A photo of Sebastian Brixey-Williams

Ivy House alumni interview

Sebastian Brixey-Williams

Programme Director at the registered charity BASIC

What did you think of the IH programme?

The Ivy House Programme might be the most important learning experience I’ve ever had. It has fundamentally caused me to rethink my own needs, goals and the processes by which I make decisions about my life. It’s filled in many of the gaps that mainstream education doesn’t always touch upon, such as interpersonal relationships and self-knowledge. It introduced me to the concepts of life coaching and performance coaching, which I now feel fascinated by.

How different is it from other courses that you have attended?

The Ivy House Programme was extremely interactive and personal.
I would say the quality of the people was also noticeably higher than on other courses I’ve attended. They consistently proved themselves to be open, honest and curious, and each in their own way were excelling in what they were doing. I’ve remained friends with many of them – I even cooked dinner for a handful last week.
And the life coaches were such experts: they were always able to simplify very complex personal questions and doubts.

What were your main takeaways from the workshops?

All of it is about getting to know ourselves better.
I also found the work on how to have effective conversations very helpful. We were given a checklist of dimensions to be aware of when preparing and conducting a conversation, and then also afterwards learning from it. It’s primarily about being fully accountable for what caused the conversation to go the way it went. That was a particularly eye-opening exercise, given that my profession is founded on dialogue.

How have you used them in your work environment?

You learn a model on how to give better feedback to everyone in your life, but particularly your work colleagues. Since the programme, I have instituted a monthly growth meeting at my charity, BASIC, which works on nuclear disarmament diplomacy. The idea has been to train my colleagues with the model and then create a regular opportunity for them to give each other feedback, whether positive or negative.
This has helped the whole organisation to grow and develop by creating a culture of honesty and making sure that any doubts, frustrations or concerns surface in a regular way before they really took root. This has been really well received.

How has the experience affected your relationships with your team/department?

I would say it’s been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had team members say to me that they have seen a real change in the way that I approach work. I’m more relaxed and aware of the things I need to consider.
What has been empowering is to understand my own and my teams’ preferences, and find ways to harmonise those better. For example, when we start a new project, I’m naturally drawn to developing efficient strategies and systems on paper first whereas some of my colleagues just like to get on with things. In the past, that led to conflicts because I often felt that the planning work I had done was just being ignored, underutilised or undervalued. Now I just let them get on with it and the team works better.

How have you used the core principles in your personal life?

I have become more conscious that one of my core values revolves around integrity. Within my professional life, being seen as trustworthy is absolutely essential in my role as a mediator and honest broker between governments, parliaments and citizens on nuclear weapons policy issues.
If there was one thing that the course has helped you with, what is it?
I’d say that Ivy House has helped me spot habits that compromise my confidence. Niggling doubts, negative thoughts and uncontrollable spirals have almost all melted away now, and been replaced with strong habits.

How would you describe yourself as a leader before the course? And then afterwards?

I don’t think I had a clear idea of what sort of leader I was. Today my leadership style is based on establishing strong, compelling visions and principles for what I and the team are trying to achieve.

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