Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Who holds the pen to your story is a question Diana Osagie always asks our participants as they are welcomed into the Academy of Women Leadership. I am one of Diana’s ‘veterans’ (as she fondly calls us) and I have been part of her training/ coaching team since she launched the virtual training space for women leaders a few years ago, during lockdown. In the last 12 months she has also begun to offer in-person retreatsMandy Tucker and I deliver workshops at them for her. Mandy does a session on vision boarding and manifesting the future, whilst I do a session on narrative storytelling and processing the past to understand the present.

This weekend we held our second AWL retreat and we brought together another 50 women for the day, this time near Watford. It was great to reconnect with people I already knew or who I had met before – some had rebooked because they had enjoyed the first one so much! I also got to meet in person for the first time some of the people I have coached online for a while and some of the people I chat to regularly on virtual platforms but have never met. Then there were all of the new women to meet as well. It was a day full of connection, community building, compassion and courage.

Diana opened the event with her normal energy. She is a formidable force to be reckoned with and she lives her brand of being and building courageous leaders, but this time she also shared some deep vulnerable moments in her journey to model to the room that we all face adversity and navigate obstacles, she emphasised that it is how we learn from these experiences and how we bounce forwards that really matters. She reminded everyone not to try and do leadership alone, but that a strong support network is what guides you and supports you to stay on track. This resonates with me as my tribe have been there for me, through thick and thin!

In my session we started with the Simon Sinek ‘Golden Circle’ as I invited everyone to reconnect with their core purpose for doing their role, for being a leader and for joining their sector. We reflected on the power of storytelling to build connections, to develop empathy and to process our learning. We explored the difference between the story that we tell ourselves, the story that we tell others and the story that others tell about us and we reflected on how aligned they all are.

I introduced them to the Resilient Leaders Elements framework and asked them to consider if they lead with What I Do or with Who I Am. We explored the conditioning we have received about what is affirmed and what is valued in our journeys and in our identities. I then moved them into some of the #IamRemarkable territory of considering what makes them unique and asked them to consider if they are leveraging their USP enough to differentiate themselves from the crowd. After all – who wants to be a pigeon when you can be a flamingo?

We then unpacked our relationship with success and considered what was driving us and how we were creating our criteria for a successful career and a successful life. We reflected on the reality check of non-linear or squiggly careers versus the ladder that is sold to us, we discussed the gaps in our CVs and the impact time out of our careers has on our narrative but also on our confidence. We sat with the reality of the leadership journeys that men experience versus women and that white colleagues experience versus people of colour.

We closed with an activity where we created our own lifelines and captured the milestones in our personal and professional journeys that have defined us. We considered how to reclaim the narrative and reframe the story that we tell ourselves and each other, that shape the stories that others tell about us. I asked everyone to consider if they had updated their story since they had joined their current workplace. Some had worked in the same place for 5, or 10 years, some had had multiple maternity leaves, most had changed significantly in this time period but the story that defined them was the old version – we considered what the 2.0 or 3.0 version of the story needed to include. We reflected on the venn diagram of our authentic selves and how to create more alignment about who we are as leaders at home, in our communities and in our workplaces.

We finished by gifting 3 words to the buddy we had been working with. The acknowledgement of seeing the essence of each other in broad daylight, on a weekend, without the armour of work makeup, work uniform and work heels. As always this surfaced a lot of emotion as we were validated by people who had started the day with us as strangers, but who left the day with us as friends and cheerleaders of who we were, who we are and who we are becoming.

If this resonates with you and you have not yet engaged with Diana, AWL nor attended a retreat with us then you can find out more here – we would love to see you in June. It is a privilege to be part of the AWL team, a pleasure to connect with so many brilliant women leaders and an honour to be a small part of your leadership journeys.