Peacocks vs Penguins | AUA Blog

Do you sometimes feel that your ideas are challenging your leaders, managers and your team and pushing people out of their comfort zones?

Do you often hear? ‘That’s not the way we do things here!’ We’ve always done it this way!’ ‘Not a good time to try something new and risky!’

Then maybe you’re a Peacock working in the land of Penguins!

Claire Povah MAUA
Head of Strategic Development in Student Services
Lancaster University

Simon Vaukins AMAUA
Faculty Graduate School Manager
Lancaster University

At the recent AUA conference, #AUA2019, we delivered a workshop ‘Penguins vs Peacocks’. Some of you may have attended this session. If you did, thank you for participating so actively at 9:15 after a night on the dance floor!

The idea for the workshop came when Claire excitedly told me about a video she had recently watched: Penguins vs Peacocks. This led us to run a session at the North Wales and North West Regional Conference in January 2019, ‘Leadership Challenges and Change in HE’.

We took the positive feedback from the regional conference, and developed the workshop further at the annual conference. We brought together some of the work we’ve done on generational differences in HE with this new perspective on managing diversity in the workplace. We wanted to get people to think about diversity in terms of the way that people work and not just in terms of gender and ethnicity. We aimed to get people to think differently about leadership and followership and about the difficulties presented by the emergence of new generations within the workplace and, further, about how these two things are connected.

To get people involved and make this an interactive session we decided to do the following:

  • We made sure that everyone who came to the session got a Penguin biscuit.
  • We asked everyone to do a quiz, but this was a quiz without any prizes. What we wanted people to think about was how they currently felt about their fit in their organisation: were they a peacock or a penguin, or something in between.
  • Building on the results of the quiz, we asked everyone to consider bird-based strategies included in the book, as a way of reflecting on their personal strategies and behaviours employed to support their personal development and the development of those around them.
  • At the end of the session we asked participants to write on a postcard one thing they’d take away from the session – we’re posting these out in 4 months.

Whilst the session wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we found that most were willing to engage in the session, appreciated the space to reflect on their own approaches to the questions posed above and were willing to challenge their perceptions in light of the insights from Peacock in a land of Penguins. Many went away from the session with the intention of employing what they had learned on a personal level, or within the teams they manage.

In the current UK HE climate, it is important to enable each person in the organisation to be the best version of themselves, working with and embracing individual talents and enthusiasms to achieve organisational effectiveness.

Let peacocks be peacocks.

Materials and ideas for this session were taken from: Gallagher Hateley, B.J. and Schmidt, W.H., A Peacock in the Land of Penguins.

Leave a Reply

0 comments on “Peacocks vs Penguins | AUA Blog