We are sorry to be saying goodbye to Tony Fraser, who retired as a chair and director of Mayvin at the beginning of 2023.
A few words from Tony
Work that matters with people I love: Closing remarks on my retirement as Chair of Mayvin
This part of me hates saying goodbye. I want to avoid it, to slip out quietly. Then there’s my ego – wanting to be noticed and appreciated. Of course, Mayvin gets all that. James, Martin, Sarah making sure I do feel appreciated; but quietly, no fuss.
From the beginning there was a lot of common ground between James, Martin and me. The three big things were:
- Roffey Park – where I, like them, had worked – only I’d been there 30 years earlier,
- Doing people and change stuff - which they called OD - and
- Being Jewish although for me that is an identity and cultural rather than a religious thing.
Anyway, that ground felt solid and fertile. It nurtured trust, care and love. Ground from which something substantial could be grown and has flourished.
Sarah brought a different style when she joined as a Director around 3 or 4 years after the start. One of those people who doesn’t talk a lot but changes the whole perspective when she intervenes. As well as her different style she brought the focus on the 3rd Sector which is now embedded in Mayvin and something (else) I am very proud of.
I spent my first 25 years at work doing mostly people stuff in big corporates: Ford Motor Co, Mobil Oil, Abbey National. Mostly I felt frustrated. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to make a difference. It was hard to get the powerful bosses to take the people stuff seriously. They said “people are our most important asset” but often treated them carelessly or as a means to an end – human resources, not real people.
The HR functions to which I belonged for most of my corporate career were weak. The main effort went into building defensive procedural barriers to protect themselves first, the business second. Creating the conditions where employees or the business could flourish featured a feeble third.
From time to time in different settings through my career, I think I did make a difference: helping to create the conditions for learning, individual development, teamwork and collaboration both in my corporate career and later through my consulting business. I knew these things were crucial contributions to business success. When I did make a difference it wasn’t as part of the mainstream, it was never because the ‘main players’ took me seriously – it was because someone they did take seriously championed the cause.
So it felt a bit weird being Chair of Mayvin. I had got so used to being a bit outspoken, sometimes provocative, playing the part of court jester among the powerful. In Mayvin I had to recalibrate. If the Mayvin Directors were going to take my ideas and advice seriously, then, good grief, I was going to have to take myself seriously. For at least some of the time, I had to be a grown up.
That did happen – I did take Mayvin seriously and my role seriously but not all the time. Starting, growing and leading a business is demanding and difficult. Doing work that matters with people you love makes it easier and very satisfying. Our Board meetings were not formal. We met in nice places, we did enjoyable things together: sailing, walking, eating, had ‘check-ins’ to start our meetings so we always had insight to how the others were feeling – what they were bringing with them. There wasn’t much structure – seldom an agenda in advance or formal minutes afterwards. The conversations were real – asking searching questions - addressing what was important – about our brand and identity, our strategy and direction, our financial performance, our internal and external relationships, our people and feelings, our capabilities, our systems. We recorded and shared what seemed important. Minimum procedure, maximum meaning.
Mostly it seems to me that has worked. Mayvin is successful, it does good work. It cares about its clients, its employees and its associates. That reflects the qualities and priorities of its leadership. Kind and generous people.
Being Chair of Mayvin was truly a ‘mitzvah’…a gift and a duty, but thank you, James, Martin Sarah and Mayvin. I am left feeling good about Mayvin’s work, its growth its place in the world…and mine.
A note from James on behalf of the Directors
Tony co-founded Mayvin with James Traeger and Martin Saville in 2010. Their Jewish backgrounds and experience of the same root systems of deep organisational development practice had brought them together. This partnership was cemented during a sailing trip in the Spring of 2011. On this voyage, they developed the strategic thinking, values and mindset on which Mayvin was based. And although Martin and James were neophyte sailors, Skipper Tony found out they were almost competent. As Chair, Tony was always annoyingly good at spotting things we needed to pay attention to. He was also great at helping us do practical things like finding good people, such as his daughter Sarah, who joined as co-Director in 2014.
As an expert in gestalt practice, Tony’s outlook also informed us hugely at a practice level too. We will miss his insight in this respect. He described his role as ‘guardian of the culture’ of Mayvin. We learned to pay close attention to our inside as well as our outside, as a business and community under his guidance. But with grandchildren to look after, an allotment to dig, a boat to sail and many other things to get on with (he has never been one for standing still for very long), Tony decided it was time to step away. We look forward to staying in touch with him and seeing what else comes out of his creative whirlwind. Bon voyage Tony!