A few months ago a trusted friend and colleague passed away. Some months previously at my Dad’s funeral there was a group of his former work colleagues there, all from different employers. Some of them had worked with him over 30 years ago. They told me how my Dad had helped and mentored them early in their careers and it struck me how strong these work relationships can be when we reach out and help others. That was certainly the way I felt about how Debbie had helped me over the years.
I wanted to pay tribute to her and to capture what she meant to me which is why I penned the below:
I knew Debbie over a period of 16 years. I was in my first role in a large organisation as the Training Manager, and she was recommended to me to deliver some of our management training. Over the years that followed I began working with Debbie more and more. In a time where I was bombarded by other consultants offering me their services, I found Debbie to always offer sensible, practical solutions backed up with real experience. She never tried a ‘hard-sell’ approach with me, and certainly never touted for business, but instead she responded to my questions of ‘do you have any suggestions of how I should go about this…’ by giving her advice. If it was something I could do myself without paying for any external help, she would say so. It was this impartiality and generosity that led me to trust Debbie and her judgement implicitly over the years, making her my first go-to person whenever I was faced with a new challenge.
Very quickly we got to know each other personally, both having a child at the same age. Our catch-up phone calls extended into catch-up lunches, where we would talk for ages about family and personal things, as well as discussing our joint work projects.
On a professional level I enjoyed working with Debbie as our skills complimented each other well. She was organised and practical, and would efficiently manage all the management development programmes she ran for me over the years. I could always trust her to be prepared, organised, and calm. She was also personal and engaging, and presented and delivered effective training, as well as introducing me to a great network of other professional trainers. She had great attention to detail, and extended her business to becoming a centre for the Chartered Management Institute when I was looking for accredited solutions.
Debbie was an excellent listener, and used her listening skills to good effect as a consultant, listening to me describe the work-place issues I was trying to resolve, and she would easily pick out and identify what they key points were and suggest a way forward.
These attributes were all part of who Debbie was, and the times that we talked on a more personal level these same listening skills were employed. By now I had moved on to a new role in a larger organisation, but was still using Debbie for all of our management and leadership development training (Other providers I had tried just did not have the same attention to detail). She was growing and developing her business too, and over time our lunch meetings developed from considering solutions to work-place problems into peer to peer chats around our own career paths, as well as the usual personal and family stuff, plus now comparing notes on our recent shared interest of running (although Debbie was much more dedicated than me!)
Earlier this year I had some thoughts about my next career steps, and Debbie was the person I wanted to share these thoughts with. She had always been encouraging and instilled confidence in me. I hadn’t even realised it but all these years Debbie had been my unofficial mentor.
I have learnt so much from Debbie. She has been my role model of what a good consultant should be like, interested and empathetic, solution focused without being over-bearing, and always extremely professional, clearly stating what she would do and by when, and always meeting any commitment. I know these attributes come from who she was as a person. She was interested in others, and a genuine and warm person who had high standards.
Spending time with her was always a pleasure, and I will miss her immensely, but I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with and to know Debbie for all those years, and for all the personal support and encouragement she most generously gave to me.