I have just come back form working on behalf of TPC Leadership https://tpcleadership.com with a UNICEF Team based in Afghanistan.  I had 2 days with my co facilitator to run a team session with 18 leaders of teams who deliver their services to vulnerable children.    My colleague and I had no idea what it would be like to go to Afghanistan or what the team would be like.  All I knew is what I hear in the news about a country that has been at war for more than 15 years.   I had a mixture of worry and excitement, worry about my safety and excitement about working with such a team.  

When we arrived we were met by a UNICEF official who transported us in a bullet proof car and took us straight to the UN compound.  There was then a process to gain access to the compound which involved us leaving our ID documents at the gate office and the car driving through two sets of walls and gates which were heavily guarded with security staff with guns.   We were then greeted warmly by the lead and made to feel very at home.  Our first stop was a security briefing where we were handed a security pack consisting of a walkie talkie, a phone, a bullet proof vest and helmet.  Then shown our nearest bunker if it may be needed.  By now I had a real sense of the incredible danger the staff worked in and the high risks they took to do their work.

On our first day we met the 18 leaders who were all from different countries including Jordan, Somalia, Kenya, Lebanon, England, Canada, Italy and Australia and it was the first time I had worked with a team that had such a rich cultural diversity in a professional context.  I was able to see how open and embracing of each other’s differences they were because they were united by a common purpose. 

During those two days I was privileged to observe and work with individuals who had chosen to work in an extremely challenging environment away from their families and countries because of the deep meaning of their work.   They were collaborative and open with each other and had developed a sense of belonging together because of the importance of their work.  It was a real example to me of where meaning can bring the best out of teams working together.  This work was very meaningful to me, to be able to support the work that they do in Afghanistan to improve the lives of children.  

“The power of meaning” by Emily Esfahani Smith, http://emilyesfahanismith.com is a book that is based on the latest research from psychology and philosophy as well as insights from well known people demonstrating the positive impact of having meaning in life including work.   In the book there are 4 pillars to building meaning, belonging, purpose, storytelling and transcendence. In my work with leaders and teams where the focus is nearly always about being effective and sustaining high performance these 4 pillars are a useful place to start.   I believe I saw evidence of these four pillars in this team.

If you are inspired or curious to deepen the meaning of your work and you have between 10-20 years’ experience in your field., TPC Leadership is running a leadership retreat to focus on meaning and developing the legacy you want to leave.

For more information ruth.sangale@tpcleadership.com