Reflections from Week One by Benji Clarke

I have completed my first week “WIPing” and so, it is an apt moment to pause and reflect on my learning experiences.  WIP provides a vehicle for development on two levels: practical and personal.  The workshops and presentations consisted of a wealth of information that was delivered by high-flying and inspirational professionals on a diverse range of topics.  These sessions provided an excellent beginning to the practical learning process that I hope to undergo during my time in DC: furthering my knowledge on the ways in which organisations interact and pursue goals.  I also tried to relate each session to my personal learning goals as well: how could I apply these experiences to the way in which I conduct myself and pursue my own goals?

I was immediately impressed with Kevin Laudano, who runs the Accenture Federal Services compliance program.  He seemed totally relaxed and very friendly (encouraging us to remove our ties: ‘who needs ties?’) whilst also exuding the kind of authority one would expect from such an outstanding individual.  He advised us to project manage in a natural way that aligns with our personality: don’t try to be something that you are not, or it will come across as disingenuous and ultimately be ineffective.  I feel that this advice can be applied to many situations.  Kevin impressed upon me the need to adapt situations and strategies to sit comfortably alongside who we naturally are.

The next Accenture training session on negotiation skills, complimented this aforementioned sentiment.  The session was taken by Roselle Harde, the Contract Management Lead for Accenture LLP.  Amongst other things, the negotiation workshop provided a framework to evaluate personality types.  Did I have an expressive, amiable, analytic or driving social style?  It would be a gross-oversimplification to attempt to categorise an individual as solely one of these 4 styles, however, I recognised traits from each of the various styles in myself and others around me.  The exercise provided a useful way to identify key personality traits, whilst encouraging us to examine their corresponding strengths and weaknesses.  If you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you can react accordingly.  Furthermore, a good understanding of the personality types of other people can allow for more effective communication and mutually beneficial negotiations.

With regards to practical learning, I enjoyed hearing the opinions of the accomplished media panel on Thursday night.  The panel downplayed the impact of the media, specifically claiming that it would play a minimal role in deciding the outcome of the US 2012 presidential election.  The panel claimed that politically engaged citizens, those who would vote, had decided their presidential choice months ago.  Nothing short of a huge scandal or a global power shift could allow the media to have a decisive effect in changing the election.  I believe that this presents a view that fails to take into account the persuasive effects of that the media has on voters over the long term.  It may be true that individual journalists cannot create a sudden shifts in opinion at will, however the views expressed by the media acts to condition public consciousness in a meaningful way.  Furthermore, the media as the power to set the agenda through deciding which topics to focus on.  Media may not be able to control the public’s mind in the upcoming election, but it will be able to direct its gaze.

This first week has been excellent.  Everything from the speech-writing session to the tour of the Library of Congress has acted as a practical and personal learning experience.