Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

August 15, 2018 Polykala

Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

In the rush of work, it’s easy to become tunnel-visioned and task-focussed. This training was a reminder of the value of taking a higher-level approach. The program was brilliant, exhausting, challenging. I have been very privileged to have been given the opportunity to attend.

Neil Turner, Australian Bluegum Plantations

In March and June 2018, Polykala helped deliver the inaugural ‘For Our Future’ Forestry Industry Leadership Program for folks in the Forestry industry in Australia. This took us across the Nullarbor for the first time to the spectacular South West of WA and to the ‘Golden Triangle’ in South Australia close to Coonawarra to deliver our Adaptive Teams program. Happily, the wine in that neck of the woods wasn’t bad either…

The project was initiated by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) and managed by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) with the leadership development component of the program delivered by Polykala and Leadership Victoria. Ric Sinclair, Managing Director of FWPA, was seeking a leadership development program that would develop leadership capacity, critical thinking and communication in the Australian forestry industry, while also building relationships and a shared understanding of the challenges facing the sector.

This program represents a new direction for Polykala, reflecting our desire to engage more fully with primary industries helping them tackle the adaptive challenges facing them. It was also a great opportunity to further our partnership with ARLF in their core remit of serving remote, rural and regional Australia. The program consisted of two regional programs, in Margaret River, Western Australia and Mount Gambier, South Australia. Polykala delivered the regional programs with the support of ARLF and Leadership Victoria. In June, the two cohorts came together for a final session and graduation in Melbourne, delivered by Leadership Victoria, Polykala and ARLF.

Polykala’s delivery of the regional programs in Margaret River and Mount Gambier focussed on leadership and collaboration. Our challenge was to bring the concepts of ‘leadership’ and ‘collaboration’ to life and provide the participants with concrete experiences rather than notes on a page or Powerpoint slides. We’re a tad counter-cultural at Polykala if we don’t say so ourselves. We wanted to upend the ingrained idea, especially in manufacturing and primary industries, that leadership is synonymous with command, control and authority. We presented a series of exercises, facilitated conversations and some unusual activities involving tasting juice that helped participants see for themselves the difference between management and leadership. The former, sometimes rightly, attempts to keep things the same, whereas the latter seeks to introduce new ways of doing things.

We wanted the ‘For our Future’ program participants to grapple with the dynamics of change: loss, preservation and innovation. We used the Adaptive Leadership framework to set a shared definition of leadership as ‘actions the mobilise a group of people to tackle tough challenges’ as well as teaching the Harvard Peer Consultation methodology as a way of giving the participants an experience of collaboration-in-action via focussing on the challenges facing them and the industry.

The feedback seems to suggest our work was well-received. Participants were asked to rate their experience out of 10 and the median scores for the Margaret River and Mount Gambier sessions were 9/10 and 10/10, respectively. Participant Tammy Auld of Timberlands Pacific remarked, “You know the presenters are good when the breaks sneak up on you and, you don’t look at your watch all week. The training has made me much more self-aware and confident than I had been.”

We’re proud to have been an active agent in the conversations around ecosystems, primary resources and economic futures in regional Australia. It was a pleasure working with Ric Sinclair (FWPA), Charlie Morrice (ARLF) and Stephen Duns (Leadership Victoria) and their teams to deliver the program. We’re very excited that the program will continue into 2019, taking us to Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland and Gippsland.

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