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Africa

Leadership and lying down to photograph elephants

Leadership and lying down to photograph elephants

by Moyra Mackie on April 1, 2016

It’s a beautiful spring day in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  We’ve just got back from our early morning safari drive. We began in the barely-light crisp cold, swaddled in fleece and thick woollen blankets.  We return under clear blue skies, our faces upturned to the emerging heat of the sun, our hearts full of the raw beauty of the landscape and animals we’ve encountered.

With the smell of lunch in the air and the sound of the crickets starting up in the bush we spot a dozen or more elephants making their way in a graceful line to the waterhole, fifty or so metres away.  The professional photographers in the group, grab lenses and tripods to capture the playful babies and the protective mothers gathering at the water’s edge.

I’ve come armed with only a smartphone, which I’m realising is not at all equipped for long distances.

There are many ways of seeing the same thing

So I lie on the wooden decking, near the fire pit.  I tune out the other guests who are amused by my photographic technique.

As I am in Africa to research my leadership retreat, Campfire Conversations, capturing the fire and the seats around it is also important to me. It’s not a perfect image – I miss the fact that a tree branch cuts through the herd and the camera can’t pick out the individuality of each elephant.

Yet we have a choice as to how we see things

From where I’m lying I can get a sense of perspective about how close the animals are to us; I can show the relationship between them and us.

I would never have become aware of this – never thrown myself down on the floor – if it had not been for my friend, and professional photographer, Rebecca Fennell.  Before leaving for Zimbabwe, Bex had given me a crash course in how to get great pictures with a smartphone.  One of the biggest lessons she passed on to me was:

“Most people just point their camera at the subject, they don’t think about how they should best relate to what they’re photographing.  Get down level with your subject.  Think about angles and light and what you want to show with that image.”

She showed me how different the bottles and glasses on the table in front of us looked, if taken from a more thoughtful height, paying attention to where the natural light was.

Photography is the art of paying attention

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

by Moyra Mackie on March 7, 2015

Recently a coaching client told me:

“I’m really trying to be more collaborative but I can see it in their eyes; they don’t trust me.  They remember the old me – how can things get better if we can’t get beyond this?”

This is not the first client who has found it hard to change because others still remember the past

Which brings to mind my favourite Tony Robbins quote:

“Everybody’s got a past.  The past does not equal the future unless you live there.”

It strikes me that any kind of change – whether inside you, within teams or even between whole nations – involves the ability to let go of the past.  I think change requires forgiveness.

What I learnt about forgiveness by going home

It was April 1989 and I had been looking out of the airplane window, ever since we crossed the Zambezi River from Zambia into Zimbabwe.  It was autumn and the bush below was losing its summer green, revealing small settlements, the occasional herd of elephant and long, straight gunmetal grey roads breaking up the red earth stretching all the way to the horizon.

As the plane bounced down onto the runway, I realised that I had been away for half my life.

But I felt that I was coming home 

Walking across the tarmac I wondered what lay ahead. I was a white woman with a British passport – I potentially represented colonial white privilege.

Was the past another country?

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Turning two, something new

Turning two, something new

by Moyra Mackie on February 21, 2015

Two years ago I published my first post as the Coach with the Green Hat.

Well, being an anxious over-achiever I launched with two posts, one about the beginning of my studies at Ashridge and the other about the (non-existent) differences between Leadership and Management. That latter article is still one of the most read posts on this site.

Since then, I have been grateful for the support of three other great writers and friends, Paul Jenkins, Abigail Hunt and John Stepper, who have encouraged me to “keep shipping” and keep putting myself into my writing.

It is always fascinating to see which posts garner the most support and where they get shared.  I’m also humbled that three of the other top five most read posts – on feedback,  listening and presenting  – have found an enthusiastic audience, despite the presence of millions of other articles on the topic floating around the web.

The other post in the top five, is the one I feel the most connected to and that is one I wrote  in September, following a trip back to Zimbabwe, the place my soul still calls home.

This post was inspired by a real-life story of courage, leadership and emotional intelligence when a Zimbabwe guide called Nic Polenakis stood his ground in front of a very agitated elephant.
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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Close encounters with elephant:  A lesson in leadership

Close encounters with elephant: A lesson in leadership

by Moyra Mackie on September 20, 2014

“The role of a great guide is to get clients as close to the animals without fear.”

Said the man on the right of this picture as he described Nic Polenakis, (centre above) a Zimbabwe guide selected by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “10 Great Tour Guides Who Can Transform Your Trip”.

Watching Nic in action certainly transformed my trip, giving a demonstration of leadership in action

Zimbabwe guides hold Professional Guides Licences, one of the most difficult, extensive and well-respected qualifications of its type in Africa.  Qualifying takes 4-5 years, including 2 years’ apprenticeship with another pro guide and a 2 day written exam.  The pass rate is around 5%.

I confess that in the moment that we came across that bull elephant standing between us and our tented room, the only thing that mattered was how Nic handled the tension – ours and the elephant’s.

Leadership is about how you show up

I had only met Nic an hour before, but I trusted him implicitly.  His rigorous training and extensive experience gave him the courage to handle our fear. He easily modelled the way he needed us to respond. read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Dealing with stress: Africa unplugged

Dealing with stress: Africa unplugged

by Moyra Mackie on September 1, 2014

In a few days’ time I will be sitting on that seat, by that fire.

In a few days’ time I will be back in Zimbabwe, the land of my birth.

As I listen to the traffic outside my office window, it’s almost impossible to imagine sitting round a campfire in a place that is only accessible by boat or plane.  A place where rush hour means the dawn and dusk ritual of animals coming down to the river to feed.

A place without the internet or a reliable mobile phone connection

I realise that this will be the first time for a very long time that  I will really and truly be unplugged.

In 1989 I spent six months backpacking through Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town.  No phone, no web, no social media.  There were weeks at a time when my family back home had no idea who I was travelling with or even which country I was in.

In 1989 I took that freedom for granted.  Now I worry about not being able to speak to my kids or check my email for a few days.

Which got me thinking about what being connected and available 24/7 does to me, does to us

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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The hippo, the salesman and the significance of shoes

The hippo, the salesman and the significance of shoes

by Moyra Mackie on November 8, 2013

This week I’ve been asking myself how bad things have to get before we ask for help.

I’m thinking of all the people who struggle with a relationship without seeking counselling. Or those who wrestle with a problem at work and try and solve it on their own, rather than ask for help from managers or peers, or even a coach. Brené Brown, in her research into relationships, discovered we have a strong social imperative to appear strong and avoid feeling vulnerable.  Yet she believes:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Which reminds me of an extraordinary day I spent back in Zimbabwe

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Ending or beginning.  How do you see change?

Ending or beginning. How do you see change?

by Moyra Mackie on July 26, 2013

 “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” ~ T.S Eliot

And this is the end where I start from

At the age of 10 I helped my family to sell everything we owned and almost everything we treasured.

It took hours for me, my brother and sister and my mum and dad, to carry the contents of our house outside and arrange them neatly on the lawn.

I remember seeing the dinner service my parents had been given as a wedding gift, my mum’s wedding dress and assortment of hats, handbags and shoes.  I remember the beautiful walnut drinks cabinet with mirrored inlay and our wooden trunk of toys.

I can still see the people from Victoria Falls (pop. 16,000) coming to wander round our garden; inspecting those things which had so little monetary value, but meant so much to the five of us who named the price and took the Rhodesian dollars.

Then we packed up our lives in eight metal trunks and began the journey south by rail to Cape Town and north by sea to Southampton.

Our family began our new life in England on July 4th 1977

My parents had four children under the age of 11, one thousand Rhodesian dollars, no work and no credit history.

It was quite a beginning

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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