On one of the last sunny days in October, in the shadow of Brunel’s SS Great Britain, speakers, delegates and Elysian Training team members gathered to take part in the “Leadership Connections” event.
I consider myself lucky to have been part of this, as I don’t tend to think of myself as a “leader.” Sure, I manage freelancers and team members, but I don’t presume that I’m someone people want to follow… yet.
Over the course of the day, there was one theme that stood out for me: the importance of communication in leadership. Here’s why.
Following an introduction from Bristol’s Lord Mayor, Alastair Watson, the first speaker was Lee Smith, co-founder of the Gatehouse Group. His session, “Inspiring Leadership Communication,” focused on the idea that you can’t separate leadership from communication. Over 45 minutes, Lee spoke about how effective leadership communication is the key to engaging team members. He gave some practical tips: create a compelling vision to inspire people to achieve their goals, practice management by wandering around to stay connected with team members, say “thank you” regularly, and maintain open and transparent communication channels.
Lee was followed by Paul Tuck, Head of Talent for Elysian Training, who focused on talent development. He talked about its role, how you can create a talent culture, and how to focus on your skills. He outlined what successful CEOs want: to build a successful organization, to make it last, and to have trusted people who deliver. He also talked about the key ingredients of a talent culture: transparent talent discussions, leadership development programs, and coaching and mentoring.
I’m not too familiar with talent development, so Paul’s session presented some new ideas. One of his insights struck a chord: “Individuals want help to achieve their ambition and are motivated by achieving the things they love.” This makes perfect sense to me – I’m always more motivated to do things I like!
At the end of Paul’s session, he challenged us to discuss what we wanted to achieve in five years. I spoke to Peter Nowlan from Nowlan Associates, who told me about his plan to build an ambitious new company, the clients he intends to work with, and how it will set him up for retirement. Inspiring stuff!
After lunch, the energetic Irene Becker spoke about “Leading in Turbulent Times.” She was the first female CEO of a Canadian steel company in the 1980s, and developed one of the country’s earliest business mentoring plans. Her session focused on the idea that our greatest leadership challenge is internal. In other words, we have the power to change ourselves and the way we think.
Irene also talked about ending gender bias, and about neurogenesis and the idea that “you are what you think,” which I found particularly interesting. Some of my favorite Mind Tools articles focus on positive thinking and mindfulness, so this session really spoke to me.
Irene was followed by Huw Lewis MBE, Managing Director of the MPCT Military Preparation College. His session focused on developing young leaders, and his experiences of engaging, motivating and educating his students. He emphasized the importance of communicating your mission and vision, and of creating a culture of development, as a way to develop young leaders.
Although Huw’s session wasn’t particularly relevant to me (as someone who doesn’t develop young leaders), I think that you can apply his ideas in any situation where you need to develop team members.
The day ended with a talk about “Leading People we Find Challenging” from Elysian Training’s Director Chris Atkinson. I found this session really interesting… not because I work with especially challenging people! I think we can all relate to some of his statistics: 32 percent of employees listed loud talkers as their biggest annoyance, 45 percent said condescending tones were the worst, and 37 percent thought that public reprimands at work were unacceptable. He then went on to give a great piece of insight: it’s important to change ourselves as leaders, not to try to change the people we find challenging.
After this session, I thought about how I could work better with people I find difficult. I plan to change some of my behaviors (using Irene’s tips!) and focus on communicating more.
At the end of the event, the Elysian team announced the prizes for their #shipselfie competition. The aim was to take a “selfie” featuring the SS Great Britain, which we were invited to explore between sessions. You can see some of the best ones here (you’ll spot me if you look closely)… unfortunately I didn’t win a bottle of champagne!
Thanks to the speakers for all their practical tips and suggestions, I’ll definitely try them out. The day was well-organized, and the balance between lecture-style talks, interactive elements, and free time to network and explore worked perfectly.
The main point I took away was that leadership success depends on communication. Whether it’s discussing issues with your team members, talking to young leaders about their futures, or resolving conflicts, the ability to get your ideas across and to be receptive to what others are saying is vital. It’s certainly something I’ll be working on! After all, if you aren’t communicating your goals and your organization’s vision, and feeding back to your team members, who is?