A Champion’s Story
October 3rd, 2013 by Suzanne Sweeney
At Windmills we are always keen to hear your personal stories. Why? They always challenge, delight and inspire us. We love to find out how things have changed for you since we met on the Windmills training days. We want to know how our Champions have been supporting others to develop their own personal life stories. We are all energised by stories of your development and successes.
Susan Coleman, a Windmills Champion since 2010, has kept in regular contact over the years emailing or calling with quick questions and requests, always adding a short update on her Windmills story. Those ‘updates’ have shown how powerful ‘acting’ on the Windmills principles can be and have developed into a really interesting and inspiring story
When she first came across Windmills in 2010, Susan was in a part time PA role at Shropshire Council now 3 years later she is Business Support Advisor for the Council and recently got involved in the StartUp Britain National Business Tour Bus when it came to Shrewsbury. How? That’s the great story.
Susan had been feeling frustrated for some time and was keen to find a way to build on her previous management experience, take on more responsibilities and develop new skills. Shropshire Council was in the throes of an organisation wide transformation programme and at the heart of this strategic change process was a team of Change Agents. Susan recognising this as an exciting opportunity volunteered for the role. She joined the first cohort of Windmills capacity building training and so began her exciting story as a Windmills Champion.
However the story had a shaky start. The first of the personal development sessions, disappointingly for Susan, was not what she had expected. She felt really uncomfortable, wasn’t really enjoying the experience and considered withdrawing from the programme. Fortunately she was encouraged to ‘give things a bit longer’, attended all the workshops and in the end became one of Windmills’ and Shropshire Council’s most enthusiastic and active Champions.
After the Champions’ Training Programme Susan commented, ‘Surprisingly to me it’s made me really begin to think more positively about things. I can see now how I can actually find some positives in things which I didn’t really feel able to do before. I feel now that I accept really that I’ve got to act and think differently if I want to create an inspiring future for myself.’ With her new found attitude and approach she took up the Change Agent role with enthusiasm and energy and was a regular contributor to the focus and activities of the Change Agent group.
Very soon she was supporting people with formal one to one sessions and delivering group sessions for teams coping with impending organisational change. Susan’s upbeat style and positive approach meant her sessions were well received and had an impact at both the individual and organisational level. After a skills session one Sector Support Team manager contacted Susan to say, ‘We really enjoyed the session and it has helped us to realise as a team where our strengths lie and in some cases where we have skills that are currently under utilised. On an individual level we have discussed how you can get bogged down doing the day job without realising the parts of your role that you have a natural skill in and therefore enjoy doing so hopefully the session will have helped to identify better ways for us to work individually and together.’
Being an active Windmills Champion increased Susan’s profile in the organisation and she began to feel that she was making more of a contribution to the transformation programme as a Change Agent than she could have made in her role as a PA.
When inevitably Susan’s own role came under review as the number of PAs in the Council was being reduced she felt confident that the Windmills approach had given her the skills and resources to manage herself through the process. ‘Thanks to Windmills I feel much more confident in my ability to position myself in the new structure and ensure that I play a key role where I can.’ A shining example of ‘practicing what you preach’ Susan decided to use this as an opportunity to find herself another role in the organisation, one that would allow her to draw on her previous business experience and combine that with her new enthusiasm for supporting others. Being a Windmills Champion gave her the confidence to apply for a Business Advisor role with the Council and to her delight she was successful in securing this new position. ‘I have 30 years business experience which I never get to use in my PA role so for me it is the job I have wanted for the last 2 years. If not for Windmills this would not have happened. The Council is getting the best out of me and I will feel valued and know that I am making a difference.’
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