Last week I had the great pleasure of facilitating a two-day team meeting with the Natural Systems group of the Great Lakes Council.  We had been planning our get together for some time, and we met at a beautiful place called ‘Tahlee’, about an hour north of Newcastle.   Tahlee is a Christian run enterprise that offers accommodation and event spaces, as well as retreats and capacity building for people from a range of backgrounds.  There was a serenity about the place that started to work as soon as we arrived….

At the outset, our meeting had the potential to be de-railed, with an announcement the Thursday before we met that Great Lakes Council was to be merged with Taree and Gloucester Councils to form a new ‘Mid-Coast Council’.  We all know that mergers and institutional uncertainty are difficult for everyone affected, and we acknowledged this at the start of our meeting.  We moved on, however, to thinking about what is really important to each of us about what we do and, even more significantly, why we do it.

I have written before about the power of Simon Sinek’s TED talk entitled ‘How great leaders inspire action’ and we watched this together to get us thinking about why we do what we do.   The power of Simon’s talk is that he highlights how we tend to talk about ‘what we do’ and ‘how we do it’, but we don’t focus on ‘why’.  Our ‘why’ is our motivating purpose, our reason for being, the emotion that drives us – and when we reconnect with our why, we can then start to reflect on how this is what really matters, even in the face of uncertain futures.

The rest of our day was spent connecting with our Why and seeing how we can keep this at the forefront of our work.  We looked at belief systems, the importance of belonging to a group or ‘tribe’, and explored the links between belief, belonging and behaviour.  We had a lovely dinner and a great night around a bonfire sharing stories.

Stories were the theme of day two, and the photos below show our wonderful group sharing their stories about the futures they would like for their organisation and the work they do.

20160518_123124__1464004005_124.171.67.25520160518_122833__1464004232_124.171.67.25520160518_122624__1464003304_124.171.67.255Story telling is a great way to share knowledge and understanding, as when we tell a story we combine logic and emotion – making our tales memorable.  What is particularly important about story-telling is that it is uniquely human, and the listener completes the story, making it personal and ongoing as we add our own experiences and memories to the story being told.  We have resources about story telling on the ARRC website that you are welcome to explore. As we wrapped up our two-days I was filled with a sense of satisfaction that we had spent time that was worthwhile, inclusive and really valuable at a time of uncertainty..

I was really delighted when I had a follow up call the next day by the group wanting to run some ideas past me about sharing what they had learnt with the rest of their organisation and, in particular, with their new colleagues from Taree and Gloucester.   What a fabulous outcome and one I am only too happy to support.  The key message for me out of the two days is that it reminds me of how important it is to step away from your desk to spend time with those you work with to reflect, reconnect and reinvigorate.

I would say that the two days we spent together helped our team to gain clarity and revived our sense of purpose. We became closer as a team, felt empowered, and came away with many tools that will help us enormously to face and embrace the challenges and opportunities ahead.  (Helen Kemp)

Thank you so much to the Great Lakes Natural Systems group for inviting me to be part of this special workshop.  Siwan 🙂