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SLA Leadership Symposium 2018
February 21, 2018, 12:07
Filed under: CPD, SLA | Tags: , , , ,

At last I’ve managed to find the time to write about our Leadership Symposium, which took place at the end of last month (January 28-30) in New Orleans. This was exciting to me for a number of reasons, not least of all being that it was my first visit to a city I’ve wanted to experience for ages (and I wrote about that side of it over on my other blog). However, the main source of delight was that this event has been absent from the SLA calendar since 2015, and it was a huge privilege to be a part of the team responsible for bringing it back. (I attended the event in 2015, and found it a tremendous experience, although I’m sad to discover that I appear to have neglected to write about it here.)


The last two years have featured online training, both in the form of virtual leadership conference-like events and via an ongoing series of webinars. Taking this break from the annual in-person meeting has turned out to be a great opportunity for us to explore different ways of delivering information and training, and has also allowed us to take a fresh look at what we want the face-to-face gathering to achieve.


We started with pure business – the open board meeting and a whole afternoon’s-worth of meetings for various committees and councils – and it was surprisingly exhilarating to see all kinds of productive conversations taking place around our meeting rooms. Monday morning dawned bright and early, and without further ado we were launched into a day of leadership training with an external consultant, Jay Younger. (The 2015 event was pretty closely focussed on SLA-related leadership matters, as I recall, and we wanted to provide some more broadly applicable content on this occasion.)

Jay’s energy and enthusiasm were impressive throughout the day, as he led us through a packed schedule. We discussed our StrengthsFinder assessment reports; considered differing approaches to change and how that affects change management; constructed and flew paper aeroplanes; thought about how events in our past have helped shape our approaches to leadership; selected our top 10 values before tearing up half of them; and a whole host of other things besides – inspiring but quite exhausting!


I think perhaps the biggest take-away for me is that self-knowledge is the key to success. Understanding your own strengths, drivers, and weaknesses, and being mindful of those of others, allows you to put together the best team in order to get the work done. A simple truth, but powerful nonetheless, and one which I needed to be reminded about.


Day 2 of the event was all about SLA – how things work, who does what, and a whole pile of resources and other (hopefully) useful information about to make your life easier as an SLA leader. Seeing as we were in New Orleans during the run up to Mardi Gras, a couple of the presenters brought beads to throw as an incentive for participation – I have never been so enthusiastic to raise my hand and share something with any group…!

I also got to co-present one of the segments on day 2. Public speaking is not my favourite thing and I don’t generally enjoy standing up in front of an audience on any occasion, but as with anything the more often I find myself doing it the easier it becomes. I had also been inspired to recruit a panel of unit leaders to participate in my session, which turned out to be an excellent idea – not only did it get me off the hook for a chunk of time, but much more importantly it allowed other voices to showcase examples from their own SLA leadership experiences, and I was pleased to have facilitated that.

The cabinet team were all heavily involved with the program for day 2, along with various other member of the board and staff, but the real heavy lifting for the whole event was done by our staff team, and they deserve huge thanks for rising to the challenge so well. I remember the meeting we all had in Phoenix last summer, when we decided that we should bring this event back ASAP – it felt a little crazy to give ourselves just six months to pull it all together, but we did it! I know some people felt that it was a little short notice, and I absolutely share that sentiment, but at the same time we knew we had to do it anyway. I’m already looking forward to repeating the event in early 2019…


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