Being a new employee at one of the UK’s largest coaching companies and having no prior knowledge or experience in coaching could be a daunting prospect.
In reality, my first few weeks with Animas have been far from daunting, in fact I’ve found it rather contemplative and enlightening. I’ve learned so much about the coaching industry, and Animas in particular thanks to a series of meetings and workshops I was invited to attend.
Just last week for example, I was invited to observe and document the Social Impact Leadership Workshop Session, which was led by Animas Social Impact Head Emma Koubayssi.
I had a feeling this was going to be another exciting workshop. I was given a chance to take part in the Creating Space Onboarding Programme for the second cohort of volunteer coaches before this session, and I had a rewarding experience even though I was merely an observer. The session allowed me to warm up not just to the team, but also to the community of volunteer coaches. In addition, I learned a great deal particularly about the organisation, the Creating Space initiative and the current plight of educators in the UK. It made me realise the importance of aiding teachers during this difficult time to ensure their wellbeing is supported.
So, I stepped into this new space with a quiet confidence that this was going to be another thought-provoking workshop. I wasn’t wrong. The session gave me the opportunity to learn how the Animas social impact arm aims to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the organisation.
During the session, Emma was supported by Christos Papaioannou, an Animas coach and senior humanitarian professional who’s also involved with the Creating Space programme. His presence really helped not just myself, but the Animas Leadership team in gaining fresh insight and perspective on social impact, what it means for us as an organisation, why it’s so important and what we can all do to integrate a social impact lens into our work.
The session kicked off with a series of introductions from the Animas Leadership team, during which they shared their role and responsibilities into the space. As a spectator, there was a palpable sense from the offset that each attendee was really interested in learning more about this newly-formed department and the ways in which they might be able to more effectively bring social impact thinking into their roles.
Emma asked the participants what they intended to get out of the discussion. Each team member had a unique takeaway they hoped to leave with, but Head of Coach Development Crystal Small‘s response about connecting social impact to her work in coach development really caught my intention and echoed what I had been wanting myself regarding my work as a writer at Animas:
Because I am still figuring out the rhythm and flow to my role as a Writer within Animas, what Crystal shared about wanting to see how this session may help her connect it with her work and the students really hit home for me. It’s exactly what I’d like for myself – to be able to integrate each function, initiative and programme, and process into what I do at Animas.
Additionally, what Crystal said about connecting the coaches to more meaningful work has inspired me to take it a step further and perform my duties more diligently. Because, in my personal experience, it is really rare to see an organisation go above and beyond to create a much more meaningful environment for their community. Yet I saw it here from every team member who participated in the event, and it made me even more eager to really put my heart into the work I do.
Once the group had shared what they hoped for from the session, Emma echoed the responses before revisiting the aim of the session: to connect the dots, see the bigger picture and understand how these functions can be effortlessly integrated into the overall social impact space in order for the team to work cohesively.
Putting together these kinds of workshops can be exhausting, as well as time-consuming, but stepping into that space and seeing the benefits and new perspectives that came from discussing how the social impact arm fits into the Animas ecosystem you could see that the hard work was worthwhile. It really made me question my own approach to my craft, and led to me thinking about how I can be even better.
Throughout my writing and PR career, I have yet to attend a meeting or workshop that facilitated leaders in revisiting their responsibilities and connecting them to a different department or mission within the organisation, so attending this session helped me to understand the importance of really connecting the dots between teams and departments if you want to make a real tangible impact, as well as just how important is to be really clear on your vision and mission as the head of a department within a purposeful organisation such as Animas.
Christos ran over the four Animas missions briefly with an activity that asked the participants which mission they were most drawn to, before asking them to choose one of four photos and remark on how the chosen photo connects to their mission.
Even though I was only a spectator, I took part in the poll because I was captivated by the discussion. The participants shared their mission and photo of choice, and they all had some intriguing reflections.
For example, Head of Content Sam Chambers stated that the mission of his choice was thought leadership. He chose the jigsaw puzzle photo because it’s all about connecting the dots to see the greater image. Given that we were there to integrate Animas’ Social Impact efforts within the rest of the business, this metaphorical sharing felt very fitting, and illustrated the complexities, but also the benefits that come with joining the dots around missions within an organisation.
Karen Conway who heads our enrolments felt most aligned with the mission of actively nurturing and developing coaches from around the world, and chose the watering can photo, to illustrate growth, nurture, care and development. She also added that Animas makes a conscious effort to enrich the lives of the students by doing these things, such as social impact:
That’s when it hit me that the social impact arm was not just created to benefit the organisation itself. Its purpose is to enable and empower coaches to be part of, and set up their own social impact initiatives to offer the power of coaching to places and spaces that otherwise might not have access to it.
Emma explained the core mission and vision for social impact which is to reshape coaching through the implementation of social impact programmes for individuals who lack access to resources. When I heard this, I internally congratulated myself, a pat on the back of sorts, because I’m so pleased to be a part of an organisation that truly seeks to bring about positive change in communities. I was also captivated by their vision statement because I, too, have a personal goal of providing resources and support to those in need.
It was evident that the vision and mission had also landed and resonated with the rest of the team, as there was clear support for what it was setting out to do, and an active interest in where they could support this.
To wrap the session up, Christos took over once more, this time asking the Animas leadership team to reflect on a series of questions.
We were divided into two breakout groups so that everyone could share their realisations, suggestions, reflections and thoughts. I was really grateful Emma included me in a breakout group, as it meant that I could hear the leaders’ considered and free-flowing thoughts and opinions on the social impact arm and how it connects to Animas as a whole.
I can see they made a concerted effort to be significantly involved in this fantastic initiative from the long list they came back with of things they wanted to change, share, and discuss with Emma.
When the group reconvened, there was a tangible buzz of excitement and energy in the room.
Numerous suggestions were shared. For example, our group proposed creating a dedicated bulletin board on the Animas site to highlight what’s currently happening with social impact and its project activities in order to connect the initiatives to various areas such as thought leadership and community.
Robert’s team also advised holding think tank sessions for the team to gather and reflect on current and future project initiatives, as well as evaluate where we can improve.
All of these ideas led to further pondering, lightbulb moments or identifying before unseen opportunities, in turn, creating a rich tapestry of creative thinking and ideas sharing. It was truly fascinating to be a part of.
As the session came to a close, it just dawned on me how Animas makes an effort to create a dent in the coaching community and redefine it by integrating social impact to the organisational model and bringing coaching to people with little to no means of accessing it otherwise.
I also really admire the Animas team for delving deep into not just their own roles, but one another’s to see what they might possibly bring to the table. As someone who has worked in the public relations field for a long time, it is unusual to see a leadership team come together so effortlessly to weave their duties into a large-scale endeavour of impact and positive change.
Looking at the responses to the Creating Space programme I can see where this important part of Animas is already making a difference to the lives to those who serve our communities, and I’m confident that all of these efforts to connect the dots within the Animas leadership team around the core missions will lead to even more brilliantly empowering initiatives for the organisation, community and the wider world to benefit from.
Find out more about our social impact work here at Animas.