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I have been away from Monday to this morning, when I got home at 7.30am after getting the red-eye from Philadelphia.  I had a very intense time at The Wharton School at Penn University on a leadership program. When I looked at the agenda before I left my heart was somewhere between sinking and shuddering at the thought of ’strategic critical thinking’, ‘emotional intelligence’ and my personal loathing ‘networking’ (just say chatting or talking).

So it was with a fair dose of cynicism that I went into this, coupled with the usual resentment at work taking me away from my children. I did appreciate the investment that was being made in me though, I was grateful to my boss for thinking I was worth putting on this prestigious course with 50 other young leaders in our global network.

I enjoyed it, I mean I really enjoyed it. Some parts were too long, or a bit obvious or dare I say it – a bit American – but mostly it was stimulating, challenging, thought provoking and got parts of my brain working again that had long been left dormant in the day to day course of life with two young children and a demanding job. I was forced to re-evaluate the way I do things, to really think about the decisions I make, and perhaps most importantly the way I interact with my colleagues and clients.

I learnt some incredibly useful tools which I just hope I use enough to remember or even better become second nature. (I have written a more informative post over here http://www.hollywardpr.com/2010/10/10-lessons-in-leadership.html).

I learnt some theories I hadn’t even thought about before about the mental models we have for parts of our life, specifically given the nature of the course, the mental model I have about my industry and my clients. I also learnt to differentiate between reality and my in built biases. I learnt, properly, how to execute a strategy and achieve success from it. Something no one has ever really been able to tell me before. I learnt about the escalation of commitment, when you have so much riding on something you simply can’t walk away from it.
Like many things in life, what we were being taught was no more than common sense really, but packaged up into models and anecdotes that made real sense to me. As anyone who reads this blog will know I am going through my own challenges at the moment regarding my career and its place in my life and I can genuinely say that this course has helped me to at least start to solve some of my issues. I have a long way to go but I feel that I can see more clearly now some of the obstacles we have as a company and hopefully ways in which I can overcome them.

And as for networking, well that was great. I suppose if you get 51 fairly like-minded people in one place for three days with a common purpose you can’t fail to get on with some of them. And I did, with lots of them. Some really great people who were bright, warm, friendly, generous with their experience and enlightening.

The flipside is, of course, that my girls aren’t letting me off the hook all that easily and having been away I am now being reminded of why it’s never really a good idea. The way their ‘missing’ manifests is naturally in tantrums and obstinance. To be clear I had probably an hour or two sleep on the flight after a week of intense learning and late nights (drinking), so I would have loved to have flopped into bed this morning, but how could I when the two people I love most in the world were waiting for me to play with them and be their mummy.

And that’s of course what I really am, their mummy.  But from time to time remnants of the career girl rise to the surface again, and you know what, it’s quite good fun.


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