Going back is not the same as never leaving

Reflections and learning
6th July 2022
Inside Ashridge - Image by Joy Furnival

Last week ended on a joyful note. Along with over 80 Fellows I travelled back to Ashridge to celebrate the GenerationQ Leadership Programme as it reached the end of its 12 year run. I had been awarded a coveted Scholarship on Cohort 1 in 2010, graduating with an Ashridge Masters with Distinction in May 2012.

There have been a subsequent eight cohorts. Over the two-day event, it was a delight to make new connections and learn how the programme had unfolded for the Fellows that came after us. As with any bounded system, each cohort had its own history, character and rules of belonging. Yet there was no sense of exclusivity between the different groups. The GenerationQ magic connected us ensuring our place as part of the whole.

It was an emotional reunion with some of the people I had shared one of the most turbulent periods of my working life as I grappled with the decision to leave the NHS and start out on my own as an executive coach and facilitator. I sensed I could serve the world better from a different vantage point. Sharing with my cohort all that had happened in the intervening years and in turn, hearing their stories, was deeply resourcing. There is nothing more life-affirming than feeling truly seen and heard by people you have a strong bond with.

This was also a personal opportunity to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of TurningTides, the bespoke coaching and consultancy practice I set up on leaving the NHS. It has been a journey of personal discovery as well as one of service. TurningTides honours my island origins in Shetland. My intention had been, and still is, to help people and organisations navigate complex change. Like the tides, change is a constant in our lives. That the tides will turn is a given, but little else about the sea is as predictable. Similarly, aspects of change can be planned but others will emerge through patterns of adaption and natural order. Having an intention rather than a fixed end point has enabled me to stay open and agile in responding to client needs and in deciding where and how I can make the most useful contribution.

Reflecting back over the years was like looking through a kaleidoscope of colours and shifting shapes. Following the energy, I’ve worked across the sectors and delivered countless coaching, OD and training hours. I said a sad farewell to my dad and became the ‘older generation’.

It’s been quite an adventure. The experience of revisiting Ashridge brought to mind the words of Terry Pratchett.…

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving”

I’m grateful to the GenerationQ faculty for resourcing me to follow this path and to the many teachers and mentors I have encountered since. My gratitude also goes to Robert, my Co-Director and the many Associates who have worked with us. And finally and most important, the clients I have had the privilege to walk alongside over the past decade.

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