Meeting Beth King
What do you really enjoy about your work? What motivates you?
The thing that inspires me most of all is creating environments where organisations and the people within them can thrive. And by doing that, become vessels for change in society in two ways. Firstly, organisations can be incredible environments for people to evolve as individuals. People spend so much of their lives in the workplace - everyone should be able to bring their full selves to work, to learn, to grow, to connect, to become their essential selves. Secondly, organisations can be powerful stewards of change in society. They have a huge influence – one could argue in many cases more so than government or NGOs. They are being asked to be so much more in the 21st century - more values-driven, more purpose focused, more people orientated, more socially and environmentally responsible and more conscious.
My work allows me to help craft environments for this alchemy to happen, by creating these vessels for change, alongside authentic and courageous leaders. It is a privilege to witness and walk side by side with organisations and leaders as they start to make a difference.
What has been the biggest learning experience in your career that has shaped the way you approach your work?
Every day is a learning experience - if we are not learning, we are stagnating! I think that is why I still love my job. Every company has its own DNA, its own ambitions and challenges, its own people and culture and therefore every project is an adventure.
However, my biggest learning over my career has been to be braver. In part that is about holding organisations and leaders to account in embracing complexity and really see the system they are working in – with humans at its heart. Businesses can be very reductionist in the way a piece of work or problem is defined. We look for the simplest, cheapest, quickest way to fix a particular focused issue.
All of those things are important in a modern business, but the secret to sustainable success, and building organisations that are fit for this increasingly turbulent context they work in, is to really understand what is going on under the surface. Nine times out of ten, it's down to people. I started my career delivering large scale change across businesses and I quickly realised that the key aspects of delivering a strategy, or creating sustainable change, is not the end product, the process or the system. Rather it is the people, the mindsets, leadership, connection, collaboration, engagement, empowerment and dialogue across the business. It took me some time and plenty of failures to realise that. I have become braver at giving the tougher, systemic message and not just accepting the initial commercial brief.
What do you think is the most important attribute as a consultant when working with your clients?
Clarity, partnership, connection, humour and fun are all important! I learnt early on that the way I bring about change in an organisation is as vital as the content and technical solutions I provide.
Most important is the gift of authenticity. I have become more courageous in sharing myself more fully with clients. For years I thought a good consultant was one who was objective, rational and professional at all times and who had all the answers. Yes – these things are needed, but so is sharing the war stories and associated insights, being curious, not knowing the answer and experimenting anyway, and letting people know what drives you and makes you tick. This is the basis of my strong connections with others and the foundation of rich and fruitful partnership in the complex journey we are taking together.
As an example, 6 years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety – which came on completely out of the blue. Sometimes when it is appropriate, I share with clients the journey I took in understanding the impact of stress, and the importance of presence, mindfulness and becoming more comfortable with uncertainty. It is always an incredibly rich experience as by sharing my vulnerability and story with others, it gives permission for them to open up and be more real and connected with themselves and their colleagues.
You are relatively new to the RISE community – what have you found valuable?
I continue to experience RISE as something special and relatively unique. It is a coming-together of minds, hearts and experience. A group of leading academics, battle-scarred executives and seasoned consultants, consciously and curiously exploring what is needed of organisations and leaders in the 21st century. Being in the community for the last six months has been like coming home!
Two things have made a huge impact on me. Firstly, the level of reflective practice. Everyone in the RISE community is constantly pushing the boundaries, testing their assumptions, unconscious and trained biases both in client work but also in themselves. The level of honest, generous and authentic sharing and giving of feedback and insight across the group is inspiring. Secondly, is the way the community is set up and is growing. The community model is a research and development practice in itself - forging a new way to collaborate, dialogue and work together with like-minded people. Every day with RISE is a learning opportunity and I’m delighted to be part of the journey.