Surprising turn in your career - characteristic of AMED members?

Is this true of you?  You were on a career path that was either not inherently satisfactory or you realised there was something better for you elsewhere.  And you made a decisive change as a result.


Long-time AMED member David McAra has suggested that such experiences are common, perhaps even universal, among this community.  It turned out to be true for all four of us discussing the idea at a lunch yesterday.  An engineer had become a facilitator; a journalist switched to comedy producer; a banker to an environmentalist, and one who spurned a traditional post-university career in favour of adventures in Africa and India.


Perhaps AMED is a good home for such people, with these experiences producing the DNA of the membership, colouring our stance towards organisations, management education and development.


Do you have a story of such a change in your life?  And it is this that makes AMED an attractive or useful place for you to express yourself and interact with others who have had similar realisations?

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Fantastic question - thank you David McAra and Paul Z!

I had a major turn in my career. I started out working as a project manager with a large international bank - both in the US and in the UK. My position required the asking good questions, connecting people from different areas/countries, and the ability to think holistically about a system. The trouble is, during my time there, I saw one lady go from a fantastically confident, MENSA IQ project lead to someone who had a complete nervous break down. Then I went to work in the UK on Y2K compliance issues and experienced a department with 4/5 managers on stress-leave for months at a time. I remember thinking - we have all of these hard-working, smart, lovely people who really care about doing a great job being crunched by the system. It was at that point that I wanted to help those people (and people in organisations generally) to establish ways of being that were much more collaborative, creative and effective.

So that was my surprise turning point. How about you all?

Best wishes
AMED Co-Chair
I had my life changing experience in 1996 when I attended the Tavistock Institute Leicester Group Relations, internatiional two week event on Authority, Role and Organisations. I found that experiential learning was for me. I was told that I had a talent for identifying organisational issues fast. This discovery led me to studying part time on an MA programme: applying psychoanalytic and systemic approaches to Consulting. I eventually found that my Whitehall Masters were unable to value my talents. I left the Civil Service in 2001 after nearly 30 years and set up my own business. A colleague pointed me towards AMED in May 2020 when I was searching for cheap professional indemnity insurance. I soon found myself in a development group of people who wanted to re-invigorate AMED. Bob MacKenzie and David Shepherd were also in this Group. A year later we found ourselves taking over the Council.

I am convinced that the people I meet in AMED share my passion for helping people working in organisations make the most of their talents and creativity. We may have different approaches and theoretical frameworks for our work, but there is a generosity of sharing and understanding. Which is why, eight years later, I am still there on the Council, working with Belina and colleagues to provide a vibrant network for our members.

Regards John

John, AMED Co-Cahir
It isn’t just a change in career, Paul. It’s the reason for the change. John says, “my Whitehall Masters were unable to value my talents” because there was no requirement for John’s talents in the Civil Service. In fact, they’d most likely be seen as a threat.

Like almost any of the organisations from which we are refugees, it is unable to cope with the complexity of reality. So reality is force fit into simplistic management models: hierarchy, management by objectives, performance appraisal, incentive schemes, etc.

When, as individuals, we wake up and realise that these management models are built on unsound foundations we become dissatisfied and respond in different ways. It can be very difficult at first because most of those around us are still asleep or in denial. So discovering a community in AMED which: embraces complexity, has some understanding of systems thinking and cares about sustainability, gives rise to a great joy and long-lasting loyalty.

The unifying factor (I tend to assume when meeting other AMED members) is that we have all discovered fallacies in long-held beliefs so we are aware of the depth of our own ignorance and are therefore more open than most to surprises from unexpected quarters.

I had the great good luck to be made redundant (although it didn't feel like good luck at the time)! I had been unhappy in my work, and wondering about making a change for two reasons: to balance working life with new commitments as a mother, and to find work which was based on a different model of change-making.

As a campaigner with an environmental pressure group, I had spent a lot of my working life reading reports or hearing about other people's environmental performance and making very rapid judgements and pronouncements about them, most often finding all the picky faults!

It was high-energy work, lots of adrenaline, but increasingly I found it personally unsatisfiying and frankly terrifying.

I wanted to work in a way which enabled people of good will to collaborate in experimenting with what might work better, rather than being the naysayer always finding fault.

And gradually, that is how my practice as an independent consultant and facilitator has evolved and developed.

I joined AMED soon after becoming self-employed, because I really needed to go rapidly up the learning curve: practical things like how to find an IT guy to look after my home-based PC, to deeper support on how it is to be a consultant, both seeking work and wanting that work to be authentic and truly beneficial to the client. And learning about techniques and approaches, what the good books are, which short courses to go on and which qualifications are useful... I got so much support from the AMED people who I networked with, and who were open to sharing what they knew. It was great to find a sustainable development special interest group in AMED, thus bringing together both my past interest and experience in the collaborative and positive solutions-oriented atmosphere that I craved.

Redundancy was the best thing that happened to me, at that point in my working life!


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