed, more fully equipped and with a defined set of personal objectives to follow up on.
Following the workshop the Blackswan team and I had the opportunity to explore Bucharest and to meet some of the local restaurateurs, hoteliers and taxi drivers. I have to say that Romania does not need a tourist board. Each person we spoke to extolled the beauty of their country and charged us to return and to make a point of visiting the Black Sea, the Danube Delta and Transylvania. This sales pitch was often followed quite promptly by a statement of disappointment and dismay over Britain’s recent Brexit decision.
Their one question was “Why?” I didn’t have an answer to this question. I can only think that a politically savvy leader might.
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