blog: news and opinion


Integrity, safety and wellbeing

31st March 2021

I’ve just done something I’ve never done before: I’ve handed back a 4-year contract. At the heart of my decision was an inability to tolerate a client’s terms of engagement – both the formal, explicit terms, and the informal, implicit terms. My deepest values (integrity, professionalism, honesty, care for the coachee experience, respect, acknowledgment, being heard) were compromised. I felt deeply unsafe: my trust in the client was entirely absent. What was happening was moral injury, and the experience was threatening my wellbeing by demanding that I don’t behave in integrity – and I can only maintain my wellbeing if I’m behaving in integrity. I’ve learnt too that doing what matters deeply to me is a significant enabler of tough decisions and tough actions.

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'I' or 'we' as a model for leadership?

27th February 2021

What happens when a leader or a nation sees the future not through a lens of relationship, action and impact, but through a lens of isolation, cutting off supply routes of collaboration and support?  Is this the model of leadership that we really need? ‘You’ and ‘yours’ can actually be the route to ‘me’ and ‘mine’ if only we choose to look through a broader lens.  As a coach, I may enquire with a coaching client more explicitly into the implications of ‘I and we’ in contrast with ‘I or we’, at individual level, team level, organisation level and beyond. Putting ‘I’ before ‘we’ risks shutting off not only precious resources but also risks shutting off precious rewards.  ‘We’ before ‘I’ might lead to rewards we hadn’t dreamed of.

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Coaching through COVID and BMJ Leader

29th January 2021

I'm privileged to have had a blog published in BMJ Leader, published in BMJ Leader, one of the publications in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) stable. The blog focuses on the very particular leadership style that characterises Coaching through COVID, the pro bono coaching programme for NHS and care sector staff who are directly impacted by COVID, and particularly those who don't nomally have access to coaching, from doctors and nurses to porters, cleaners, pharmacists, physiotherapists and many others, who are experiencing anxiety, uncertainty, threats to their personal safety and that of their families from contracting COVID-19, distress, trauma, exhaustion and much else.

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2020: a year of learning

31st December 2020

They say the toughest experiences are also the richest sources of learning. As 2020 closes, I look back indeed on the richest and most intense year of learning I can remember. As the hidden has erupted into the obvious in the most striking of ways, and when some of what we previously took for granted has been completely overturned, it is beyond any doubt that all of us need to beware of claiming that this or that is impossible. Being a co-founder of Coaching through COVID has meant for me the most nourishing, safe, innovative and energising team that I have ever been part of - and we have achieved extraordinary results. And working from home has shown in stark relief the extent to which health and wellbeing fall squarely into the manager’s and the leader’s responsibilities.

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Psychological PPE: offer of free support

3rd December 2020

Free support - psychological PPE coaching - is available at Coaching through COVID for key workers impacted by COVID

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The washing machine and the laundry: new perspectives on leadership

30th November 2020

If we ever wondered what it would be like to be inside the drum of a washing machine, turned upside down, and over and over, multiple times, spun, and tangled in ways we’ve never before experienced, the last 10 months, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK (and the world), might give us a hint as to what it might feel like. The turbulence created by the new order will mean that there are new lenses through which leaders will need to look as they sort their parameters, their strategies and their tactics: wellbeing jumps up the agenda, communication becomes a priority, relationships and connections become critical, sustainability receives more attention, and processes now require careful thinking through.

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The deafening sound of silence

30th October 2020

Silence can denote a holding back from what needs to be pointed out or challenged, a reluctance to speak about one’s own or others’ mental health challenges, or not enquiring into experience of racial difference, which can put at risk respectful connection in a relationship – and at its worst, can create a gulf. In some circumstances silence has a cost which is greater than the benefit. The danger of silence, when people don’t use their voices to admit mistakes, question the status quo, ask questions or offer ideas, is that the thinking power of a team is diminished. When people’s mental health is in play they may continue in silence, unsupported, while their condition deteriorates, corroding their wellbeing. When we fail to enter into conversation about, or to explicitly recognise racial difference, we fail to recognise, respect and acknowledge the individual. A climate of psychological safety enables inappropriate silence to be transformed into the release of rich and fertile thinking.

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Psychological safety: the secret weapon of effective teamwork

30th September 2020

Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, has been researching psychological safety for 20 years, and defines it as is a shared belief that you will not be punished, ignored or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.  Because in a climate of psychological safety, people feel free to put forward new, and even seemingly crazy, ideas, because they feel free to point out errors and risks to each other (including their seniors) and because they feel free to ask for help and surface failure, rates of creativity and innovation rise significantly.  So too do trust, collaboration, engagement and discretionary effort, which link with another benefit: inclusion and the authentic embrace of diversity.  I’m  accredited as a Licenced Psychological Safety Guardian, which allows me to administer and debrief the Psychological Safety Index, based on Amy Edmondson’s work.

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Building resilience to face the challenge of uncertainty

31st August 2020

Uncertainty has always been a constant in organisational life, but COVID adds something new to the mix. The effects of uncertainty on individual members of the workforce include anxiety, and concomitant weariness, which seem to be an undercurrent in society at large. Many organisations have found that they’re slowed down by the inevitable precautions they need to take, and that they’ve lost some of their previous robustness, responsiveness and pace. They need more resilience – and nurturing it is one of the most important contributions a leader can make to equipping his or her team to negotiate a successful journey through uncertainty. This blog outlines some of the main contributors to resilience that leaders can usefully focus on.

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Leading in complexity and uncertainty

31st July 2020

Rather than it being the leader’s role to know all the answers, it’s their role to recognise that uncertainty and complexity demand a new approach to leadership:  an approach which means the leader can enable themselves and others to ask questions, to look at things from multiple fresh perspectives, to create an environment which is psychologically safe and compassionate enough for those around them to experiment, learn, experiment again, and to move with curiosity towards some answers and new questions. 

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