Ivy House alumni interview – Sam Foreman

Ivy House alumni interview – Sam Foreman

What did you think of the IH programme?

It was unlike anything that I have taken part in before. They managed to create this inspiring environment where you’re able to learn an amazing amount about yourself and how you can fulfil your potential. The team on the Ivy House programme are some of the most knowledgeable and inspiring people that I have ever met. 

How different is it from other courses that you have attended?

On other courses, you might have one or two days out of the office and then you go back into your day job and nothing changes. The thing about Ivy House is that it comes at you in a number of different ways. You’ve got four two-day masterclasses. It’s fully immersive and you feel safe to make mistakes. You’re challenged but there are high levels of support.

What were your main takeaways from the workshops?

From the start, I realised how much I was undermining myself with negative thoughts. I learnt how to simply flip that on its head in terms of my internal dialogue around how I approach situations in a different way. I now use the technique every day. For example, I’d go into a meeting thinking ‘I’m not sure I know what I’m doing here’. Now I step back and think ‘why are you having these thoughts? Is that thought helpful? Is that completely true?’ and then ‘What might be a different way of looking at this that will have a better outcome?’ 

I also recognise that vulnerability can be a strength. I grew up in New Zealand, playing rugby. You don’t really show weakness. I’ve gone through life thinking that ‘I’ve got to be really good at this’ and if I’m not, then I’ve failed.  But being able to say “this is something I’m struggling with” can be empowering and that has opened my eyes to certain things both inside and outside of work. 

How have you used them in your work environment? 

I’m a lot more open to feedback and see mistakes as an opportunity to learn from and grow. I approach different situations at work, whether good or bad, focusing on what I can control. That has allowed me to be a lot more effective and adaptive. 

How has the experience affected your relationships with your team/department?

After Ivy House, I took the opportunity to join the Aviva Coaching Programme and become an accredited coach. I am now  coaching a couple of colleagues across my wider team. I was keen to share my experience, some of the techniques that I had learnt to help them with situations they were struggling with. I would also say I’m much more willing to be vulnerable with members of my team and I think that’s reciprocated and leads to building trust. 

How have you used the core principles in your personal life? 

I use the Ivy House ‘Thoughts + Feelings = Behaviour’ model on a daily basis, both inside and outside of work. I am really conscious of the thoughts that I am having and say ‘do I want to choose that thought or is there another thought that would serve me better?’ and that will probably lead to a better result and impact the way I am feeling. It has had a great impact on my relationships inside and outside of work and how I have approached challenging situations. 

How would you describe yourself as a leader before the course? And then afterwards?

Before, I would say I was lacking a bit of direction. I wasn’t aware of what my strengths were. I wasn’t really willing to show up and be vulnerable or share certain things about me.

Now I’m much more proactive about learning. I’m much more willing to be open to feedback and how I can learn from different situations.

I think that I’m calmer and recognise there isn’t much point in worrying about things that you can’t control.

Ivy House alumni interview – Amy Higham

Ivy House alumni interview – Amy Higham

What did you think of the IH Programme?

It promised to be a life-changing experience and it absolutely lived up to that. It’s had a massive impact on my personal and professional life. It’s made me reflect a lot more on how I can interlink the two.

I think I was nervous at first about the unknown. I’ve never experienced being put into a room with so many talented people from different backgrounds and organisations. I was thinking that I’d have to shine the light on myself a little bit – there’s quite a lot of self-reflection. But it was a safe environment and everyone was really supportive.

How different is it from other courses that you have attended?

It’s totally different. It brings the leadership skills training that’s normally reserved for executive board members, chief execs and financial officers, and gives it to you at an earlier stage in your career. We don’t do that on our internal programmes (at M&S). To have professional coaching from experts who’ve coached senior leaders was very different.

At age 26, I think it would have been so useful to have this experience earlier, particularly the insights around understanding your own personal values. It can prevent a lot of conflict or unnecessary conversations.

What were your main takeaways from the workshops?

The biggest thing for me was around the art of more effective conversations. I’m not sure any organisation covers this in detail. I think when you’re first leading people, you’re just learning through trial and error. I’ve never had any sort of direction in the seven years that I’ve been a line manager on how to have an effective conversation and I had never realised the importance of that until coming on the programme.

My biggest challenge was not wanting to tackle difficult conversations. It’s nerve-racking but I felt so much more equipped to go in and hold my opinions lightly and talking about facts.

How has the experience affected your relationships with your team/department?

I have been much more open with my team, about what I’ve learnt, for example, giving and receiving feedback. I think that has broken down barriers within the team and encouraged everyone to be more open. It definitely feels much nicer walking into the office in the morning or onto the shop floor.

In such a big organisation with 85,000 employees, we’ve only sent about fifteen (emerging leaders) on the Ivy House programme. We’re not going to touch everybody but if everyone I come into contact with can benefit from something that I’ve taken away, that’s great.

I’m keen that the people that signed me up for the programme know that it is going to add value as I passionately want us to do something bigger with the kind of stuff that Elke and the team are teaching.

How have you used the core principles in your personal life?

During one workshop, Elke asked the question, ‘who likes to be right?’ Most people put their hand up. I think that’s something I was guilty of, not holding my own opinion lightly, whether it was a personal or professional conversation.

I just feel like we’ve got a totally different relationship now, for example, with my dad. It is just nicer and more comfortable to have a conversation with each other. I’ve explored more about him and understand now why he might be how he is and to accept him for who he is. I just need to adapt how I approach it. You can only change yourself.

If there was one thing that the course has helped you with, what is it?

Effective conversations are definitely a big thing for me.

But we also covered purpose which helped me and my team when I was back at M&S: ‘Why are we here? What is our purpose?’ and ‘Are we always working towards that purpose?’. So it has been particularly instructive with meetings:  ‘Why are we having them? What is the purpose? What’s the output of them?’.  

In every organisation there are so many unnecessary meetings. I think it has helped me and my team to weed out any ineffectiveness. We’re still working on it, but we question the purpose a lot more.

How would you describe yourself as a leader before the course? And then afterwards?

I would have said I was supportive, straight-talking, inclusive and directive. My leadership style was hierarchical, but I think Ivy House has helped me to reflect more, be more open and vulnerable, share more of me as a person, which has allowed the team to trust me more.

Ivy House alumni interview – Jessica Bradley

Ivy House alumni interview – Jessica Bradley

What did you think of the IH Programme?

In short, and this sounds dramatic, it really has changed my life. I always worry about going on training or learning programmes and coming away without truly embedding the things I’ve learnt. With this, it couldn’t be further from that. 

To have that kind of development, whilst still fairly early on in my career, has been instrumental. It’s the kind of learning that you see given to the Execs and Senior Leaders.

The masterclasses are incredible. They’re such a great opportunity to learn things that I would never have been exposed to before. My external network has grown loads and the facilitating of the coaches has been amazing – they really enable you to see a different perspective by asking you the kind of questions you wouldn’t have thought about yourself and they inspire a new way of thinking, new beliefs and new actions. 

Before Ivy House, I was nurturing and empathetic as a leader, but I think I was a little self-deprecating. Maybe I didn’t know myself so well, I was frightened to have the difficult conversations that I knew I needed to have to be more effective but chose not to. I was less willing to put my hand up for opportunities that cropped up because I thought I wasn’t good enough, or I was nervous that I’d get it all wrong. 

Now I feel confident, self-aware and generally more powerful and a better leader. I know who I am, I know what my strengths are, I know what my development areas are, I have a plan, I take on feedback so much better than I used to. I feel that the Ivy House programme has helped me to become more of a true learner.

How different is it from other courses that you have attended?

They’re worlds apart. With the Ivy House Programme, the minute you walk in, you feel totally safe. You feel able to disclose things that you would never have thought about disclosing before. You feel real power in vulnerability with everyone else in the room and I think that vulnerability and that exposing of yourself helps you to learn that much quicker, and that helps the learning to embed that much quicker as well. 

What were your main takeaways from the workshops?

Ownership and choice. So, one of the things that they teach you is a really important equation: ‘Event + Behaviour = Result’. It really teaches you how to take full accountability for the life that you want to lead, relationships that you want to create or change, and making your own choices. Before Ivy House, I felt a little bit like the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that I was having or doing weren’t through choice. So, if something went wrong in my life, I instantly felt annoyed, sad or frustrated and I thought that was out of my control. 

I now feel that I’m totally in control of the thoughts that I’m having and the feelings I’m having. I can really take a step back, look at the bigger picture and choose the thoughts and feelings that I want to have, be more accountable, and have more empowering beliefs rather than the limiting ones. 

How have you used them in your work environment? 

Before, presenting to large groups or holding a call with thirty plus people and trying to get people to agree to something, would fill me with panic. 

Now, I see things like that as an opportunity to grow and develop. Back in December last year, I had only been on two masterclasses by that point, and I volunteered myself to speak in front of two-hundred people at an event. My whole thought process has changed; I feel able to channel excitement and positivity into the nervous energy I’ve always had. I asked for feedback and took ownership of that feedback. That was a huge thing for me.

How has the experience affected your relationships with your team/department?

 I would say that the conversations I’m having at work are much better now. I don’t think any of my team would mind me saying that I’ve become far more open and honest since completing the programme! But I’m having those honest conversations in a truly effective way.

 One of the things that Elke (founder of Ivy House) told us on the masterclasses was: “Only you have the power to change your future” and she’s totally right. Now I see that in a totally different way, and I am being totally honest and authentic about the things that don’t sit well with me, and the things that I think are working really well. 

How have you used the core principles in your personal life? 

One of my core values – fairness – would be a good example.  A friendship wasn’t working to its best, and it felt like I was making all the effort. I was always going round to see her or contacting her rather than her ever coming to me. So, we had a good conversation and I just said “I don’t think this relationship is as effective as it could be, it feels different and I want to get us back on track” and she really understood and said “I never would have seen it that way”. I’m not sure she’d have raised it. Before Ivy House we probably both would’ve let it just keep slipping away. It helped us to work through that and now we’re getting on so much better. That was a real positive.                                

Ivy House alumni interview – Hannah Stenton

Ivy House alumni interview – Hannah Stenton

Before I started the course, I was expecting to be challenged in professional development. It was so much more than that. It was life changing on a professional and personal level.

I loved it. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I went. 

It is such a safe space to be yourself. I’ve never connected with a large group of people so quickly. You get to know yourself and what’s important to you. I really loved the group stuff. Then having eight hours to focus on yourself with the 1-1 coaching is great. The answers are all in you and you don’t realise it until you are put in that environment. 

I’m not feeling guilty about saying no 

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to self-reflect so much. While I’ve always had values I’ve never focused on them before. It’s so useful to think about them and make value-based decisions.  If issues are going against my values I am now able to say no. And I’m not feeling guilty about saying no anymore.

I also learned a lot about my personal life.  There is only one you and the private and the professional parts are not separate.

I had a big family upheaval to deal with while I was on the IHP and it gave me such perspective to deal with things.

It helped to strengthen my relationships with family members and know when to intervene and when to take a step back.

Before completing the IHP I had a severe limiting belief that I should only do things for myself if I had time left over. But unless I recharge myself and put myself first I can’t help anyone else unless I’m fully charged myself. So now I make that time and don’t feel bad about it.

We had a dog shaped hole in our lives

We also did loads of stuff about physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I love being outdoors and need to find time to do this.  We lost our dog 6 months before and told ourselves it was ok, and we could just live our crazy work lives without any responsibility. But I realised we had a dog shaped hole in our lives. Thanks to Ivy House, I got a dog!

I massively learned from others. Learning that other people have the same kind of problems going on is a comfort. Lots of people are in similar situations. Listening to others talk about their situations, helps you address yours.

I’m completely living and breathing Ivy House

I used IH techniques every day. I’m completely living and breathing it in my work and to support the teams I lead and help them be the best they can be. 

I am definitely working more effectively. It’s made me tackle more rather than just over think things. I was really unhappy in my job last year. I would have previously just carried on but knowing my values, I knew what was wrong and how to make changes.

I have taken control of my career development. I got to a certain level by a young age I knew the next step was a few years away, so it would have been easy to stay static but IH has given me the fight to keep developing and keep learning.

Ivy House alumni interview – Anil Sarda

Ivy House alumni interview – Anil Sarda

Tell us about what you do

I am a Consultant with The Economist Intelligence Unit, sister company to The Economist magazine. I help corporations, international organizations, NGOs and governments understand how public policy impacts their bottom line. Through research, analysis and amplification, I help provide organizations with the tools they need to advocate for real change, whether it be on food security, internet inclusiveness or flood mitigation and resilience.

What impact are you looking to make?

Harnessing my experience in international business, marketing and public policy, I want to help provide entrepreneurs in less fortunate areas of the world with the same tools that I’ve been fortunate enough to leverage to learn and grow. To us, these are basic resources – Internet access, access to funding, a strong network of educators and professionals – but to others, these can make all the difference between success and failure.

How is Ivy House helping you move forward?

Rarely do personal and professional development intersect in the training programs available today. Ivy House blends the two seamlessly, forcing you to explore your inner strengths and goals which at times can be uncomfortable but in the end, completely rewarding.

What did you like best about the programme?

Accountability and a network of like-minded individuals. Months after the program, the peers and relationships I’ve formed continue to push each other to make sure we are following up on the goals we laid out in the session. This network is one that is molded within two days but will be lasting due to the strong bonds that are created from sharing personal goals, successes, failures and ambitions.

Ivy House alumni interview – Edmund Wilkinson

Ivy House alumni interview – Edmund Wilkinson

Tell us about what you do

I lead multi-disciplinary project teams at London Underground. The job is really about managing people – behind every process is a person that has to be engaged to keep things moving forward.

What impact are you looking to make?

To challenge the status quo – to question and find new ways of doing things. I’m in my element meeting and connecting with new individuals. My aim is to bring people together so they can collaborate, and support each other.

How is Ivy House helping you move forward?

Ivy House helped me understand thinking processes and habits, and what a growth mindset really means. I also learnt skills that were immediately applicable to my professional life. Ivy House is a network of hugely talented people and I have connected with members from a range of sectors.

What did you like best about the programme?

The programme gave space for me to reflect not only on the path I want to take, but also on the person I want to be and how I can become that person.

Any other comments about Ivy House?

It was inspiring to hear the personal stories and aims of some individuals present. The whole atmosphere was one of energy and encouragement.

Ivy House alumni interview – Daniel Johnson

Ivy House alumni interview – Daniel Johnson

Tell us about what you do

I run an innovation consultancy alongside my business partner. We solve the problems that companies (mostly early stage) face. We have three main areas of focus: validation (turning ideas into profitable companies), growth (scaling startups) and innovation/research (nascence).

What impact are you looking to make?

This is a question that influences every decision I make, and one that I ask myself on a daily basis. I want to look back on life and know I’ve made an impact and added value to the world. I’m still trying to understand what that value is. Short term – it means helping people expand their ideas and achieve their goals. Long term – I’m still figuring that out.

How is Ivy House helping you move forward?

The programme has impacted my decisions in many ways. I’ve been asking myself some big questions and meeting a bunch of successful people with the same questions was incredible.

What did you like best about the programme?

The value of the learning. I left with a lot of questions to ask myself but also skills and processes that I could put into action straight away.

Any other comments about Ivy House?

The people were genuinely enthusiastic and influential. The most welcoming group of people I’ve encountered – a place where I could just be myself.

Ivy House alumni interview – Hannah Smith

Ivy House alumni interview – Hannah Smith

Tell us about what you do

I am an HR business partner at ITSU, a fast growing healthy food brand. I look after 25 shops, managing internal communications and staying connected with the managers to understand their experience. It’s a challenging environment where attracting and retaining the best talent is essential.

What impact are you looking to make?

A happy and healthy workforce does great things for a business. I’m in HR to put people at the heart of what we do. My vision is for HR to be fully involved in shaping the values of the business and how they are lived throughout the company. I believe we can use data as a powerful tool to understand our people and go on to find innovative ways to see and value the impact they make.

How is Ivy House helping you move forward?

The Ivy House Programme is about doing it, and not just thinking about it. I left more connected with my own sense of purpose, my strengths and passions. I’ve kept in touch with a lot of people I met there. Everyone gave 100% and everyone is committed to making an impact in everything they do.

What did you like best about the programme?

The conversations that sparked off and the level of support. There was freedom to explore, to go off on tangents, to question. The days were long and intense but I left energised and lifted.

Ivy House alumni interview – Sebastian Brixey-Williams

Ivy House alumni interview – Sebastian Brixey-Williams

What did you think of the IH programme?

The Ivy House Programme might be the most important learning experience I’ve ever had. It has fundamentally caused me to rethink my own needs, goals and the processes by which I make decisions about my life. It’s filled in many of the gaps that mainstream education doesn’t always touch upon, such as interpersonal relationships and self-knowledge. It introduced me to the concepts of life coaching and performance coaching, which I now feel fascinated by.

How different is it from other courses that you have attended?

The Ivy House Programme was extremely interactive and personal.
I would say the quality of the people was also noticeably higher than on other courses I’ve attended. They consistently proved themselves to be open, honest and curious, and each in their own way were excelling in what they were doing. I’ve remained friends with many of them – I even cooked dinner for a handful last week.
And the life coaches were such experts: they were always able to simplify very complex personal questions and doubts.

What were your main takeaways from the workshops?

All of it is about getting to know ourselves better.
I also found the work on how to have effective conversations very helpful. We were given a checklist of dimensions to be aware of when preparing and conducting a conversation, and then also afterwards learning from it. It’s primarily about being fully accountable for what caused the conversation to go the way it went. That was a particularly eye-opening exercise, given that my profession is founded on dialogue.

How have you used them in your work environment?

You learn a model on how to give better feedback to everyone in your life, but particularly your work colleagues. Since the programme, I have instituted a monthly growth meeting at my charity, BASIC, which works on nuclear disarmament diplomacy. The idea has been to train my colleagues with the model and then create a regular opportunity for them to give each other feedback, whether positive or negative.
This has helped the whole organisation to grow and develop by creating a culture of honesty and making sure that any doubts, frustrations or concerns surface in a regular way before they really took root. This has been really well received.

How has the experience affected your relationships with your team/department?

I would say it’s been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had team members say to me that they have seen a real change in the way that I approach work. I’m more relaxed and aware of the things I need to consider.
What has been empowering is to understand my own and my teams’ preferences, and find ways to harmonise those better. For example, when we start a new project, I’m naturally drawn to developing efficient strategies and systems on paper first whereas some of my colleagues just like to get on with things. In the past, that led to conflicts because I often felt that the planning work I had done was just being ignored, underutilised or undervalued. Now I just let them get on with it and the team works better.

How have you used the core principles in your personal life?

I have become more conscious that one of my core values revolves around integrity. Within my professional life, being seen as trustworthy is absolutely essential in my role as a mediator and honest broker between governments, parliaments and citizens on nuclear weapons policy issues.
If there was one thing that the course has helped you with, what is it?
I’d say that Ivy House has helped me spot habits that compromise my confidence. Niggling doubts, negative thoughts and uncontrollable spirals have almost all melted away now, and been replaced with strong habits.

How would you describe yourself as a leader before the course? And then afterwards?

I don’t think I had a clear idea of what sort of leader I was. Today my leadership style is based on establishing strong, compelling visions and principles for what I and the team are trying to achieve.

Ivy House alumni interview – Blandine Oller Perret

Ivy House alumni interview – Blandine Oller Perret

Tell us what you do?

  I currently work as a Marketing & PR Manager at BP PRIME, a provider of online trading services. Led by a visionary CEO, we are a high-growth company where it is possible to take on responsibilities and be proactive in moving the company forward. Besides running marketing campaigns, I design and code both of which I absolutely love.
 
Outside work, I am developing the skills I need to realise my goal of being a professional and personal life coach.

What impact are you looking to make?

  I wish to support people who feel dissatisfied with where they are and are ready to start work on what their next steps might be. Life is messy and unexpected, and our mind can sometimes be a obstacle – stopping us rather than helping us achieve our purpose. But we all have what it takes to fulfil our potential. Taking a risk to “blossom” takes courage and I want to be a part of this journey for others.

How is Ivy House helping you move forward?

  Ivy House brought and continues to bring me new waves of energy and strength. Having incredible professionals share insights that you normally only acquire after years of experience is a gold mine and saves years.
 
I left ready to start the journey towards my next professional adventure. Ivy House helps you discover what you are really capable of. Whatever your age you can really come to know yourself and go beyond what you thought your limits were.  

What did you like best about the programme?

  Ivy House is a strong community where people give open and honest feedback and help you move forward. The programme gave me the reminder I needed to trust my instinct and work hard – but work smartly. Since I was a child, I have always pursued my dreams but the program helped me think differently about what age means. As soon as you have the determination, nothing stands in your way. Coming on The Ivy House Programme you’ll definitely open your eyes to a great new path.