Three months after joining the company, Carol was on the verge of leaving. “I was struggling with my team – I didn’t “get” them and they didn’t “get” me. I was also struggling with the pain of losing my mum. I didn’t share how was feeling with anyone, not even my husband because he’d been so proud of me when I got the job and I thought he might stop being proud of me if I told him how difficult I was finding things. I started having some counselling to help me to deal with the bereavement but it didn’t really help.”
The Transformational Leadership course started in October 2014. Prior to that, Carol also started having Narrative Coaching with InterBe’s Simon Daly to help her manage some of the problems she was experiencing. “At the start of the course, I was apprehensive,” said Carol. “I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with the group and, although I was used to talking about things, I rarely discussed my feelings and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to start doing that. But, by the end of the second day, there had been a huge shift for me and I chose to share with the group how lonely I had felt within the organisation since I joined. I told them that I’d heard people say: “Somerset Care is like one big family, we look after each other” but that wasn’t how it had felt to me. After I’d spoken up, people came up to me and praised me for my courage. Some people said they’d also felt that way since they joined the company.”
A complete turnaround
So, what was it that brought about such a shift for Carol?
“I bought into the programme right from the start. Everything that they were saying… about our stories, the way we communicate, who we are being… I really got it. When I reflected on my experiences since joining the company, I really saw how much of a role I had played in creating the sense of unease, ill-feeling and miscommunication among my team. I thought: “it’s not them who’s the problem, it’s me.” Seeing this brought about a complete turnaround for me.”
Even before she had left the training session, Carol acted to tackle one of the problems the team was facing: “It felt like there was an elephant in the room with us. People were expressing how frustrating it was that a regular, scheduled meeting always overran because a particular person arrived late each time. I decided to talk to that person in an entirely open and non-confrontational way and to discuss possibly changing the time of the meeting to a more convenient one. As it happened, this turned out to be perfect for everyone. We’ve now changed the time of the meeting. It starts and finishes on time and we’ve all gained at least half an hour as a result.”
Breaking down walls
Carol also realised early on how much her opinions about one of her team had been shaped by listening to gossip. “I had heard certain things about this person presented to me as fact and I’d bought into that story. A brick wall had formed between us as a result. The day after the training, I arranged for us to meet. I apologised for the way I had been behaving and acknowledged the contribution this person was making to our team. The brick wall came down and since that day our relationship has turned around.
“I won’t say there are never any issues to deal at work but I am now giving people the space and opportunity to be creative and to use their initiative in a way that I wouldn’t have done before. Sometimes, this does create extra work for me but it also gives people the chance to experience things that they hadn’t experienced before and to start to see how what they do fits into the organisation as a whole, so they get a sense of being part of the whole thing not just their bit of it.”
This desire to give her colleagues greater autonomy and responsibility led Carol to challenge a recent decision by her line manager that Carol should handle a particular piece of work rather than one of her team. “I thought about it overnight and decided that, actually, my colleague was more than capable of doing it and that it would belittle her if I did it in her place. So, I went back to my manager and argued my case. He agreed and I am now working to support the particular member of staff involved so she can do it herself, which is far better for her.”