When you wake up on Day 1 of Global Shapers more tired than you were when you went to bed, remember that you are 5,000 miles away from home, and are equally excited as you are nervous to start your day, you realize that this is probably the best opportunity of your life. You also then realize that coffee is in order.
Global Shapers is everything you’d imagine it would be: you suddenly have 99 new friends from all over the world, you’re immersed in a sea of cultural differences, and long but rewarding hours are to be expected. One thing I did not expect was having the experience as “boss”, and what that really feels like.
When the Team Captains were selected for each of the five working groups, I was proud to have had the stomach to raise my hand and volunteer as “tribute” for the #Engage Our Talent group, let alone actually being chosen as a Team Captain. Adrenaline kicked in when my fellow Global Shapers congratulated me on serving as Captain as we split up into our group kick-off meetings. I was really pumped to be given guidance on how to move the #Engage Our Talent group to success over the next few days. I entered the kick-off meeting with 20-30 faces staring at me – they looked like they were ready for guidance, as well. Lia Belilos, the Arcadis Global Human Resources Director, then gave me a look that translated into something along the lines of “…SPEECH!” I’ve never had that power before. It then occurred to me that I was in charge of this group, along with my fellow Captain David Ord. So I continued that day and evening doing just that – being in charge. That’s what leaders do, right?
Not quite. I woke up on Day 2 again tired, forgetting I was in the Netherlands, and excited yet nervous. More nervous than excited – I had to “be in charge” again today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. What did I do wrong yesterday that is making me so nervous to address my team today? After a few cups of coffee, it hit me – I’m not supposed to address my team or be in charge. My role is to guide this team to greatness, but I’m still an active participant. I may have to make decisions and be a figure of authority, but other than that, I am just part of the team. Great! So I jumped in, participated, contributed ideas, and listened. I was so impressed by how alive the team was – the attitudes kept flowing. This is the sign of a functional team, right?
Not quite yet. I woke up on Day 3 – the usual. And yet again, something was off. How can I improve the team today? Through input from my teammates and yes, more coffee, I realized a loud room full of extroverted opinions was not functional. About half of our #Engage Our Talent team could be classified as introverts – part personality trait, part cultural. As a team leader, it was my responsibility to bring out the best in every individual on the team. I had to learn to balance the team’s work ethic. And that is when the magic began. This continuous cycle of improvement for me and my team carried us to the final day, which, to be frank, we rocked.
My GS experience is something I will always treasure and can only wish upon future generations. Global Shapers acts as a vehicle to get outside your comfort zone in the personal and professional arena. It is only in that position that you can grow. And I would totally do it all over again – but only if there is coffee!
Cary Ellmers – Environmental Engineer, Boulder, CO