Last week I was privileged to attend the graduation of 25 CM Health staff members, who recently completed the Ko Awatea Leadership Academy – Emerging Leaders Programme. Over the last 10 months, these students have juggled work, family and social commitments to gain real leadership skills and knowledge. They have also been on a journey of self-discovery to find out the kind of leader they are and the kind of leader they would like to be.
Brooke Hayward shares her experience of being on the Emerging Leaders Programme and how in the busyness of our day to day work we should always remember our ‘Why’
In 2010 my Dad and I completed one of New Zealand’s great walks – the Tongariro Crossing. It was a grey and brisk day when we commenced the Crossing in Mangatepopo Valley, surrounded by strangers with whom we would share the track, a will and a curiosity. Early into the Crossing, the easy terrain we had become comfortable with was interrupted by the Devil’s Staircase – an aptly named 1,400m rise up the mountainside, complete with warning signs that urge you to “consider turning back” if you aren’t well prepared. It was with huffing, puffing, sweating and a few short rests with words of camaraderie and encouragement that we did reach the top. Unfortunately, there was little to reward us for our efforts, as we spent the next few kilometers shrouded in a thick fog that robbed us the enjoyment of the view, and precluded our vision for what was coming next. When the fog eventually did lift, we were rewarded with incredible vistas of Mars-like terrain around Mount Ngauruhoe, the sparkling Emerald and Blue lakes, and Lake Taupo in the distance beckoning to us.
Fast forward to our graduation from the Emerging Leaders Programme in 2016 and I can reflect on that walk in a new light. Throughout Emerging Leaders we faced our fair share of Devil’s Staircases – assignments, reading, sacrificing family and social life, and managing our existing workload. There were moments where we wondered what we had got ourselves into and considered turning back. But the same encouragement and camaraderie that spurred me to the top of the staircase saw our classmates cope with the pressure and emerge not as strangers, but friends-in-arms. Like on the Crossing, we were rewarded with spectacular vistas – light bulb moments and sense making – vistas that we just don’t have time to notice when we aren’t looking up. But the irony is that, in health and on the Crossing, I wouldn’t have known the way if I hadn’t looked up. I wouldn’t have kept on track if I hadn’t watched for signs, and I wouldn’t have appreciated the company of everyone on the journey with me. The Emerging Leaders Programme gave us the valuable opportunity to look up from the track in an industry where time to look up is scarce, space for innovation is perceived as non-existent and resources for change are tired up in everything we are already committed to delivering.
On the Tongariro Crossing, a way-finding sign with “You are here” signals the end of the track. But in life and leadership, way-finding is rarely this explicit and convenient. Our journey as leaders is just beginning and for some, it continues; even though the way ahead is not always clear. At graduation, I shared with the audience a really personal story about loss – something we have all experienced. This story served as a reminder that health fundamentally is personal. To become disconnected with the people in our hearts, minds and community is to forget why we are here and the purpose we serve. In our work environments, however, it is easy to lose sight of our purpose under the pressure of completing tasks, saving dollars and rising demand. I have observed this during the Emerging Leaders Programme and recognise it as the unspoken crisis in health. I encourage all leaders to commence change, in the absence of way-finding signs at the powerful place of remembering your “why”. Our why provides us more energy, motivation and perseverance to create better healthcare services than getting paid ever will.
Brooke, Evaluation Officer and Graduate Ko Awatea Leadership Academy
I’ve been CEO at CM Health for ten years and I continue to be blown away by the leadership shown at all levels of our organisation. As CEO my role is being able to create opportunities for people to influence the world around them. Not only that but to give people time and cover while they seize those opportunities. The Leadership Academy is a good example of this in action and as a result, we now have a group of leaders ready and able to help take our organisation forward. Congratulations to you all.