blog: news and opinion

 

Slowing down to speed up

22nd June 2022

A potential client, ‘a man in a hurry’, was looking for answers.  Now.   Another prospective client slowed down long enough to engage with the notion of the challenge – and the benefits – to him of that very slowing down, because he was interested in ‘exploring the hidden in order to grow’.  The nature of organisational life frequently means that leaders are pressured to achieve clear, ‘correct’ outcomes – fast and with urgency.  While this is standard, it militates against the possibility of achieving richer, wider, more sustainable outcomes because space hasn’t been made for reflection and for experimenting. A leader  might consider becoming aware of when speed is the lived priority, and reflecting on the impact and outcomes of that priority. They might also consider putting in place processes, approaches and forums in which people can honestly express what’s going on for them, be truly heard without being offered opinions or judgments, and be acknowledged for who they are rather than what they do. 

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The horse, leadership and me

29th May 2022

I’m with a group of colleagues, learning about experiential leadership with executive coach and developer of leaders and teams, Jude Jennison, and her herd of horses.  With a horse it’s critical to be in relationship (and useful to be able to identify how that manifests in your body), to be curious, to be present, to respect the horse’s freedom to choose and to offer clear direction.  What won’t work is to be concerned about your competence or performance, because the horse will instantly pick up on your insecurity and will feel unsafe.  And it’s hard to be in relationship when lack of safety is there.   Jude’s insight about the importance of allowing the horse space and freedom so that together we can fulfil the task feels like an important illumination.  We learn that the whole team needs to be in sync. Communication up and down the line is essential if the team is to stay cohesive.  And the horse needs confidence in the clarity, intention, direction, energy and trust of both the leader and the whole team.

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What’s love got to do with it?

28th April 2022

Client A is close to burnout.  He constantly over-stretches himself to meet other people’s requests for help and for task fulfilment.  As a child, he felt neither loved nor lovable: the only way he ever felt approved of or accepted was through his intellectual ability and achievements.  Client B alienates others with her ‘honest’ but brutal and judgmental behaviour, has very high and unforgiving expectations of herself and of others, and is never satisfied with her own performance.  These behaviours are getting seriously in the way of their leadership, and they both want to understand how to manage themselves differently.  Besides the negative impact on their wellbeing, each is also damaging their career prospects.  The coaching enquiry means they each experience a freedom in an awareness that gives them choices that they hadn’t offered themselves before.  They learn, each in their own way, that there is strength and safety and a new-found sense of wellbeing in learning self-love, learning how to listen to their own needs, and self-acceptance.  Love has everything to do with it.

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Endings and leavings

31st March 2022

The primary emotions that arise from losing a sense of belonging need to be attended to, just as much as organisations need to acknowledge the contributions made by those who have left. Endings (and the associated feelings) that aren’t resolved or aren’t fully integrated into a system somehow ‘hang about’ and leave their impact to be felt, sometimes for decades, in the form of burdened roles. A particularly impactful ending is represented by death. There’s value in accepting ‘what is’, and being alert to what may be emerging: experiencing it as a state of being rather than thinking or doing. Loss or ending might actually be, above all, a fertile space – the Gestalt notion of the Fertile Void. Good endings allow for good beginnings.

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Are you being heard?

28th February 2022

Voice matters because it is a channel for the self-expression that people need in order to feel acknowledged and seen, and – more broadly – because it can have a significant impact for a team or organisation when judgment, uncertainty, ideas and innovation, collaboration, communication and coordination are in the mix.  An absence of voice may mean compliance or obedience, but it isn’t territory for sustainable engagement - and sustainable engagement is essential for the flexibility and adaptability that characterises resilient, robust, flourishing teams and organisations.  What enables voice is psychological safety: believing that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.  That belief means the leader, in the first instance, consistently modelling behaviours that authentically welcome inclusiveness and diversity (including diversity of thought), that mean that help is offered and requested freely, that engage without judgment in taking risks and failing, and that make open conversations the norm – all this without fear of judgment, penalty or exclusion.

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The illusion of solutions

31st January 2022

Family therapist Barry Mason characterises solutions as ‘only dilemmas that are less of a dilemma than the dilemma one had’. There’s no such thing as right or wrong in the coaching encounter: no predetermined answers, no pre-set course, but rather flow and emergence, and the noticing of these.  And here’s where certainty and uncertainty arise, mirroring the working environment - and particularly the leader’s environment.   Thinking in terms of certainty may mean that the leader doesn’t see all the tripwires, since not everything is either certain or predictable.  In my experience of coaching leaders, the capacity to allow, and allow for, uncertainty – frustrating as that may be – also allows for versatility, responsiveness to the situation as it is, rather than as one wants it or assumes it to be, and creativity.  Which in turn allows for a more agile response. 

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Coaching through COVID and Beyond

15th December 2021

Are you an NHS/care sector worker struggling to manage stress, get your mojo back or work out next steps? If so, we can help! Coaching through Covid and Beyond offers FREE confidential independent support to key workers who wouldn't normally have access to high-quality coaching. Maybe you just want a one-off chat, or you'd like to sign up to a programme of up to six sessions - whatever works best for you. You can get in touch via our website www.coachingthroughcovid.org or email us at info@coachingthroughcovid.org and we can take it from there.

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Award for Coaching through COVID and Beyond

30th November 2021

Pro bono coaching programme Coaching through COVID and Beyond (of which I'm a co-founder and a member of the core team) has won the Coaching at Work magazine award of External Coaching Champion (Organisation). The depth of our psychological safety in the core team has meant that we’ve been able to have difficult conversations in a spirit of openness and honesty, we’ve been ready to take risks in a context of uncertainty, we’ve been agile and responsive and happy to experiment in a spirit of ‘test and learn’, and we’ve welcomed diversity of all kinds. Living diversity means that we’ve constantly called on our collective intelligence - and so we've been able to achieve innovative success in several important ways.

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Trauma

31st October 2021

Trauma is a living expression of a life-changing experience that often can’t be expressed in words but is a fundamental – and literally visceral – part of an individual’s identity. The range of manifestations is endless, including addictions, anxieties, physical pain, illness, problems with sleep, problems with relationships, and repeating patterns of behaviour which are counter-productive but which the individual doesn’t seem able to change. Despite appearances, the most apparently well-balanced, cheerful and obliging colleague may be hiding pain and distress which can get triggered and thus result in unexpectedly negative behaviour. The need for compassion and self-compassion, patience and acceptance, curiosity and tolerance is significant. What do you notice at work – about yourself and others?

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Belonging, identity and confidence in uncertainty

30th September 2021

You might recognise a situation where an organisation’s strategy is unclear, poorly-defined, poorly communicated or in constant flux.  In this context, the role and place of any individual in the organisation (and especially a new recruit) can be unclear.  The criteria by which his or her performance is evaluated are also likely to be unclear or in flux, or even more unsettling, implicitly in flux.  As a result his or her confidence, their sense of identity, and sometimes even confidence in their survival, take a knock.  None of this is good news for performance or growth or development. Leaders can therefore begin to turn things round by being curious about what they could be more aware of, by enquiring into their reports’ experience, and by listening.

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