I recently completed the Compass leadership program for women conducted by Dattner Grant. It is a seven-day course, spread over approximately three months. The content is broken up into three modules, each held over two days, concluding with a final graduation day. Spreading the duration out enabled a reflective insightful journey that would not be possible had this been held within a week. This is key, as the content is not centred around traditional managerial issues but emphasises self-awareness and personal growth, with the underpinning belief that identifying your purpose, values, goals and understanding ourselves will make us better leaders. That last word is important, this was not about being the person in charge, while the differences between a manager and leader are explored, overall this is about leading from where you stand.

It is not possible to discuss everything from the course, and I need to leave some mystery for future participants, but I am going to briefly reflect on certain aspects that resonated, no doubt others will too over time.

Understanding and clarifying our critical motivators; what are our top values? I had recently undertaken values exercises at work however, this opportunity presented a more relaxed environment to ponder over different values, how they relate to different circumstances and potential reasons why I do or don’t connect to some of these. We were tasked with choosing our most relevant values for relationships/family, self, and work. My values included connection, compassion, acceptance, emotional wellbeing, curiosity, creativity, respect, adaptability and purpose. The awareness that differences in personal values compared to those of our colleagues can be the underlying cause for disagreements (vocalised or not) about attitudes, behaviours and ethics, has changed my thought patterns and reactions in these circumstances. This has increased my understanding about why these situations can cause an emotional reaction and am able to work on approaching them differently.

We were invited to explore and clarify our purpose and aspirations however; I don’t have an overall definitive purpose written down yet. However, it is noteworthy that it was emphasised it is okay to take our time, explore and experiment in the search for direction and meaning. Finding purpose isn’t always clear and can be a journey, evolving with life situations. I acknowledge having many goals in the past which were not able to come to fruition, as a result I have only recently begun long-term planning again.

Combined self and vocation aspiration statement:

To lead a balanced life, curiously pursuing personal & professional growth and drive meaningful change for the team and community.

We were urged to ask why, and keep asking, to dig deeper than surface answers. Not just of others but of yourself, ask why are you on this journey? Why do you make the same mistake over and over? Dig deeper! Asking why reminds me of children and that many adults seem to lose the quest for unearthing deeper reasoning.

There was an overview of learning styles, 4MAT, and steps in learning, with stages from unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, to conscious competence and finally unconscious competence. Getting to the coveted unconscious competence can be uncomfortable, you are required to battle your inner gatekeeper and overcome your fears and doubts. My key take on this was my own inner gatekeeper or inner voice has previously provided opinions in many circumstances beyond a learning arena, with generally unconstructive thought patterns. While I do not give it as much time as I once did, it still picks up a microphone and lets me know what it thinks particularly, in times of stress. Also, a lifetime blessed with anxiety, depression, probable dyspraxia and an adult diagnosis of ADHD will grant you some unhealthy self-talk. We also created a visual anchor for our limiting inner voice, in expressing it as an object (a sweet potato) the aim is for it to lose its power over us and release us from our thoughts. Some participants have said goodbye to theirs, I have not yet done so.

Decorated sweet potato used as a physical representation of an inner critic
Morag – How would you dress your inner critic?

An extensive cheat list of key aspects around change is included, providing beneficial reminders not only for change management but leading in general proving to be a tool for further exploration. Some of the points included personalising the reason for the change, creating a sense of the possible, empowering people to act, removing the hurdles, celebrating small gains and effort, and having a communication plan.

We undertook a self-evaluation using the Human Synergistics Life-Styles Inventory (LSI) assessment which provides insight into our thinking and behaviour and can be used as a tool in self-development. The feedback report and self-description profile results were presented individually with mixed reactions from participants. I felt that my results were reflective of thought patterns at the time of the test, and while I did think I may have scored differently in some areas, the detailed guide provides clarity. Overall it has proven a useful exercise in self-awareness, identifying self-improvement practices to implement and exploring potential reasoning behind some behaviours. Results broadly cover task orientation, security needs, people orientation and satisfaction needs areas. Narrowing further to constructive styles, passive/defensive styles and aggressive/defensive styles. Each section is scored differently for example in achievement, a raw score of 27 equates to 31% whereas, an avoidance raw score of 9 equates to 75% so the understanding of the results changes dramatically when transferred and presented in the circumplex. That is when the work on self-awareness and growth begins as the perception of the results changes.

Example of LSI circumplex

Increasing self-awareness has allowed me to see that my childhood, learning style, personality, ADHD and mental health conditions play a part in mindset, the way I live, work and the type of environment I thrive or struggle in. We were tasked with identifying dissatisfactions with life, but particularly vocationally. Personally, in my workplace, I have struggled with the supervisory style at times, but a large part of this journey is about ourselves and to increase our self-awareness around the role we play in situations.
This step should not be diminished, accepting individual contribution and learning to change our mindset prior to responding can be a lengthy process. The key is small achievable steps; behaviour modification requires realism. Don’t forget to give yourself a break, if you’ve been using certain behaviours for years is not easy to change, there may be slip ups, don’t beat yourself up, it’s all a part of the process.

It was impactful and insightful to hear stories from past participants who not only told us how Compass helped but their personal and work journeys, thought patterns and behaviours. Each had their own inspiring story and was able to portray them in such a way that left us enthralled and inspired. Thoughts that lingered from the topics include; Stop carrying your whole lives baggage with you every day! Who do you want to be and how do you want to portray yourself? How can you inject kindness into your interactions? Lead as yourself! Not addressing other people’s behaviour can be a disservice to yourself and them, as it limits growth.

We had guest presenters on mindfulness and communication. As a result I have reconnected with meditation and mindfulness, in addition to daily affirmations and already feel calmer. Another guest, Christina Canters, Director of the C method offered communication, and confidence tips. As well as how to introduce ourselves in a more impactful way, as many people are prone to minimising when introducing themselves for example “I’m just a ..” It was emphasised to watch our language, tell people who you help, what the results are, you’re not your job title, you don’t have to lead with that. Christina also has a podcast called Stand out get noticed which I have been listening to where she interviews a range of guests and covers a variety of topics including assertiveness, resilience and anxiety.

Post-Compass, I feel like I am still emotionally settling thus, it has taken me some time to record these thoughts and I feel like I haven’t done the experience justice but the types of changes this program instigates occur gradually so I will no doubt reflect again. When I started this program I was burnt out, prior to graduation I had six weeks annual leave and have been slowly getting back into the swing of things at work.

A large part of this journey for me has been about mindset and I am working on the following points;

  • Try not take other people’s actions personally
  • Leave work at work – can be difficult as I am studying as well, but my mind holds onto things! Hello, burnout!
  • Let go of things I can’t control and focus on those within my control
  • To be more present, slow my mind and try to focus on one task at a time; adopting the do what you are doing now philosophy to avoid a multi-tasking mess.
  • Come to terms with no, saying it and accepting it as an answer. At least picking my battles strategically!
  • Not over-committing myself so I can balance the people vs. task balance better.
  • Accepting that it isn’t healthy to carry old stories that no longer serve me, some stories linger, if they are packed away in my theoretical shed not my handbag maybe that’s a compromise.
  • Continue exploring mindfulness through creative pursuits
  • Making more of an effort with recording my personal and professional thoughts and reflections through journaling as I find it a useful non-judgemental release.

Overall, it’s been an important reminder to give myself a break, continue growing, let go of old stories because I’ve gotten where I am despite of, not because of past circumstances.

Other resources I have found useful

Mindful kind by Rachel Kable, podcast

Happier by Gretchen Rubin, podcast

Brene Brown has announced a podcast. I thoroughly recommend the book Dare to lead by Brene Brown, also check out her extensive list of recommendations

Simon Sinek and his TED talks How great leaders inspire action and Why good leaders make you feel safe

Five reasons why you should keep a journal, blog post

15 cognitive distortions and how they might be fuelling your anxiety, blog post

The culture code by Daniel Coyle, book

The fearless organization: creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning, innovation and growth by Amy Edmondson, book but for a brief overview check out her article How fearless organisations succeed

Mierke, J., and Williamson, V. (2016). A framework for achieving organisational culture change. Library leadership & Management. Vol. 31(2). PDF available