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Why OD - The importance of relationships, at our core we all want to connect

Author / Team Member

In this podcast episode, Carolyn Parker discusses her journey into OD and her excitement about joining the Mayvin team. She shares her background in psychology and HR, emphasizing the importance of pausing, reflecting, and fostering human connections in organisations. Carolyn highlights OD's focus on improving performance and relationships, as well as the personal and professional growth it offers.
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Claire Newell  0:09  

Hello, and a warm welcome to the Mayvin people change podcast. This is the place to find thoughtful and heartfelt conversations about leadership and organisation development. Each episode is created with our listeners in mind. So if you have a suggestion for a topic you'd like to hear us talk about, please do get in touch with us. Mayvin are thought leaders in the area of leadership and organisation development and have a wealth of experience in this area, we have a thriving community, and we offer regular free events. You can find out more details via our website If you enjoy listening to this podcast, please do leave us a review on your favourite platform to help us grow our audience. Thanks so much for being here, and we hope you enjoy listening.


In today's episode, we are joined by Carolyn Parker, formerly Associate Director of employee experience at Moorfields Eye Hospital. But now a brand new principal consultant here at Mayvin. To give you the chance to get to know our new Carolyn a little bit better. I thought I would revisit our mini series: Why OD? As I found last year when I asked our consultants how they came to work in this thing that we call organisation development, their own unique path into the field revealed some of their individuality and what makes them them. And Carolyn answered wonderfully. This is great, listen, enjoy. Okay, so with me today, I have Carolyn Parker, who is just joining us at Mayvin. So hello, Carolyn. So you want to tell us a little bit about who you are and your current role and coming into Mayvin? 


Carolyn Parker  1:48  

Yeah, absolutely. So as you said, my name is Carolyn Parker. And I am currently an associate director of employee experience at Moorfields Eye Hospital. And my background is mostly in the last kind of 10 years, mostly public sector, but I've been private sector as well. And outside of work, I am married to Ben, we've been together 20 years this year. And we've got a little girl Kira, who will be 10 this year, and I've got a dog called Roxy.


Claire Newell  2:25  

Perfect., so we're very excited that Carolyn's gonna be joining us at Mayvin very soon. So I thought we'd revisit these kind of 'why od' podcasts as a chance to get to know you a little bit. So when I started asking the consultants, you know, how did you get into this it, I found it revealed a little bit of their kind of uniqueness of who they are, because all their journeys are quite different, you know, the fact that Tony was designing planes, and Martin was working in the opera and you know, so everyone's got their kind of different stories of how they found their route into OD. So yes, I'd like to ask you really is how how you found yourself doing this thing that we call organisation development?


Carolyn Parker  3:09  

Yes. So I guess, to take it to take it way back first and foremost I'm a failed doctor. By that, I mean, I chose my A levels based on the premise that I was going to go to medical school, so biology, chemistry, maths and Spanish. And, and it became quickly apparent to me through my mock a level exams that I wasn't going to get the grades I needed to get into medical school, and I had to rethink. And to be fair to me at the time, my dad was terminally ill. So I had a lot going on at home. But nevertheless, I kind of needed to rethink my plan. So it's a bit of a cliche to say, but not knowing what I wanted to do. I decided to study psychology at university because I've always been interested in kind of why people are the way they are, how we behave, what informs that this whole kind of nature nurture debate. And it felt open enough that I didn't need to know going into it, what I was going to do on the other side of the degree. And I chose to study at university where we did a year in industry. So my third year I went out and worked for a year and that felt like a good opportunity to kind of have a year trying before I buy almost. And at the time of choosing I had two options. I could either do a placement in forensic psychology, which I was really interested in I really wanted to work in the kind of criminal justice system thinking about rehabilitating offenders or I could go into human resources and and it really came down to the simple fact of the placement in human resources was paid. And the one in forensic psychology wasn't. And I couldn't afford not to be not to be paid for a year. And I mentioned Ben, we were together at the time, and we were getting, you know, we're moving in together. So we had to think about, you know, rent and all of that practical life stuff. So I went into HR. And that's been my that was my career, actually, for a really long time. So I, for the first 10 years of my career, I would characterise myself as a kind of HR generalist, so I was operator operating in roles as a HR advisor, and then laterally managing teams of advisors, and then became an HR business partner. And, but I was always paying attention to particularly my business partner roles when I was partnering with exec key tips in their leadership teams, I was always interested in, how is this team working together? How well do they know one another, trust one another? And how is that how are those relationships informing how the work gets done and what gets done. And so I would be curious about that I would offer feedback and coaching to leaders on on what I was noticing, and encouraging them to think about not just what they were doing, but how they were doing it. And then I joined the civil service. After I had Kira and and somebody said to me quite early on, I think you'd really liked this programme that the civil service OD and D team were were running in partnership with this company called Mayvin. So that was the first time I heard about Mayvin. And I joined the advancing your practice programme. And that's where I met James and Martin because they were the facilitators and, and suddenly, there was this whole field of practice that spoke to the things that I was paying attention to spoke to the things that I was interested in. And so I completed the programme. And at the time, Carolyn Norgate was in the civil service. And she was kind of really doing some great work with her colleagues around the community of practice of OD and the wider civil service. So I got involved in in those, every almost any opportunity I could to be in that community. And at the same time started working with we had an OD team in the home office where I was. And I came along one alongside one of the consultants and we did some work together. And so when the opportunity came up to join that team, I moved into that team. And that's kind of I suppose, where where I found OD and how I how I got into it having always worked in predominantly, you know, kind of typical traditional HR roles up until that point.


Claire Newell  8:01  

It's great. It's yeah, it's funny that your story is that the first time you heard of this thing called OD, it was actually it was actually with Mayvin. It's amazing, it's bit of a full circle moment that you're now coming to join us.


You're bringing experience with you from private sector and civil service. And you're currently in the NHS. Yeah, quite a varied background before coming in to work with us. So that's really exciting. So yes, the other question I asked the the rest of the team last year, was the difficult issue that we all find hard to answer, which is, how do you how do you define what OD is? And, you know, we all have that awkwardness when you know, a family member or a friend of the pub says, 'What is it your company does?' And we all struggle to find an explanation as to answer that. And I think we all have our own ways. So how do you go about defining what OD is?


Carolyn Parker  9:05  

Do you know what I think there's probably changes depending on who I'm talking to, on my latest thinking, I yeah, I've never quite nailed the kind of elevator pitch of what is OD. Partly I think because the field is is so broad, and it takes influences from so many other areas. So I think that's one of the things that makes it hard to kind of say it's this one thing but I suppose when people ask me so what is it you're doing when you're doing OD? I'm I kind of talk about how I'm working with individuals and with teams to help them think about it, how they can improve their individual and collective performance, how they pay attention to their relationships with one another and with other have teams across an organisation or a system, and how you create spaces for people to say the things that need to be said, I think in lots of organisational life, people aren't really saying the thing that matters to them, or they're not being 100%. Honest, for a variety of reasons. So a really classic example, I think, probably was one things I noticed when I was a business partner is the way in which you can sit in a leadership team meeting. And ostensibly, you've made a decision about something, we've all sat in the meeting, we've all agreed something and then we walk out of the room. And somehow that decision gets undone. Someone in a side conversation with you or say, I wasn't really sure about that. I don't really agree in your book, What stops you saying that in the room? And so I guess some of what I think we're doing in ideas is creating a space where people can say the thing that needs to be said that they can, you know, that we can think about who gets hurt, what is it we pay attention to, and what's the benefit of that, and maybe what's the, you know, potential shadow side of that. So a lot of it, I think, is about relationships. But I also think it's about how we do what we do in a way that is, it gives us the best opportunity to get the to realise, to realise and maximise people's contribution. So I was listening to another podcast, I was listening to this series in preparation for us, and really resonated with something that Sophie said, which I kind of hold true as well, as well, we spend an awful lot of our waking lives at work, we spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our partners, our friends, our family, our pets, you know, whoever. And, and so I'm really passionate about creating environments where people can thrive and realise their potential. And I think that's at the heart of OD, it's creating the right conditions for the people to deliver the best, the best work that they can in service of customer service users, the wider public, whoever it is, you do what you do for which is not a particularly succinct way of putting it in generally, I'm talking to my family, they're a bit like, alright, but what do you actually do?


Claire Newell  12:34  

I've said this on a couple of the podcasts. But I think I struggle with making it not sound too. I don't know, fluffy or hippie, you know, because it's like, oh, we want everyone to be happy man. But in service of the, you know, the organisation, whatever it might be, being more, you know, efficient and effective, which are words that I know, if you improve performance, if you prove, retention, and people are staying, and you're not going to replace them, and, you know, the knock on effects on the effectiveness of the whole organisation, as well as for the individuals.


Carolyn Parker  13:17  

Yeah, and I think, you know, in the same way that we can be accused in our day of being kind of a bit a bit fluffy and a bit intangible, I also think we can be accused of, you know, using kind of having our own language. So even the phrase in service of, yes, you know, I mean, really, what we're saying is, organisations exist to do something, you know, in private sector, that's a product or a service that they market and sell. In public sector, it's services that we provide, you know, the NHS exists in order to support the health of the population at large, and to ensure that people have access to free health care at the point of need, and to make people better. So, you know, we exist to do something, and ideas about how can we create the right conditions, so that the thing that we exist to do is done to the best of our ability. And as we do that, we hear a diverse range of voices so that, you know, we improve the quality of our decision making, that we do it in the best possible ways, while still paying attention to the fact that in order to do this thing that we exist to do we deliver it through people, so we have to look after our people. So I guess that is, you know, people will talk about there's a very at the core of ideas, this value of being humanistic, and really paying attention to the human experience. And I think that is something that I feel really passionately about. And I think that's something that od really pays attention to is as we do the thing that we're here to do. How can we do it in a way that is supportive of the people that are doing it that creates the best environment and conditions for those people.


Claire Newell  15:09  

And I think that's something people can. I think that is kind of accessible in terms of in fact, I was having a conversation with someone yesterday about when you get bad customer service, whether it be in retail, or you're, you know, checking into a hotel or, and you can, you can, usually it shines through that if the people aren't treated well, and they're not happy in their jobs. And that shines through the service that you then receive. And we've all experienced that, you know, that extreme would be sort of basil 40 or something, you know, that kind of, they're not happy in their job than it isn't, then. You know, you can see it very clearly. So so this is a bit of a hard one to answer. And but I think the other question that I'd pitch to some of the consultant was what, what does it mean to you? It sounds like a bit like when you discovered it, when you're in the civil service, like, oh, that that gives a name to that said, all these things that you've been paying attention to, or finding yourself, you know, another odd moving towards? That you're like, oh, it's got a name. And it's this collection of things. And what keeps you doing it? Yeah, you obviously found it, like, this is the thing for me. And if you've kept doing it, then if there's anything you want to say to that?


Carolyn Parker  16:22  

One of the things I love about this work is so often in organisations we are very busy doing, we're very task orientated, very outcome focused, and we're moving at real pace. And that's true in our personal lives as well, I think it's probably a facet of the society we live in, there's this always on culture. And all of that is really valuable. So as I said, before, organisations exist to do something. And it's important that they do those things. Well, I think when you do OD, what you're inviting people to do is almost to do the opposite of what they do every day. So if you're in an organisation that is fast paced, and always on and action orientated, you're inviting people to take some time to take a step back to pause to reflect and to connect with their colleagues. And I think what I love about that is it generally gives rise to new insights for people or it helps them see something differently, it helps them pay attention to what's going on for them as they go about this work that they're involved with. And you can ultimately what you're doing is unlocking what is already within people kind of conscious of that maybe sounds a bit cliche, or maybe a bit soft, but it is about giving people space to make sense of what's going on for them and realise capacity that they have to influence a change in their environment or to influence or to the choice and autonomy that they have to maybe do things in a different way to the way that they usually do things or the way that they feel they must do things because of the organisational structure and culture that they're within. So I really love that gives people an opportunity just to pause and step back, because I don't think we have enough of that in in everyday life. And it really centres I was gonna say encourages it doesn't just encourage it really centres, the importance of relationships. And I think our call we all want to connect, we all have a need for belonging and OD really pays attention to that and encourages others to do so. So I think it can be really transformative for for individuals, teams and organisations. And that's been my experience, you know, what kind of encourages me to continue learning and undertaking development in this in the field of OD is that I have found that it has changed who I am as an individual and how I relate to folks in my personal life. And it's also significantly influenced how I show up in organisational life. And you know, more recently I've been in, in senior leadership roles and it's really made me think about the responsibility of being a senior leader. What I pay attention to and the climate that I want to cultivate in the teams that I lead and the influence that I want to have across departments and across organisations, even if I'm not directly responsible for those teams. So it's for me been a kind of personal and professional learning journey. And I think that's what I did on well, it has that potential and I think that's what you see in people it kind of gives them an opportunity meditators to step back and kind of reconnect sometimes with who they are, and what's important to them and show up. Similarly, but amplifying some aspects of themselves and, or, or differently in order to be, you know, the person that they want to be, and at the same time to deliver their work effectively.


Claire Newell  20:24  

Yeah, and I think that's quite often the feedback that we get from our programmes, to the programmes that we're in the civil service, our masters and other programmes that we run, that people come on our programmes expecting to be given, you know, some tools and, you know, probably shown some, you know, theory and then what they don't expect as the as the personal development and what they get out what they gain from it personally. And so, you know, quite often the lovely feedback we get is, is that it's changed their work life and their home life. And, you know, yeah, it's influenced them as a whole. And, you know, they weren't, that's what they weren't expecting, they're expecting to kind of, you know, be taught how to do something, you know, in a classroom in theory, and then they're like, Oh, actually, it's making me kind of think about myself and how I show up and the implements I can make. ,


Carolyn Parker  21:11  

it's that whole ethos, isn't it of self as instrument, it's that idea that actually, the biggest tool in our toolbox is, is who we are, and how we show up. And the more that you know, and understand about yourself. And you know, what you can bring to any situation, the more you can cultivate that in how you show up and have a positive impact and influence. And I think that's something you know, I returned to again, and again, and the models and the theories are all you know, they're all really important. But I think going on an OD programme can be quite different to maybe some more traditional programmes where you're kind of told this is, you know, this is the way you do it, this is the model, here's the kind of five steps to success to be able to demonstrate this skill. And that was certainly my experience, you know, going and going on to the advancing your practice programme. But it was nothing like what I imagined it would be like, and that's a bit unsettling, because it's, it's, it's very different to what most people are used to experiencing, I think. And it's a much richer learning experience for it if people are, you know, a willing to lean into that opportunity. One things I miss at the moment is, it's a really small team, where I am right now. So I'm really looking forward to learning from other practitioners and learning with other practitioners. And I'm fortunate that I've known Mayvin, since I did my programme, I've then you know, I've done work in partnership with a number of folk in Mayvin. And, you know, I think we have a really great reputation in the field, and rightly so. And I'm looking forward to, to joining that and getting to work with folk who are brilliant od practitioners in their own right, each with their own areas of focus and an expertise. So that's going to be really exciting. I think.


Claire Newell  23:19  

Lovely, thank you. So I guess is there anything else you want to add as of around these topics and that you didn't get chance to say or?


Carolyn Parker  23:29  

No, I don't think so. I really enjoyed the conversation and looking forward to being part of the team.


Claire Newell  23:35  

We're looking forward to having you. Okay, great. Thanks, Carolyn. 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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