It’s been an eventful month for us at Common Purpose in Birmingham, with the end of yet another Meridian programme - and an office move as well. On Meridian we worked with over 30 participants, 100+ contributors and delivered 30 events – all within a five month span.

To be honest, I'm not great at reflection - I rarely stop long enough for it – but, having worked for over 11 years in one office, and with another great programme behind me, I did pause to reflect this weekend. In office clear-out mode, the milestones of my journey hit me: I've personally worked with over 1,000 participants and almost as many contributors over the years.

As I recycled old badges and speaker tents, I reflected on the privilege of having worked with so many people along the way - and been witness to their personal leadership journeys. I was also struck by the number of people we worked with, who aren’t Common Purpose alumni, but who genuinely enjoy the experience so much, that they come back regularly to work with our groups.

I realised that there are two key characteristics, common to the participants, who get the maximum benefit from our programmes, and the best of leaders I have worked with - time and clarity.

  • Time: Our contributors have busy schedules, all the same, they ensure they give their full attention to our participants, sharing their insights, listening well and open to questions. Participants who make the most of the programme are also equally invested in making the most of the opportunities on offer and don’t allow themselves to be distracted.
  • Clarity: Our contributors are clear about their vision and what they communicate, which helps offer insights into the context they operate in, even if some participants disagree with their views. Our participants too are clear about what they want to achieve through the programme.  They see that, by honestly sharing their views and questions, they learn more about themselves, the contributors and their peers.

For me, building relationships is not a one-off exercise. People are in need of partnerships built on trust and mutual understanding - now more than ever. While sometimes such connections can form quickly, more often than not, it takes time to build credibility about what we do. There’s no magic, quick-fix formula to building long-term relationships, which truly make a difference.

There are times when I wake up and wonder how I got here, and how we deliver successful programmes every year! But I’m very proud to be able to do so.