I was once one of those knackered women. Brittle too. I was in my early 40s, having worked for years in the public sector, one job after another. Along the way from starting my first job at 22 I had spent 3 years gaining a Diploma in Counselling, completed a post grad diploma, a Master of Public Health, got married, had my children and by the time I reached my early 40s, I was shattered and on the verge of shattering.
I had just landed a great job, really great job, one that built on all of the jobs I had done before and the first job for a while that I knew was going to be professionally and intellectually challenging. A years worth of job, secondment, and something that I knew would stand me in good stead for whatever came next.
I embarked on the job with relish. I threw my heart and soul into it. I made it mine. I loved it, cherished it and gave it the kind of energy that I’d last given to completing my masters dissertation. My 8 month old in one hand while the computer mouse was in the other. I was no stranger to burning the candle at every end in order to get things done.
I knew when I started the job that the organisation had a few issues. What I mean by issues was that I knew, somewhere not very deeply buried, that the organisation was toxic and damaging. I knew this but yet I decided to throw myself into the very heart of it. Maybe I thought that working near the top of the organisation would give me the opportunity to shift the culture. Maybe, I thought, people like me that could see the culture for what it was, could be gathering momentum to make a change. Maybe I could be the difference.
Fast forward a few months and I was in flow. Working with a great team, finding my feet, testing things out and starting to really enjoy the sense of possibilities that the role offered. In the background, as is so often the case, the ground had started to shift. It had started to shift away from the very thing that the role was set up to try and create. Basically, the politics had changed – big and little p politics and the thing that we were working so hard to create, was basically yesterdays news. Now, as is often the case, this wasn’t a clearly defined shift that was communicated and transparent and obvious enough to be able to be discussed and planned for. Rather it was the type of shift that came in whispers, in a sense that all was not well, in a feeling of disinterest and a move towards the next bright and shiny thing. And the bright and shiny people that went with it.
A few months later and the year was nearly up. The organisational enthusiasm that had lit the roaring fire of yesteryear was but a damp bonfire with the odd bright spark occasionally shooting out. Personally, I was in the process of being exited from the organisation at this point. Not visibly, obviously, or even particularly subtly, but very definitely. Going, going, gone.
As news was broadcast around the organisation of the elevation of today’s bright shiny people and the movement of yesterday’s dull, tarnished people, the mood shifted. As the role disappeared, so did the status symbols and sense of position within the organisation. Many people in the organisation developed an overnight blindness, the eye contact went, the nods of hello, the need to be noticed and more fundamentally the common decency and humanity. All shrouded by fear and the unspoken but blindingly obvious question – if I am seen to be on your side, am I going to be next? It was only the courageous ones, the decent ones and the past caring ones that were the same human beings that they had always been. Showing respect, decency, humanity and integrity.
The couple of months that followed were strange. Quiet, obviously, because the email traffic and phone calls dried up within 30 minutes of the realisation that the heroes had turned into organisational zeros. A weird, empty, grey hinterland punctuated by moments of clarity interspersed with moments of panic. Occasionally there were trips to glass rooms, in far flung corners of previously unvisited floors of the building for games of human chess. These trips were tolerated rather than welcomed, until the repeated use of the words, no and thank you, finally got listened to. It was only spending time with a bold, courageous, female chief executive from another organisation that finally put the human chess playing into some kind of context. It turned out that in the real world, the players and their efforts were barely visible. Barely visible. Invisible in fact.
As the departure onto other things came closer, a worldly wise woman, one of the human ones, made a passing remark which went along the lines of right flower, wrong soil conditions. Wrong soil conditions. Wrong as in it wouldn’t matter how many flowers you planted, how many hours you dug and fertilised, how many times you watered and how well you looked after the flowers. They would not flourish. They would not grow. They would eventually wither. They would die.
The even wiser woman, the mentoring chief executive, listened to tales of anger, sadness and revenge. Mostly though she talked about dignity and grace and the importance of exiting with both. Dignity and grace.
Fast forward five years and there have been a few other events along the way. Establishing a business, working for a few other businesses, working as an independent consultant, finding new areas of work, initiating and navigating an amicable divorce, becoming a single parent, developing a portfolio career and using every single last ounce of experience to grow and move forward happily, gracefully and positively. So much growth.
So this brings me to my newest business, Wildflower Fire. The latest cycle, which ties in with the completion of a Barefoot Coaching course and all the opportunities for growth and development which that has brought. Wildflower Fire is my reminder that whilst fire initially obliterates and destroys, it also clears and nourishes the ground in order to make way for new growth. It’s my reminder that some people see wildflowers and think they are weeds. Look at them more closely and you will see flowers that bloom in unlikely places, flowers that find their way towards the light through tiny cracks, flowers that are simply beautiful, flowers that are resilient enough to emerge from long buried seeds. Wildflowers that just need the right soil conditions in order to burst through into glory. Wildflowers that scatter their seeds on the breeze in order to pollinate new areas.
Wildflower Fire. Cultivating coaching – coaching for clarity, coaching for courage and coaching for change.