A year ago I completed a year-long course run by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. This course brought together 18 IT and library managers from universities across the UK and Ireland, made us look at who we are, what we value and how we work, and then gave us lots of pointers for how to lead our teams and projects more effectively.
This week we all gathered for a reunion and for meetings of our "action learning sets". These sets are groups who help each other with problems we encounter in our jobs. Sometimes these are practical problems; sometimes they are about relationships with other people; sometimes we just ask the others to help us understand our own thoughts and feelings.
I'm blogging about this because everyone in my action learning set has found it hugely valuable to have someone we can talk to who will give us their honest response, in an atmosphere of trust. The fact that we are all from different institutions mean that our reactions are not tinged by concerns about how we will interact outside the group. This trust allows us to challenge each other as well as to provide mutual support: we don't get an easy ride from the other members. Our meetings tend to be both intense and exhilirating.
I've found it very worthwhile to have someone I can talk to like this, outside of work and family. Several other people have also told me that they have benefited from mentors of some form or another. So if an opportunity arises for anyone reading this blog to get this sort of advice and feedback, I'd definitely recommend that you give it a go.