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6 days that changed my life

23 December 2014

Mary Reibey scholarship winner Madeleine Whiting explains how the AGSM General Manager course has benefited her.

As the Director of Development at St Vincents Institute of Medical Research I’m responsible for raising the profile of the Institute and philanthropic funding from various sources. I report to a 16-member Foundation Board, oversee the marketing and fundraise. The latter is done mainly via a series of small and large events aimed at different target markets, through running a bequest program and by overseeing a major gifts program.

The role is extremely varied. No day is ever the same as the last. I may be hosting a group of high net-wealth individuals for a tour of the Institute, meeting with a couple considering SVI in their will, putting together documents for board meetings, creating fundraising collateral, briefing a speaker for an event, or stuffing showbags for our annual golf day. The role also involves high level strategy and requires a flexible approach.

AGSM’s General Manager course centred on each of us as individuals. It provided the opportunity to step outside of your everyday and look at yourself in a different light - recognising the impact you have on your team, your peers, and the organisation. The program highlighted the value of being fit and healthy and having an holistic approach to work.

Having only 24 participants allowed for good team bonding and an opening up of the emotional self so that by the end of the week people were conversing in an honest and impactful way. The daily structure was excellent. Exercise began the day - team bonding and games broke up the longer sessions. There were some very long days. One day began at 6.30am and finished at 10pm. However, the variety, team activities and discussions in the day meant it passed quickly.
The learnings were invaluable. I’ve already begun to modify the way I’m talking. I can ascertain another’s view point but am able to more easily discern and explain my own view instead of just agreeing with them.

One of the most impactful lessons learned was it’s not what you say it’s how you say it. Content accounts for about seven percent of what you are saying for the listener. Voice, posture, dress and stance make the majority of the impact. I can see the value of team building activities within my own small team and am suggesting we share the chairing of our weekly meetings amongst the team. I also came to the realisation that power can be given away to those who have been in an organisation longer than you, or have more knowledge on a subject than you, even though they are not in a position of power and in the end this impacts on your ability to get your own job done.

I can see myself having a more balanced approach to work and a much more positive attitude to the choices available. The opportunity and potential differences the course has opened up within me have made it an invaluable experience. This is the sort of course for anyone in a management role who wants to inspire through better leadership, and it definitely strengthens communication skills.

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