Through an abandonment to a new beginning

An article about one of the previous participants.

“It takes courage to let go something that is important to oneself. But without abandonment and the subsequent vacuum one cannot change one’s life. It is a precondition for the birth of something new, for a metamorphosis.“ This is what Hannu Tuovinen says about the experience that happened to him a couple of years ago.

Hannu Tuovinen was in the midst of many changes in the beginning of the year 2008. He had been helping asylum seekers in his work for 14 years, establishing a reception centre for asylum seekers with the City of Tampere before becoming the director of that centre. The centre’s activities were closely developed together with a highly skilled and motivated staff. Then the Ministry of the Interior made the decision to abolish the entire centre. This was due to the dramatic decline of the number of asylum seekers in Finland. The building where the Centre was located was planned for other uses. And so the employer-employee negotiations started. Hannu Tuovinen tells his story.  ‘I had already been running my own business for ten years. I had been offering coaching and supervision in several Waldorf schools of Finland and for employees of the City of Tampere. In this way, I had maintained my professional work as a supervisor. I also had plans that I might want to change my career in the next few years.’
Now the plans were changed in one stroke.  ‘At the same time as I was fighting for the jobs of my colleagues, I decided to make the break for myself and to try a ‘work holiday’ and see how a full-time entrepreneurship would feel. It was still a fairly safe solution as I had the permanent work contract with the City of Tampere. My leaving was helped by the fact that the reception unit in Tampere had by now built an excellent reputation. We had partners and colleagues all around Finland.  You could say it provided the capital from which I could draw as an entrepreneur.’ Hannu Tuovinen had been reading and practising the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner since his adolescence years. In anthroposophy-related circles he came to know Lauri Salonen who had been working as an independent consultant in both Finland and abroad for decades. Hannu had also participated in courses led by Lauri Salonen in Snellman College.

A surprising contributor
Sometimes things just fall into place. That’s what happened now. Lauri Salonen and his British colleague, George Perry, had developed a course ‘Consulting in Organizations’ which had sometimes attracted Hannu’s attention, but a suitable time had not been found. Now the time was possible, and with it the need to strengthen his skills as an entrepreneur.
I applied, and when Lauri said: ‘Let’s see if the course will start up’ – I knew right away that, yes, it will – and that I would be involved. At that moment, however, I had no idea how to finance the course for myself. ‘The May Saturday morning when I was driving from Tampere to Espoo for the first seminar of the course, my mother called me and told that my godmother was in bad shape. She passed away on the following Tuesday. It turned out that my godmother had bequeathed to me exactly the necessary funding for the course.’
‘I was attracted by the three questions mentioned in the course brochure: do you want to challenge your thinking and working as a developer of organisations and people, to become more aware of the spiritual sources of inspiration, and to find your own path as a consultant and agent of change’ recalls Hannu Tuovinen. ‘In addition, I had a clear idea in my mind that I’m going to make my professional career on the basis of these ideas. It was also interesting that the key source of the course programme were the thoughts of organisational development from a Dutch Professor, Bernard Lievegoed.’ ‘One of my key purposes was to find a new certainty for myself in my work – in consulting, training, coaching and professional guidance.’

Five themes and the project
The course was divided into five sections, two of them were located in Finland and the others in the Netherlands, Austria and Italy. Every session had its own theme: the first one goes through the organisation’s development today and how to take over the customer process, the second one focuses on vision and strategies, the third one focuses on work processes and management of change, the fourth section is about cooperation and the fifth seminar deals with everyone’s own pathway as a consultant. The course is also about individual biography work, destiny learning and spiritual marketing. Each participant also has their own project work, most of the participants choosing from their work environment. It may be for example learning a new skill or adopting a new method. The project is worked on throughout the course together with the leaders and other participants. The project is presented to the other participants on the last seminar of the course.
Artistic work is also involved in all the the sessions. Singing, painting, music, business theatre practices and even clowning are exercised during the programme. There are lots of practical exercises, the most concrete one being a real construction project for the team. ‘Our course built a chicken run for a Support Home of mentally handicapped people in accordance with the provisions of the EU’ Hannu says. ‘We made a precise project plan with time schedule, cost calculations and clear agreements. It was very successful and appreciated.  And we did not have to sleep in tents, like the participants of one of the earlier quotations. They had built boardwalks and bridges for a hiking route. It must have been quite an experience of the Finnish forests for foreign participants!’ Hannu laughs.
Hannu Tuovinen thinks the course is not only a deepening of professional skills, but it is also a journey along one’s own inner road. In conversation, Lauri and George tell Hannu that, over the years, they have seen many participants making startling changes in their lives. As well as myself, two other persons of my course changed their lives. Many return back to their own work, but hopefully with renewed thoughts and inspiration.

Jazz came suddenly into my life
‘In autumn 2008, before the third seminar I suddenly started to listen to jazz. I noticed I was listening the records almost daily and enjoying what I heard. When the course gathered in Holland in the middle of the winter to study processes and lean thinking (‘leaning’ the work processes so that unnecessary steps and all the redundant work are minimised), it was the visiting lecturer Adriaan Bekman, who used jazz as an exact metaphor for the operations of the companies. He illustrated skilfully how the melody, rhythm and improvisation are all part of the whole and how they all complement one another. One part can not survive without the other, the same as in a company. And how all the differences together can produce something incredibly beautiful.  Adriaan plays saxophone in a jazz band and was able to inspire us to make music with just our voices.’
Cross-nationality is an important part of the course. ‘The participants in my course were from Finland, England, Spain and Italy. The course language is English, and any help for translation is given if needed.’ Hannu continues, ‘One of the main exercises was to learn how to ask the right questions. But even more important I think was the growth of my own inner awareness.  I also became in a new way conscious of my health, because as an entrepreneur my income is now dependent on it. And I experienced how ideals can come closer to reality.’
‘During the last period, in Venice, the key question of entrepreneurship crystallised in me. I had previously learned them from one of my teachers in the supervision education in Helsinki University, a doctor of religious studies, Martti Lindqvist. The key questions are: how to be vulnerable, limited and incomplete. Lindqvist adds to these also the experiences of grace and humility. According to Dr. Lindqvist these all require the abandonment and empty space. One cannot exist without the other.
In his project presentation Hannu Tuovinen said: “I must leave now and let go. I am giving myself up to the process of metamorphosis”. ‘At that moment I had been working on the question of abandonment already for a year and a half and I had experienced growth, and a birth of the new. I saw it as the biography of a butterfly: how the caterpillar evolves through a metamorphosis to a beautiful, flying butterfly.’

Global network
The course participants also create a network which is extremely important to a new entrepreneur.
‘I have now life long contacts all over Europe. I can turn to them for their advice on any issue. One of the pros is the fact that the course serves as a good springboard for the Association for Social Development. It is a annual meeting and global network of experienced consultants. All the members have in common the same spiritual vision based on anthroposophy and the Lievegoed impulse.

Irma Sarkola-Salonen
Irma Sarkola-Salonen, the author of this interview is a mentor and a retired journalist who has also passed the Consulting in Organisations course.

Bernard Lievegoed
Dutch Professor Bernard Lievegoed (1905-1992) was a versatile developer, researcher and spiritual scientist. His insights related to organisation development have led to numerous applications in many areas including business life. One of his early discoveries was the observation that organisations work in a horizontal direction, a horizontal chain of activities. Today, this vision is part of mainstream thinking in all quality work and process management.

Lievegoed’s work lives in the work of many researchers, developers and practitioners. The Association for Social Development, a professional community of more than one hundred members – coaches, trainers, consultants and therapists – has been established around this “Lievegoed impulse”. Community is a lot about real sharing and the Consulting in Organisations programme provides a good example: an education for consultants, coaches, mentors and leaders (or for those transferring to these professions), created by Finnish-British cooperation. The course consists 25 days in total, divided into five sections. The next programme will begin in Spring 2011.

For more information:
lauri.salonen (at), tuovinen (at)

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