Rising Up

Published October 30, 2019

Last weekend I hosted the first Leading with Values Retreat for female leaders in partnership with Sport PEI. Their executive director Gemma Koughan had attended the Sport Leaders Retreat last November and was so inspired that she decided to collaborate with the Sport Law & Strategy Group (SLSG) to offer a leadership experience for females in her province.

It’s amazing what can transpire when trust is high, values are shared, and we are self-aware.

I believe that we need more opportunities like this to support the full leadership potential of all leaders. I am of the mind that both men and women need to work and learn together so that they can lead more effectively together. I see what can happen when we intentionally design a process for people of all genders to connect with their values and to better understand themselves, others and the world around them. That is why the SLSG will continue to collaborate with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) to offer the Sport Leaders Retreat – an annual leadership experience to elevate leadership skills. Our next session runs November 26-28 in Ottawa and I can’t wait to experience this journey with this new crop of sport leaders from across Canada.

However, Canadian sport needs to step up its effort to offer more meaningful, practical and supportive leadership development that is led by women, for women. That is what the Leading with Values Retreat is designed to do. Here’s what’s involved for those that want to learn more:

  • Sport PEI worked with the SLSG to design all aspects of the Retreat experience. Sport PEI coordinated all the logistics, promoted and marketed the event across the Province, and worked alongside the SLSG to communicate the value proposition.
  • Fifteen women said yes to the experience with 14 participating (life sometimes gets in the way).
  • We used the metaphor of the Voyage as we set sail for new leadership horizons. The metaphor was weaved throughout our time together.
  • We used the Nova Profile to ‘awaken’ our sense of self and to accelerate our learning. We only had a few days together so we trusted that this tool could serve its purpose by helping us better navigate the turbulent waters of self-development. Each leader took the 20 minute survey, read her Profile, and came prepared to share. Then she agreed to join a 90-minute webinar so that she could better understand the tool and to learn more about the Voyage.
  • To build trust, we had a pre-voyage briefing to ensure people felt safe, welcomed, and understood. This 2 hour meet and greet was instrumental in accelerating our understanding of the leadership retreat and all the treasures we were about to uncover.
  • We set sail at 16 h00 on Saturday and became more familiar with our inner realm. We connected around the topic of trust, we learned about each other’s values and why they were important to us, and we discovered the hidden depths of our motivations and how they supported us, and at times, held us back. We then enjoyed an incredible feast, prepared by a local female leader and volunteer chef. Kim’s food nourished us in ways that are hard to describe.
  • As we prepared to retire for the evening, each leader was invited to ‘let go’ of a belief or a thought that was holding her back in some way. She was invited to write down what she was longing to step more fully into and to then participate in a ‘fire burning ceremony’. Sometimes magic happens in those moments and the entire group witnessed the mystery of life unfold as we were serenaded under the stars. I signed up believe I knew myself well and I walked away realizing I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I think this might have been the retreat I needed that I didn’t even know I was looking for,” shared one leader.
  • The next morning had us going deeper into our inner landscapes … uncovering our hidden longings and shedding some of what felt like anchors on our soul. This part of the Voyage often feels heavy and liberating – it takes work to lift ourselves up – and when we do, we feel like we have wind in our sails to propel us forward. Thank you for filling my toolbox with some more suggestions and opening up my eyes and mind and heart to the others,” shared one leader.
  • We uncovered hidden assumptions about leadership styles and acknowledged their limitations. As women, we don’t always see ourselves as leaders, because we aren’t always the most vocal. Feminine qualities are a very important area which needs to be celebrated and encouraged in sport,” shared one leader.
  • We deepened our understanding of our behavioral preferences and how they showed up in our different states. We acknowledged that we often listen partially – to understand and verify or to challenge and take action or to build community and maintain harmony or to inspire and generate possibility. We agreed that these various ways of listening can get in the way, when we aren’t fully aware and awake.
  • As we returned home, we leaned into our newly formed leadership muscles and felt ready to tackle having difficult conversations. One brave leader modeled how we can share openly and how doing so creates community, inspires others to offer relevant solutions, and motivates us to try something new. These peer to peer learning circles are powerful methods to facilitate change. In smaller groups, the women shared their own difficult conversations and discovered that what was standing in the way, was the way. “The Leading with Values Retreat was an engaging and powerful experience. It made me pause to reflect ton my personal communications style and has provided much food for thought, moving forward.”
  • As we prepared to return home, we acknowledged the impact that this Voyage had on us … some of the words that were shared included “gratitude, grounded, full, connected, joyful, conflicted, refreshed.” Parting words from one leader says it all: “The Leading with Values Retreat has created a spark in our sport community towards building and supporting our female sport leaders. It was a valuable opportunity to gather with fantastic women from our sport community to grow professionally and personally.”

Poetry. Music. Nourishing food. A beautiful setting. Compassion and Courage. Effective tools. Letting go and leaning it. Creating community. Combined, these elements served to inspire a greater sense of self and a stronger web of support. “I don’t feel so alone now” one leader shared with me as we were disembarking. “I feel ready to step into something new.”

As we look to the horizon to prepare to tackle the unpredictable weather patterns that is sport, I invite all of us to lean into a leadership topic that we want to explore more fully. I invite all of us to press pause and make time for our own development. I invite us to lead with values. When we do, we all rise. If you want to learn more about the Leading with Values or Sport Leaders Retreats please send me an email at DBL@sportlaw.ca.

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