Reflections on Vienna

Posted October 23, 2017 in Leadership

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend our MRG Network Partners Conference in Vienna, Austria. Having never been to Vienna, I decided to extend the visit to a full week and drag my husband along with me. Vienna is a breathtaking city. We both had sore necks from looking up at all the amazing architecture and were fortunate to see some of the world’s master art pieces including Gustav Klimt’s famous ‘The Kiss’ painting which is truly impressive. In between all the sightseeing and schnitzel, I attended the 3 day conference and came out with a few new insights that I thought I’d pass along.

Leadership challenges are the same all over – MRG’s Partner Network is made up of coaches, consultants and psychologists from across the globe. I heard presentations from Australia to the UK and from France to Portland, Maine and one thing was constant…leadership is becoming more and more complex around the globe. The challenges people described (sometimes in slightly different ways) were still consistent. It’s a small world of leadership pain, after all!

We are unbelievably biased as human beings – I attended MRG’s Master Class for interpreting their Individual Directions Inventory. This is my favourite tool and something that we’ve been using more and more frequently in our team and individual coaching practices. IDI helps you understand your energy motivators and how those energies drive your behaviours. Things that give us lots of energy or no energy at all are where are biases will hide out. We all have some core biases, but there are literally hundreds to consider. The way to start though is to become a better observer of your own so that you can become a better leader to others.

Group and team coaching are both still underutilized – I heard many presentations from colleagues about how they’re approaching developing leaders within various organizations. There were some really interesting and fun solutions, however, in general, there continues to be an emphasis on workshops and classroom based training as a primary way of teaching leadership (and yet, two of us made presentations to the effect that leadership development efforts aren’t really having great returns)! In my presentation, I encouraged my colleagues to think about taking a more leader-centric approach to development by bringing more group/peer/team coaching approaches into their practices. I truly believe this is the wave of the future of leadership development and it was awesome to exchange ideas with others who were doing similar work.

Be where you are – the timing of this conference was tough. It was smack in the middle of our busiest time and on top of that, I’m trying to write 2 books plus mountains of speaking and client work. I did check my email first thing each morning (benefits of a 6 hour time difference) but made a conscious choice to put work away and enjoy Vienna when I wasn’t in the conference. I watched several of my colleagues rush back to their rooms to work after each session and sometimes miss sessions because of work related fires that they were putting out. I certainly could have been right in there with them…but I also know that I have highly capable colleagues who function completely fine without me. I think, as leaders, it’s very easy to overestimate our importance in things. In my experience, we are all highly replaceable. And, frankly, if your team cannot function without you, it’s important to look at how you contribute to that dynamic. I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to Vienna again, so while I was there, I wanted to soak it all in.

We should all have a regular sabbatical – one of the presentations that I enjoyed the most at the conference was from a Network member who took a 6 month sabbatical. During his time away from his business, he walked the Alps from one side to the other (2000 miles as the crow flies but more like 3 to 4000 for a human being). I have had a few clients take work sabbaticals and they invariably impact them in deep and meaningful ways. It got me thinking about the importance of recharging and reflecting and how we take such little time to do that in our society. I love the idea of a sabbatical at some point for myself, but I also love the idea of all of us creating more mini-sabbaticals in our own day-to-day lives. We can do this by limiting our access to technology; by taking our full vacation times; by bringing mindfulness practices into our lives on a regular basis; by journaling on a regular basis to deepen our self-insight into our day to day practices and habits. It would probably make us all feel better on a regular basis, not sure when we check out for several months at a time.

Vienna is a wonderful city. It’s highly walkable (we logged about 20,000 steps each day) and has a fabulous subway system that makes it incredibly easy to get around. If you have the opportunity to go, take it! And be sure to turn off your cell phone while you’re there.

Happy leading!


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