Young Achievers Programme: A Year in Review

The year’s final YA Programme session took place on 26 November, facilitated by Kate Lax (Ant in charge of Client Services and YA) at Afro Ant HQ.
All Young Achievers who attended at least one session in 2016 were invited to attend the year’s final session. This report briefly summarises the discussions held during the session.

The 2016 Programme:
This year’s YA Programme included six session, starting with “Operating with integrity: Ethics in the modern working world” (Session 1, 20 February) and concluding with “A Year in Review” (Session 6, 26 November). The second session, Navigating the Corporate Landscape: Surviving in the Modern Working World (16 April 2016) was facilitated by Rachelle Meyer, a heart Ant, described as “a genius in her field”.

This year’s most popular session was Management vs. Leadership: The great debate (Session 3, 11 June). The next two sessions followed a very different, and successful, format, facilitating learning from fellow participants’ professional and personal stories, experiences and lessons – The definition of Success: sharing stories and defining goals (30 July) and Problem Solving in the Workplace: Real life stories (1 October).

Young Achievers’ Personal Value:
Participants valued the YA sessions for a range of reasons, including that there is always something to learn and that it is fun, being both “me time” and an opportunity to get to know people and socialise with other Ants and colleagues outside of the formal work environment.

The sessions were also described as an opportunity for Ants – from headquarters and from the field – to share and get to know each other better, in a different context. Socialising was described as ‘really nice’ and was further noted as enabling HQ Ants to provide better support to field Ants and opening communication channels. Similarly, participants identified the sessions as an opportunity for networking and relationship-building.

Participants generally agreed that they wanted “more of the same” in 2017, continuing with small groups (no more than 10 people) albeit with more field Ants, noting that “It works well. The engaging, talking, sharing mustn’t go away.” The variety of topics was appreciated and including an outside expert, with lots of experience (such as Rachelle, Session 2), as a facilitator was seen as valuable and worth repeating in future. Other ideas for future sessions include: exploring ‘personality types’, notably the popular colour personality test; undertaking fun outings; celebrating talents; and revisiting the topics of ‘problem solving’ and particularly ‘goal setting’.

Asked to list one thing that participants had learnt, took away or remembered from YA 2016 sessions, responses included:

  • Defining success. “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from, what you are going through; if you have a set goal you can achieve anything if you have set objectives on how to achieve that goal”
  • “Everyone has something to offer. Even if you aren’t helping everyone in the room, your answer could be helping at least one person” … “you may have the answer to THEIR particular problem”
  • “Everyone is in the same boat. When one person shared a story about their manager (who wasn’t a leader) then everyone else could relate, add, collaborate. You are not alone”… We think we are “alone” but we are struggling with universal problems.

Young Achievers’ Elevator Speech:
The session spent some time interrogating the current blurb for the YA Programme to develop an ‘elevator speech’ that briefly responds to three prompts relating to purpose, aims and value. Kate introduced the group to the “curse of knowledge” concept, exemplified by “Tappers and Listeners” study (see The Curse of Knowledge), to highlight the need to communicate a clear message in simple, concrete language. This is the result:

The Young Achievers Programme aims to provide a learning opportunity to Ants who are starting out in their current profession, are looking to move into a new area, or simply want to focus on their own development.
It evolved from our intern programme and includes an on-going series of workshops designed to better support our Young Achievers in their working world and give them a chance to grow their professional brand.
At Afro Ant we are passionate about the growth and development of our Ants and this is just one of the ways we support this.

Creating a mainframe for success:
Kate presented a summary of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (Stephen R. Covey, see 7 Habits), listed below.

  • Independence Habits (self-mastery):
  1. Be Proactive (Choice)
  2. Begin with the End in Mind (Vision)
  3. Put First Things First (Leadership and Management; Priorities)
  • Interdependence Habits (working with others):
  1. Think Win-Win (Mutual benefit; Value and Respect; Integrity; Maturity; Abundance mentality)
  2. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood (Communication; Empathic listening)
  3. Synergise (Creative cooperation process; Combine people’s strengths)
  • Continuous Improvements Habit
  1. Sharpen the Saw (Self-renewal – physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual); and
  • The 8th Habit®: From Effectiveness To Greatness
  1. Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.

The group considered the rhetorical question of “What’s in my bucket?”, each challenged to explore ‘what do I have?’ (e.g. personal strengths and assets, support network) and ‘what do I need?’. Ideally the Young Achievers Programme is something to be included in Ants’ buckets!
Anecdotally, the fun fact presented was that the word ‘ATTITUDE’ equals 100% when assigning each letter of the alphabet a numerical value (i.e. A=1, B=2 etc).

The Young Achievers Problem solving approach:
Considering the challenge of approaching problems in the ‘real world’, seven Steps to Success were briefly considered:

  1. Define the problem / understand the problem
  2. Don’t make assumptions
  3. Retrograde analysis
  4. Creative / analytical thinking
  5. Slow down
  6. Are there other ways to do this?
  7. Who else should be involved in this solution? – Influencers

Planning for the 2017 YA: What does the Programme look like next year?
“I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.” – Walt Disney

proposed-2017-datesThe group considered the YA format and reached general consensus that Saturday sessions (10h00-13h00), with up to 10 participants and with a semi-structured but flexible agenda, remained the best format.
The inclusion of guest speakers – outside, affable experts with lots of experience – was identified as valuable and worthwhile going forward.