Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mary Dwyer

Mary Dwyer
Director, Impact Solutions International, Australia

It has been a few months since the second Spirit of Humanity Forum (SoH). I watch with interest as the ripples from the newly forming SoH community create events, changes, especially dialogue, that might not have happened without this event.

I am curious to know how the Forum has influenced you? What are you doing that you might not be doing without having being inspired by our shared Icelandic experience?

Over the past few days I have attended a Global Leadership Mindfulness Conference here in Sydney, Australia. A SoH "top up" really although the two events are not related...yet! An underlying theme at this conference was an invitation to "be the leader the world needs now." The speakers were varied and many including many CEO's - all meditators. They shared their experiences and how their mindful practices helped shaped their leadership and their corporate governance. One story in particular prompted me to write this blog.

Jack Heath is CEO of an organisation called SANE. Jack spoke about a policy that reflects love and compassion in action. This policy is called the Reflective Leave Policy. Here are some details.

"SANE Australia places a premium on personal self-care and building a mentally healthy workplace. Far too often people working in the mental health sector don’t give adequate attention to their own personal growth and development. Add to this, the increasing pace of a 24/7 digital world and it’s important that we make time to step back and reflect on our lives. The purpose of Reflection Leave is to give each employee time outside of their normal work and personal commitments to nourish themselves, reflect on an area of their life that they feel needs attention or invest in their spiritual or personal growth. What Reflection Leave looks like in practice will vary from person to person.

  • Reflection leave is an added benefit and available to all permanent employees after six months continuous work.
  • All full-time employees are entitled to 5 days paid Reflection Leave every 12 months. Part-time employees are pro-rated.
  • Reflection leave is non-cumulative – if you don’t use it in a given year, you lose it.
  • Reflection leave should be taken in a single block of continuous days rather than spread over weeks.
  • Reflection Leave should be taken alone rather than with a family member or partner.
  • Ideally Reflection Leave should be entirely digitally-free.
  • These guidelines can be varied in in special circumstances with agreement of the CEO.
  • Reflection Leave must be approved by the CEO. To seek approval an employee should arrange a time to meet with the CEO and discuss their Reflection Leave proposal. In the first instance it is fine if you only have an idea of what you would like to do but you will be asked to provide a written outline of your daily schedule and goals.
  • Once approved, the timing of your reflection leave is up to your Manager.
  • Reflection Leave is a personal process. There is no requirement to disclose personal information but, if you are comfortable, we welcome you sharing with our team your learnings or experiences."

Jack continued to share some wonderful examples of reflection leave that he had seen as a result of this policy. "One young woman who worked on the reception desk at Inspire was a foster child.  She used her reflection leave to go and spend time with her birth mother – something she hadn’t done in many, many years.  It was challenging but rewarding.

One of the media team at SANE loved creative writing but when he went off to journalism school and wanted to write of “a large black velvety cat that reclined languidly on the Persian carpet” he was told to write “the cat sat on the mat”.  So he spent his week working with The Artist’s Way. In his request for leave he wrote movingly of his time growing up in regional Australia and how important writing was to him."​

​One story in particular inspired me to write this blog to my SoH Community. Jack went on to say:

"There was an amazing young woman by the name of Kelly Betts.  She was the power behind Inspire’s ActNow program which was all about enabling young people to take action on the social issues they cared most about.  Before Inspire, she also did outstanding work at Oxfam, Amnesty International and Australian Volunteers Abroad.  Following on from the death of her father, Kelly used her reflection leave to go back to New Zealand and visit places he had lived and to speak with his family members and other people who had known him.

Not long after that, in early 2007, Kelly was diagnosed with bowel cancer.  Eighteen months later she passed away at the unripe age of 35.  Just a few days before she died, I visited her at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst.  She was gaunt but sat up straight on her bed, cross-legged and gave me instructions in a firm, clear voice – you need to take this reflection leave idea and get it out to people across the social sector."​

​Other organisations have taken this policy up. When I heard Jack tell his story I thought that it was a great demonstration of Love and Compassion. Jack finished his sharing by saying that he thought Kelly would have liked to know that this policy had spread internationally as well. My immediate thought was that the SoH community may resonate with this story and this policy. (I have a full copy of Jack's address if anyone would like a copy.)

In my own life there have been a few changes as a result of the SoH Forum. Some changes are subtle. Some changes are more profound. I am observing that I am spending a lot more time in silence and in retreat from "busyness." I have started to paint more and read poetry. I am having stronger conversations, with more skill, about policies that are formed with hard line economic rationalism as their central driver instead of wholistic consideration which including the values of love and compassion. I have also studied and read alot about the development of human consciousness, inspired by Richard Barrett's talk. I feel that the evolution of our consciousness is key for effective values based decision making. I have gone back to some formal study to ensure I have contemporary knowledge in regards to values based leadership development and have sought out like minded people here in Australia. At Christmas time I will be lucky enough to have two Forum attendees visit my island home - one person is from Canada and one person is from Amsterdam. I have also Linked-In and remain in communication with a handful of others. I have committed to running a Leadership Retreat for Young Leaders instead of always working with Executives and now I have shared one CEO's practical policy that has made a profound difference to the lives of many.

As a part of the SoH Board and wider community we welcome your blogging about what you have been doing since returning home. Our community will grow stronger by our sharing.

To share your thoughts and experiences on the SoH-blog (which is located on SoH's website) please send your material to Lotta Arbman: lotta.arbman@sohforum.org

With warmest regards and much love to you all.

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