Building Personal Mastery: Reflections of a union staffer

Have you ever formally asked colleagues and friends to provide anonymous feedback on your strengths and weaknesses? Turns out it is more powerful than you can imagine.

Twenty-five of us has the opportunity to do just that, and then read our personal feedback during the recent Building Personal Mastery course offered by the Inner Activist. A group of change-agents boldly stepped into this training to face the feedback, and perhaps more importantly, to face our own stuff.  

The Personal Mastery curriculum led us through an exploration of how we operate in our work lives and in the world, helping us reconnect with our values and the things that inspire us. We examined how we deal with challenges and conflicts and how to be more self-aware with respect to interactions with others. Over the five days, we were provided multiple tools to help us continue in the challenging work of activism.

What was truly remarkable to me, was the level of skill and grace shown by the facilitation team and coaches as they brought an incredibly diverse group of participants through challenging and important personal work.

Aside from being a Program Officer with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) at our headquarters in Ottawa, I am also a yoga teacher who delivers advanced programs which focus on deeply personal and transformational work, so I am experienced in receiving and delivering this type of training. As one who is not easily impressed by much of what passes for transformative training, Building Personal Mastery blew me away.  It is clear that the Inner Activist team has a depth of knowledge and experience that is rarely found and a gift for those who get to experience it.

So what was so great about this course, you may be asking yourself?

  1. The curriculum was intelligent, well thought out, and delivered by a facilitation team that clearly cares about the change work to which we are all committed.  They are willing to share their experiences and express deep feeling and vulnerability - a role few facilitators can do with authenticity. Kudos to them!
  2. There was an infusion of body and energy work along with activities that took us into the pristinely beautiful backdrop of Gabriola Island. This helped balance out the more “heady” analytical and reflective work.  This approach was important to keep participants from getting stuck in their minds, and to keep those who are “doers” from getting stuck in fix-it mode.
  3. The 360 Degree Feedback process was particularly helpful as I am not someone who readily asks (and accepts!) feedback from others. This involved reviewing the results of a detailed survey which was given to colleagues, family and friends to elicit feedback on a range of topics before the course began. The process of reading the feedback allowed me to step into my vulnerability head-on and face some of what I already knew. This powerful tool was used with caring and compassion in the workshop.
  4. The “in-residence” aspect of the training allows for the establishment of a “container” of sorts where participants build personal connections, eat wonderful food, enjoy nature and have time to disconnect from the busyness of our daily lives.
  5. There was ample opportunity for work in small groups and pairs during the course.  By the end, I had paired off with virtually all of the other participants in one activity or another. The depth of commitment to listening, sharing and providing feedback from other activists was both affirming and touching.
  6. We spent a lot of time creating road maps to personal discovery during the course. Charts, tools, and other take-aways were provided to participants to assist us to continue the work of self-mastery after the training. Brilliantly done!

As I mentioned in my previous blog about my positive experience as a participant in the Conscious Use of Power module, I’m privileged to have a director who recognizes the importance of his staff accessing training to assist in personal growth. The use of the 360 Degree Feedback process in Building Personal Mastery provided my colleagues the opportunity to share areas of strength that I bring to my work and areas where I could improve. This is a constructive and heartfelt way for them to contribute to my development.  For that, I am thankful.

The Inner Activist program is designed for those of us doing change work. For labour types and other change makers who are reading this, I would strongly encourage you to give their courses a look. This program serves to meet our unique needs and to foster a caring learning environment for greater self-awareness. The many external pressures impacting our organizations can wear us down. None of us is immune to burnout, anger and cynicism. In our fight to do the right thing, we must look after ourselves. 

Building Personal Mastery is a great way to begin – or continue – the work of unpacking our stuff, of becoming clearer about our egos, and of boldly stepping into the metaphoric fire of personal transformation.  Check it out - or check out the upcoming 2015 courses, Building Strong & Respectful Relationship May 30 - June 3, 2015 and Conscious Use of Power November 4 - 8, 2015.