Back: Danielle Naranjo Cedeno, Lorna Clarke, Ryan Brown, Jody Thomas, Anna McKinven, Llewellyn Batson, Chloe Nicholls
Front row: Kerry O’Connor, Sarah Leach, Gareth Morgan
Councils from around Australia and New Zealand send teams of five or six members and a mentor, to take part in the state-based regional round of the Challenge.
‘I got involved in the Challenge as I was looking for an opportunity to gain leadership experience and build a network of contacts around Council. I achieved both of those, but I got a lot more out of the Challenge; I was surprised at how quickly relationships were built within the team and by how much those relationships impacted team outputs. The relationships built with the Brisbane Gryphons over the relatively short time we were together, are as strong as those I have with colleagues I’ve worked with for years. As a result, I am focusing on how I interact with others to build better relationships and deliver better business outcomes in my day-to-day role.’ Ryan Brown, Brisbane Gryphons
The winners from each state and New Zealand go on to participate in the Australasian Finals. The National finals included a pre-Challenge task made up of a community consultation and video – you can find this year’s pre-Challenge tasks on our YouTube channel – as well as a team introduction at the National Congress Welcome Reception. The final day consists of assigned, timed-tasks that simulate challenges a council might face across a range of areas, aimed at developing individual and team competencies. Examples of the tasks include an assessment & re-design of community facilities, HR meetings, trade delegation pitches, risk assessments, community event recommendations, council reports, change-management strategies, and engagements with rate-payers or resident groups. A judging panel provides detailed and targeted reports for workplace debriefing and the application of learning outcomes.
‘At first, it was uncomfortable completing a task where I had no content knowledge. But this got easier throughout the program because I focused more on what the team process was and which of my key skills enabled me to contribute to/complete the task.
Working on tasks completely outside of my work area – where I had no content knowledge – was a great challenge. It helped me to recognise skills I didn’t realise I have – and as a result, I can incorporate those skills more effectively now into my regular job. The experience has helped me question how I work and how I can do things better/more efficiently/more effectively.’ Anna McKinven, Brisbane Gryphons
‘I don’t like public speaking, but now have the confidence to speak in public as long as I have a good understanding of the subject.’ Jody Thomas, Brisbane Gryphons
According to Brisbane Gryphons team mentor, Sarah Leach, Principal Officer of Infrastructure Communication at Brisbane City Council, and former Challenger, ‘Winning the national finals has given all the members of the team a huge confidence boost and a real motivation to bring their learnings back to the workplace and apply them in a real-life context.
I was in the ‘Connect 6’ team in the 2016 Management Challenge. I got so much out of it, and so wanted to be a part of the Challenge again this year. It was a completely different experience being a mentor. I used my coaching and mentoring skills to help guide the participants through the process, but I also stepped back and let them experiment, navigate, make mistakes and learn for themselves along the way. For me, being a participant led to a great deal of professional and personal growth – and in turn, it was great to see this year’s participants go through their own journey.
Some of our team members had met each other briefly, or crossed paths at some point, but all came from different branches in Council, which meant getting to know one another and adapting to each other’s work and communication styles was one of the first challenges the team had to work through.
I asked Sarah if she noticed a change in how the team worked together over the timeframe of the Challenge. ‘Absolutely. At the start of the program, the team was essentially a group of total strangers. They had to get to know one another, identify each other’s strengths, build trust and learn how to communicate. As they spent more time together and worked through different tasks, they found their own groove and style. By the end of the program they were an incredibly high-performing team, which really shone through on the day of the Challenge finals in Hobart.
‘Throughout the program, both as a mentor and participant,’ says Sarah, ‘you’re challenged to think strategically, step outside of your comfort zone and apply your skills to a range of situations, beyond your regular experience in your day-to-day role. Post-Challenge I have been pushing myself to approach tasks differently, challenge my assumptions and apply a more strategic framework to my decisions.’
‘For me, being part of the Challenge was about a personal journey of building my self-confidence, and backing myself more. However, I also got a new appreciation of team building skills. And I'll approach teamwork differently now, I think. As a manager, I’m keen to put some real-life situations to my team and let them come up with the solutions, rather than me dictating the process to get the required outcome.’ Lorna Clarke, Brisbane Gryphons
‘Being a part of this team, and the success it had, will definitely have a longer-term impact. As well as great personal and professional growth, the Challenge provided a great opportunity to build our networks across the whole organisation, as well as with other local government representatives we met at the state and national finals, to share knowledge and discuss issues facing local government around the country,’ said Sarah.