Name: Sarah Willcox

Job Title: Director

My position in a nutshell… Fairisle offers consultancy services to a range of organisations and our purpose is to help clients achieve positive change that lasts.

We believe this is more likely when everyone is involved in the change from the start. We help clients discover and define the changes they need to make and then make sure they have the skills to implement them. I run the business myself and I am involved in delivering programmes and workshops.

How I got the job… After university I worked in a number of roles in universities in the South East. I got an administrative role in a university and worked my way up to managing a team. I was always focussed on people development and delivery of projects and eventually I moved into change and project management. Ten years ago, I set up my own business in consultancy.

My typical day… Is always a bit of a mix, and is especially different at the moment, but will generally include working with clients to analyse their work, designing or running workshops, some business development – such as writing or pitching for work – and planning. I also make time for some learning.

My most memorable moment… Leaving my full time paid role 10 years ago – it felt exciting and scary and I haven’t looked back since. It was the best decision.

The worst part of my job… I genuinely enjoy all of my work. Right now, like everyone at the moment, the most difficult thing is dealing with uncertainty – but it helps to remember that everyone, including my clients, are experiencing the same thing.

The best part of my job…Working with people and helping them achieve change, especially when they didn’t think it was possible. Seeing a team working well together – communicating really well – and knowing I have a role in them doing that.

What are the key skills / attributes needed in your role… Good listening skills, patience, a willingness to see things from someone else’s view and remembering there are lots of different viewpoints in any one team. Also, the ability to reflect on and question what’s going on around you, good time keeping and making time to communicate with people and understand where they are coming from.

Advice for someone looking to go into a similar role… Get a good range of experiences and learning – not just from study, but from working, and from what you do for pleasure. Read widely – not just things you know you like, but things that make you think and challenge your ideas – remember that learning doesn’t stop at the end of school. Listen to podcasts to help you think about different perspectives, for example:

  • Herman Stewart’s Finding your path – talking to leaders about how they got there – best quote “what other people think about you is none of your business” from Sarah Walker
  • How to fail with Elizabeth Day

Or any programme where people talk about their experiences and how they achieved what they did.

Remember that everyone has a different perspective on things and, for you to make progress with a team, you need to understand and account for all of those differences. Listen to understand, and question to clarify. Be brave – sometimes the right answer isn’t always the answer people want to hear. Most of all there’s no need to rush – you have time and trust your instincts.