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My ‘no regrets’ evening class by Ruth Lawton

October 3rd, 2013 by Suzanne Sweeney

I have been working with Windmills materials since shortly after Peter Hawkins’ book ‘The Art of Building Windmills’ was published in1999. I attended a Windmills event where Pete facilitated participants experiencing the activities we were hoping to deliver back in our own context. The whole day was all about our own personal and professional development, to set us up as role models to our students, colleagues, and teams back home. I realised that as a careers adviser I was neglecting managing my own career, and how valuable and important it was to take this time out – for me as well as my stakeholders.

So when ‘No Regrets’ came out I first worked through it for myself, and then began to think about how I could deliver this to my students and colleagues. I wanted to help the Windmills team with designing ways to turn the ‘No Regrets’ materials into activities that could be delivered in groups not just read about, so while the rest of the team were planning ‘block’ delivery of the materials, I planned an evening class. This would be extra to my normal work but enabled me to give a little back and work with a potentially different client group to students, graduates and staff of a university.  Instead, to fill my class I advertised to all of my friends in Facebook and found a group of 6 who were prepared to allow me to practice new techniques and resources on them!

I needed a venue to hold this evening class and my friend Martin Hogg of Citizen Coaching offered his offices which included a nice meeting area which would hold my group. He also very generously provided refreshments and even staff to meet and greet stragglers!

My original design – 7 (90 minute) workshops in 7 weeks following the plan of the book – had to be adapted, to allow for my not appreciating that the group needed time to settle in and be more gently introduced to the ethos and values of Windmills as well as to each other (the only thing they all had in common initially was knowing me!). There was also freezing rain one week (despite it only being November) which forced me to cancel a class. But they were eager to ‘add’ a couple of weeks and we made it through to a bank Holiday Monday!

The fact that all the participants are still my friends three years later is evidence that all went well. There were advantages and disadvantages in knowing the participants: the advantage was that they were predisposed to like me and like anything I offered, and hopefully forgive any clangers I dropped! The disadvantage was that they might not be entirely honest in their feedback; also I didn’t want to drop any clangers and have them think less of the materials because of it.

As part of feedback I asked them to tell a story of what our ‘No Regrets’ class had meant to them and here are some comments:

  • Identified lack of confidence & commitment early on- pushed myself into more situations to practice skills during courses – very useful to talk about & identify issues
  • Planning work in new job ; planning social activities during the week; look at things differently ie yoga is giving to myself
  • I have started research into my family tree. This is something I’ve wanted to begin for some time because no-one else in my family has done this. Finally someone in my family is doing a family tree.

I have been able to follow the progress of their lives and careers and all of them have subsequently commented on how valuable the class – and especially the book – has been. As one friend and participant told me only a month ago ‘I have the book and you on my bench to return to when I need to’

For me the materials are incorporated into many of the workshops I deliver to staff at the university, but what’s more noticeable, and important, to me is how much confidence it gave me. I took a chance and stepped a little way out of my comfort zone. I learned lots, the feedback was great and I felt chuffed with myself for giving a bit back, and also how generous all of my friends were. So thank you to my participants, Martin and staff at Citizen Coaching, and the Windmills team – I have no regrets at all.

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