SIETAR EUROPA DUBLIN CONGRESS REPORT

What really happened? – An opinion piece by Matthew Hill

As IC trainers, coaches and academics return from the SIETAR Congress in Dublin, we remember some of the highlights?

SIETAR Key Note 400+ People Attended the SIETAR Congress in Dublin, May 2017

With more than 400 attendees it was the biggest event since Granada (when we were joined by the mighty SIETAR USA.) An impressive focus on professionalism and detail delivered a technically advanced event at a top of the range venue – St Pats (Dublin City University) in Ireland has been transformed, enlarged and made relevant, providing an impressive and functional backdrop to the show. With fresh paint, bright colours and a modern social area and the addition of a professional conference organisation crew, this was SIETAR at its slickest, its most efficient and its best.

Special mention must be made of Pari, Barbara and Joe. Their 18 months of hard work, stress, decision-making and perseverance has paid off. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And the 12 volunteers – A great bunch of dynamic and pro active interculturalists working diligently to produce a memorable audience experience and calm the nerves of the presenters, some of whom had never seen a touchscreen interactive whiteboard before!

Whova logo Keeping us in touch

The Whova app assisted in bringing everybody together, warning us of logistical changes and generally connecting people, before the event, during the busy main days and, now, as we go back to our many countries and various other roles.

Lolo Mayer Lolo Mayer moved us with his story

We were lucky with the weather and there were some extraordinary moments to take away. Those who saw Lolo Mayer when he spoke will never forget the present and direct moment when this articulate 9 year old told us of his journey from South Africa to Germany and the reactions the people around him – “different race – same culture”. His honest narrative moved us to tears. A special experience.

Milton Bennett brought along an expert in Mysticism – A ripple of hesitation flickered through the full room. As the modestly cynical crowd began their hypnotic meditation submerging beach balls under water, a new line was crossed in SIETAR experiential learning and most of us came out of the exercise better and wiser practitioners.

A third highlight was Andra and Abbey in their WorldWork Trust session – The facilitation was excellent and the atmosphere was conducive to movement, exchange and a worthy end result for all.

SIETAR Openning Joe Kearns Opens SIETAR Dublin

I must mention the stars of my own film track – Having coerced two local heroes – Dave Walsh and Joe Kearns into attempting culturally relevant and difficult topics, they both more than rose to the challenge – Dave interpreting the cultural significance of “Father Ted” in the context of real events in the Priesthood in Ireland and Joe, with his deep knowledge of Irish and European Viking history, linking this eloquently to the successes and failures of mergers in business and highlighting the choice between cultural domination and cultural integration.

Seitar Crowd SIETARians Deep in Conversation

And a big thank you to everyone for forming a surprisingly large crowd at my Training films clips session – It was rewarding to see so many people getting fully engaged with the subject and the content.

Shock

It would not be a real congress report without one or two negative points to report on. A moan that was heard frequently around the Congress concerned the quality of some presenters when attempting to get their message across. On occasion we seemed to have regressed to pre-Valencia days. Many witnessed poor wordy PowerPoints, over emphasis on research methods vs practical application and a failure by presenters to project, engage or hold their audience’s attention. There were many many TED style talks that were far far removed from the slick professionalism of the real thing. (I will take up the topic of presentation crimes in a separate post next time.)

MariaJicheva Maria Jicheva

The drama of the Congress ended with a moving tribute to one of the pillars of SIETAR – Maria Jicheva who died two years ago. She had run and expanded SIETAR UK and SIETAR Europa with years of hard hard work and used her subtle style of influence to make it the success that is evident today. We heard stories and experienced strong felt emotion remembering her effect upon those who were fortunate enough to spend time in her presence. Maria – We know you are watching over us – The success of the SIETAR Dublin Congress in 2017 is a tribute to you, your values and the volume of work you put in. Thank you.

Where next?

We will see you all in Vienna (Just a GUESS at the next venue…)

Traditional mountain farm in the Alps

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Maria Jicheva – A Charismatic Force of Nature! –

Maria Jicheva – a few words by Matthew Hill

MariaJicheva

As we mourn the passing of Maria Jicheva, we may take a little comfort from our memories. There has been a unified expression both about the shock of her sudden passing and of the positive and quietly influential woman that she was.

She was at her most visible as president of SIETAR Europa and when leading the committee and volunteers to putting on an important and memorable Congress in Sofia, Bulgaria – a country that was significant to her in many ways.

The extraordinary thing about Maria was that she was accepted by trainers coaches, academics and business professionals alike. If you take a minute to think about it, this cannot be said about most people.

My experiences with Maria were mostly set in the context of SIETAR UK. Here she provided solid support and advice for her successors – Stephan Dahl, Robert Johnson and myself.

In meetings and conference calls she would be the soft articulate voice of wisdom, suggestions and common sense. When we were lost Maria would have an answer. When we had a problem Maria had a solution.

Other obituaries have mentioned her honorary title, “the Queen of diplomacy.” This is true and was really put to the test prior to the Bulgarian Congress. Through no fault of her own, a rather critical comment about the “father of culture”, Geert Hofstede, in an e-mail chain had reached the esteemed professor’s office and caused a minor explosion. It is the sort of nightmare that no volunteer President ever wants to face – that of having the most prominent figure in your field completely upset with the volunteer organisation promoting the values of that field.

We know the outcome – shuttle diplomat Maria calmed the waters, facilitated the seeing of reason and offered the esteemed academic a public space to expound his central theories. Few know how close we came to a different outcome.

Continuing the Hofstede theme, Maria introduced Prof. Michael Minkov, first to SIETAR via Bulgaria and then to us at SIETAR UK. His hotly debated theory was later adapted to become an additional Hofstede dimension.

Her successful long-term partnership with Caroline at Coghill Beery saw her flying to many countries and delivering training and coaching to some exceptional senior executives and high-powered teams. Here she was professional, credible and had the depth and persona to deal with the egos and challenging behaviours that she encountered. Not only did the offices of Coghill Beery have just about every book published on culture (normally by Nicholas Brealey) but one sensed that Maria had read, understood and remembered most of them too.

As well as being charming Maria was also tough. Her success in committees came not just from her smile. When a principle was being violated Maria was a charismatic force of nature.

Her legacy is a more mindful and caring SIETAR. It is a standard of principled integrity that was shown to us by an extraordinary exponent of coaching, training and leadership.

For us the spirit of Maria continues with every Congress and, in a way, every training and coaching session. Thank you Maria. You have been heard.

Moving tributes are to be found at http://mariajicheva.com