Independent Cinema Office’s “Elevate: Introduction to Leadership”
Posted: Wed, 11 Jan 2017 16:34
Alexzandra Jackson Education Manager for Phoenix, Leicester and Festival Director of The Short Cinema Film Festival
At 30, I found myself as a senior manager and department head, within a nationally recognised independent cinema and arts centre. Even after having worked there for seven years, I couldn't really fathom how I got there and what I needed to do to progress and be the manager I needed to be for my organisation and our audiences.
After speaking to my Film Programme Manager I realised that I was experiencing something called imposter syndrome and I probably wasn't going to be able to be the leader I wanted to be without some guidance and expertise. He suggested that I look into the Independent Cinema Office's Elevate course. The course was specifically targeted at people like me: managers with at least two or more years of experience in film exhibition who were passionate and wanted to make a big contribution to our industry, but had never had the chance to sit down and learn key management skills.
I hadn't come across any other opportunity like it, one which took into consideration the specifics of film exhibition and offered the chance to learn practical management skills, ensuring that you were moving in the right direction for you and your organisation. The course promised a bespoke training experience which would accelerate your development through a holistic approach, with expert support, coaching and peer-to-peer learning. It really didn't disappoint. In fact, it eclipsed my expectations time and time again.
The course took place over four months at the Arnolfini in lovely Bristol, which meant a 5 a.m. wake-up to travel down from Leicester. This was doubly hard before session one; where I didn't sleep at all the night before from nerves, but it was always totally worth it.
There I met eleven other cinema exhibition managers from across the country. Marketing, programme, education and business development were all represented within our collective job titles and we were all managers of programs and/or people. The course lead was a professional business coach called Lucy Ryan and she had the ability to enthuse all of us and to put us at ease simultaneously. Lucy was exactly the right person to guide us through the four stage programme: a self-possessed and poised female business leader with a MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and 20 years of coaching experience. Over the four months, we worked on understanding our management styles, the strengths and weaknesses of our leadership profile and the impact we have on others: influencing others and motivating different personalities within a team. The course was an extensive, holistic look at management, including time management, work/life balance, creating a team action plan, enabling progress and retaining team connection.
For me, the most influential session was our third, where we looked at having a positive presence and maximising our strengths. This session gave us the chance to learn practical skills to manage nerves. Lucy explained the science behind our body's reaction to nerves and stress and gave us simple breathing and standing exercises to counter their effect, as well as some psychological behaviours to take the blood-draining horror out of standing up to deliver intros and presentations.
As a painfully shy person who works in an industry semi-reliant on building fruitful human connections, I have struggled. I know what I'm on about most of the time and if I don't, I'm really happy to learn but, in a networking situation, however, articulating what's in my head to other people in an engaging way without almost immediately wanting the world to swallow me up was a rarity. If I was a bird or a frog, David Attenborough would have spent years trying to find me, my natural habitat is most certainly not at drinks receptions, where let's face it, some of the most valuable contacts are made and friendships are struck up which keep you afloat and relevant in the national conversation. And one of the greatest things to come out of Elevate is: that's okay. I know now that it's not my thing, I now know that I need to find other ways to speak to my peers that highlight my strengths. And, I have eleven new contacts from all over the country I can call upon. I have eleven new contacts that I can happily chat to at drinks receptions.
I would highly recommend managers actively looking to increase their skills and their impact to consider Elevate and I'm grateful to Film Hub Central East for the bursary which enabled me to attend.