Personal Leadership Challenge: Project Connect

PROJECT CONNECT: My personal leadership opportunity is to stimulate discussion on sustainability issues within the global team[1] of which I’m a member, in a way that makes people feel more connected and part of a team.

I took the opportunity to seed the idea during a global meeting in Dublin last year. Our Heads of overseas teams were all in attendance (India, Bangladesh, China, SE Asia, Pakistan, Turkey). These teams range from 3 to 30 people, and are local to the region where they’re based. Globally, the team is growing fast and somewhat organically. Communication channels aren’t great and many staff feel disconnected with what’s going on at the centre. Most have never been to our head office, met our Director or been to one of our stores.

I’m lucky enough to travel and spend a lot of time with these teams. I feel huge respect and affection for these colleagues. They’re one of the reasons that I love my job and I constantly rely on, and learn so much from them.

The idea of ‘Project Connect’ really came together when I reflected on the privileged access to expertise and new learning that I have from CISL, and an experience of delivering a presentation to the China team in Shanghai last year. I was glossing over a slide that referenced the SDGs, when I stopped to ask if anyone actually knew what these were. No-one did, but they were all so interested. This is in stark contrast to the way the SDGs are part of my everyday working vocabulary in the UK.

It made me realise that; 1) here was something that I could ‘give back’ to my colleagues and, 2) what a great opportunity for learning if we can step back from our day jobs to look at some broader sustainability issues from these different country perspectives.

My initial enthusiasm was however somewhat dampened when I spoke to the Heads. They were all interested (or said they were…), but had so many, and such different, ideas. Many also caveated their enthusiasm; ‘people don’t have time to engage’, ‘will people really be interested?’

Normal responses I know, but these were difficult for me to accept as I’m over-emotional/passionate about my ideas, and take criticism personally. I’ve grown to understand that this is not necessarily the response of a good leader! But still, I find it hard.

So, on reflection, I’ve realised that if I can introduce some small ideas and conversations, that’s a great place to start. It doesn’t have to be all-singing, all-dancing and not everyone has to be engaged.

Success will look like a group of colleagues from different countries engaging on sustainability issues that fall outside their direct work; having conversations that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. My Director and Head of HR are supportive so I’ll also ask them for feedback and views on its value.

Project Connect: hopefully an initiative that’s ambitious but realistic. It certainly means a lot to me and I think it matters… Watch this space…!

[1] The Ethical Trade and Sustainability team of a large garment retailer.

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4 thoughts on “Personal Leadership Challenge: Project Connect

  1. Sounds like an excellent challenge that could make a tangible difference.
    There’s certainly a need to start conversations with new people about the many sustainability challenges we face. Sustainability rarely features in people’s everyday conversation at work, in the pub, or restaurant. This can lead people to dismiss it in their mind in the belief that no-one else cares about it. For those of us committed to action i think we should each do what we can to address this. We shouldn’t shy away from talking about sustainability in the course of our everyday lives. Indeed we should talk about it regularly in order to encourage others to talk about it too. By each having such conversations we can slowly, in our own small way, help to create momentum for change. I know of someone who has made it their mission to talk to at least one person everyday about climate change. Far from people avoiding him he finds that people quickly engage with the subject and he’s made new connections along the way. Perhaps this is an idea we should all ourselves consider. Indeed I considered it for my own personal leadership challenge but my inate British reserve made me shy away from it.

    I wish you every success in your challenge and look forward to hearing your progress over the next couple of years.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lindsey! I really resonated with your post because I find myself in a similar situation to you. I’m also trying to introduce sustainability ideas to leadership in our business – and was just as surprised (naively so in retrospect) by how few of them knew about things I had started to believe were commonplace, like the SDGs. It was humbling and forced me to remind myself to start from where they were rather than from where I hoped or expected them to be. Accepting their reality and trying to empathise with their backgrounds and positions has made it easier to understand what motivates and moves them. I like that you referred to our positions at CISL as ‘privileged’ because its so true! While we have journeyed so far this past year, the truth is that many of the ideas and tools we are exposed to aren’t apparent or available in everyday work. Am looking forward to watching you chip away at some of the boundaries between where you are now and where you hope your team will be someday! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lindsey. Sorry for the delay responding. I genuinely think this is great … ambitious but great! I’m no expert, but the thing I have learnt when attempting slightly less ambitious projects is to use head over heart. We are fortunate to hear compelling lectures at CISL, have a genuine interest in sustainability and believe strongly in the need for change. Passion therefore comes naturally, but when it comes to business, people typically like facts, a business case and rationale thinking. I think sometimes people can also be put off and indeed intimidated by passion alone. There are certainly times when it can help, but I think there is a place for a quiet revolution alongside spreading the word in a more evangelical way, if that makes sense! Good luck chipping away and using a variety of techniques to influence.

    See you tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

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