AALP helped Reannan Schultz understand the gift of feedback

Having spent her childhood balancing time between her family’s Pittsworth farm and her various sporting commitments, Reannan Schultz has received a lot of feedback over the years. But it wasn’t until she participated in the Australian Agribusiness Leadership Program (AALP) that she realised the transformative power of considerate, constructive feedback. And it’s this insight that has changed the way she interacts with her colleagues—as well as how she sees herself.

Reannan is a Business Development Manager at Nufarm Australia and she was thrilled to be selected to experience AALP 2024. AALP helps current and emerging agribusiness leaders hone their practical leadership skills across agricultural contexts. With a focus on innovation, sustainability, and strategic thinking, participants face a range of challenges in a safe environment. The program focuses heavily on inner development and, while it was uncomfortable at times, Reannan describes her AALP experience as “phenomenal.”

Reannan Schultz (second from right) alongside her AALP cohort whilst on program in Orange.

Comfort zone? I don’t know her

The Australian Agribusiness Leadership Program challenges participants both physically and mentally. Over the course of two weeks, Reannan found herself:

  • Embracing the role of day leader and actively providing feedback to others
  • Engaging in group problem-solving activities, where she truly saw the value of listening to different perspectives
  • Recognising her leadership signature—uplifting those who are less likely to speak up

 

“The biggest thing I gained is my bolstered confidence. I’m much more comfortable speaking up and presenting my ideas.” Before AALP, Reannan was reluctant to share unless she had a fully formed solution ready to go.  She was challenged by the notion that voicing her idea may not be considered valuable.

With time and space for self-reflection, Reannan realised—when it came to openly sharing her ideas, it was her own interpretation of feedback that was getting in her way. ‘Growing up playing sports, feedback was essential, however I would internalise feedback as an inherently negative thing.’  It was only following participation in the AALP Reannan now understands that feedback is in fact a gift.

The power of self awareness

In addition to long walks and tricky team challenges, the AALP’s reflective learning model includes a lot of internal work and self reflection. At first, Reannan struggled to find the purpose in dedicating time for deep reflection, but it ended up being the most powerful part of her course. Through this reflection, Reannan developed a deeper understanding of her own leadership style and her impact on others. “The effect it had on me was so profound. Now I know it’s important to strive and reflect, but to always start with self.” 

These days, Reannan’s approach has changed. “I’ll definitely sit back and listen, but if I have something to contribute, I won’t let that moment pass”. In particular, she was inspired watching great ideas develop from seemingly insignificant triggers. “I see the importance of having a diversity of thought in problem solving…the program taught me that the smallest fragment of an idea can turn out to be one of the building blocks of a solution.”

Since completing the AALP, Reannan feels more self aware. She’s more open-minded and has a new understanding of the role of leadership. “Leadership is not about me…it’s about making the people around me feel comfortable having their voices heard”. 

Nufarm’s sponsorship pays dividends

Reannan was one of three Nufarm Australia team members sponsored to attend AALP this year. The organisation has sponsored scholarships AALP sponsorships since 2019, and as Nufarm’s Commercial General Manager, Peter O’Keeffe sees the benefits firsthand. Over his 20 years at Nufarm, Peter has come across hundreds of development programs. But the Australian Agribusiness Leadership Program stands out.

“People talk about this program forever,” he says. “Everyone says it’s the best thing they’ve ever done”. Peter has seen many AALP participants unlock new confidence “because they understand themselves better. It’s like they say to themselves ‘you know what? I actually am capable of leading’”.

At first, Peter saw the AALP as more suitable for marketing and sales leaders. But after Nufarm started gifting sponsorships to their retail partners, his understanding of the program widened. “I used to think AALP was specifically for ‘business’ people, but now I see it’s just as beneficial for ‘people’ people across organisations”.

Not only that, Peter has noticed a direct impact within Nufarm, with participants returning from the program more equipped to take on responsibility and drive sustainable, innovative ideas.

“AALP is ideal for emerging leaders as well as those who are already in leadership positions. I’ve seen huge progress in everyone who has gone through the program. They’re much more active in discussions, development, and have a broader perspective. They’re more comfortable and confident in speaking up after they’ve rolled out of the program”.  

Nufarm's Commercial General Manager, Peter O'Keefe with Reannan Schultz at the AALP graduation in Orange.

The confidence to grow

Reannan’s time in the AALP helped her reframe the worth of her ideas and experience. Not only that, she’s got a new understanding of what it means to lead. “Previously I thought leadership meant the person was in a managerial position. But now I know you don’t need to be managing people to be a leader”. Reannan is bolstered by the knowledge and network she found in the AALP, but it’s more than that. She’s moving through life and work with more self-compassion, a sense of calm in a fast-paced world, and a deep confidence in her ability to learn and grow. 

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