Posted on February 2012
LEADERSHIP MATTERS February 2012 ISSUE NO 52
Having an experience leads you closer to engagement. Never has this been more true than last week in Thailand. Following a conference in Phuket 60 delegates stayed on and I led them to a part of Thailand that is close to my heart. We headed up to the Baan Tharn Namchai orphanage where they would spend the next three days immersed in the orphanage and the lives of the kids and wonderful staff.
The first night the Australian delegates were entertained and fed by the kids and staff, with traditional Thai dancing and some non-traditional be bop dancing by the kids. The thing that immediately struck most the of the delegates upon arrival was how happy the kids were and the positive energy that flowed from the entire place. The first night at the orphanage was spent with half the team bunking down on the floor in the cultural centre at the back of the orphanage, whilst the other half decided the comfort of a bed at our newly constructed community centre was in order for them.
The 5am wake up call, was less of a call and more of the sound of laughter, the kids from the orphanage finding it quite funny that this group of foreigners had decided to sleep on the floor in their cultural centre. After a shared breakfast the kids headed to school and the adults, well they headed to the rubber plantation for a day of hard work.
There wasn't too many of the group of entrepreneurs whose normal daily life involved swinging a slasher clearing weeds from a rubber plantation or building a reinforcing wall under a bridge, but that's what most did. Most but not all. A delegation of the Australian group was dispatched to the local markets to secure enough supplies to cook dinner for our hosts. It was time for the Australians to cook and perform for the kids.
Waiting till last in line I did enjoy my sweet potato and fried onions which was all that remained of the dinner. The Australians had underestimated the eating power of these kids. Many of them might be tiny, but they can put away the food. The evening's entertainment was filled with jousting song and dance routines between the kids and staff from Baan Tharn Namchai and the Australian group. The overwhelming winner was the kids.
Having invested a large part of the last seven years working for or in Thailand, I truly get the wonderful learnings that come from surrounding yourself with the positive nature of the kids and the perspective they bring to one's life. Therefore it wasn't so much a feeling of surprise but one of confirmation for what I believed in when the delegates talked about "experiences they could never have imagined", or "I now realise what is important in life" and "my life has irreversibly changed by this experience".
I can and do talk about these learnings and experiences in keynote presentations, but when its experienced first hand, the engagement goes to levels not previously known. How can you in what you do offer an experience that leads to deeper engagement?