Olivia is a top-class reflective consultant and coach.
Her work is about conversations and thinking well with people. A specific project could be about values; about culture; about sustained top team development over a year or more; it might turn up as helping an executive to transition well into a new role, on being hired or on promotion; as a leadership learning programme. Whatever the underlying question, Olivia’s approach is rarely focused on individual development alone; it’s also about attending to systems patterns.
Olivia’s work often involves consulting to the people who commissioned the work – to make them aware of patterns she is seeing in the work, “the undertow they may not have seen, but that bear on the explicit changes they are trying to bring about” Olivia says.
Olivia says, “I do my best work when I am working with a client who knows they are at the edge of their thinking … they’ve done a lot already and they know that what they know won’t get them to where they need to go”. This is the point at which her work thrives – she develops with the client “the trust to try something beyond where they are”.
Her work is about supporting and nurturing human, transformative and integrative experiences that arise in relationships: “the inspiration in my work doesn’t come from within me, it comes from the dynamic of the relationship I am working in” Olivia says.
Olivia came to this work through some unsatisfying experiences in organisations, which caused her to seek to understand how things could be different. This brought her to the the Grubb Institute – “I found myself studying in an organisation that was all about organisational dynamics and unconscious processes. I was initially shocked at the work they did, and the questions they addressed, and at the same time realised that these were the right questions for me.” Olivia fell in love with the process of inquiry – “a fascinating continual process of not collapsing on a single right answer but of being right in the unfolding of things”.
Olivia sees the work as ever changing and never ending. “You can do all this work, see things in a team or an organisation really working well, and then there’s a change of leader or a change of owner and … it can be all gone. But for those who were there, it was a glimpse of what is possible, and something of an inspiration and a template for them to work from in other situations so the work remains useful, and it goes on again and again”.
This doesn’t dishearten her, rather it is the essence of the work. She describes the work as a bit like nurturing a garden. Organisations are “a bit like a flower bed” – flowers and plants adapt or not, flourish or not, according to the configuration – “in habits and rhythms, habits and practices”. This can outlive a change of leader, even a hostile leader, but it’s hard and takes a lot of work.
That’s why Olivia works with high performing teams as well as troubled ones: “high performing teams very often don’t know why they are high performing – often have no clue – and this makes them very vulnerable. Paying mindful attention to themselves as human beings working in that situation, that organisation is needed”.
If you are looking for a facilitator who will help you to spot and work with the deep systemic patterns that might otherwise get in your way, Olivia may be exactly the Thinking Partner you need at your side.