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Why OD? - Sarah and OD go way back!

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Listen in to this interview with Sarah Fraser where Claire our marketing manager asks Director Sarah "Why OD?".
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Listen in to this interview with Sarah Fraser, where our Marketing Manager Claire Newell asks her how she came to work in this world that we call OD. This is third episode of our mini-series "Why OD?".

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Transcript of the interview with Sarah Fraser

So hello, Sarah Fraser. So do you want to start by telling us a bit about who you are, and your role at Mayvin?

Sarah Fraser 1:51
Sure. So I am one of the directors at Mayvin. I joined Martin and James, think technically, three, four years after they've set Mayvin up. I can't quite remember it, but joined them as a director and I am predominantly focused on third sector. That's my background. And that's where my interest is in working with third sector organisations, development organisations.

Claire Newell 2:19
Nice. Okay. So, as I've explained to everyone else, the reason I'm doing this at all sort of podcast mini series is. I think OD isn't a field that most people on the street have heard of. So I'm quite interested as to how our consultants found out about it and found themselves working in it. So yeah, how did you fall into this thing called OD?

Sarah Fraser 2:45
I'm sort of deciding how far back I go. So when I was born. No, not that far back. But the reason I joke about that is that my dad worked in the same field. He was Mayvin's chair until just the beginning of of this year.

But the history there is that, you know, obviously you get influenced by what your parents do and stuff. But the bit that I always remember is often on a Sunday afternoon. To break up the homework time and the sort of Sunday sog, which is what my sister I always used to talk about, we used to go for a walk in the woods near near where we lived.

And sometimes, and quite often, it was just me and my dad that would go out for a walk. And I would talk to him about whatever nightmare homework stuff had going on and probably talk about it. He would try and help and then I would sort of work out what I needed to do.

And he would tell me about all of the interesting, difficult work projects he was doing and sort of any dramas that were going on. I really remember those conversations. And it's probably, I mean, who knows if that's, that's where the interest came from. But, you know, there is a thread that goes back to that.

I'm really interested in people and relationships, and I notice things. And I say that, because I've noticed the difference between myself and maybe my other half. And it's feedback that my friends often give me.

But you know, that's what sort of underpins my interest in this world of OD because it's about people and relationships. It's about how people are with each with each other. How people turn up, and how people work out how to be together in the world of organisations in this context. So yeah, that's kind of where the interest comes from.

And then I kind of got into it. You know, I was adamant I was going to do something totally different coming out of uni, as lots of people do, or as you would expect, and went off and tried out working in supporting orchestras. I worked for an orchestra just in the administration. I play the violin myself, but was never never going to be good enough to actually play. And I thought, well, maybe I can, like help these organisations to be better.

I love the world of music. But I found it very frustrating and difficult at the same time. So thought okay, let's get away and do something different for a bit. Anyway, I ended up working in a in a consultancy, it was a leadership consultancy. And really got my grounding there. It was research based. They did a lot of training, but I met some brilliant mentors and people who, you know, did really inspire me.

One of which is the most energetic Tigger, like consultant I think you would have ever met. He was always enthusiastic about the work, however difficult it was. And really sort of helped me along my way, and another consultant who always had time for me, and, and let me get involved, you know, from being a project manager, so being back office. And trusted me and worked with me, I think for no extra benefit herself, but helped me to actually get involved.

So just a few people on the way just really helped me get where I wanted to go, which was to actually go from being project managing, being behind, behind the scenes, completely for leadership development, OD programmes to designing and facilitating and, you know, being in the middle of it with the clients.

The other bits of the story there is that, in that consultancy, most of my work was very much in the corporate space. And it was great grounding, and very interesting. But then I got given a client, and I think I probably got given it because it wasn't hugely valuable in terms of like income for the, for the business, but it was a an NGO, an international NGO.

And I was suddenly working with a senior team doing quite a big piece of work in their organisation significant change significant challenges, and absolutely loved it. And I'd always said that I'd like to work in third sector, and then it just absolutely confirmed that for me.

So then I went looking for, for a role where I could could work in that sector and did so with another organisation for about four or five years before coming to Mayvin. And in that process did a Master's in organisational change as well to sort of develop my practice. Yeah, that brought me to Mayvin. That's quite a long winded story.

Claire Newell 7:52
Not at all. So it's interesting, because my assumption is that most people don't grow up knowing about this field. But I suppose you did grow up knowing about this field. So you're a bit different in that sense, but you still sort of came to it in your own way later on.

Sarah Fraser 8:08
Yes, I sort of don't know how much I did or didn't know. I mean, I mainly heard about the disasters and how everything went wrong. Which, you know, they're the best stories. But I do think there's probably something about making sense of people in that context that, you know, lots of those conversations orientated around, you know, my dad would tell me about his work.

So yeah, I think there's, there's some some sort of grounding in there. And I keep this at a distance. But, you know, there is I have got some Jewish heritage as well. So there is that connection in terms of, you know, supporting the underdog in some way.

And yeah, maybe you were talking about James coming at it from an activist perspective. But you know, actually wanting to advocate for or support those who maybe don't, don't have so much of a voice. There's just something in supporting those who might be struggling in an organisation. But for me know, also supporting third sector organisations who are trying to support those who are, yeah, who are struggling in some way.

Claire Newell 9:21
Yeah. I guess another question to question that I've asked some of the others is, you know, what does it mean to you? Or what do you get out of it? Or, you know, why are you doing it I guess, and that kind of goes to answer it a little bit.

Sarah Fraser 9:38
Yeah, because I often think, you know, I could go and work with a with an NGO or go and work in development organisation. But I know this is what I'm good at. Being a bit of one step removed and helping organisations connect with themselves, people connect to each other and themselves. Better In order to do what they need to try and do, that's where I've got expertise, that's where I get energy from. So, stick with that, because actually, that will make a difference, even though I am one step removed. That makes a difference, I think, yeah, my hope. And I think that it does make a difference.

Claire Newell 10:20
We've talked about that before, I think internally, coming in as a consultant, you have a bit more licence a bit more permission to say and do things that those that are internal, can't or don't.

Sarah Fraser 10:32
No, you're not you're not caught by the politics in the same way. Yeah. But having like two minutes with a director of an international organisation I've been working with. You know, he just came to check in and just see how the work that we're doing is going just in a very friendly way. But it meant I had those two minutes.

And I sort of not in a planned way, but just found myself addressing an issue. And saying, you know, you're going to need to pay attention to this. You know, like, in order for us to get on with this work, you're going to have to think about who's going to support this work going forward. Which was what the critical issue was.

And that has led to a shift and a clear decision to do something differently in that organisation. It's just that those little moments, actually you can intervene politically with small p, others, yeah, others in the organisation might not be able to. And sort of take, take some risks there.

Sometimes our role really, is to reflect back what's going on and say things that either others in the organisation can't see or can't articulate, or, you know, just really don't have permission, because it's too risky. But then our job is to help them to have those more risky conversations going forward. Because, you know, you don't need consultants there all the time. So how do you shift? How do you shift things so that that becomes easier? Even if it's not completely the norm?

Claire Newell 12:03
And that is a big part of what we do isn't this is trying to give them the tools and give them the way forward so that, you know, hopefully, they don't need, you know, need us again. Especially like you said, the organisations that you like to work with are third sector clients, so you're hopefully, capability building for themselves for the future?

Sarah Fraser 12:22
Yeah, absolutely. And that's not always overt, but it's always, you know, part of, it's part of the discussion in, in setting up the work, but sometimes it might be quite subtle, just in being really clear about why you're doing things, the way you're doing them in a session or, you know, just even a reflective conversation.

You've done a quick activity. Now, how was that? How, like, how could you use that approach? Does very subtle, but there's things that just might give individuals or the organisation a different, some different approaches and different tools once we've left the room. Yeah, for sure. It's not always big bang shifts. Yeah, big bang things.

Claire Newell 13:03
Is there anything else you think you'd like to add to this? To this conversation that we haven't touched on that we should?

Sarah Fraser 13:10
So Mayvin's work goes across all different sectors. Predominantly, I would say we work at the moment in the public sector, but third sector practice, really, it's sort of it's important. Both in terms of the work that we do, and as I said, you know, for the work that I want to be doing my values.

But it's also it's important in influencing Mayvin's culture, I think that it's about making a difference in the world where, where the world needs to make a difference. And doing the third sector work, is important to a lot of people that work here. And knowing that, that we're supporting organisations that are trying to work on, you know, some of the biggest world's biggest problems.

Like around health, around working in conflict, around poverty, around equality and inclusion. So really important stuff, and we work at the periphery of, you know, what those organisations are trying to do. But that, hopefully supports them in the work that they're trying to do. So just that value set sitting behind, sitting within Mayvin is really important. And it's, you know, that as a business, we're investing and doing that work as well.

Claire Newell 14:23
Yeah, and I say that because it is inherently part of Mayvin's values. People might not realise that we do offer some pro bono work as well. So that's part of Mayvin's ethos, you know, it's not necessarily profit driven. It's about the difference we can make. And the conscious decision that we include a certain amount of our work is for third sector because we feel that work is important.

Sarah Fraser 14:48
Yeah, there's a balance of all of that, but it's been really exciting this year to do the first set of pro bono projects as part of the masters. And setting up those projects, some of the clients that we've had relationships for a long time, some with new organisations that we haven't worked with before in the sector, but brilliant to get those those projects up and running and think about the support that they're going to get through some.

Yeah. Some very capable people who are on the masters. And yeah, will be making a difference in the work that they're doing as well. That that felt like such a positive move to be able to be able to offer that. And, yeah, hopefully long may that lost as part of that part of the masters and maybe beyond that as well. We'll see.

Claire Newell 15:33
Yeah, definitely. Okay. Shall we leave it there?

Sarah Fraser 15:37
Yeah. Thank you.

Claire Newell 15:44
Thanks. for that Sarah

Sarah Fraser 15:45
Take care, bye

Claire Newell 15:46
Thank you so much for listening to us today. And we hope to see you next time. Take care. Bye bye.

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