In this episode, we hear from Fiona MacNeill, a personal and professional development consultant with over 30 years’ experience supporting the design and learning of small to large scale organisations and their leadership. Fiona talks about her own perspective on personal leadership and what this can help us to work towards in life.
Transcript for Personal Leadership Episode
Hello and welcome to Into Work’s Wellbeing plus Podcast.
Hi my name is Felix Slavin, Wellbeing plus Coach at Into Work. In this episode, I will be speaking to Fiona MacNeill, a personal and professional development consultant with over 30 years’ experience supporting the design and learning of small to large scale organisations and their leadership. Fiona talks about her own perspective on personal leadership and what this can help us to work towards in life. Thanks for tuning in. We hope you enjoy.
Interview with Guest
Host – Hi Fiona, thank you for joining us on our Wellbeing plus Podcast.
Guest – You’re welcome, Felix. Thanks for asking me.
Host – So, I understand that you do a lot of work in supporting people at all different levels. Can you tell us about the work that you do?
Guest – So I work in the field of leadership development. And that can be personal leadership for an individual, and I have done some work since lockdown with people in recovery. Or it could be a corporate leadership programme, so I am currently running a programme for senior leaders in the Ministry of Justice. So, from one person to a large corporate programme and everything in between.
Host – So it is quite diverse, and how did you first get involved with Into Work?
Guest – Well I guess there were two things, Felix. You and I had met briefly in a mentoring relationship, but thereafter I got involved in Into Work when you were setting up the Wellbeing team. And you were really interested in the idea of how do we set up the values and beliefs and framework within which a brand new group of people could work. And I ended up having the fantastic opportunity of coming in and facilitating an appreciative inquiry, which is a conversational based change model which comes very much from a positive psychology stand point. Where everybody has got a story to share. And so that would be my main piece of work with Into Work, although I am also involved with work with a recovery college elsewhere in Scotland and there are definitely some crossovers. So it has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me so far.
Host – What are the key components to developing our own personal leadership? And I guess part of that was included in the work we did initial with the Wellbeing plus Team.
Guest – Yeah, the work with the Wellbeing plus Service team was built around a model, a conversational model called Appreciative Inquiry which invites people to share stories about what works for them from a values base. And that’s very much part of the work that I’m involved in with people no matter where it is or where they are in terms of their leadership journey. In terms of key components of personal leadership I think it is always a tricky one. But to try and distil it down, I guess it’s fundamentally about caring about your own impact – understanding your own impact. So when I am in a space with others how does that impact them? How do I feel in particular spaces with others? What can I do to ensure that I am accountable to myself? So irrespective of whether you are in work, trying to get into work, in recovery or working in a corporate role. What am I accountable for and how can I make sure I can look in the mirror in the morning and have a good day and take charge of myself in whichever way that feels appropriate. I think there’s also something about focusing on strengths. So personally I am a very positive person. Bad stuff happens that’s for sure and my life view is how do i make the best out of whatever it is that is actually going on and try and find a way through. And that often be with individual one small step towards better. So being able to find your voice in a room. You would be astonished how many senior leaders are still very anxious about getting up to speak in front of other people. So a lot of the assumptions we make of people in senior corporate roles and their levels of confidence are just that, they are just assumptions. Which is another really important thing around the personal leadership journey. How do we take out the assumptions that we have about others and about situations and reframe that makes them more useful and helpful for us. Because we carry around a lot of baggage around assumptions about people in particular situations, people with particular disabilities or experiences. And very often these assumptions are highly unhelpful. So I guess the other side of that is how do we get good at asking really powerful questions? How do we get genuinely curious about people who are different from us? I think there is a really significant piece around personal leadership and personal accountability.
Host – And you talked about the appreciative inquiry approach so just using that as a the model, how would personal leadership come into those types of conversations? What key principles come out from that model?
Guest – I think it is very much about strengths based. So what’s working? What have you experienced that’s worked whatever the topic is that is being explored. Tell me about a time when you were part of a team that made you feel liberated in the work that you were doing, or the volunteering you were doing, the topic you were exploring, the thinking you were doing at the time. And it is very much about listening and suspending those voices of judgment and cynicism, and that voice of fear. So it creates a space for everybody to have their voice heard and there is no hierarchy in that space. So there is an equality around contribution which I think is really important. And often lacking in all kind of systems from families to teams to organisational life. Where there often that the processes are not in place to set up that equality of contribution. And I think that is really important.
Host – Fiona, what are the key messages that you would like to share that encourages people to explore their own personal leadership.
Guest – I would say that we can all be a more fulfilled version of ourselves if that is what we decide to do. I think most of the stuff that gets in the way for us is stuff that we fabricate ourselves – we get in our own way. I think there can be a propensity to… I think it’s a British thing, people say “oh that’s a Scottish thing that we are negative about stuff”. But I have worked all over the UK and I don’t think it is a Scottish thing, I think it’s more a developed world thing. Where we talk about what’s not possible rather than what is possible. I think there is something about believing that you can be a better version of yourself. And that’s not to say you’re starting off being a bad version. I think it is the sheer joy of handling yourself and holding yourself differently than you would have done five years, ten years ago. But that you are doing that in an intentional kind of way. That you are proactively wanting to learn about you, about your impact. And about how you take that into your life and move it forward. Because I’m not a believer that you bring one person to work and you are another person at home. I mean physiological, neurologically that’s just not possible. So how do we try and just embrace the idea that change, I think the potential for change, and the potential energy around change is always an interesting one as well.
Host – Yeah absolutely, Fiona. And to build on that, the advice you would maybe give to someone who was maybe thinking about their journey towards developing personal leadership. Where do you think is a good place to start, that might be in respect of a conversation or looking at certain resources, but is there a point at which someone would benefit from starting in a certain place.
Guest – I think really there isn’t because I think it’s really all about uniqueness. So if people have a desire to start think about some of this stuff, they might not get that desire until they retire. They might get it when they are young and still at school. I mean I did some work with primary school children a number of years ago. They might get it because they have had some difficulty with work with mental or physical health challenges. They might get it when they are on their recovery journey. They might get it when they are trying to get a chief exec’s job. So there is no one time and I don’t think you can push it it and force. I think what you can do is you can be in a room with people and you can lay ideas and option around and it’s almost like a market stall and see what people pick up. I’m not a fan of prescribing before the diagnostics been done. So read that, do this, have one of these. Not really the way I would think about doing it. I would never really do that without having a conversation with somebody first.
Host – Yeah absolutely, and it reinforces that notion of being flexible. It is also the focus on the individual. So Fiona it has been a pleasure having you join us on the podcast. Thanks for your time.
Guest – Not at all, Felix. I have really enjoyed it.
Host – Take Care.
Guest – I will do, thanks a lot.
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