From education to employment

How Immersive Leadership and Development Programmes Are the Answer to the Corporate / Social Conundrum​

Over the last 30 years companies have been driven by shareholder value.

Companies had to make a good profit, and it then went to shareholders. A good company now is different. It’s not about shareholders, it’s about stakeholders and the broader world.

Climate change, social inequality, biodiversity loss and the global food system are not issues that can be solved one by one. These are all part of stakeholder responsibility, and to find the solutions to the challenges the world sees today, companies need to work differently.

Before it was all about keeping everything close. About Competition. Keeping other people and companies away, and winning.

That world is dying, and it’s dying quickly.

The only way to solve these complicated challenges is with collaboration. And working in new ways.
I run a professional development programme called The International Exchange (TIE), and our immersive programmes allow corporate professionals to visit places and organisations that they wouldn’t normally and undertake challenges outside of their professional remit.

At the heart of TIE is collaboration and helping people understand the power of working together, talking to the locals and listening. And arming people with the tools and leadership competencies to be able to lead our world into the future.

Niall Quinn, holds a master’s in applied mathematics, and a doctorate in quantum physics and is a portfolio manager at a high-flying London energy company, Octopus Energy, one of the largest investors of renewable energy in Europe.

Niall had a yearning to be properly pushed out of his comfort zone – explaining that it was something he wanted to do since before the pandemic, and confirming that like most, the pandemic had intensified those feelings.

Niall found that he was becoming insular and was run by his schedule which he was finding hard to break out of. This no doubt will ring true to many – it’s too easy in our day jobs to drop into a formula and a rhythm where you feel like you are going around the block a bit. We can all feel constrained, and it’s hard to know how to contribute outside of the barriers of our job. We know we can be and do more – but how?

TIE is focused on taking people from can, to do and creating the space for them to find their unique power to make meaningful change. As TIE disrupts comfort zones, professionals can discover more about themselves and what their unique power is.

Niall was looking for a chance to stress-test his abilities and truly see what he’s capable of.

He’s also at a stage in his career where he’s stepping into people management, and he needed to figure out how that dynamic works. After COVID, leadership has become a constant thought, and these types of growth opportunities, for him, are key.

And not only to push himself out of his comfort zone, but he felt he needed to go off-grid a bit too. Niall was intrigued to see how far he could go doing something he doesn’t usually do.

TIE offers professionals a feeling of citizenship and being treated as customers, rather than consumers of jobs. By giving Niall this opportunity, his employers also communicated his value to them. And believe it or not, these things matter more than any signing bonus or compensation package.

It’s not a surprise, then, that when Niall had the opportunity to grow in a way that not only pushed him out of his comfort zone but also worked towards his values, he was not only up for it, it was the one thing since the pandemic that relit that fire in his belly.

So what did he do?

Niall spent 30 days in Mozambique working with NGO, Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), to solve real challenges facing an ocean conservation organisation.

While in Mozambique, Niall’s original brief was to develop a business strategy that would help scale up their “diving trips” in a sustainable way, helping to turn the operation into a full-fledged global operation.

But quite early on Niall started asking questions, and as a result, saw flaws in what they had been working towards for years.

Within a few short weeks, Niall unearthed solutions that redirected resources to other more cost-efficient initiatives that yield healthier profit margins, increased focus on other locations that strengthen the organisation’s presence and reputation on a global scale, and secured a partnership that will generate revenue and attract a more diverse set of guests.

And what did Sarah Butchers, COO at MMF think of all of this?

“Niall’s Solution is amazing. It’s something that was right in front of our faces – but we just don’t have the time, manpower or capacity to step back and see with clarity what’s working”.

Niall also got so much from the programme.

He learned that he can’t underestimate himself or what he’s capable of. He was pushed in new ways and adapted quicker, stronger and better to a different environment than he ever thought he would be able to.

“I couldn’t have prepared myself for how brilliant this experience has been. I feel I have rediscovered parts of myself that I had retired with my 20s. The adventurous, “yes to everything”, extroverted side of myself. I feel a new surge of life, that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for”.

He concluded,

“Leaders are sometimes front of the pack. And sometimes behind of the pack. But the best leaders are there with you walking with you. Showing vulnerability. And inspiring others, without losing the human side”. The African proverb says it best. “If you want to go fast you go alone. If want to go far, go together”

By Philippa White, Founder and CEO of The International Exchange (TIE)

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