Part of our leadership Development Program is an Alignment meeting. We call it the SAM which stands for Senior Alignment Meeting or Stakeholder Alignment Meeting, take your pick.  The purpose of this event is to make sure that the superiors of those we are training understand what and how they are learning to lead. We also want (and need) the bosses to allow their newly trained subordinates to train others, and finally we want to showcase our approach to other donors. Everyone clamors for better leadership but few actually know how to get to the behavioral changes that influence the way people work together better – as evidenced not only by better results but also by better relationships. We have quite a bit of stories to tell.

Organizing the SAM is always tricky. Since it is an experiential event it is hard to explain. There is often a fear among even our own colleagues (in country and from HQ) to ask senior ministry folks do anything experiential. I can’t begin to tell how many times I was warned ‘we can’t do anything with senior people that involves more than listening to presenters with PowerPoints or speechifying.’  Really!?   Drawing a picture with colored markers? God forbid. Creating a future scenario with clay? I have  to do a lot of cajoling and this is where the grey hairs help.

And then there are always other surprises that come out of nowhere, like the morning of our meeting, where we expected about 60 people (food ordered and paid for 60 people, press invited, etc.) when an email from the minister summoned everyone we invited to an urgent meeting at the ministry, government people and development partners alike. I have learned over the years to not get upset about it. I have adopted Harrison Owen’s mantra (from Open Space fame): whomever comes are the right people. It is always true.

During our first week we had prepped our new facilitators to actually run this alignment meeting and had rehearsed multiple times. The last rehearsal was good enough to wow people. The actual performance was even better. We had told the audience (we ended up with about 35 people, who were the right people) that this was a first public performance of the facilitators.  They quickly forgot and got completely engaged in the various activities. At the end, when I wrapped up the meeting I asked them what they had noticed about these four pharmacists who had run the meeting. The response was immediate: ‘excellent, passionate, energetic, knowledgeable’ and gave them a big round of applause.

That was the third of the four parts of our assignment. The last would include all of the TOTs as they facilitated four modules in a row for the next four days.

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May 2017
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