I remember well as a young 13 year old in Temple House the then housemaster, Jamie Henderson (Former staff, 1991-2001), asking me what I wanted to be known for while I was at the School. Like most 13 year olds I had absolutely no idea. He explained to me that what made Stowe special in comparison to other places was that it encouraged it’s students to find what they were talented at or loved doing and then gave them the space to do that thing. It could be art, drama, sport, academics, beagling or anything in between. We didn’t obsess about creating brainiacs, sports stars or politicians and, as a result, created far better rounded alumni as a result.

This struck a chord with me and it has become the focus of my career to date.  I work as a Strengths Coach, something which is becoming ubiquitous across the water in the States but is still a little known term here in the UK. I work with business people at all levels and in a range of industries to help them identify what it is they are truly talented at; in short where their strengths lie. Once we have codified this, I then help them to take these strengths and channel them at their current and most tenacious business challenges. This could be what direction to take their company in or what direction to take their career in. The playing field is open and it is down to the individual to identify their most pressing problems.

Once we start aiming our strengths at our challenges they become enjoyable to solve. When we do things that we are not good at and have no natural talent for it is only logical that we won’t enjoy doing them. When we use our innate strengths we overcome problems more quickly, with more energy and it’s more fun. It sounds simple and yet it’s incredible how rare this realisation is. Sometimes we work together at a client’s office but I have a farm down in Cornwall and I find that true change is accelerated, when people leave their work environment and immerse themselves in the beauty and tranquillity of nature. When my clients make the journey we can really achieve great things together.

That 13 year old had no idea what his natural strengths were. Mr Henderson made him join the Chamber Choir to see if they lay in singing. It was not a success and I apologise to anyone who had to hear me squawking miserably like a drowning parakeet at one of his concerts…

Merlin Hanbury-Tenison (Temple 03)