Raph O’Connor, Residential Services Manager at Cancer Fund for Children, attended the UK American Express Leadership Academy run by Common Purpose in London back in October 2018. Here he shares his key takeaways from the four-day learning experience and the importance of self-care at work. 

In a nutshell, the biggest learning insight from the Academy was ‘just do it’! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect and embark on a journey with other like-minded professionals who all want to improve their management performance and leadership skills. For me, the biggest learning came through self-reflection with other participants/peers and especially the reflective supervision available throughout the course and coaching.

The Academy helped me to understand the difference between managing and leadership, especially within a team when delegated tasks, and to have a plan and vision with clear goals. I now know I need to be a stronger coach in my role.

The Academy experience aided me in becoming more inclusive by ensuring that I value all members of my team and adopting a more inclusive attitude and leadership style, which develops leaders in order for them to flourish. I also discovered aspects of self-care and how important self-care is to the overall team in order to maximize their work and performance.

This experience was supported with a vast array of educators, coaches and masterclasses that provided me with a truly inspiring understanding of leadership and partnerships with others in the not-for-profit sector; especially with regard to self-care of the team, influencing, and team communication in a very open way.

I particularly appreciated that my coach had a very unique blend of expertise in business and counselling. He helped me tremendously with identifying my blind spots. Therefore, I learned a multitude of effective ways to give constructive feedback and I will definitely use these techniques with my team. Additionally, I gained an understanding of work boundaries having the opportunity to be flexible if required and finding that this is particularly helpful during my reflective supervision and individual meetings with other peers.

And this is just the beginning! Personally, the Academy has inspired me to always achieve greater goals that I have for myself, through clearer strategic thinking and reflective practice. There are a number of social partnerships which I intend to develop as part of strengthening our organization and have a greater social inclusive element to our work which reflects broader on society.