‘Is there ever a real ending?’ – reflections from the July 2016 alumni group meeting

‘Is there ever a real ending?’ – reflections from the July 2016 alumni group meeting

Tavistock Consulting Alumni Event

Grace Howard shares her thoughts on attending the July 2016 Alumni Group meeting:

Another informative and thought-provoking TC Alumni Group meeting took place on 13 July, with the theme of ‘endings’ as chosen at the previous meeting, balancing our considerations of beginnings last time. About 20 alumni came along – most people were fairly recent graduates of D10, with a few ‘older alumni’ including some executive coaches such as me. It was lovely to meet people from such a range of careers, in small and big business, public sector and charities.

We started with a short business discussion about the shape of the group, with Kay Trainor leading and a consensus emerging that while we really valued external speakers there was also a lot of value in hearing about and reflecting on the reality of the work of fellow alumni. Indeed, if we only ever had external speakers that might reinforce the dependency of the group – there was a feeling we would like to be a more self-organising group (easier said than done!).

We managed not to get too side-tracked by the inevitable reflections around the endings that might be represented by Brexit!

A big thanks to Gwen for her research and presentation on endings and chairing the ensuing discussions. Gwen had prepared a short, but extremely helpful handout. She invited us to consider questions such as ‘what constitutes an ending?’, ‘what particular dynamics might surface at endings?’ and ‘what gets triggered if the ending is planned or unplanned?’  Drawing on the Bartholomew and Horowitz 1991 four-category attachment style model, Gwen explored how attachment styles might affect reactions to endings. She also provided some reflection pointers around ‘what is a good enough ending?’, ‘how do I attend to my own role in endings?’ and ‘how do I see the client’s system’s role in endings?’

As there were three case studies around endings offered for presentation, by agreement we broke into three self-selecting groups. One alumni presented on the ending of his tenure as a primary headteacher; another on changes in the board of trustees of a charity she works with, and I presented on finishing four years of the ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ programme introducing social pedagogy into UK foster care. In my group, after a short presentation from me the group discussed together the meanings, feelings and questions arising from my case, and offered some amazingly insightful reflections which really helped in my own processing of this ending.

In the final plenary a range of thoughts were offered and discussed from our small group sessions, including points around: is there ever a real ending, especially if some people continue when one leaves or if in a change project the ultimate aim is to secure sustainable change? – is it not more of a continuum?; how to define the boundaries of an ending – they are often unclear and subjective?;  the importance of recognising the different systemic levels of conscious and unconscious reaction to endings; how generally it seems that endings are under-acknowledged, perhaps not even named, and certainly inadequately processed, the potential related consequences and how we might bear this in mind whether as part of the organisation or as a coach or consultant.

We hit our time boundary of 8pm frustratingly soon – we could probably have continued for hours on this topic. A number of people were able to stay on, enjoying a glass of wine, chatting and continuing the endings discussions.

Eventually, of course, there was an ending even to this.

Many thanks to Kay and Francesca for organising, to Kay for holding the space so professionally, and of course to Gwen, as well as to all who participated. See you next time – 18th October.

Grace Howard, July 2016

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