Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Brilliance, The Huddles, The Karaoke and a Hair Brush... that’s Aspire !

We have all attended workshop/events where a group of women get together and work on their self confidence, life goals, business/life objectives, etc. Many of them are really very good and productive, others not so much. And let’s face it, they can also get a tiny bit boring and repetitious.

So when I received an email from Aspire Trailblazing Women (check them out at www. asking if I would be interested in being a ‘host/facilitator ‘ at a two day Reimagine Leadership event, my initial reaction was ‘same old, same old’. However, I had been mentoring on behalf of the Aspire Foundation for 18 months and this was a unique opportunity to work alongside the woman (Dr Sam Collins) behind this remarkable organization, so I figured "Why not?" 

The night before the event, I did wonder what possessed me to sign up, particularly as the meet up time was scheduled for the ungodly hour of 7am. 

On a cold very early morning

Still on the 28th January at exactly 6.59 am, there I was at 200 Aldersgate in London, holding on to a coffee cup like it was oxygen - while praying that I had made the right decision. 

By 7.15 am, I was sitting in a circle where I met the other 9 hosts (or “huddle hosts” as we decided to call ourselves), the 5 volunteers and also Dr Sam Collins and Caroline Dawson from Aspire, the organisers and facilitators of the event. Apart from Sam, I did not know any of the other women; to be perfectly honest, from where I was sitting most of them seemed very self-confident and successful; it was all a bit daunting and nerve wrecking. 
As the introductions were being made, the phrase ‘what the hell am I doing here?’ was a recurring thought and somehow I don’t think it was just me having that thought. However, once circle time was over, we did have a better idea (thanks to Sam and Caroline’s organisational and motivational skills) of what we had to do and nerves were replaced with a sense of excitement and anticipation. 

By 8am, we were ready to meet and greet the women who would be attending the event - eighty of them in all. 

9am and its Show Time (...Manic Monday style)

Everyone, women, huddle hosts and volunteers, were seated and waiting nervously for the event to begin. You could sense the trepidation and anxiety that was circling the room; no one really knew what to expect and even worse, exactly what was expected of them. Suddenly music started blaring and along comes Sam using a hairbrush as a microphone - singing and dancing to the song “Manic Monday”. Like most of the women in the room, I started laughing and at that moment, I just knew this event was going to be an amazing, if unpredictable, two days.

It was awesome and there were many Ah-ha moments

The women came from different backgrounds, countries and cultures, diverse professions and careers, young and not so young, some were in a relationship, some single and some were divorced; some were mothers, or step mothers or god mothers or had never been mothers at all.
Throughout the two days, Sam and Caroline led and facilitated “Reimagine Leadership” workshops and we talked, discussed, learnt, laughed, cried, shared, found and gave compassion, understood and were understood, acceptance was given naturally, without judgement. Each of us could identify with each other’s experiences; there was a familiarity in the stories being shared, recognition of an emotion, a feeling, and so many times ‘I know just what you mean’ was heard throughout the room. 

There were hundreds of ‘Ah ha’ moments and many women jumped head first out of their comfort zones as Sam and Caroline skilfully and expertly led everyone through a series of leadership exercises and tasks that were original, rewarding and fun.  

On Being a Huddle Host

Being a huddle host at Aspires’ Reimagine Leadership event was an extraordinary experience and I am so proud to have been a part of it. Experiencing first hand Sam’s unique ability to motivate and inspire women to greatness was extraordinary. Also in two short days, all the huddle hosts and volunteers bonded and connected with each other. Far from being intimidating, these were all brilliant, smart, kind, compassionate women. By the end of the first day, we felt like we had known each other all our lives. A cliché I know, but during those two days, that kind of experience was commonplace: inexplicable yet at the same time made perfect sense. 

Tracy, a fellow Huddle Host said about her experience “I attended Aspire's recent Reimagine Leadership workshop as a host and facilitator, being asked to come armed with two inspiring real life stories to share with the participants. Well, I hope that a few of the participants gained some inspiration from my stories, but I what I can definitely say is that I sure as hell got inspiration from them. Everybody was so open and supportive; the event so well run, it was an experience well worth the investment of two days hard work. Personally, it has helped me to sharpen my focus on my future journeys in both career and life, given me the confidence to aim higher and introduced me to some amazing women, some of which I have a feeling are going to become lifelong friends. And that was despite my appalling Frank Sinatra impression in the karaoke celebration at the end” Tracy Woods, IT Director.

It’s a wrap.  

Many thanks and cheers   
To Sam and Caroline for organising and hosting such an awe-inspiring and exciting event - many lives changed for the better because of those two days
To all the lovely women who attended, your courage and brilliance is impressive and you made the two days very special.
And to my fellow huddle hosts and volunteers, I am inspired and humbled by you all.

A word about Aspire (  
Aspire is the brainchild of Dr Sam Collins and for over ten years has successfully developed female leaders and the role models of the future through coaching, leadership development, seminars and workshops.

* Photographs have been reproduced with permission from Aspire 

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