Meeting Jemma Barton

Learn about RISE consultant Jemma and her passion for personal development and supporting others in that development, in the midst of change.

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What do you really enjoy about your work that you'd like to share with others?

Working to support the development of people and organisations feels like an extremely privileged place to be working, especially now.  The level of change in particular sectors is increasing exponentially, ‘trusted’ business models are being increasingly disrupted. We see greater awareness and concern over challenging paradoxes, such as balancing profit and growth with sustainability and the demand for greater employee wellbeing.  We are rightly (in my opinion) being asked to re-examine our thinking in a significant number of areas. I love the challenge and the opportunity this provides and the possibility to create work that has such potential to add value.

We all inevitably find ourselves stuck from time to time.  I love the richness that comes from working with others, in discovering the patterns and ways this happens to them, seeing what can be learned and how they can develop by exploring it. The privilege for me, having had the opportunity to study and work with these areas for the last few years is  to be able to support people with the challenges they face. The perspective you have as a coach and facilitator means you get a sense of the undercurrents that flow in organisations and peoples lives.  

What has been your biggest learning experience in the past few years that has shaped the way you approach your work?

It’s so hard to choose one – it doesn’t feel like a singular thing.  If I think back to the person who left the corporate world three years ago and embarked on this journey, she was so different.  I taught self-awareness in the programmes I ran internally; and considered myself to be quite aware - little did I know… Over the last three years, I have undertaken  a huge amount of self work, beyond the qualifications, tools and letters after my name. It has been these opportunities that have created shifts in me as a person that have been the most powerful.  I feel like my eyes have started to open now and I know that this will be a lifelong path.

The understanding that comes from this work, the work that I know that being part of RISE we bring to our clients, is what woke me up in a new way.  The insights and understanding mean that I am aware of and understand so much more of what is at play. I am excited by it and the opportunities that I find to share it.  I find these insights incredibly useful when supporting clients (and myself) on the complex and challenging material that comes up.

If you held me to naming the area(s) that have shaped me most it would be the insights that have come from studying vertical development and embodiment.  These areas come the closest to incorporating the learnings that have felt foundational to me. This happens through having ways to access how a person sees the world and thinks.  Being able to help them see how this can inform their lens on life and where that can lead them to feel challenge and also how reframing that can generate great opportunity.

Embodiment opens up the understanding that comes from a whole-person perspective.  Moving from the traditional cognitive, narrowly defined forms of intelligence, to recognising broader perspectives that comes from deeper levels of consciousness in and between our minds and bodies. This has the power to enable people and organisations to see and sense  in deeper ways. It is not something I have the words for – which is challenging in a blog! What I can say is that this allows access to reflections of what is happening, to experience dynamics and patterns that are not explicit. Both of these are incredibly rich sources of insight that help to inform my approach.

What got you interested in this work, what continues to motivate you, and what do you wish you had known earlier? 

Wow – such a rich question.  I have always had a deep interest in people.  I had a challenging childhood and I now see in my work that it has served me well, to be able to understand people.  I’ve been fortunate to come to understand that many of the gifts people have are things that looked after their wellbeing, our brains are clever that way! 

In my corporate life, I worked in HR and doing that work you see a lot.  I had the privilege of supporting some fantastic leaders and seeing the richness they created for the people as well as the organisations they were in.  I also worked in some incredibly tough and uncomfortable situations, where I felt challenged to the roots of who I am. I am incredibly principled and values-driven and I don’t stand back or shy away from what is difficult, but intrinsically I knew that I was not working to my potential managing the difficulty the way I had.

I am motivated by my personal values of courage and humility. When I look at the news and see the huge challenges we face, I believe the understanding and experience that I have been fortunate to develop has a place to support how we show up and face these.  

By working with leaders and organisations we have the opportunity to  leverage our impact in some of those challenges.  

What would I  say I wish I had known earlier? I wouldn’t; I have learned to trust the process of life - my personal development journey has meant I have been able to turn past challenges into positives.   I look forward to what shows up in the future - development is lifelong!

What do you find valuable about this RISE community? How can we continue to improve the way we bring consultants together?

The people in RISE are front and centre for me, so many amazing people – a truly diverse set of inspirations, experiences and thinking.  And that is wonderful, but it would not be nearly as wonderful as it is, without the community approach we take. The community part is our secret source; it differentiates us and creates a superpower for our clients.  I don’t imagine there are many places where clients get every stage of their engagement peer-reviewed. As consultants working on an engagement, our thinking is challenged and we get something that we wouldn’t get if we didn’t share and challenge our thinking in that way which are new perspectives and thinking that come from the diversity in the group.

Last month I attended my first RISE gathering and getting two full days of engaging with and challenging our processes in a  room with other consultants was a gift. I think we have a challenge around how we do that more often at a local level and bring out the richness that we have outside of the gatherings.

Anything else you would like to add?

Id just like to end on a quote:


Clearly we have not touched the deeper causes of our troubles…. the ultimate source of all these problems is in thought itself, the very thing of which our civilization is most proud, and therefore the one thing that is "hidden" because of our failure seriously to engage with its actual working in our own individual lives and in the life of society - David Bohm


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