By Astrid Kuivasaari – General Manager, Resources at The Uniting Church of SA

There are many benefits to working and volunteering in the not for profit sector. A feeling of working for a higher purpose, a calling, the satisfaction that comes with an alignment of values. Yet one thing NFPs often struggle with, compared to our more affluent corporate cousins, is finding sufficient funding to train and develop staff. Which is why I felt incredibly privileged and blessed to be a recipient of a half scholarship from CBB when I was accepted into the 2018 Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program.

It was with high hopes and expectations that I attended the opening retreat in February, and, 10 months later, emerged as graduate in November. Was it hard? Yes. Was it everything I had hoped for? Yes, and more. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.

The GLF is an immersive course, which operates on a deeply personal and professional level. We were guided by expert facilitators through an understanding of what adaptive leadership involves and given tools and models to explore and apply through a community action project which ran concurrently throughout the course. We were exposed to sectors and places in our state that most of us never thought we’d have access to – from a women’s prison to a tour of the Australian Submarine Corporation; from the RAAF base in Edinburgh to the Whyalla steelworks. And among the way we heard from leaders of these diverse organisations on their leadership challenges, lessons and opportunities.

This in itself is a mind broadening experience, but it is also attached to an intensive program of self-awareness and feedback which had a major impact on me this year. The GLF provides a comprehensive 360 feedback model, together with professional coaching and peer-to-peer coaching amongst the participants. This provides an opportunity to understand our blind spots, confirm our strengths, come to terms with our developmental areas and provide a fertile ground for growth. It certainly did that for me.

I’ve learned a lot about our state of South Australia this year. I understand that there is much to celebrate, and that there is a lot of good work and innovation which potentially does not get the attention it deserves in the mass media. But more than that, I learned a lot about myself.

The GLF has been permission-giving to shift away from continuously enhancing technical expertise and instead be more inward looking. This hasn’t been easy; I found some of the 360 feedback challenging. But over time, I learned to absorb and understand the lessons, and I found my behaviours changed as a result. I formed new habits; I became more sensitive to the perceptions and interpretations of others.  I read – a lot. I particularly recommend two books which supported my understanding of areas to change and then to be able to form new behaviours. Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and Charles Duhigg “The Power of Habit”. Well worth a holiday read.

As a recipient of a scholarship, I also feel a responsibility to share this gift and opportunity with others. Throughout the year in my workplace, I shared my learning and experiences with the management team. We worked through some of the journal articles and readings provided, which generated a lot of lively debate and discussion. Whenever I have the opportunity, I talk about the experiences, tools, models or readings from the GLF so that there is a cross-pollination of these ideas that ripple into the workplace environment and the wider community.  This would not have been possible without CBB’s support, and for this I am sincerely grateful.