Giving and Receiving: Committee life

Don’t go to that meeting, you might end up on the committee.

The day that I attended my first APA meeting at the age of 28, these words were echoing in my head. I did not end up on the committee that night. But what I did experience was something that I do not even think was a “thing” in 1992. My first experience of imposter syndrome. It would not be my last.

Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. (From Overcoming Imposter Syndrome by Gill Corkindale: Harvard Business Review 2008).

I recall the meeting as pretty intimidating. There were about 10 women, all confident and articulate. Not me. I do not recall being involved in the conversation at all. But for now, listening and observing was enough. I must have overcome any lack of confidence or concern that I was not good enough because by 1994, I was on a committee and by 1995, I was chair of ACT Sports Group. My passionate interest in rugby and weekend sports coverage bought me into contact with a fantastic group of like-minded physiotherapists. So begins my fledgling leadership apprenticeship. I had fabulous experiences including organising physio coverage for the Master’s Games, and courses, and even one mammoth failure where only 3 people turned up to an evening lecture.

I believe in recreating yourself to keep yourself invigorated and motivated in your professional life. It might be a change in career path, learning something new, or volunteering to help out with organising a conference or joining a committee. I also have a personal theory of sliding doors. You never know how walking through that door may change the whole direction of your life. I had one of those moments in 1996 when I started my own aquatic practice. I was not to know then but this was the platform for everything that has happened since.

“Hydrotherapy” was not widely available in private practices in 1996. There was however a small but strongly committed group of Physiotherapists who were invested in progressing this area of special interest in the APA and beyond. In 1996, there was a base of 3 “state chapters” and a hodgepodge of individuals from other states. By the early 2000s, the APA had nationalised and the aquatic group became a special group. This provided a platform for a voice on a bigger stage which was very important for a group that would benefit from greater exposure. The area of aquatic physiotherapy was growing in the profession along with an increasing evidence base.

By the mid-2000s, I found myself, after serving on the National Committee for a number of years, as the Chair of the Aquatic Group. Being a relatively “young” group, there were a number of growing pains. It was an interesting and challenging time to lead. I learned many skills through this experience, including how to chair a meeting, negotiate, mediate, how to have difficult conversations, and guide strategy. All skills that would help me as I built my business.

The natural progression from chair was to become the delegate for the group at the National Advisory Council(NAC) of the APA. This was the highlight of my committee career. The NAC was comprised of Physiotherapists from all clinical and academic settings. My first professional experience of being in an environment, where there was a shared purpose. This resonated so strongly. To be part of something where I felt that my voice was heard and valued, towards a common goal of advancing the profession. Having a purpose now forms the foundation of leadership within my practice.

I did not experience imposter syndrome at NAC. I was surrounded by amazing physiotherapists, from all areas of practice. I learned so much from them. The leadership of the APA was very strong at this time. Melissa Locke was the president of the APA during my tenure. Melissa embodies all the characteristics that an aspiring leader looks to emulate. Melissa is caring, inclusive, empathic, and a strong communicator. To me, she was and remains a role model for kind and effective leadership.

So before you worry about the words, of warning about the risks of being unwillingly (and I don’t believe that really happens) of being appointed to a committee, consider where it might lead you? Possibly to places and opportunities that you never imagined. As a result of my involvement with the APA, I have connections across Australia, a world of practical experience in leadership skills, and the opportunity to participate in an inspiring shared purpose.

I have received far more than I have ever given.

Dianna Howell Certmgr MIML MAPA

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