Meet the Team: Sue Charman

Sue Charman

Sue has been a trainer with us for two and a half years and a regular contributor to this blog section – so I was surprised when I realised we did not yet have a Meet the Team post about her. I interviewed her recently to find out about her ‘clean journey’.

Sue, what were you doing before you found out about Clean Language?

I was a theatre director, a puppeteer and a storyteller. And after I had my children I worked as an events organiser. At the time I came across Clean Language I was working for a sustainable charity as a fundraiser.

And then what happened?

I was storytelling as well as fundraising and when I used to tell an epic ancient story people would come up afterwards and tell me they were struck by a particular metaphor in the story. I was aware that these were making a big impact on people but I didn’t know how to respond when someone was very upset, very intrigued or curious or very surprised when they found one metaphor stand out so much more than another. It came to me that storytellers of the past were probably wise women or healers, and they would have used stories to work with people. I thought I could do with some coaching skills to go with the storytelling.

And how did you go about getting some coaching skills?

In my job at the charity, I had regular coaching and although it was good, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Then what happened was one of those serendipitous events in which I stumbled upon Caitlin Walker’s TEDx talk and suddenly I not only knew exactly what kind of coaching I wanted to do, but it also involved metaphor and linked completely with my storytelling!

Then what happened?

I was so fired up by the TEDx talk, I immediately began to scour the internet for courses I could take. I had no idea how to choose except that Clean Language is a linguistic model and the words anyone uses say a lot about them. When I found the Clean Learning website, I thought, “That’s it. That’s exactly how I would like to describe the coaching I want to do.”

I remember you coming on your first training… what was it like for you?

There was a bit of trepidation because, as I expected, everyone else was a coach and I was not. At the same time I was so excited by David Grove’s insights and the process I was learning, that I just let go of all that anxiety. It was a hard course – a bit like learning to drive. We had to practise and practise so that some things would become automatic and enable us to focus on what was happening in the moment. And although it was difficult, progress was quite quick. Within the first three days I knew most of the questions and was able to spot which question might work in some cases. I felt quite exhilarated by the end of it.

And then what happened?

I came back later that year for more training. At that time you were running a complete Clean Facilitator Programme in a fortnight. I passed the assessment and became a Certified Clean Facilitator. Around that time there was a small group of people who lived in the South West and who wanted to take Clean Language training in the school holidays - and so I offered my house as a training venue. I realised this would also enable me to be an assistant and to learn even more about the process.

And how did you become a trainer of Clean Language?

The more I assisted on the trainings the more I realised that I like certain aspects of training, such as looking and listening and giving feedback. I loved watching other people get empowered and need less and less from the trainer. It was a bit like directing actors and then watching them go off on a tour.

And I still continued with my own learning. Every year since I started I have attended a training as a participant in order to improve my Clean Language skills. Last year, I became one of the first people to be certified as a Systemic Modelling facilitator. I have also been taking the work out to the groups I run, and I gained a lot of experience through working as a coach for Genius Within.

When Clean Learning and Training Attention joined together and you offered me the opportunity to become an associate, I thought long and hard about it; I know that start-ups can be a lot of hard work. But I couldn’t stay away. I knew that this was a group of people I want to work with.  And I have learned more in the last five years than at any time since I was at school.

So what’s next?

I am very excited by the new rolling programmes and will be attending Fine Tuning as a participant in September. I am also helping to write the new manual for the Systemic Modelling rolling programme and will be co-facilitating that with you in April. I started a South West Practice Group a couple of years ago, and we moved it online because everyone was spread out. Now we are broadening that group and it is open to anyone. I am also engaged in a long-term piece of Systemic Modelling work in a company my brother runs, which is very exciting. I’m also thrilled that you are coming to Devon in September to run a Clean Space workshop, based on David Grove’s work and the work you have been doing with James Lawley to create your new book, “Insights in Space”. I am hoping it will be on sale at the workshop. 

And given all of the above, what difference has knowing Clean Language made to your life?

A huge difference. It has been transformational for me. I now have tools at my disposal that mean I am no longer afraid of confrontation. I can notice and step out of drama and conflicts I’m experiencing. And rather than offering people advice I’m now able to ask them questions to help them find their own solutions. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more.

And is there anything else?

Yes, I’d like to express some gratitude to David Grove, to you and to Caitlin and everyone else in the clean world who took on board David’s ideas and especially that it should be ‘shareware’. I know that Clean Learning is a company and that you make money, but I feel that the ethos is: “We love this and we want people to join in.”

Tags: clean language, practice group, marian way, clean space, systemic modelling, sue charman, fine tuning

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About the author

Marian Way

Company Director & Trainer, Portchester, Fareham
A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be... #DramaFree. Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She's trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.


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