The adventure began first with a flight to Singapore, then on a medium size ferry, an old bus, a long wooden boat with a very small covering and engine, and finally a Zodiac rubber raft and we arrived on Pangkil Island. There were torches and few electric lights. We were taken to our rooms. Many of us shared space and it was a wondrous thing. There were no walls, only wooden shades that you pulled down if you wanted to. The sleeping spaces were on stilts and very simple: full beds with white netting hung from a center point in the ceiling. Just the South China Sea, the noise of the wind and 22 of us and the people that staffed the island.
The first night was a time to gather, welcome the community and provide FIRO-B Assessment instrument feedback. This offered people the chance to recognize differences in interpersonal communication as we engaged in deep conversations. We were on a sand floor with a few beautiful hanging lamps, some torches and cushions, a hammock (always occupied and in the center of everything) and a large wooden couch with lots of pillows. You might have noticed I didn’t say walls. I am such a flip chart person and a hang it on the wall so all can see. We sat in a circle as we learned about the FIRO-B Assessment and about team member’s motivation for Inclusion, Control and Affection.
The next morning word we learned that a colleague’s wife had suffered a stroke. It was everyone’s worse fear, to be so far away and have a loved one hurting. The team did a remarkable job of coming together to help him move towards home as quickly as possible. He left, to reverse the journey, with someone’s shoes, different currencies of $$$, and a wonderful woman who was with us, jumped in the boat as he was leaving and stayed with him until he was on his air journey. People everywhere responded, meeting him and delivering him from one plane to the next. His wife is doing well and he kept us frequently informed as he was apprised of her condition and progress.
This is the place we started our work the next morning. All of us thinking of home and wanting to connect and leave an emergency number so we could be reached. Also though, we were in touch with what was most important to us. In our minds, spirit and hearts, if we were going to be there we were going to make it matter, and matter it did.
The first day of work was about strategic initiatives. Working side by side with the leader we guided the team through some thorny conversations that had caused dissidence in the past. The fact that this is a global team with people living and working in varied regions clearly points out the tremendous value in face to face meetings. They meet face to face, I think quarterly but not on an island far away. The issues were present and softened, not in content or intensity, rather in the setting of seeing each other, eating with each other, sharing a room with each other. The team was amazing without cell phones and lap tops, only present to each other. The second day we talked more about the implications of the FIRO-B on the team. Some people were willing to share their scores and we could learn the impact of different desires to initiate inclusion, control and affection or want others to initiate it. The team worked the information and engaged in a way I haven’t experienced in my time of paper, projector and walls.
On the leader’s path to continue to align the team, we did the individual values sort. With 21 of us, I was concerned about the time it would take for each person to share their choices and how they made them. I put that forward and a team member said, “We don’t usually have time for this kind of conversation. We should give it time,” and so we did.
The next piece was to tell about a time when you lived your highest value and harder yet a time when you didn’t. On the island with the water lapping and the wind stirring, making us have to listen so intensely we learned what sages have known for centuries, in the telling of our story, in the being seen by others, in the ability to free yourself from judgment and to express sadness and learning, we
connected. We could have left not knowing many of us in the privileged way we know each other now. There is always a concern that some people have when they share from their heart that they will be seen as weak. It is truly a fear within us and the act of sharing is a courageous one. Each person shared and we were struck, reflective and touched by the many acts of courage. I will remember the energy for at least this lifetime.
We moved from the individual values to the core purpose work. It ranged widely and energetically. They encapsulated their core purpose to be “We help people use our products to change their lives.” Each person then modeled telling someone they loved what gave meaning to their work, the core purpose for the team. If it was a child, a parent, a friend or colleague, each person shared the thought and some context behind it. People from the outlying regions did it in the language of their region. Our last piece of work in the Built to Last Framework was to identify the team values. These are the values they will choose to model as leaders. They selected Integrity, Responsibility, Respect, Creativity and Cooperation. This was not an easy task and it was one where people heard differences and explored the difference.
We will follow up with the behaviors that demonstrate each value. This will give them the opportunity to provide feedback to each other on this Global Leadership Team and receive feedback from their directs about how the leaders and the collective Leadership Team live the values and behaviors. We will also do the BHAG (Long Term Strategy) and description of its benefit in coming days. In the midst of this work, we swam, laughed, walked and talked together one on one or in small groups, ate, waited for coffee every morning in a French press, watched sunrises and or sunsets together and enjoyed ending the evening with a bonfire on the beach.
We returned to Singapore and prepared to return home. I was leaving on a different flight than the team. The majority of people had to leave the hotel at 3:30 AM. For me, to experience a sense of closure, I woke up, had coffee prepared for them and saw them off. Not assuming it mattered to them, it mattered to me as a very small acknowledgment of the many gifts I received from them. I am as fond of this experience and the people I got to know.