TPCL Leadership has just turned 20 years old! It has been a long journey since our early training courses and our first clients. We’ve grown into a leading consultancy with a coaching and leadership academy, offices and partners across the globe. 

But from a certain angle, it’s not the growth that we’re happy about. It’s that TPCL is still, at its heart, what it was 20 years ago – a culture worth celebrating. 

To mark the occasion, Charles Brook, founder of TPCL, and our chairperson, Annelieke Jense, reminisced about the highlights and setbacks of the last two decades – and why the TPCL culture has remained special.

Why people joined TPCL

“Whenever we found that someone wasn’t the right fit,” says Charles, “it’s nearly always been because the values alignment wasn’t quite there. It has been amazing to see how everyone has ultimately been attracted by the culture.”

Annelieke recalls the moment she decided to join TPCL in 2011. She was working for an Amsterdam university at the time and had plenty of reasons not to leave. But having trained as a coach through one of the first TPCL programs, she knew the quality of the professionals who were offering her a partnership role. 

“And they weren’t just fantastic professionals but fantastic human beings,” says Annelieke, “I wanted to work with these people I felt such connection with. People who went for impact rather than quick fixes – and whose clients invested in people. And as a result, I’ve always believed I’m in the right profession.”

The challenges of being a TPCL partner

The full tale of how Annelieke became a partner seems like a chapter from a storybook. But finding the right partners for TPCL has sometimes been a much trickier process. 

Becoming a TPCL partner is about more than being a leadership coach, or even a consultant. You need to be a business developer who can manage a regional office while taking ownership of the global development of the company too. 

“It’s not hard to find good professional coaches,” says Annelieke, “but to find someone who can take a real stake in the organisation and have real equity… it’s like you’re searching for this entrepreneurial sheep with five legs.”

What we can and can’t control

TPCL now has partners and offices all over the world. But like any success story, it comes at a price of setbacks and disappointments. Some international offices simply didn’t work out.

Charles found it easier to bounce back by using a reflection model called the Three Circles, produced by Steven Covey, which asks what’s in your sphere of control, what’s in your sphere of influence and what’s only in your sphere of concerns. The logic goes that if you don’t have any control or any influence over a problem, there’s not much benefit in worrying about it. 

“If I walk into my living room and accidentally smash the best bit of cut glass,” says Charles, “I might think, ‘Damn it, that was beautiful. I’m so annoyed that I did it’ but then that’s it. There’s nothing I can do now that it’s broken. And although this mindset means I probably don’t fully learn all the lessons of a bereavement process, overall it’s been helpful to move on.”

The enduring sense of team

The reward of facing such challenges and overcoming disappointments is that TPCL is what it is. Even though the team has been working virtually since long before COVID-19, they have always felt connected to one another and the work each partner is doing. 

“Only our Italian and Netherlands branches actually have an office,” says Charles, “And still there’s an amount of affiliation which I don’t think other organizations have got yet, even though we’re a virtual team. So I’m super proud of that.”

There’s also a real desire in all the TPCL partners to leave a legacy, whether it is about climate change or reducing poverty or supporting global SDGs. 

“It’s about wanting to make a difference,” says Charles. “And finding other people who want to make a difference with you. This is what happens when you attract people to the cause through your values. You end up with a team that wants to do projects for the third sector, for the United Nations and for women leaders in Ethiopia.”

Playing the long game

When reflecting on what has made TPCL work so well over the years, Charles believes that they have opted to grow only as quickly as their values allow. And one of these values is to relentlessly do what is best for the client, even if it means losing business. 

“I remember turning down a huge global project,” says Charles, “and the company was beside themselves. They wanted to change their company culture to make it a coaching culture and they wanted to do it by running two-day workshops around the world.”  

Charles had said to them, “What is it you really want? Do you want to help people have some coaching skills?” But they said, “No, we want a coaching culture.” So Charles laid down the facts: “You’re not going to do it by running two-day workshops around the world. That’s not going to change your culture.”

And even though this company said they were committed and had set a budget of over a million pounds to achieve it, Charles told them it simply would not work. And so TPCL never saw their business. 

But other companies saw TPCL’s restraint as a sign of trustworthiness. Annelieke recalls that when she asked several of our clients, “Why did you choose us?” They said, “You were not pitching. You were just asking the right questions.” 

The future of TPCL

As we look back on 20 years, there is a lot to celebrate. And there is also a lot to look forward to. But while TPCL is readying to grow globally and become more sustainable in each local office, Charles’ hopes for the company he founded are primarily to do with its culture.

“More than anything else I want it to be a home for people with like-minded values, where they can live and be the person they want to be,” says Charles.

“Because in many organizations you have to conform to fit in. And you don’t feel you can be who you are, live the life you want, make the difference you want. So I would love for us not to lose that in the next five or 10 years. For people to still come because they can find a place where they can express themselves and live their potential.”

So here’s to the next five, 10 and even 20 years of TPCL. In case you missed it, you can read Charles and Annelieke’s story of how TPCL came to be here. And if you want to learn more about creating or sustaining a company culture, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

@ TPCL (2021)