Taking Claire to coffee

Meet Claire Spurrell. Claire joined the team in October 2018, and has been helping our clients to grow, build new capabilities, and improve their work. She’s passionate about communicating, working with people, learning, and passing her knowledge to other teams. When she’s not being a VFQ superhero she’s probably singing at her village choir or taking care of her 50 house plants! In this coffee chat, you’ll learn more about Claire’s role at Emergn, the challenges that she faces, and her advice to overcome those challenges and help companies grow.

What’s your role at Emergn, and how long have you been with the company?

Hi, I’m Claire! As a Senior Consultant, I have been part of the Emergn team since October 2018. I do a lot of work around our learning offering to help clients scale education on VFQ, particularly with one of our clients from the retail industry. VFQ is our context-specific and outcomes-driven approach to transformation based on three principles – Value, Flow, and Quality – that offers our clients the frameworks, models, and tools they need to transform and improve the way they work.

It has been great working with our client, to understand how we can help them learn at scale, build new capabilities, and support their teams. I am responsible for helping them navigate this journey – and offer constant support whenever needed. I contribute to a team’s channel with them, giving them thoughts for the day, answering questions, and suggesting learning goals.

Typically, that’s what I do, but I’m also delivering education pathways – like our Agile Practitioner and Product Manager pathways, and VFQ Foundations course. The Product Manager pathway has been particularly successful. More organizations are starting to awaken to the idea that they need to shift how they work – and that product management is the way to go.

For a year, I’ve been working on our Product Manager pathway consistently, which has been great to learn from different industries, see how they think about products, and understand what disruption in their environment really means for how this impacts how they deliver to their customer.  I support them taking a product idea through that pathway. It’s super interesting because I get to see how they change their mindset as they go through the pathway and witness kind of light-bulb moments. And that’s what I love the most about my job – helping others to be able to see where they can help themselves and change. And I also get to do fun things like assessing people for our learning certifications and a lot of the experience design for our learning content.

Tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started

I started developing my love for working with people and communicating on stage. I loved singing in musicals and performing on stage, so I took a degree in Drama. I didn’t want to be an actress – because the work is inconsistent, and I wanted something more reliable – but I still wanted a degree. It was fantastic, I had great experiences, and I learned a lot about empathizing with people, communicating, being creative, articulating ideas, storytelling, and listening – all the wonderful skills that are needed for Emergn, and the educator role that I have.

From that, I started working for the University College Admissions Services (UCAS) in the UK, which manage higher education opportunities. I started with some administration tasks before a role became available for their digital transformation. They wanted to transform to enable more agility, and I took this challenge. This led to my connection with Emergn – because they were the ones supporting this transformation.

I worked with some of the Emergn original coaches – around six years ago. I started with the Agile Practitioner pathway, and I thought that the learning styles were fun and very practical, as we were asked to apply our learning and try different things out. I became a bit of a trainer for the organization, helping people understand why, what, and how we were transforming.

I became inspired by VFQ and I believed in its principles and results – and that it was the best way of looking at your work. That’s why I decided to join Emergn when a new role for a trainer became available. It was a massive step up for me because I had only worked in the industry of higher education and had never done professional education or learning experiences. It was an amazing step, and I had the opportunity to learn a lot. In my first year, I did a lot of shadowing work with an educator and progressed to leading sessions. By the end of the induction onboarding and experience, I was leading the education management at the client. Since then, I have learned a lot more by working with different industries – pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, retail – and learning types.

What’s the biggest challenge for you as a Senior Consultant?

I think the biggest challenge is to try and help people to think differently – a mindset change.

That’s almost a barrier to being able to change. Because we give practical tools like shifting their language or asking questions (problems) instead of stating things (solutions) or having more of a curious and discovery mindset. We have fantastic tools from VFQ Foundations that support this learning – building test and learn cards, knowing how to experiment, talking about goals, setting goals, and thinking about your customer, customer profiles, and value propositions.

But ultimately, the organization must decide if they are willing to embrace the unknown and adopt that different way of thinking. Some people naturally have that curiosity. Not everybody starts at a level that is more resistant to change, but I would say that’s often the biggest challenge. It’s really interesting to see people’s mindsets change, as we go further into education experiences with clients.

What advice would you give to a Consultant facing that challenge?

As an educator, you have to be aware and patient and make it point not to undermine or make a person feel silly for not immediately seeing things quite as you want them to.

Be aware of how each person in the group feels and deals with this change. Typically, when we are on these education paths, we have got an entire team and we have to ensure we hear everyone’s voice and give them a place in the conversation. It’s also essential to support those that might be used to a more traditional way of thinking, by providing constructive feedback and challenges as well as giving positive feedback.

We don’t ever want to single someone out. It’s really important as an educator to balance change because it is hard. As humans, we don’t naturally like to change. If we think about it, in our day-to-day, we want to use the same things, consume the same brands we like, and go to our favorite places – which is perfectly natural. Change makes us uncomfortable at first and it’s important to be mindful and empathetic.

I would say the best approach is to start by introducing small things and changes. I’m such a big advocate of VFQ because once you can get over the initial phase, you are more willing to try little things and run small experiments. For example, instead of trying to plan objectives for the next year, consider your objectives for the next week.  

What do you like the most about working as a team at Emergn?

I’ve always been lucky enough to work with at least one person on our client accounts, which I think is always better than working alone because you can share your opinions, thoughts, and perspectives. I believe group work is the way to manage complex problems, essentially, with our clients. Communicating and connecting regularly with the Emergn team is essential. If I am creating something for a pathway, I’ll often do it with my partner on the phone. If I am doing it on my own, I’ll deliver small pieces of work and then get feedback. It reiterates the importance of our VFQ principles, about visualizing your workflow, getting fast feedback, and delivering value early and often.

I’ve been fortunate to work with many different people at Emergn which has been fantastic to see different types of working styles. And the experience and wealth of knowledge we have at Emergn is incredible. It’s been really nice to learn from others and gain the confidence and knowledge that I have today – that motivates me to embrace new things and be curious.

I also enjoy helping our teams by visualizing what we are trying to do. I am always the one creating a board and sharing the screen as we talk things through because that adds power to our work. I can’t understand something unless I visualize them.

Do you feel like VFQ impacts your daily life?

Yes, all the time! I actually use the VFQ principles in my household life – it shows how impactful it is.  When we’re decorating at home, my rule is “let’s get one thing done”. Meaning, let’s focus on one room, and limit our work in progress to that room before starting somewhere else. For example, when we started the decorations for our new house, we wanted our lounge and the whole ground floor of the house to have a different floor. But what we decided to do first, was just start putting this flooring in one room, to see if we really liked it, and to see how it works for us. This probably means it is going to cost us more because we must hire the labor twice, but I actually prefer to check how it looks first rather than having the whole house done in this flooring that I don’t like or doesn’t work for us, i.e., it scratches – and we have to replace it in a few years…

Outside of work, what’s one thing people should know about you?

Every week, I sing in my village choir with people about twice or three times my age – and I love it. It’s kind of where my degree and my heart come from initially.

I love starting my morning with exercise and running. I get incredible motivation from that to kick off my day and that’s probably one of the things I like the most.

Also, I love house plants and learning more about them, propagating them, giving them away to friends, and giving plant advice. I’m a kind of plant-mom and I have about 50 plants in my house!