6 months in the Harrison Network

Elizabeth joined the Harrison Network in April this year. It’s been a whirlwind six months, with her delivering a range of projects from culture change to coaching, for clients large and small, within Cumbria and beyond and to multiple career stages. Read about her journey and reflections on what being part of the Harrison Network means.

Before I joined the Harrison Network, I had some really honest conversations with Lucy about her vision for not just what work we’d be taking on, but also how we’d do that work. What would it look and feel like for us and for our clients? Having been a participant (victim) of at least one memorably awful ‘team away day’ in a previous role, I was certain that I didn’t want to be wheeled in to facilitate that sort of event. We were definitely on the same page of only wanting to do work where we could make a difference and where the leaders bringing us in are really committed to doing the work they themselves needed to for the change they wanted to created. It really reassured me to know that Lucy had been able to make the tough decision in the past to pull away from work when it wasn’t aligned to Harrison Network’s guiding principles.

Since joining, and as the organisation both grows and adapts to new ways of working, we’ve invested time in revisiting those guiding principles, to ask what our values are as an organisation and how we will embody them going forward. This has been hard – both hard to prioritise the time to do it in the face of lots of other important work and also hard mentally, to really think and try to honestly articulate to each other where our priorities are. And all that before the equally difficult task of translating them to things like recruiting new staff, responding to calls or writing proposals and marketing materials, as well as the actual delivery. Our lovely new offices at Eagle Labs in Whitehaven gave us the chance to take that thinking outdoors which is really important for me, I know I think better when I move and create that space away from the computer.

You can see where we’ve got to on our values thinking on the Harrison Network webpages. In theory, as a friend remarked to me, we should be great at this, as it’s often what we help others to do with their own organisations (articulate their purpose and values). I think it’s good for us to walk the talk and actually appreciate how challenging it is and how much energy and commitment you’re asking for in doing it.

My work since joining Harrison Network has been a blend of working ‘in the business’, delivering workshops and coaching, and ‘on the business’, developing Harrison Network, and of course developing myself as part of that. As we start to take on new projects relating to leadership in social value and sustainability, I’ve been exploring the role of coaches in working with leaders and organisations in relation to tackling climate change and social impact. I still feel quite new to West Cumbria but it feels to me that there’s a real pride in the area from the people who live and work here, and a determination to give back to the local area, particularly developing local talent and skills. It has been really inspiring to work collaboratively on projects with these aims.

We held our first full team away day this week, with several of our Associates, where we had the chance to share our stories, learning and hopes for the Harrison Network as it continues to grow. We had some productive conversations on the value of team or individual profiling tools and when or how to use them, which really resonated with me as I thought back to that awful away day I mentioned, where people came away feeling pigeon-holed and disempowered through poor use of such a tool.

I’ve learnt a huge amount in the last six months and my hope for the next year, from an organisational perspective, is that we can be in a position to really talk about our own social and environmental impact, in a transparent, honest and evidence-based way that helps us to grow and do better at being the business we have set out to be. If there are other small (or large!) organisations out there who would like to chat about this, I’d love you to get in touch.

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