A photographer hides behind his lens

A guest blog by Nick Sladek, MD of EssentiaMail

October 2nd, 2015

Professional photographer taking picture in city

OK, I’ll lay my cards on the table right at the start. I was not invited to come along on Farscape’s expedition to Morocco for my credentials as either an L&D director, or as the MD or CEO of a larger organisation. That said, I am a business owner, and I’ve had my fair share of business challenges and experiences in what often feels like the relentless trials of being an MD!

The real reason I was invited was that I’m a keen amateur photographer and the trip needed to be recorded. My company, EssentiaMail, work for Farscape providing marketing consultancy and email marketing services.

It feels like I have lived a vicarious relationship with ‘learning in the natural environment’ – something that Farscape often talk about with their clients. Vicarious because I understand the premise well, I write about it often in the work I do for Farscape, yet I have never experienced it.

Well now was my time.

I’m always wary of new groups of people but I had the bonus of being able to hide behind the lens, so there was no danger of being outside my comfort zone here – not on an interpersonal level anyway! I knew about the trekking and the mountains and the heat, and that felt like challenge enough for me.

And so started what was to be a memorable and unexpected learning experience for me.

Meeting up with my fellow travellers in Marrakesh, an eclectic group of business leaders, I felt a little fraudulent. Was I here for the right reasons? I only run a smaller business and while I had the MD status, does that really count?

But walking and talking, and without my beloved iPhone 6 Plus to fiddle with, the banal ‘what do you do’ chatter soon evaporated and what ensued surprised me. There really was the time to listen, encourage, cajole, and talk a little too. Our challenges seemed similar, both from a business perspective, and from a personal view point.

Sacking people – never easy. Dysfunctional group dynamics in the business – endless, it would seem! New business acquisition – the perennial challenge. Ex wives – mainly bad news. Children growing up – always too fast. And no time to think – why is there never enough time to think?

Well now there was time to think, time to reflect too. For some periods I walked alone. The scenery was beautiful, yet somehow not distracting, and for the first time I had the space to ponder about what I was doing and was it what I wanted.

Coupled with the time walking and talking, MD Ruth Moody and Commercial Director Neil Kimberley ran one-to-one coaching sessions. Without a clock or a diary – or a phone – it was easy to chat and be challenged. I found this a really helpful addition the process. They are both kind and empathetic, and they know their stuff – was I lulled into giving away too much? Perhaps!

This was an inspiring experience. Everything conspired to create a great learning environment. Interesting and open-minded people, lots of common themes, lots to talk about. Lots to listen to as well. And lots of time to ponder. And Ruth and Neil both seemed in their respective element. Consummate professionals at ease with the delegates and the unusual surroundings.

And now after the event, there really is more clarity and the feeling that I need to consistently allow myself this kind of space to think and reflect.

Thank you for the opportunity Farscape.