Senior leaders on Moroccan trek experience the impact that the natural environment has on learning

January 23rd, 2016

Farscape recently took six senior leaders from top global businesses to Morocco for an expedition. The aim of the trip was to demonstrate how inspirational and challenging environments can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and depth of learning.

The delegates, including the Head of Leadership Development for EDF Energy and the Senior Manager for Strategic Content, Human Resources, for Sony Europe, trekked for six hours a day amongst Jebel Saghro’s beautiful mountain ranges. But the experience was not all about pushing themselves physically. They each received in-depth, robust one-to-one coaching to enable them to reflect on their own leadership style, as well as their challenges and aspirations.

During the trek Ian Moss, Head of Leadership Development at EDF Energy, shared his thoughts on how the environment was impacting on his learning experience:

“Where would I get a chance to speak to someone for four and a half hours? Where would I get a chance to spend that time with somebody of that quality and just talk about stuff that interests both of us? So it was fantastic, I really liked that. I think the environment gives us the opportunity to have those talks. I think people are far more honest and probably quite creative too. So I think the environment is really what is making all of this happen. If we were stuck in classroom somewhere it just wouldn’t happen.”

Many leaders state that in order for them to learn and develop they need time and space away from the office for reflection – something that often seems unattainable. Nicola Dunne, Ex- Assistant CEO & Chief Procurement Officer at UK Shared Business Services Ltd (UK SBS), and Morocco delegate agrees:

“I think business leaders spend so much of their time on the hamster wheel, they don’t take the time out to reflect, to think about some of the subjects we’ve been thinking about.”

Explaining the impact that she had seen from getting away from the office, into an inspirational environment, she said:

“Suddenly I can see some of [the leaders here] saying it’s okay to reflect. It’s okay to say we’re vulnerable.

It’s been phenomenal. I think you offer something really, really special and unique and I’ve never seen or heard anything like this before. I think it’s an excellent, excellent way for leaders to really start to think about who they are and how they lead. I’m not sure I’d want to do it in any other environment.”

Ruth Moody, Managing Director of Farscape Development, said this about the reason behind taking leaders through an experience like this:

“A journey like this is challenging – physically and emotionally. This challenge enables leaders to learn about their personal impact and responses when under pressure. But it also provides isolation and space away from the demands of the office, where they can reflect on the important questions and issues within their business. This, combined with time spent discussing challenges and ideas with other business leaders, creates a powerful learning experience that delivers long-lasting and meaningful change.

“I believe this expedition showed the importance of leaders having space for reflection, away from the normal workplace. It also enabled our delegates to see how vulnerability and self-compassion is a route into creativity, innovation and change for businesses.”