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Lisbon, learning, people

I’d flown in for this conference.

After a hard and successful first year in business I decided it was time for some CPD and managed to find an event in a European city I had always wanted to visit. Two birds etc.

I had high hopes for this one – the agenda seemed promising, I felt I would meet people I wouldn’t otherwise encounter and hear views & perspectives which would be new, different and stimulating. I tempered my enthusiasm with a touch of realism – for conferences are not always quite as brilliant as the marketing would suggest, are they?

I also thought I’d take a little of my own medicine. When I’m running learning sessions I tend to say to the group that some of what I might say could be irrelevant for them (so ignore it) and some of what I might say could, hopefully, provide a breakthrough moment. And therein lies learning.




On first impression the conference was …. how can I say this kindly ….. suboptimal.

The first night’s event didn’t really happen as the organisers hadn’t managed the logistics well and certain key ingredients hadn’t arrived into the country. Then the ‘leader’ of the event stood up, declared she always ad-libbed with public speaking and then, I’m afraid, gave an unintentional masterclass on why it’s often risky to ad-lib.

Oh well. It’s just an opening party.

Morning One arrived. An audience of coaches. Many of us very experienced coaches.

Another conference organiser gave a welcome speech, the dominant message of which was that it was our job “to be inspired”. Hmm. One might have hoped that they would see their job as “to be inspiring”. There was also a group activity in the plenary session which would not have been out of place in a kindergarten.

It was at this point that I found myself starting to wonder if it had been a good decision to fly across Europe at some expense. And other coaches were starting to chunter – particularly after the first breakout session had opened with the rather alarming statement that “we can all agree that management and leadership are the same thing, can’t we?” This was, as you would expect, met with a unanimous “No” in the room leading to a bit of an impasse.

But there is always learning, isn’t there?

I started to ponder my reactions to what was going on around me and made the decision, no the conscious choice, to draw a line down the middle of my Moleskine pages – to the left would be thoughts & ideas from the sessions and to the right would be mindful notes about how I was reacting and why.

I kept this up for two days. There were, of course, various points to the left. There were, of course, many interesting people at the event. There were two fascinating speakers. I made one or two valuable connections.


Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Learning, Church, Chapel


And yet the lion’s share of the learning was self-discovery. I challenged myself. I had ‘lightbulb’ moments about myself, about how I can react when things are not going quite as I had planned or hoped, about points which irritated me and what that said about me, about things which intrigued or delighted me and …ditto.

I don’t think I have very often been as conscious as that about myself. It’s a habit into which I have now got whenever I attend an event.

“Gosh, you’re taking a lot of notes” someone said.

“Yes. There’s huge learning here. I’m glad I came”