They don’t call it the Amazing Race for nothing!

The past four days have whizzed by and I can’t believe I’m leaving this humid oasis tomorrow evening! Our week has involved lots of new experiences, many ups and downs, and hopefully some new understanding about leadership, especially in an Asian context. Our schedule has been both physically, emotionally and intellectually demanding and it’s been great to witness the transformation of the group over the past five days. Highlights of the week have been an Amazing Race, site visit to insurance company Aviva and seeing Singapore through the clouds at the highest alfresco rooftop bar in the world – 1 Altitude.

The Amazing Race began early Tuesday morning with the traditional ripping of an envelope as the 3 teams discovered how the day would unfold before them. Each team took different tactics to plan how to reach each location and complete the various tasks, and it was interesting to see the different leadership styles and teamwork strategies emerge with such diversity amongst the teams. Some planned each stop down to the street, MRT station and specific time it would take them to get there, others chose to take a more casual approach, opting to complete the tasks efficiently but still appreciate the various hubs of Singapore they found themselves exploring.

After a few months of planning on my part, it was very rewarding to see it all come together and to show 15 students the diverse, unique and cultural sides to one of my favourite countries in the world. Teams raced through seven locations: Little India, Kampong Glam (Arab Street), Clarke Quay, Raffles Hotel, Marina Bay Sands, Fort Canning Park & Sentosa completing three detours (choice of two tasks) and seven roadblocks (compulsory tasks) ranging from getting a henna tattoo, eating Singaporean Chilli Crab or swimming 50m to reach the final pitstop, a small island just off the beach of Sentosa. After 5+ hours of running around the city (or country, it’s really that small!) it was fantastic to see the way this task brought out leadership in each student, whether it be through their navigating skills, Mandarin fluency, encouraging & motivating words or athletic ability. An emerging theme through this week has been encouraging them to recognise their individual talents which allow them to be leaders, and I really hope next week allows them to find confidence in these talents they each possess.

On Wednesday night after a productive night of networking at the UTS Singapore Alumni cocktail evening, the group headed up  67 floors to the stunning 1 Altitude bar for a breath-taking view of this vast, tall and sparkling city. Themed with palm trees, deck chairs and chilled tunes, this bar has to be one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful place in Singapore to relax and take in the city skyline. Highly Recommended! 

The final highlight (at least for me) from the week so far was our first site visit to insurance company Aviva. A company spanning a period of 300 years (talk about heritage!) in Europe, yet relatively new to Asia (15 years), we spent the afternoon discussing Corporate Social Responsibility and the ways an insurance company (typically the most untrusted field amongst customers) can regain trust amongst a younger generation. It was refreshing to be able to openly discuss our ideas and opinions with some high-level executives, who appreciated our insight into a generation that’s often misinterpreted and misunderstood. CSR in particular is a relatively new but quickly growing industry, and something that often builds trust within a company or organisation. It’s definitely a field I’d be interested in exploring further as a future career possibility, but unfortunately CSR budgets amongst most companies are still very small and limited to quite exclusive teams. You can read more about Aviva’s own CSR policy here.

I’ve learnt a lot from this week with the students and have been really blessed to be able to sit in on their sessions and contribute my own experiences and understanding of leadership. I’m looking forward to consolidating these new insights when I get home and applying it to my both my working and social life. Our question for today is “How can an organisation effectively engage and retain young people?” What are your thoughts? What would keep you in a company for more than five years as someone from Generation Y, a generation that typically will have 29 jobs in their lifetime, with 1-2 years on average at each company? Or, for my Baby Boomer readers, what do you believe is needed within your workplace to keep Generation Y leaders and what is your workplace doing to initiate these changes?

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