Fiona Forman is an author, teacher and facilitator/trainer in the area of well-being and positive psychology in the education system. She is passionate about the mental health and well-being of young people and believes that the education system can play a pivotal role in equipping children with the skills to be resilient and flourish in life. She holds an M.Sc. in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) which is the science of well-being. Fiona delivers training courses and talks in education centres and schools. She is the co-author of ‘Weaving Well-Being’, a recently launched positive mental health programme for primary school children (www.otb.ie/wwb) and has spoken at conferences at national and international level. Being the mother of two young adults gives her a practical insight into the challenges faced by young people and how we can help them to reach their potential. Fiona lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. You can connect with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Weaving_Wb.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
I think that a number of personal qualities need to be present before leadership can be taught, namely, having an inner drive, integrity and most importantly, vision. Having vision is what gives you a clear purpose, it’s your ‘why.’ Once you have this clear ‘why’, it will energise and inspire you to take your ideas and your organisation to higher levels and give you the drive needed to keep going. If these qualities are present, leadership can be developed through mentoring and support. I see leadership roles as vehicles for serving a higher purpose, so, in my view, leadership should be values-led and underpinned by personal integrity. Mentoring can have a huge impact as it is relationship-based and the most powerful learning occurs in the context of positive relationships.
If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?
I don’t work for one particular organisation as such. In my role as well-being facilitator and trainer, I work with schools and education centres. As co-author of the Weaving Well-Being programme for schools, I work with a great team who all share the same passion for promoting and enhancing children’s mental health and well-being. It’s so exciting to see the programme taking off and I’ve really enjoyed training new facilitators to deliver courses in positive psychology. My advice to the team is to continue to connect to our purpose and remember the motivation for our work is to make a real difference in the lives of children.
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?
I can answer this in terms of the Weaving Well-Being programme rather than in terms of an organisation. As I love learning about and studying the areas of positive psychology and well-being, this really helps me to stay informed about new developments and research in the area. Listening to the concerns and needs of teachers, children and parents is also vital, so communication plays a huge role in ensuring the programme stays relevant. I believe that the whole area of well-being in education is really only in its infancy, so I’m very excited about my journey over the next ten years. I plan to continue to learn and research as much as possible and can’t wait to share my ideas and experience.
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
I really admire those individuals who are leading the way in putting mental health and well-being into the mainstream in practical and inspiring ways, such as Niall Breslin, founder of A Lust for Life, and Dr. Malie Coyne, child psychologist, author and speaker. Psychologist, speaker and author Shane Martin is an inspirational leader in the field of well-being and happiness, he really gets to the heart of what’s important with great humour, warmth and practicality. I was absolutely thrilled when he very kindly accepted my invitation to speak at the launch of the Weaving Well-Being programme in Drumcondra Education Centre last April – it was definitely a career highlight for me! He had the audience spellbound from start to finish and really inspired us all with his message.
If you could wind back the clock to when you were starting your career what advice would you give yourself?
Believe in yourself more! Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Be flexible and open to all opportunities that come your way. Trust your instinct and your vision, not everyone may get it and that’s okay! There will be setbacks along the way. Just keep going – it’s going to be so worth it!
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
The Lean In website https://leanin.org has a lot of useful resources including articles and videos. Although it’s not specifically aimed at leaders, I’d highly recommend ‘Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. It’s an eight-week mindfulness course with guided meditations and I found it hugely beneficial. I’m a big fan of self-care and balance in life and mindfulness really helps me with this.