The theme of this year’s conference was Building strong foundations. Two keynote speakers, Sir John Kirwan and Ngahi Bidois, provided delegates with ideas and resources on how to deal with change and lead through the fire services reform—thereby building stronger brigades and communities.
Sir John Kirwan
“Wellness is every day”
Sir John’s knighthood recognised much more than his contribution to sport—it acknowledged his services to mental health, having being at the forefront of a public awareness campaign about depression.
John inspired Conference attendees as he openly shared his story about depression. He had three key messages:
- Depression is an illness, not a weakness
- Suicide is not an option
- We must change, and we must change continuously.
He observed that change is hard—and communication is hard. But we have to embrace change. John had a challenge for us all: “What’s mental wellness for you? How do you deal with the trauma you see during the time you give as volunteers?”
John said when we feel unwell, we need to talk about it. With everyone going through great change in fire services, we need to talk about how we feel.
“It’s about wellness every day”, he said, “Look after yourself every single day and slow down to appreciate things you enjoy.”
John added that leaders may have a fear of being seen as vulnerable. “The greatest leadership you can show is sharing your vulnerabilities,” he said.
John stressed the need for positivity when dealing with change. He asked us all to get up and dance to OMC’s How Bizarre and give him 400 smiles.
It didn’t take long before the smiles and laughter broke out with everyone up and dancing! That’s Past President Russell Anderson boogieing alongside John on the stage.
Following his presentation, John offered to answer questions on any topic. A queue of delegates quickly formed and John spent considerable time with each individual. Thank you John for sharing your story of hope and dealing with change.
“Give it one more try”
Ngahi achieved his life goals by the age of 26, only to discover he knew little of his own Māori culture. He retrained in the education sector which led him to teaching at a Māori total immersion primary school and lecturing in tertiary education.
Ngahi’s passion is now helping organisations develop their people as leaders. “I believe the most important resource in any organisation is their people,” he said. “Leadership starts with looking at the person in the mirror.”
He quoted a favourite Māori proverb: Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini—my achievements are not mine alone, but those of many.
Prior to Conference, Ngahi had visited Ngongotaha Volunteer Fire Brigade. He impressed delegates with his insights into the work our people do and the changes coming up in our sector.
Ngahi stressed the need for engaging people and (with some pointers on this greeting including keeping our eyes open!) encouraged us to hongi those nearby who we did not know. “A hongi is about engagement,” he said.
Asking “What is your safe place?”, Ngahi emphasised: “Know your safe place, know engagement, know influence, know leadership.
“As leaders, be the change for the people in your community,” he said. “I encourage you to ask yourself ‘what is the one most important thing to do’?”
Ngahi’s final challenge to us was: “Be the best leader you can be. Are you ready?”
Francis Boag, CFO Ngongotaha Volunteer Fire Brigade, greeted Ngahi after his inspiring presentation.
“Full of mana (prestige) and ihi (power), Ngahi’s messages have inspired me to facilitate change and growth in our brigade through positive influence,” Francis says. “To encourage them to seize all opportunities and always be willing to ‘give it one more try’.”
For more about Conference visit www.ufba.org.nz/events/2016_ufba_138th_annual_conference
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