Over the years I’ve had meeting requests from a number of individuals aspiring to become leadership and organization development consultants. Essentially, they want to hear my story and hopefully glean some valuable insight from a seasoned professional who has had a reasonable number of experiences to draw from.
I have and will always provide time for these exchanges and I found that through such discourses I actually do have some insightful views. Some of these include:
- Take note of where you have naturally been effective and successful.
- Be a candid and critical examiner of your strengths and vulnerabilities.
- Be curious of and with others.
- Take risks into your stretch zone.
- Know your professional value proposition.
- Be clear at least about what options are NOT for you.
So at the risk of being somewhat self-indulgent I am going to use this blog and one to follow to share with you how I did get into the business I have been in for over 27 years. I do feel however that some background is important as it illustrates an interesting journey of professional self discovery, not without significant learning experiences along the way.
During the dozen years after I graduated from university I was involved in a number of interesting experiences, all which prepared me for entry into my current work. These included being a Managing Director in a spiritually-oriented intentional community focused on providing leadership and lifestyle management programs, leading an outdoor adventure leadership program fashioned after Outward Bound and called Educo Adventure School and being the Program Director for an innovative community-based program for juvenile delinquents called Twin Valleys School. This last role involved designing and putting into place an innovative whole-person educational program which included academics, life skills, peer counseling, an outdoor adventure leadership program and sports and recreation. After we were forced to close Twin Valleys due to lack of government funding, my wife, our two sons (20 months and 6 weeks old at the time) and I loaded up a pick-up truck with all our belongings and headed to live with my wife’s parents as a base for the next chapter of our lives. If the image of the Beverly Hillbillies comes to mind you are not too far off. We thought we would be there for two months, however, the reality became 14 months. I had a number of job offers from various social service agencies which I turned down, and an unsuccessful entrepreneurial business endeavour selling nuts. At least I knew what I didn’t want to do, and had the guts to act on that!
For the next three years I ran my own renovation construction business to bring in some income for our young family and also buy time until the next steps were clearer. One day I got a call from a colleague of mine I had worked with at Twin Valleys and who knew my work. She had a contract to provide a week-long management development training program for her client and wanted me to design and facilitate a one-day outdoor leadership experience to bring to life some key leadership and team development principles and concepts. This was new territory for me as I had not previously worked with business managers. I fulfilled the request, drawing on my previous experiences in the field of adventure-based learning adding my own unique sprinkle of innovation and apparent natural flare for facilitation. It was a huge success and, aside from some trepidation about working with a business audience, it was relatively effortless. I remember very clearly thinking two things; one, I didn’t know one could actually make money doing this, and two, I had found my calling and there was no turning back….not that there wasn’t a whole lot of development to do in a field that was in the early days of becoming a mature management science.
So, how did I get started? While I didn’t know exactly what I wanted or needed to do after Twin Valleys, at least I knew what I didn’t want to do which left me open and attentive to discover other possibilities, knowing confidently that I would know what was next when I discovered it. Besides isn’t luck really where preparation meets opportunity? More in Part Two as this epiphany still needed to be monetized!