This was emailed to us shortly after Mike and Judith had spent two days with us. I am putting it here in the hope that it explains from a client’s perspective – better than we ever could – why two days with Stepping Off can be such a valuable experience. And because we were moved by it.
THE STEPPING OFF COURSE – A REVIEW
Background – This course is for one or two people looking to change the direction of their lives, for whatever reason. It is small, intimate and entirely focused on the needs of either one person or a couple. Judith (my wife) and I went together.
First impressions – Jo and Georgina genuinely want to look after you. They are both very friendly and welcoming without being gushing or pushy – Judith and I felt at home within the first hour in the warm, friendly home environment of a deceptively large house with lots of your own space when you need it.
During the first evening we shared a high quality home cooked meal, feeling like two valued house guests rather than customers on a corporate course- so much so that I will use the word guest below rather than a colder one such as client or attendee.
One of the many strings to Jo’s bow is that of motivational speaker (from Ladies’ Supper Clubs to Corporate Headliner), but she has none of the ‘loud and shallow’ characteristics that you may have come to associate with the worst of this group. Indeed, she appears solid and calm, with the genuine leadership quality you would expect from someone who has held a senior position within the police force. It is not until Georgina gentle encourages her to tell one or two stories during dinner that you see another side to this apparently phlegmatic lady. She is genuinely warm, funny and self deprecating. Georgina is engaging in a very different way – a natural, twinkly eyed way that could easily fool you into missing the strong, practical and very smart person beneath the smile. If you dismiss her often quirky one liners as purely flippant (which they sometimes are) or assume they are coming from a superficial person, you will miss out on a real treat.
What do they do in the course? – Let me start with the trite version. They play some exploratory games – ask a few simple questions – and work with you to sort out your priorities. Indeed, many of the techniques they use will be familiar to anyone who has done any sort of self-evaluation reading or management training. So it was tempting at first to think that this was going to be yet another – “lend me your watch and we’ll tell you the time” consultation, where you finally take home a report for which you have provided all the input and, to a certain extent, that must be true. The first task of any professional doing this work has to be to gather data and that data can only come from you – but this experience turned out to be far from trite.
The real experience – Jo and George quietly and irresistibly guide and listen; challenge and encourage. Vitally, they are not afraid to suggest potential problems with your thinking. From many people this could be presumptuous or pretentious psycho-babble. From Jo and Georgina this is coming from a very different place. They are really listening. They are listening to you. They are not loading you with the baggage of their own preconceived values and trite solutions. They are so clearly ‘on your side’ and want you to find the best outcomes for your life that the very pronoun ‘they’ quickly leaves your mind. Sooner than I have previously experienced, ‘we’ are a single committed tug of war team – with energy, warmth and enthusiasm – pulling together. Together, we are looking for the right next steps for our lives.
This is not some trick; this comes right out of the heart of who Jo and Georgina are. They are highly experienced, motivated, strong and capable people in their own right. They have a huge work ethic. Lesser people could be strong in a domineering way, but Jo and Georgina use their strength to create a safe place to allow their guests to be themselves. They draw out your experience, your current situation and (if you allow them to) your hopes and fears, without seeking to impose their own needs or wants or world view.
Jo is a natural leader and an intuitive navigator – she keeps things on track and ensures a rhythm and pace that steers a clear path between aimless wandering and the genuine freedom to explore. Georgina is an unusually lateral thinker – which means purely logic driven people may not always understand where she is coming from but, because she makes connections and listens exceptionally well, she brings a genuinely different and important dimension to searching out alternatives and asking perceptive and sometimes challenging questions.
The heart of the value of these two days is in Jo and Georgina. Their warmth, strength, experience, fun, wisdom and a genuine desire to create a space where together, working as a single ‘we’, you can hear what might really be important to you. This is a truly precious opportunity in a noisy and busy world.
Would I encourage others to do this? In a heartbeat. It’s one of the best things we have ever done. I have been an MD for 15 years in an industry packed with smart people and am not easily impressed. I hesitated to book the course, fearing it would be just another chance to clear my brain – but then decided that time to think is always worth taking. My expectations were not high. I am delighted to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Judith, who is very private and hates sharing herself with strangers, nearly didn’t go and was amazed by how helpful she found the whole experience. We would go so far as to say that for us those two days may turn out to have been truly life changing because the time allowed us to bring into focus many things that, without this concentrated work and without an emotionally safe environment, may never have fully crystallised or turned into action. Whether we do now is up to us, but no-one could have helped us more than Jo and Georgina.
If you have the opportunity to spend two days with them – just take it. The two days is fantastic value, but we have just two caveats. The first is practical. You will probably come away needing space to let the ideas and goals generated ‘set’. If you rush back to a busy job or a hectic home you may miss out. We did the course at the beginning of a two week holiday and that is probably the ideal, as it allowed us plenty of time to consolidate and integrate the experience. Not everyone will be able to do this, but we would recommend at least two days in a hotel after the course as a minimum setting time. That leads me to the second caveat – this indeed is my only niggle – to call this two days a course is to completely miss the point. This is an exploration, with all the potential excitement of setting out to explore a previously unexplored continent – the rest of your life. I would love it to be called something more fitting, but hey if that’s my only complaint, I don’t think I can ask for my money back…
Other thoughts – You have to bring yourself as honestly as you can.
This can be emotional
Not because Jo and Georgina are in any way trying to lead with an emotional experience. But by definition if you are there you are looking for a life change and that means you are asking questions that are central to you and this can almost inevitably lead to the unpacking of powerful core needs and wants.