Reflections on saying goodbye to our first member of staff

We often see excited LinkedIn posts announcing new starters. It’s a lot less common to see companies posting about people leaving. So we thought we’d buck that trend and celebrate (in the nicest possible way) that Elizabeth is moving on from The Harrison Network, one year after joining as our first ever employee.

Here are some honest reflections from Lucy and Elizabeth on the rollercoaster ride of a growing microbusiness.

From Elizabeth:

I joined the Harrison Network because I really believed in the work that Lucy was trying to do around psychological safety. I also believed in Lucy herself, with her commitment to only take on work where she felt she could make a difference.

One of the things I noticed right off in co-delivering with Lucy was that she isn’t afraid to acknowledge out loud when something in the room isn’t right. And also to keep going with the things that matter, even when it feels really hard. She manages to bring this same approach into the business, and we spent a long time thinking about what the Harrison Network really does and how we want to do it, even when it was making our brains melt and it would have been easier to just to move on and focus on something else a bit more tangible. I think this was really important for making me feel part of a business that I wanted to work with, and also to feel confident to go out and speak to other people on behalf of the business.

From the start, Lucy’s leadership style was honest, transparent and inclusive, making me feel I was welcome to contribute in all areas. Of course, this came with its challenges as we were probably both – at certain points – guilty of taking on too many things or veering off on excited tangents. Sometimes there were too many ideas of all the things we could do. In some cases, we just needed to define a process and try sticking to it. This was an area I had plenty of experience with from my previous roles writing policies, systems, processes, codes of practice, forms, etc. The key is in doing enough of these to be useful without losing the magic of being a small, agile and creative team.

Lucy’s regular updates on things like the sales pipeline were great for helping to establish priorities and understand the bigger picture but were also quite a big adjustment for me coming from a much larger public sector organisation. Seeing how closely the success of the business relies on individual successes or failures, or on particular clients, was quite daunting for me. I think it takes a huge amount of courage on Lucy’s part to trust that someone else can go out and represent the brand that she has built up over so many years.

I’ve really enjoyed being part of the wider Harrison Network, learning from the breadth of experience across our Associates. I definitely plan to stay involved!

And if this post sounds all a bit serious, there was plenty of humour, nice walks around the harbour, and chances to hang out with Lucy’s dog along the way.

From Lucy, Director of the Harrison Network:

Elizabeth was my first full time employee and joined the Harrison Network at a time when the company was growing exponentially, Covid was rife, my book was about to launch, we were super busy, and things were somewhat chaotic.

Elizabeth jumped in the deep end with me, delivering workshops, coaching, designing courses and helping work through how to take the business forward. During her time here, we have won an award together, opened our office in Whitehaven, won some significant contracts and tripled in size.

Most importantly though, Elizabeth helped me as I developed as a leader of a business.

I have hugely valued her supportive, forthright and considered input, as well as the amazing questions she asks. We’ve wrestled with concepts and ideas that have shaped and grown the business into what it is today. Thanks to this, we’ve delivered some incredibly successful programmes for businesses across the UK.

She’s also helped us set up internal processes – we are now close to achieving ISO quality and environmental standards. Together, we have developed internal communication systems and disciplines, so that as the business continues to grow, we can standardise and scale our operations effectively (which is great timing, as we have lots of exciting projects lined up!).

Today, Elizabeth moves on to grow her own business coaching in Higher Education, which she has been operating as a sideline for the last couple of years. Her success has meant that this is growing to be her core business, and those that know her will understand why taking the leap now is absolutely the right move for her.

Do I mind?

Richard Branson famously responded to the question ‘What if I develop someone and they leave?‘ With ‘what if you don’t and they stay?

As a business, we are all about developing people as they help change the world. Having entrepreneurial people in our team means that sometimes they leave to become entrepreneurs. That’s OK. We like walking the talk.

We know that Elizabeth will be a success in all she does. Of course I’ll miss her hugely as the team continues to grow, but she leaves behind a more focused Harrison Network that can deliver a more consistent, scalable service.

We hope that her experience with us has given back to her as much as she gave to us. And we’ve already planned some future collaborations that kick off later in the year. I hope we’ll continue learning together too as we find future opportunities to work together in a different way.

If you are considering coaching in academia, talk to Elizabeth. She gets complex concepts fast, asks brilliant questions and really cares about each and every person.

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