I was honoured that our daughter Rachel joined me at the Ignite Movement conference in Switzerland last week.
Not a typical ‘take your daughter to work’ day, here Rachel’s words capture how the experience impacted her and the learning she is bringing back into her everyday life.
When we create meaningful experiences for young people to find and nurture their talents, we prepare them to take the lead. And by encouraging them to think for themselves – and then listening to them – their fresh and challenging perspectives can help us change the things we need to.
What did you hope for in joining your Mum on her trip to St Gallen & Zurich?
I was excited to see Mum speak for the first time. I was also hoping to meet some interesting people and experience a student-led university conference for the first time.
What stood out for you at the Ignite Conference?
Firstly, the students stood out for me. I was grateful for how welcoming all the students were and what a good job they had done with organising the entire event which ran so smoothly. The students also raised various interesting questions and comments throughout the conference which made me re-think some of the things which had been raised by speakers, further sparking my intellectual curiosity.
Secondly, Mum’s workshops. I loved how Mum engaged the audience by supplementing theory with her own experience. Mum also created a safe and inviting space within the room for the audience members to share their own thoughts and experiences; so much so that I felt comfortable enough to share some ideas without feeling intimidated or fearful of judgement from the group. This atmosphere was beneficial for the whole group as it allowed for the sharing of multiple new ideas. Mum’s use of practical exercises further encouraged audience involvement. This was a powerful tool as when educating people on the power of questions and empathetic listening, Mum guided people in how do to these things badly before demonstrating how to do them well, a powerful juxtaposition which really showed the power of both questioning and empathetic listening both of which are skills which can and should be practiced.
Finally, the whole atmosphere of the Ignite conference stood out for me, an atmosphere of admiration and positivity which radiated growth. I for one left the conference feeling very inspired. Although I didn’t get to hear all the speakers speak, I was able to meet the majority of them. Cornell Thomas’ inspiring story reminded me of the importance of team and loving your team regardless of whether they lose or fail. Garry Turner also presented many profound points reminding me of the importance of listening and showing your vulnerability.
What did you learn for yourself that you can apply in your life now and in the future?
During Mum’s workshop she spoke about how “all culture is local”. This reminded me how all of us can implement change within our culture. Moreover, when Cornel discussed the leading of a team, he made the point that if you, as the leader, are always pointing the finger at others, the one person you are not pointing the finger at, but ought to be, is yourself. Highlighting how we all have a crucial part to play in the culture which we are situated.
What would you say to other young people who have the opportunity to join their parents on a business trip?
Firstly, I would say to accept the opportunity and take full of advantage of it. By this I mean talking to as many as people as possible and being engaged in any speeches or meetings that you have the chance to watch as this is an invaluable experience. Also, try and get back to the hotel in time for room service after a busy day!
What else, if anything, would you’d like to say to ignite the thoughts of student and parent readers?
One student brought up a valid yet slightly pessimistic point on the piece about empathetic listening and suggested that it can be extremely difficult to implement in environments outside of the safe space of the Ignite conference as there are many environments which aren’t aware or just make it very hard to listen to and be listened to. When I first heard this comment, as a stubborn 18-year-old, I thought to myself why would you choose to spend your time around those kind of people? Can’t you just switch jobs to work in a culture which is much more advanced in the development of their values and creating a culture where every employee can thrive? However, I am aware that this isn’t a realistic outlook nor is it always possible. I understand this myself having been raised in a home which has great communication and an amazing empathetic listener.
I now live in a boarding house with 40 other girls my age, all from different backgrounds and parts of the world and thus offering different values and abilities when it comes to the skill of listening. When I reflected on the difficulties of navigating this certain scenario I was able to empathise more with what this student was asking and criticising about empathetic listening.
However, I have learned that you can still stay true to the leader you want to be whilst slightly altering your style of leadership depending on the context in which you find yourself. Also, Mum often recites the words of Gandhi who said that “you must be the change you wish to see in the world” meaning as long as we are respectful, we should lead by example.
Thanks for reading!