Here we are...two more sleeps before we depart. So many lists and so much work trying to make sure that everything is in place. So many levels of preparation! First, will the hotels and travel be accessible? It's amazing how elastic is the concept of accessibility. You can assume nothing. One location assured us that there would be an "accessible shuttle" to get us around the site. But when we asked for details, they clarified that the shuttle was a mini-van....minus any ramp. So......how would someone who cannot climb stairs, and who uses a mobility scooter climb up into the seats? Hmmmmm. And don't get me started on toilets! One of the things that I discovered on an intense cross-Canada swing back in 2004, not all accessible toilets are created equal. Some are kindergarten height ---I almost missed a flight in Saskatchewan because the seat was so low, I could not get up. Some are so high you have climb up to sit on them. Some have grab bars on either side, some have them in behind (just figure that one out!), some have none at all. In Germany, some came equipped with a trapeze-like rope structure suspended from the ceiling...something designed by Cirque du Soleil?
So for me, advance planning is critical, and I cannot rely on what the hotel tells me. I have learned from experience...ask for photos! It gives me a better sense of what I'm in for, and how to prepare. As always, being clear about your needs is essential...as is being polite and persistent.
In addition to the accessibility planning, of course there is a ton of planning for my office. Are we clear on what needs to get done? How are my boss's comfort levels? She works so hard, and she is so supportive, but I don't want this to be a burden for her. This kind of leadership program inevitably means extra work for everyone else. You have to manage your guilt. You have to be able to let go and permit others to take things on. I have a great team, and great confidence in them and I know they will do just fine. I am going to make my best efforts to disconnect from the office, so that I can really take advantage of the program, and so that my staff have the chance to take advantage of my absence and do their own leadership development.
Then there is the home front. I grew up with a dad who was a survey pilot. He was often away for huge chunks of time...up to 6 months. I saw what a toll it placed on my mum. I swore that if I got married, there would not be this kind of disruption. So when Terry and I married, we made a deal....there would be no more than 5 nights apart at a given time. We have managed quite well over the last 22 years....only when I went to New Zealand for work in 2007 did I exceed our limit (by 2 nights)...but 3 weeks? I feel terribly guilty, and yet he encouraged me to go on the program when it was offered....which kind of adds to the guilt. In my experience, it is always harder for the person who stays home. (Plus, I'm worried that my plants won't survive :-)
Thank goodness for Skype!
I am really excited....I am quivering with anticipation. The program is very intense. There are many many meetings with an array of people...former and current politicians, community leaders, academics, journalists, captains of industry...all have agreed to meet with us to help us gain insight into their worlds. It is very humbling. They are being so generous.
I hope to make the very best of it. To learn from every thing that happens, including the inevitable hiccups along the way. There are some great people participating with me, so we will also have the chance to learn from each other. And in the end, I hope that it will make me a better leader.