Photo: Visiting Niagara Falls in my sheepskin coat
It was a time of firsts. First trip on a plane. First trip without my parents. First time I had seen my father cry. First time going overseas. First time having to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. First day of adulthood. That hot day in January 1981 was a day of many firsts.
Not that I realized the significance at the time, but it was to change the way I looked at the world and the way I reflected on my childhood.
I was a Rotary Exchange student from Condobolin in central NSW going for 12 months to stay with two families from Trumbull Connecticut in the USA. Country towns have a great record supporting their youth to experience other cultures and I was fortunate to be selected.
But now, many years on, I am reflecting on its importance in changing me or setting my character.
“I think you need the full length coat,” said my father at the Lucknow Skin shop. “It’s so cold over there that you will need a sheepskin coat. It’s the only thing that will keep you warm”.
I remember it was about 35 degrees Celsius and this coat must have weighed many kilos. I struggled into it and did up the four dark wooden and leather toggle buttons. I was hot. It was heavy and I was so emotionally raw that my mouth was coated in cotton.
“It’s a bit heavy don’t you think Dad?,” I asked cottonly.
“Better heavy than cold. We’ll take it thanks,” he said to the sales assistance and that was it. A small fortune was exchanged for this symbol of Australian ingenuity and agriculture (not to mention 80s fashion). I was taking a symbol of Australian agriculture, literally the sheep’s back, with me.
One day I was a farming kid from Condo in central western NSW and the next I was flying out of Sydney international airport for the adventure of a lifetime, going to the USA.
“Great coat,” said the girl beside me as we settled into our airline seats. “I’m going to get a warm coat when I get there, until then I’ve brought my old parka.”
I shoved my coat up into the luggage compartment where it refused to fold or compress, which says more about the long-term impacts of a life growing up in rural Australia – where your underlying values and beliefs often refuse to be stashed away and compressed.
Embracing your own sheepskin coat
Thinking about this story made me realize I love talking to people. I love finding out where people come from, how long they have lived somewhere, what they like to do in their spare time and what family they have. Talk shows me what is important to you and what we have in common. Do we share a country upbringing, love of netball, renovating or have children?
Many business leaders embark on years of study, moving to large impersonal cities and big companies, working overseas, taking on mentors to mold and shape them. We often hear people thank those who influence them in their careers. But underlying these external influences are you – your DNA and upbringing.
In business the best business leaders are always described as ‘authentic’. They are also great communicators who are not afraid to be human and open in their approach to business. I look at the leaders in sustainability and community and they all give thanks to their upbringing for making them the person that they are today.
For the majority of leaders bringing their personal life into the business world is daunting and terrifying. This is a normal reaction, but it is what your team wants to see. They want to see your underlying values that drive you. They want to hitch their wagons to a company where there is a marriage between personal and organizational values and actions.
So I will always be that young girl from Condobolin who dragged that sheep skin coat around America just as you will always be thanks to the influences in your formative years.
So if you want to align your corporate and personal values, contact The Crosbie Collective today and we can show you how.