My Experience with Outback Initiatives & Experiential Leadership Development

What is Experiential Leadership Development, and what did I get from it?

Being a leader in today’s world is a significant and intricate task. Stepping outside of our comfort zone, whether you’re leading a social activity, volunteering, employed in any form of management, in a position where leadership skills are required, or in my case, running your own business, is a highly important aspect to be aware of. However, knowing you need to be able to do it, and actively putting yourself in a position to learn how to do it, are two very different things.

Last week I embarked on Outback Initiatives Transformational Leadership Development Program. It’s a 5-day program where they put you in unknown situations, and allow you to work with a group of people (your team) to solve problems, and find solutions. Ambiguity is an integral part of the process. If you had asked me before I went on the program, I had a very set idea of the expectations, and what I was going to achieve. Not only did I achieve a whole lot more, but also my expectations were totally blown out of the water.

I already know that I am a fairly headstrong, confident person. I like to set goals, and I like to achieve them. Failure is not something I enjoy, and I never set out to achieve anything less than success. If you’ve ever had your DISC profile done, you’ll understand me when I say that I am a DC profile. If you’ve never done DISC, it basically means that I am process and goal driven. Not everyone is like that. Being put in a situation where you need to work with other DISC profiles happens everyday, to every one of us, but having it highlighted really makes you think about the people you work with, and the emotions involved. I have been told that we, as humans, operate on emotions. Given that I am process and goal driven, I tend to put emotions out of the equation completely.  

I’d never really sat down to work out the different profiles; D: Process and Goal, generally confident, I: Goal driven, but can lack focus “Shiny Things”, S: Very aware of others, they have a very warm persona, and will put others needs before their own, C: Process, and details orientated, they need to know the entire process before proceeding. I’ve worked with a lot of teams before, but it has always frustrated me that some people seemed to lack the ability to set a goal, and follow a process to get the job done. The reality is simple – everyone is wired slightly differently. We don’t need to change others to work the way we do. When you’re a leader, you need to adapt your leadership style to work with people in your team – it will get the best results out of them, and the best outcome overall. If you’ve ever read any of Tony Robbins stuff, he talks about the 6 core needs that every human needs: Certainty, Uncertainty, Love/Connection, Significance/Respect, Growth, and Contribution. D’s need Certainty & Significance/Respect, I’s need Uncertainty & Connection, S’s need Certainty & Love/Connection, and C’s need Certainty & Significance/Respect. Generalising the types of roles naturally headed towards are: D: General management/leadership, I: Sales, S: Counsellor & Social Workers, C: Accountants/Lawyers. I say this, not to put you in a box, but to give you an idea. 

I embarked on this 5-day journey with a lot of trepidation. I knew going in that they were going to take me out of my comfort zone, and that they were going to take me off the grid – they literally took my phone off me. I guess your first question would be “why would I put myself through this?” For me, the answer is simple. I had a goal. I wanted to grow – both personally and professionally. I hated it and loved it all at the same time. 

There are so many programs out there to ‘make you a better leader’. They are all ‘the best’ at what they do. Outback Initiatives say the same thing, but they absolutely deliver on their promise. I did their 5-day program (they have a 10 day program also), and I was cautious about what I was actually going to get out of it. I have not been disappointed.

Outback Initiatives has an extremely unique approach – and I can’t give away too much, because that would ruin the process entirely. It works because the content is ambiguous, and the unknown is what makes the process work. There is also some pretty awesome stuff involved: Caving (had to face some personal fears on that one), Abseiling, and Rock Climbing. On their larger programs there is kayaking too. You’re given tasks with a goal, and you have to work with your team to achieve the outcomes. You don’t always succeed, for various reasons, and the main objective when you fail, is to learn to fail forward. Reflect, as a team, on what didn’t work, and collectively discuss the reasons, without blame. Out of every failure we experience, we should always take away what we learnt. Isn’t that what we are all taught as kids, and what we continue to teach our children? The thing is, learning never stops, even when we are adults, so we should keep failing forward. 

Self-reflection is an awful process. Being given ‘Gifts of Growth’ (constructive feedback) can be very confronting, especially to someone like me (who, I’ll admit, struggles with being told I’m doing something wrong, or that I need to allow people to see my human side – my emotions). But if we aren’t given those little nuggets of information, how can we grow as leaders? The thing is, we can control whom we work with to a certain level, but it takes all sorts of leaders to make the world go round. If we all worked exactly the same way we would end up with too many chiefs, and not enough Indians, or too many Indians, with no one stepping up to the be the chief and lead them.  

In my case, I’ve learnt a lot about not being right all the time. Yes, I have my way of working, but I absolutely need to take into account others’ thoughts, processes, and ideas. I need to adjust my style to work with others to a certain degree. There has to be a two-way street in all communications. I have been told that I simply cannot do everything (let’s face it, this business that Natalie and I have is all about being able to delegate the stuff that you can to be able to concentrate on the big picture). I’ve learnt that I need to allow people into my little security wall that I have built, and let people see my emotions – my passion for what I do. I am not a robot, so people don’t want me to pretend to be one. 

Who do I think needs to do this program? Everyone. Every single person who wants to grow (whether professionally, or personally) will get so much from the program. Whether you have a team, and you want to get them to work better together, or whether you’re an individual, and you want to learn more about the way you work or live, and be able to work or live with those around you in more harmony, then this program will have a huge amount of benefit to you. If you do have a team, they will offer a bespoke program, so if this interests you, then get in touch with them – if you have a team, this is the best thing you can do. 

I’m not going to lie, it won’t be easy – physically, or mentally – in fact, you may find it a bit torturous, and that you just want to quit (I definitely wanted to quit!), but it will be worth it, and you won’t regret it.

For more information about Outback Initiatives and perhaps join a program, got to: www.outbackin.com.au