Change Agents - Master Practitioner Programme

"Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it..."
Nelson Mandela

For those called to hold their nerve and steer a steady course through turbulent change

This modular learning experience will combine inner work and outer work to develop your poise, presence and authority as a change agent.  It comprises an in-depth personal retreat followed by 3 practical modules.

Programme Content

Developing the inner poise that has you stay calm and focused.

Mastery of timing and executing with clarity and conviction.

Elegance in the relational and systemic nuances of change.

Challenging the system without being rejected by it.

Who is this for?

The hardest thing for anyone playing a leading role in change inside an organisational system is to maintain poise and perspective and not get caught up in the noise, angst and wasted energy that always accompanies it. This is all about managing your attention. You can find yourself caught up in ‘urgent’ issues and passionate debates that in retrospect prove of little import, whilst the real ‘moments of truth’ where a vigilant stance is needed, can often slip by unnoticed. 

This programme is for people in a position of leading or advocating change, wishing to learn how better to: 

  • Maintain a cool head, warm heart and firm hand through challenging changes 
  • Embody vision without being ensnared in the disaffection of those affected by it 
  • Anticipate systemic effects in change and help others not to get caught by these 
  • Sense when to be patient and when to be demanding with those around them 
  • Bring clear voice and full wisdom – head, heart and gut – to rapid decision making 
  • Find the right balance between ‘holding on’ and ‘letting go’ in change leadership 
  • Channel and transform the emotional energy released in change


The modules are held in the beautiful and peaceful surrounds of Stanton House in Oxford and Waverley Abbey House in Farnham.

The word 'retreat' reflects the fact that this is as much about 'inner work' as outer. Our retreats provide a space conducive to a depth of reflection and self-insight that is not available in traditional development. People are constantly amazed at the clarity, confidence and inner strength that they discover through the process.

We adopt an integral approach covering all areas in your life; mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, relational and intentional. We normally find that, for a range of reasons, people have underplayed at least one of these streams in their life so far. By attending to these and integrating them, you will find you have much greater presence, focus and impact in even the most demanding circumstances.

What happens on the programme?

The initial retreat provides a unique space to explore and develop your own qualities and character as a change
agent. It will help you find an inner calm and stillness that you did not realise was available to you, even in the most
trying circumstances. It will help you broaden and deepen your awareness of the dynamics of complex change – in
particular, what it means to ‘stay human’ in an organisational context that can become very dehumanising. This is all
around maintaining your own authentic presence and approach as a change agent. It will also develop ‘second order’
competencies that will help you see more clearly what is going on, understand how and where you personally tend to
get pulled of balance and intervene to help others do the same.

On the follow-up modules the pace and style will change. Building on the depth and trust from the opening
retreat, you will work in small coaching groups of 3 or 4, in an action-learning setting, to apply practical frames and
templates to real change issues that you are currently working with. The frames we have developed draw upon the
latest thinking in system dynamics, emergent change and social movement theory, as well as timeless wisdom
from ancient spiritual tradition.

Supported by expert professional facilitation, with a maximum ratio of 1:4, you will have a creative, confidential
space, to explore richly and deeply some of the most stimulating and challenging aspects of your life as a leader,
where you are in your life right now and what your real possibilities are for the future.
This is a master practitioners’ programme with a strong element of peer-led discovery learning and experimental
modules. We would expect the life of the group to outlive the life of the formal programme. 

What do we cover?

Although the content is deeply serious, the approach is lively and refreshing, with a great mix of experiences: deep refection, practical planning, skills development, creative self-expression, physical exercises, fun evening activities. 

In between the modules, you will support each other with peer coaching and keep a reflective log of your progress. There is also the option of face to face or phone coaching from the Waverley team. 

Across all four modules of the programme we will cover the following:

1. Resilience, awareness and attention

  • Becoming more ‘choiceful’ – in relation to events, people and time – so you are running the show, not it running you.
  • Developing your capacity to take ‘risks’ – whether in decisions or relationships.
  • Using somatic and emotional intelligence more effectively in your work 
  • Using personal infuence rather than role authority to get things done
  • Managing your boundaries wisely – what is ‘your own’ and what you are picking up inadvertently from others/ the system 
  • Trying out a new set of personal tools, and resources for leading more consciously, calmly and enjoyably
  • Avoiding common pitfalls and blindspots 
  • Personal/spiritual ‘grounding’.
  • \Maintaining a personal programme and ‘rhythm of life’ to sustain your balance as a change agent.
  • Holding your ground – sustaining your vision for change when you are most likely to doubt it. 

2. Change Methodologies 

  • ‘The language of change’ – using and attending to language as the key indicator of commitment.
  • Strategies for cognitive, emotional and practical engagement – ‘fair process’ methodology.
  • Creating momentum: accessing and releasing energy for change, surfacing and channeling dissatisfaction.
  • Migrating/distributing leadership of change.
  • Overcoming cognitive & political hurdles.
  • Seeing systems’ – classic systems effects and how these drive non-conscious behaviour.
  • Working with strategic trade-offs/organisational polarities and the conflict that these engender.
  • Understanding the emotional roots of behaviour, how people get ‘caught’ into defensive reactions and how to handle these.
  • Dialogic tools and approaches for challenging conversations.
  • Perceptual positioning techniques • Social identity and in-group/out-group behaviour.
  • Tempered radicalism – how to challenge the system without getting rejected by it.
  • Stretching awareness, socializing thinking, building movements and coalitions.
  • Handling the politics of change.
  • The ‘power of three’. Triadic relationships as a force for change.
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