Release, Transition and Choice

Sep 19


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Helen Whitten

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Release, Transition and Choice






Well, it’s done.  I have come to the end of my time as Managing Director of Positiveworks.  Quite a moment!


Human beings appreciate rituals, I think, and so we celebrated the handover of Positiveworks with a thoroughly enjoyable party at the Pushkin House in Bloomsbury.  Joe Ouseley of WildGoose,  gave us delicious canapés and Catriona Freeman of SugarCoatMe,  provided us with the fun and tasty yellow cake pops you see in the photos, all photos taken by Jon Kempner,


Handing on a business has, it seems to me, parallels to raising a child and seeing them marry.  One puts one’s best efforts into raising the child and then hopes that they will find love with the right person as they become adult.  With a business one hopes that one will find a good owner to take it on…  In my case, as I have said before,  I feel I have definitely found, in Jackie Sykes and Chris Welford, the right well qualified and positive people to take on Positiveworks.  What more could I wish for.  See below, The Sixth Sense Team, Gloria Groves, Chris Welford, Jackie Sykes, Larissa Klinke:


It has taken several years to reach this moment.  Unlike Sir Philip Green I was focused on finding people who would value the legacy and treat my clients well.  I was hopeful, also, that Positiveworks would also add value to their business, Sixth Sense.  So far so good on all fronts and my clients have been extremely happy with the work that they have been doing.

The speeches gave me a chance to thank those who have helped and supported me over the years and to talk about the fantastic adventures I have had in setting up and running the business – alongside the inevitable challenges.  Nothing prepared me for this journey.  I could never have envisaged that I would meet such wonderful and interesting people nor have imagined all the fascinating places I have had the joy of visiting on business.

After the party, people commented on how interesting it was to bring together people from so many different areas of my life – family, friends, colleagues and clients.  So often,  I think, we partition our contacts into groups and don’t give them the opportunity to meet people from different areas of our lives.  I don’t think that it’s just we Brits who do this compartmentalising, is it?  The retirement party and my book launches have been so enjoyable because they have given me the opportunity to enable  clients and colleagues to meet my sons and conversely for my family and friends to gain insight into my business life by meeting those professionals who have been involved with my coaching practice.  So, the party on Wednesday represented a completion for me, marking an ending of my relationship with Positiveworks, the handover of the business to Chris and Jackie, and the beginning of I-know-not-what!

Perhaps appropriately the first day of the next part of my life began – after some clearing up – with my doing a poetry gig for Rough Diamonds Poetry Group in Ringwood.  It was a delightful evening above an Italian restaurant, Lovitaly, with an interesting group of people joined in the appreciation of the written word.  I enjoyed reading my poems to them and listening to their work.  A selection of my poems are on

People ask me how it feels now, to have let go of the business.  The honest answer is that I don’t really know.  It still feels a little unreal that I don’t have to get up and think about clients or the need to prepare coaching or training courses, nor have to record invoices for VAT etc.  That feels like a relief and a sense of freedom.  I know I shall miss the client contact as I have found it so fulfilling – one always learns as much from clients as they may gain through the coaching process.

The transition inspired me to cast my mind back to when I was moving from freelance historical research for the historian Alistair Horne, working on The Official Biography of Harold Macmillan, into running a professional coaching and training business.  This required that I think about my image, body language and voice tone.  I had to buy new clothes to meet client expectations.  So now  I have begun to go through my wardrobe to see which clothes might fit my needs in the next phase of my life.  Which of my formal business suits might I might give away to charity, and what shall I enjoy wearing now that I am out of the business world?  On Tuesday I have arranged a massage which I shall use as a moment to reflect on moving out of the physiology of a professional woman and allowing in the me that will be more relaxed and open to the opportunities that this next phase of my life might present me.

The idea of retirement is outdated.  Previous generations would frequently die by the age of 65.  Our generation may well have another 20 years plus to live post-retirement.  The concept  is to be able to choose what you do rather than be forced to do things you have to do.  We are incredibly fortunate that there is so much on offer for us to become involved in – voluntary work, choirs, book clubs, classes, degrees, creativity, art, music and more.

But too much choice can be confusing can’t it?  Personally I prefer small shops to large ones – I sometimes find the range of choice in large supermarkets or department stores to be thoroughly overwhelming.  In the excellent book by Renata Salecl  The Tyranny of Choice she argues that the  freedom to choose what we do and who we are can create confusion and anxiety, even paralysis.   We are never totally free and have to make decisions within society’s limits and the confines of our personal environment.

Choice of what I might do and who I might be next is both exciting and also a responsibility.   What if I make the wrong choices?  What if I over-commit and take on too much?  What if I do the opposite and get lazy and complacent, not challenging myself to experiment and do new things?   How shall I balance my needs and the needs of others, the  time to be in nature, with my relationships, the grandchildren, plus disciplining myself to do enough writing and creativity to feel fulfilled.  Choice is not a simple matter, it seems.  We shall see how I get along!


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