A crowning moment

By: Alison Coleman Categories: Team News

Written on the 6th July 2023.

There was no shortage of pomp and ceremony as the eyes of the world turned to Britain for the Coronation of King Charles III. One of the most striking images to come out of the celebrations was the sight of the King’s horses, the Windsor greys, pulling those stunning carriages down The Mall from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. For Nicki, this was extra special, as her daughter Clare was one of the two riders leading the procession.

Here Nicki reflects on some of the takeaways from a magical weekend and a huge mum moment…

“To be sat in the grandstand opposite Buckingham Palace and watch Clare ride past was almost surreal. It was a bit like being on the set of a Disney movie. There was the King, the Queen, Princesses and Princes following each other in procession down The Mall and they were all being led by Clare Kavanagh riding a horse called Runnymede! Alongside her colleague, of course. It was just surreal but, at the same time, something to remember forever.

I've had so many people since then say to me, ‘How did she stay so calm?’ And I obviously have the inside track, which is that Clare has worked hard on remaining calm and appearing to remain calm when, on the inside, she is really nervous. One of the reasons why she was given more responsibility in her role, is because she always appears to be calm.

She was incredibly nervous ahead of the coronation but the more they practised together as a team; the more they prepared and spoke about what they were doing and focused on all the minute details; the better they felt. So even though you're nervous and it's a huge occasion, there comes a point when you know you're ready and you’re able to take some confidence from knowing that you’ve done everything you can.

When I think about it, there are quite a few links between what Clare and the Royal Household do and what we do in the Juniper team. Whilst they are very different, there are some parallels. Above all, preparation is everything.

We have to be prepared for how our programme participants are going to respond. We need to ask a lot of questions to understand an organisation’s requirements, uncovering a layer of detail that perhaps sometimes the client doesn't even know we need, and it's the same for the Royal Household. They have to know some very detailed information, which they learn through experience – how a horse will react in a particular situation, for example.

Another strong parallel is situational leadership - how your knowledge and experience help you to make appropriate decisions when you're in a position that you're not expecting. For us, that might be an example where participants on a programme either don't understand what we're doing, or they're struggling, or the timing's not working for them. In the moment, we need to make decisions that are going to be most appropriate for that cohort and that circumstance.

For Clare, an example is a situation that was in the press last year, when a horse in the procession at Royal Ascot got his leg caught over the trace of a carriage as they came to a stop in the paddock. Clare and the team acted so quickly, quietly, and professionally to resolve the situation, knowing exactly what they needed to do to keep the horse and those in the carriage safe. I was extremely proud of her that day. Although my heart was in my mouth when I saw what was happening!

With horses, things can escalate or de-escalate really quickly, depending on how you handle it. And I think it's probably similar with people. Things can escalate very quickly if, for example, we make judgments or accusations, or we don't attempt to understand what someone's trying to do or what they are battling with. I think the key thing for me is that when emotions run high, in horses or in people, we need to stay calm.

In the Juniper team, we appreciate how important it is not to ignore any information we're given and to ask plenty of questions to appreciate what a particular client is trying to achieve. This is a skill that Clare was able to utilise when she worked with us in the Juniper team (she has worked with us on two occasions over the years) and she has been able to carry it forward to her current role for the Royal Household. In her last role with us, she focused on report writing and supporting the equestrian consulting work that we were doing, because of her attention to detail and wanting to get to the bottom of information to make sense of it, not only for her but also for her audience. I found that very valuable and I saw Clare, not as my daughter in that situation but as a valuable employee. I'm not quite sure how much I told her at the time, but I'm telling her now!

At one point, Clare was really struggling to work out what she wanted to do. We talked about tacking and the fact that whatever you do in life, as long as you're learning, it's contributing to your growth and ultimately your career. it’s something that I did myself. I didn't see the end goal of running my own business in learning and development and then, ultimately, strategy and change management 25 years ago. But now, in hindsight, it's quite obvious based on my experience.

So, I've always encouraged graduates that come to work for me, whether that's Clare or others, that as long as you're learning, that's the main thing because you'll uncover more. You'll uncover your passions and your key strengths, that perhaps you didn’t even know you had. You'll then start to develop skills and expertise in an area that could take you off in another direction. And that's amazing. It applies to all employees really, not just graduates.

When I reflect on 21 years in business, there are two things that I am most proud of. Being able to deliver real value for our clients, especially when they have come to us with
a challenge that we've been able to help them resolve – whether that's in strategy, in change, or in developing skills in people so that they can go on to bigger and better things. And it’s the same with my people – having developed so many staff members over the years and knowing that they've gone on to great things, it's just so rewarding and makes me happy.

I'm so pleased for Clare that she took this opportunity. At the time she didn’t really think about what it would be like to be involved with the Queen's Jubilee or the King's Coronation. She took it one day at a time, one step at a time, and I think that brings us back full circle to dealing with the nerves. Sometimes it is important to look at the bigger picture and to know what you're contributing to, of course. But when you’re feeling nervous, to focus on what's going to happen in the next hour, the next two hours, etcetera is invaluable, so you don't become overwhelmed by the magnitude of it.

By taking it one step at a time, it’s amazing what you can achieve”.