Back in 2000, a man had a hunch. Two decades later, that hunch has grown into a global partnership with partners and offices across 15 countries. Yes, TPC Leadership is celebrating an important milestone. We are 20 years old!
Birthdays and anniversaries provide a useful moment to pause, look back and reflect on how far we’ve come. So we decided to take the opportunity to talk to TPCL’s founder Charles Brook and current chairperson Annelieke Jense about their journey so far.
The first connections
Charles says that he would love to tell everyone that TPC Leadership came to him as some incredible vision while meditating with a blanket over his head. But while there was no extraordinary experience that led to TPC’s conception, there was perhaps a fitting one: a human connection.
“I was very fortunate to get in with a good crowd,” says Charles. “I met three amazing people: John Whitmore, who was one of the fathers of coaching. Miles Downey, who ran the London School of Coaching, probably the biggest place globally to get trained as a coach at the time. And Sue Knight, who popularized neuro linguistic programming in the workplace.”
Inspired by these pioneer coaches, Charles pressed them to let him work with them. “And when I say work, I literally used to carry John Whitmore’s bags around for him!” he laughs.
It paid off. After serving out something of an apprenticeship, Whitmore asked Charles to become his associate.
Meanwhile, to earn a living, Charles was working for other coaching organisations. But he was becoming increasingly frustrated that he couldn’t galvanise the people in those organisations to take an interest in building a business and thinking about how they could better serve clients.
To make it happen, he would need to strike out on his own. And so The Performance Coach was born.
The founding of the EMCC
Of course, the coaching industry wasn’t nearly as mature then as it is today. At the time there was almost nowhere to get properly trained to a high level, nor were there any real standards or ethics.
Charles and John decided to change this, so TPC and Whitmore’s company, Performance Consultants, collaborated to co-write an MSc in Coaching with Portsmouth Business School – the first of its time. Soon after, they became founding members of the EMCC, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.
The EMCC enabled thousands of coaches to receive a high standard of training. But for Charles, two in particular would go on to become more than students. Annelieke Jense was among the first to go through the programme and soon after that Charles meet Andrea Cardillo. They were also the key to TPC’s international growth.
“Annelieke came through the program and fell in love with it,” says Charles. “Hopefully she and others fell in love with us a bit too. Because we certainly fell in love with them.”
That conversation in Schiphol
So Annelieke completed her MSc, living eight years in the UK before returning to the Netherlands. And TPC might simply have become a stepping stone to her very nice new job at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam. Except for a phone call in 2011 that would change all her plans.
“Hey, Annie, you remember me?”
It had been two years since they had spoken. But Annelieke certainly hadn’t forgotten.
“I’m in Amsterdam soon,” Charles said. “Shall we meet at Schiphol?”
“Yes, of course…” she said. “Fantastic.”
Once Charles arrived, he soon began pitching. “TPC is growing,” he said. “But we would like to be able to serve our clients better and we need to support them internationally. Would you like to start the office in The Netherlands?”
Annelieke didn’t exactly leap at the opportunity. Her answer was more along the lines of: “You have got the wrong woman!”
She bombarded Charles with all the reasons why she wasn’t suitable. “For a start, I’ve never had ambition,” she said. “I’m not a saleswoman or a marketing woman. And while I think I do a good job in coaching teams and individuals, there is not a drop of entrepreneurial blood in my body. This is just not me.”
Nine years later, as Annelieke reflects back on this moment, she believes the TPC Leadership culture was embodied in Charles’ reply: “You’re all of that,” he said. “You just don’t know it yet. We’ll support you.”
The beginning of a partnership
Charles didn’t just invite Annelieke to work for TPC but to become a partner in the organisation, together with Andrea Cardillo. Charles had already been working on TPC for a decade but the moment Annelieke and Andrea started, Charles held only one third of the voting rights.
“In some ways some people would say I was really naïve,“ says Charles, “because usually you keep a business like that and then you sell it. But we wanted it to be a partnership. And TPC wouldn’t be like it is now if I had kept it to myself.
This shared decision-making power would play a significant part in shaping the TPC culture. Many people are attracted to TPC Leadership because of the equality and shared power that is throughout the organisation. And the shared ownership meant that each partner felt ownership of their local office and the global business.
Realisations in wine cellars and wine bars
Annelieke recalls a time, just after a meeting in Rome, when the partners were together in a wine cellar and Charles suggested that everyone share what TPC meant to them personally.
“I still remember the things I said,” says Annelieke. “And for me it was profound to realise them. To realise that it has always been easy to explain to my children why I’m often not home – because I believe in the good that I am doing, because I am blessed with colleagues like I have, and I love what I do.”
Charles remembers a similar moment he had on a four month trip that took him to India, Australia, China, the US, Latin America and finally South Africa.
“I was sitting on my own in a wine bar,” says Charles, “And I was thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing? And why the hell am I doing this?’ But then I just looked around and thought, ‘Where am I? I would never have travelled like this before. I would never have seen these places. I would never have found an opportunity to work with these great people.’”
Today’s TPC Leadership
Winding the clock forward to TPCL’s 20 year celebration, the company is still growing, moving forward and staying true to its roots.
“We’ve just won probably the TPCL’s biggest ever project with a large global company,” says Charles. “And they said that the reason they chose us is because they got a real sense that we would work collaboratively with them, be thought partners with them, and share the journey.”
Perhaps that sense of collaboration stems from the partnerships that are at the heart of TPC. Our shared ownership and shared passion to build something that lasts.
Whether you’re interested in leadership development or consultancy, or you’re just looking to wish TPC Leadership a happy 20 years, or you’re wondering what it would be like to be a part of the TPCL journey – don’t hesitate to get in touch. You’re welcome to be a part of our story, as we would love to be a part of yours.