Developing leadership skills at Macquarie

Sarah Hardie, our Director of Development, and Lucinda Meredith, our Progression Manager, write about how Streetwise Opera performers developed leadership skills while working with participants of the Macquarie Director Programme:

Streetwise Opera are a long-term strategic grant partner of the Macquarie Group Foundation and in 2018 we delivered a project for the Macquarie Director Programme for the fourth time, giving associate directors the opportunity to exchange skills with our participants to enrich the leadership journeys they were undertaking on the programme.

The project comprised an introduction and orientation session, which included all of the Macquarie associate directors attending a Streetwise Opera workshop; followed by four sessions at Macquarie headquarters in London.

The project is designed to address the needs of both groups: Macquarie sssistant directors and Streetwise Opera performers.

The six key leadership goals the Macquarie Director Programme works to advance are: the ability to improve team performance; drive direction; build talent; unlock collaboration; inspire people; and to build influence. Streetwise Opera is particularly suited to furthering the goals of building talent and collaboration. We were tasked with challenging perceptions, pushing boundaries and taking the associate directors out of their comfort zone.

Streetwise Opera performers focused on developing project design and presentation skills and were able to design, plan and present projects around the key areas of; business, philanthropy and arts. Many Streetwise Opera performers also volunteer within their community - taking an opportunity to give back to communities that they have been supported by at different times.

The sessions were a lively and focused creative opportunity for participants – often filled with laughter, conversation and collaboration. This lively, fun environment removed barriers to learning and structured and differentiated sessions guided participants to successfully develop; IT, public speaking, research, budgeting skills through designing project briefs around themes of interest to the Streetwise Opera performers.

At the end of the two month project the Macquarie associate directors and Streetwise Opera performers reflected positively on their experiences. Macquarie associate directors described the satisfaction in being part of the Streetwise Opera participants’ journey and taking part in something so different to their everyday work and lives. And Streetwise Opera performers described the benefits of being in a focused, structured, supportive environment where they are able to develop new skills and explore their project development plans.

A Macquarie associate director summed up the experience:

“I was enormously fortunate to have the opportunity to work closely with a number of performers from Streetwise Opera, for a series of 2-hour long workshops, where we were tasked with some group project activities. During these workshops, I was encouraged to step-out of my usual routine and comfort zone, and get to know a variety of bold and warm personalities, in a fun and inclusive environment. I was able to gain a valuable insight into the lives of those who have experienced many things which I haven’t and also see how the challenges they’ve each faced have given them strength in a range of ways, most notably positivity and mindfulness. I was blown-away by the enthusiasm, confidence and authenticity of the performers and found the whole experience extremely fulfilling, especially when I saw what they had got out of the programme themselves. I was also able to learn things about myself and develop my techniques in presentation and teamwork, which was a bonus. I’m confident that my fond memories of the workshops will stick with me for many years, not only because of the unique activities we undertook, but because of the wonderful people I met along the way. I’m so glad that I took part in this programme and am extremely grateful for the opportunity, made possible through the hard work of the remarkable Streetwise team, who designed and facilitated the sessions.”

A Streetwise Opera performer was equally positive about the experience:

“What I most valued was it’s a whole new experience working in this way – collaborative effort I really enjoyed - the contrast between us and them was pretty evenly matched in the end – corporates versus the creatives. I learnt a lot – seeing how groups work in action – it gave streetwise people a bit of a boost to show the strengths they have when lined up against the corporates. I felt after session 1 the Streetwise performers gained confidence as we realised “we are ok” (we have something to share).”

We know from our experience that this valuable opportunity continues to benefit participants in the years to come as the confidence building, skills building and creative problem solving will undoubtedly be applied to real life opportunities.