When Kenny Goulet and Eric Michael first signed up to participate in the Aboriginal Leadership Development Initiative (ALDI) in 2014, they were expecting a valuable but typical training program that would include lots of time sitting at a desk in a classroom. Now over one year later and having graduated from it, they call the program one of the most profound and life-changing experiences of their lives.
“It was a transformative process,” says Eric, Executive Director of Willow Cree Healing Lodge. “It enriched our lives and helped us all to recognize the potential that lies within us as leaders. It was truly a wonderful journey.”
Kenny, Assistant Warden of Operations at Springhill Institution, agrees. “The program not only made me a better manager, but also a better person,” he says. “I’ve never been in training where you have a room full of people with tears running down their faces. We all went through a lot of personal and emotional growth as a result of this experience.”
The tears came during traditional healing circles, which started each morning, when all 16 participants would share their own personal stories of growing up as an Aboriginal person. The idea being that where they came from has made them who they are today, and who they are in the workplace.
The ALDI is delivered by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). It aims to develop the leadership skills of Aboriginal employees, enhance cultural awareness and understanding of Aboriginal issues in the workplace, and increase the number of Aboriginal employees in leadership and/or executive positions within the federal public service.
Actual training days totaled 30, but they were spread over 14-16 months to allow time for ‘homework’ and lessons learned to be applied back at their workplaces. Learning was broken down into three primary sections: INAC curriculum on Aboriginal leadership, the Canada School of Public Service’s key executive leadership competencies development program, as well as virtual one on one coaching with mentors. Eric and Kenny started the program in August 2014 and graduated on November 2, 2015.
For Kenny and Eric, the actual Aboriginal portion of the training took place over three weeks: one with the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne where they learned from a local elder and community leaders, one in Iqaluit where they visited with Inuit elders and leaders, and one in Treaty 7 territory in Banff. All left lasting impressions.
“Some of the most profound learning came from engaging the elders in the communities,” says Eric. “They conveyed to us that we have a role to play in improving the lives of Indigenous people and contributing in a significant way to the public service. Hearing their wisdom, their teachings, and their perspectives on leadership was powerful.
“Also, learning how to marry Aboriginal ways of leading with more mainstream ways of leading was invaluable to me. The skills and lessons we learned through this program helped us to understand how to unleash the potential that lies within us and those around us.”
In Kenny’s case, since joining CSC in 2002 he has only participated in CSC training with CSC people within CSC institutions. Gaining a broader perspective is something he is happy to have walked away from the program with.
“Networking with people who can give you different perspectives on things was so important,” he says. “It showed us that sometimes you need to look at things differently and do things differently because your perspective is not the only one there is. I work in the Atlantic Region but we get inmates from all over Canada, so having learned from my Aboriginal colleagues across the country will help me relate to these inmates and help them that much more.”
There’s no doubt that participating in the ALDI changed Eric and Kenny’s lives for the better. Not only did they learn a great deal about who they are as people, as leaders, and as agents of change within the public service, but they forged lasting friendships with their fellow participants. This, they say, was completely unexpected but has left them each with 15 new people they can count on for anything.
“When you’re with people as much as we were,” says Kenny, “you become a big family. We built a huge network of colleagues, but also one of friends and family.”
Kenny and Eric would love to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to get in touch!