conference room with people waiting to ask questions

Special Guest Blogger – James Hunt

Having recently returned from another incredibly inspiring, well-constructed, purpose connecting and skilfully delivered leadership focussed course (my third or fourth such course in the last 18months!), I am struggling a little with applying the learning in a meaningful and sustainable way to my work.

The trouble is, despite the re-invigoration, emotional lift, and realisation of the extent of our personal potential these courses offer us, I have often found myself pretty emotionally exhausted and maybe burdened by the renewed sense of purpose and potential. Suddenly the normal run of activities in my work schedule seems just that little more tedious and devoid of real value.

I know the work I do is valuable, and has meaning. I understand the importance of the small tasks in building my (and our) cathedral, and yet I often still struggle to attack those mundane tasks with the gusto I know I possess. I hold a few theories on this as discussed below.

The type of activities you undertake at these courses tend to hold a very short timeframe, intensely focussed, strongly collaborative, involve absolute commitment from the participants and offer immediate satisfaction or reward/feedback. Rarely does our work break down into such clean and rewarding packages.

They also often involve a very satisfying challenge to broaden our understanding, push our limits or achieve something we didn’t believe we were capable of with the support of those around us. Again, this is an inspiring thing to partake of, yet despite our work often challenging us in such ways, do we take the time to recognise that and absorb the joy in the same way?

Finally, the courses offer us a great momentum to a future of self-realisation that is much harder to attain than it appears. We get a little taste of it, and boy it feels good, the only problem is, in the real world, life can get in the way and it doesn’t appear there is surplus time or energy to nourish these intentions. Self-realisation is often also a product of taking a risk or facing adversity. The All Blacks had to face a nadir in 2004 before they worked hard to change their culture. Often people start a business due to redundancy or being unable to handle an unhappy work environment any longer, in the meantime fulfilling themselves in a way they didn’t believe was possible by taking a chance on setting their own values and direction. How can we build that appreciation of the air we breathe without having to manufacture some adversity?

What is left off the leadership course out-line, is that our jobs are often made up of pretty laborious and uninspiring tasks that need to be done, with small pockets of inspiration thrown in. In some cases, nothing you try can turn a mundane task into an energised one, even with the vision of the ‘cathedral’ you are contributing to! For those of us who often question the purpose of our work and how it connects to our values, these uninspiring tasks are a real challenge, especially when you add the impatience you feel about purpose after an inspiring course.

So, considering all this, I am developing a plan, to ensure that my Leadership Course inspired improvements are able to be put into action and continued sustainably.

1. Open and honest communication with my supervisor about my intentions 

I am lucky to have a boss who is as excited about my professional development as I am…and potentially even more interested in me doing a good job now! It is great to have a coach through the process. This action also makes me more aware of my little successes and triumphs.

2. A personal plan

Kym Williams inspired me to make sure that my goals and dreams are clear both professionally and privately and to make sure these are written down and referred to often. I have found this inspires me to be better, to feel there is something I am building towards. I have also found that instead of thinking of attainment goals, I am more focussing on what it ‘looks like’ and ‘feels like’, e.g. what does the James who is smashing through that boring task look like? How does it feel to have nailed it?

3. Engage senior/strategic people at my company with my vision

It is no good having wonderful and exciting ideas if you are not socialising them with the people who can influence the outcomes. It doesn’t hurt for them to see your enthusiasm, and it certainly helps you stick to task if you have built an expectation with somebody important.

4. Little challenges/celebrations/acknowledgements

I am going to look for little short term challenges that I can frame my work around. Acknowledging these may help me to feel that I am making little achievements and learning’s along the way, increasing my satisfaction and sense of growth, living the 1% principle. I often refer back to a favourite quote from NASA Apollo 13 Astronaut, Jim Lovell. “Be thankful for your problems. If they were less difficult, someone with less ability might have your job.” Even our little boring tasks are a privilege for which we must be thankful.

I am hoping that above touch points will help me to feel better about seizing the opportunities that have come my way. I am interested to hear if others have fallen into this trap and what methods you have used to really bed in the potential gains of leadership/growth type training.

James Hunt is a valued client and guest blogger of BRS for this article.