The result of the EU referendum has led to a divided nation. These may be dark times, but they are also the time for coaching to shine at its brightest

By Alister Scott and Neil Scotton


There are moments when everything changes. It used to be that here in the UK we’d never talk of politics. Then the Brexit results came in.

So far, weeks after the result, at least one to three hours of each of our working days has been taken up by Brexit. The charity that has worked hard for influence at Europe to see that wiped out. The leader in a professional institution telling of members losing big contracts. Funded projects under threat. Jobs at risk. Foreign clients genuinely dumbstruck and asking what’s going on. Foreign national friends who don’t feel as safe or welcomed. And for many, including many fellow coaches, grieving around a loss of identity. It is curiously very one-sided. We can count on one hand the number of people we know in professional circles who voted ‘out’.

All five stages of the Kubler-Ross grieving model can be seen: Denial. Anger. Negotiation. Depression. Though Acceptance is a stage few who wanted to ‘remain’ have seemingly so far reached.

Leo Babauta recently wrote, in explaining where frustration comes from: “It’s a rejection of how things are.” (

Brexit has been a wake-up shock. We can shift the frustration and grief if we get to acceptance. As Jim Collins put it (see Good To Great, Random House, 2001, p13), “Confront the brutal facts, and know you shall prevail.”

Here’s how things are: we are working in a divided nation. Communities, families and in some cases workplaces are divided. We currently live and work in bubbles generally surrounded by people who live like us and think like us; it can be a shock to find others live and think very differently. The commercial and emotional impacts are real. Many are genuinely disenfranchised – some before, some after. Racism and other forms of discrimination are alive in our society. Some politicians and some of the media really have misled. There is no plan (yet). We’re not alone – other countries are facing similar issues, fears and concerns. We’ve a new political frontline: ‘Us and them’/‘We’re all in this together.’ And more…

What does this mean for us as individuals, professionals and a profession? Some thoughts: be inspired. We don’t have to be neutral. If ‘improve sales’ is your thing, great. If ‘end racism’ is alive in you right now, that’s a perfectly good niche too, or at least part of the portfolio.

Recognise your thoughts can and do leak. If that’s a problem, live it out loud (as above), or crack on with the inner work. The Harry Palmer compassion exercise (‘Just like me…’) is highly recommended if you are struggling to accept the views and actions of others (

There’s a time to be quiet and listen: At a personal level, whichever side you are on, it can’t be that the other side are all fools. There’s learning there. We must look, listen and find it.

Above all, we have a role to convene: if ever there’s a profession to enable people to have the courage to speak up, the capacity to listen, the opportunity to share perspectives in a safe, respectful and compassionate space, to adapt, accept, build vision, find common ground, agree actions and move forward together, surely it is us.

These may be dark times. They are the times we can shine brightest. It’s up to us. The ‘big change’ subject of this column is not an academic, esoteric exercise. It’s playing out in our world, and very much here in the UK, right now.


  • Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton are cofounders of The One Leadership Project, working together with those who are making big change happen.

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