Foundations

20130927_31PeopleZone was founded by Lesley Adams to build on her extensive experience working in fragile states and complex emergencies since the 1990’s.

Her career started as an analyst, assessing the impact of global disasters on vulnerable communities and developing policies and programmes to meet immediate needs and support sustainable recovery.

“I loved my work:  I led research on how people lived before the disaster, and how it had impacted them.  It was humbling to witness the challenges people were faced with,  and how their generosity, humanity, determination and resourcefullness enabled them to get back up on their feet.   This work is core to who I am, it is the basis for my philosophy for global development.”

Drought assessment in SomaliaLesley worked in development contexts as well as conflict zones and complex emergencies – part of the international community’s response to large-scale disasters.  “While I loved the work, I sometimes struggled with the working environment.  Perhaps because everything was urgent – because lives needed to be saved, people provided with food and water – the focus was always on what we were doing, not how we were working together.  And because teams of people were flung together from every corner of the world, with their own job to do, and little time to fit in with everyone else, there were multiple sources of stress.  The HR function was usually limited to recruitment, and most managers – having been promoted through the system – were weak on people-management and leadership skills.   No-one seemed to have been given responsiblity for team-building; organization development didn’t feature in most training programmes for disaster managers.”

There was high staff turnover and “burnout” was considered an unavoidable fact.  “But”, she wondered, “did it really have to be like that?”

“In one organization we were a divided team, there was a serious breakdown in communication.  I loved my job but hated going into work every day because of the tensions bubbling under the surface.  I brought in an HR professional I knew from before, and the work she did was a real “aha” moment for me personally and  professionally.  We were – for the first time in ages – able to express our feelings, say what we needed to say, hear what others felt, clear the air!  It was tough-going at times, but she was really professional and oozed confidence, and it was cathartic for everyone.  I suddenly saw this whole new role for me, and a different kind of impact.  I thought:  I want to do that!”

Lesley realized that she could have a bigger impact on international development if she re-focused on finding solutions to the organizational challenges which were, at that time, largely being ignored.  She enrolled through distance learning for a Masters degree in International Human Resources Development and Management, which launched the second phase of her career.  Adding practical skills such as facilitation, coaching, mediation and improvisation allowed her to support the whole organization development agenda.

She established PeopleZone to enable her to tackle larger projects.  PeopleZone now focuses on projects where there is a very real possibility of the work having a significant impact on addressing injustice.

Over the years she has built up a network of professionals who work with her to provide a learning space and resource for those who believe that people are an organization’s most important asset – and that an investment in people is the key to developing innovative, resilient, agile, healthy and competitive organizations.

The dual focus of PeopleZone – working with people, as well as on the organization – allows us to enhance the experience, enjoyment, contribution and fulfillment of people at work while contributing directly to enhanced performance, efficiency and effectiveness.  Focusing our efforts on the third sector allows us to directly contribute to our over-arching vision for change.