‘For Our Future’ is a leadership development program that aims to develop leadership capacity, critical thinking and communication skills in the Australian plantation forestry industry. It does so by building relationships and a shared understanding of the challenges facing the sector.

Context

In 2018 and 2019, Polykala teamed up with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and Leadership Victoria to deliver the inaugural ‘For Our Future’ Forestry Industry Leadership Program for folks in the plantation forestry industry in Australia. 

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, has big visions for the future of plantation forestry in Australia. This includes the development of timber as a sustainable building material for tall buildings, an environmentally-friendly practice taking off in Europe and the US.

To achieve its bold aims, the FWPA was seeking a leadership development program that would develop the leadership capacity, critical thinking and communication skills amongst emerging leaders within the Australian plantation forestry industry. Central to the program was breaking down the siloed nature of the timber regions by building relationships and developing a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

The program involved extensive regional travel to six areas of Australia that had existing plantation timber industries: Margaret River (Western Australia), Mount Gambier (South Australia), Toowoomba (Queensland), Tarraleah (Tasmania), and Inverloch (Victoria).

Approach

Polykala was given responsibility of developing leadership and collaboration capacity. 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 sought to upend the ingrained idea that leadership is synonymous with command, control and authority. This assumption is especially evident in manufacturing and primary industries. We presented a series of exercises, facilitated conversations and experiential activities to help participants see for themselves the difference between management and leadership.

We used the Adaptive Leadership framework to set a shared definition of leadership as ‘actions that mobilise a group of people to tackle tough challenges’. We also wanted the ‘For our Future’ program participants to grapple with the dynamics of change: loss, preservation and innovation. Finally, we used 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.

Outcomes

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 Forest & Wood Products Australia, the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and Leadership Victoria to deliver the program.

We were pleased with the feedback from the leadership development component of the program. 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.”

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

Client

Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

Year

2018 – 2019

Number of participants

100

Number of sessions

5

Location

Margaret River (WA), Mount Gambier (SA), Toowoomba (QLD), Inverloch (VIC), Tarraleah (TAS)