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My UKGBC journey to the edge of chaos

Sustainability By Lee French, Partner & Managing Director, MENA – 23 August 2017

Group photo of attendees for the UKGBC programme as mentioned in the article


Lee French in office

Lee French

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When I was first presented with the opportunity of joining the UK Green Building Council’s Future Leaders programme, I was a bit confused! Me, a Civil Engineer with 15 years’ experience, on a sustainability course for early career professionals? As with most pre-conceptions, it turned out to be completely wrong, in the best possible way.

After being nominated and getting over my initial confusion, the reality of the course started to make sense. Through the application and interview process it was clear that the purpose of the programme was not just about sustainability and it was tailored for individuals who had ambition to or were already on a path to becoming one of our industry’s leaders.

The programme started off with a 3 day residential where I met the other 24 members of the 2017 cohort. They ranged from Architects to Construction Managers and Developers to Quantity Surveyors, all marching through the ranks of their respective organisations including some already very senior people. The residential was great fun and included a mix of workshops, project work and guest speakers with socials in the evenings to get to know everyone better. It was intense and very fast paced but it really helped me find out a lot more about myself and it surprised me how much extra it brought out in me. At this stage in your career it is not often you get 3 full uninterrupted days and nights to focus solely on your development and what type of leader you think you are.

Following the residential, the training workshops continued throughout the rest of year which run concurrently with a group project task. The project task is based on a problem within the Built Environment that is deep rooted and the challenge is to really understand the pain behind the problem and revisit assumptions before embarking on a business model journey. This required a lot of effort and input outside the arranged days with the project team so it was quite time intensive, but massively rewarding.

The aim of the 9 month long programme was to develop our leadership skills. The main focus of that for me was challenging status quo, questioning assumptions and finding out how to really make important breakthroughs. In the breakthrough training, we learned how to work “on the edge of chaos” where nothing feels right and everything feels wrong, uneasy and hard! Sounds bizarre but it was in this unnatural place that we found the breakthroughs and I’ve learned to embrace being “on the edge of chaos”!

Sustainability is, of course, a fundamental part of the programme and by bringing 24 of the industry’s future leaders together it’s really about looking at this holistically as part of everything we do in business, rather than a standalone subject.

The beauty of the programme is that despite everyone attending the same workshops and going through the same processes, the impact is automatically tailored to your own needs through the structure. I’ve also met some fantastic like-minded Built Environment professionals in very strong positions from all different fields so it has been great for expanding my business network. More importantly, becoming really close with some of my fellow Future Leaders has provided me with colleagues and friends that I know I will be able to call on in years to come. Most likely when I next find myself “on the edge of chaos”!