Lara and I have just returned from a weekend away on Exercise Executive Stretch with the Reserve Forces of Scotland. Executive stretch is a free weekend aimed at junior and middle managers with the intention of challenging and improving their leadership, teamwork, communication and problem solving skills.
Without a doubt this is a training course not to be missed. We learnt so much from this experience from basic soldiering skills to what it’s like to be in the reserves, but most importantly our strengths and weaknesses within a team environment.
The weekend began with us being given a talk about leadership vs management and the importance of this. This is something that we’ve all heard before, but often only see it in the context of our own organisation and from our own bosses. This exercise went on to completely flip that context on its head. You were put into a team of people from different organisations that you weren’t familiar with and asked to come together to work through a number of challenges, spread over a couple of days, that were most certainly going to take you out of your comfort zone. Now, I’m not going to give much more than that away as I would really recommend anyone reading this to send themselves or a colleague on this course next year and I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, however I can tell you more about the lessons that Lara and I learnt from the process of the whole weekend –
- Leadership styles – The way that the military do things is quite different to how we do things in a civilian environment, however, I feel that during this experience there are a number of leadership techniques that should cross over. Most importantly for myself was the processual way of dealing with problems, breaking everything down into manageable chunks, rather than trying to conquer something as a whole.
- High pressure environments – When the pressure is on, it’s essential that you have good knowledge of your team’s strengths and weaknesses and that you have a clear process to work with. Pressure can be highly advantageous, but also treacherous if time has not been spent for all of your team to fully understand the objectives. Regardless of the pressure, I’ve learnt to never be afraid to request clarification on a situation.
- Structured Communication – Allocating roles and positions as well as having a processual working style makes for successful outcomes. It’s so easy to miss the minor details by diving in head first without considering what the ‘small things’ mean to your situation.
- Our own strengths and weaknesses – Identifying what you’re good and bad at may seem obvious, but what I took from this experience that it’s also learning when to apply your strengths, but also when not too. There were a few tasks on the weekend that I had to accept that my skills were not going to help and to sit back, for the good of the team. Although the immediate reaction to this is that you’re missing out on the satisfaction of assisting in completing a task, overall it will help your team come out on top!
Alongside all of this, we also learnt a lot about the Army and especially the Reserve Forces. The skills that they learn from their training and ongoing experiences would benefit any workplace and the gain to both the individual and the employer are fantastic. The Reserve Forces do fantastic work and Lara and I both left seeing the benefit of joining, even if it would mean having to survive off military standard ration packs again!
Lara was chosen as the best team player in her team and my team came second in the overall competition. We genuinely believe that is confirmation of our application of the skills that we learnt along the way, but also the collaborative working style that we are taught working here at Moray Chamber. We enjoy being in all-inclusive situations where everyone can benefit from working together. We will all come out on top as long as we keep on going regardless of the hurdles that we may face. Collaboration is the key!