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Reflection on the IoD Northern Ireland Women’s Leadership conference 2022

There is no doubting that these last few years have been like no other. Following a global health storm that has challenged everyone, the global pandemic brought changes that none of us could have predicted. We have witnessed the growth of ecommerce, buying our goods and organising our lives online, the surge in staycations, and people globally have truly reaped the benefits of online learning, personally and professionally. Many of these changes have lasted beyond 2020. One thing that we can be certain of is that lifelong learning is here to stay.

This was a key message at the recent Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland, Women’s Leadership conference. The conference, my favourite corporate event of the professional calendar, provided me with some thinking time to review, reflect and to renew.

One of the key messages shared at the conference was that we are all here to learn, lead and leave our legacy. Let me explain. At this leadership conference we were acutely reminded of the societal pressures we face, geopolitical uncertainty, multiple challenges to economic recovery, higher inflation, the health and wellbeing of citizens following the pandemic, to name just a few.

My key takeaways from the event

So what were my three key take away messages from this year’s IoD Women’s Leadership conference?  One: We are constantly responding to change multitasking, possessing a continuous improvement mindset; a commitment to continual learning and growth. Being comfortable with changes that perhaps were not anticipated, dealing with them, and being able to adjust and bounce back – becoming more comfortable with uncertainty.

Two: I believe as a society we need to work on engendering a belief in reskilling. As opposed to looking at the cost of investing in people – think of the implications of the cost of losing them. The conference was a gentle reminder to appreciate the bigger picture and strive to achieve worthy goals that give purpose to our lives and what we are passionate about. As people leaders, this reminds us that “passion manages individuals better than anyone can”.

Finally, my third takeaway. The pandemic has allowed people to think more about their purpose and what their employers stand for. A range of experiences helps you to think differently, do differently and act differently and that develops leadership, curiosity, critical thinking and problem solving skills. According to recent research by the OECD (2019) these skills require the most attention across Ireland.

They are highly transferable, regardless of role or sector. They help us in leading our daily lives, whether at work, as a parent  through sports, whatever, these key skills help us to produce results across our everyday lives. From my experience we are broadly motivated by career, community or cause.

A desire to learn

We’re all born with a natural curiosity. This is no more evident to me on a daily basis when our three young children continually ask the “who, what, when, where and why questions”. We all want to learn. Yet, the demands of work and personal life often reduce our time and will to engage that natural curiosity. Developing specific learning habits can offer a route to both continued professional relevance and meaningful personal happiness, and developing our legacy.  Perhaps Drucker coined it perfectly in five words “Learning is a Lifelong Process”.

Now do your part. What will you have done differently over the next year as a result of attending this conference? Don’t overthink this, take action to develop relevant skills over your lifetime.

Learn more

I recently took part in a podcast with my OU colleagues Laurence Knell and John D’Arcy. We discussed lifelong learning in the workplace and the opportunities it offers both employers and employees. The podcast featured Gordon Milligan, Chair of the IOD Northern Ireland.

Listen to the podcast

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