blog: news and opinion


Managing relationships: a somatic-relational lens

30th June 2023

I’ve been working with a number of clients challenged by managing upwards or managing relationships with peers. In a variety of ways, I invited these clients to become aware of the bodily sensations and impulses towards movement that their individual experiences evoked for them. We worked together on the meaning of those sensations and impulses for them, and we worked at depth on any links with the various facets of how their ‘problematic’ relationships showed up in practice, with compassion and with a focus on the potential that new types of connection offered. Old messages and out-of-date interpretations came to the fore. Across these clients’ experiences there emerged an acceptance of ‘what is’, and an acceptance of ‘the other’ as they were rather than trying to fight it or resist it. They became more perceptive about the impact of ‘the other’ on them and theirs on ‘the other’. They felt more settled, safer, more trusting of themselves. They enacted more of their own true capability with a sense of greater space and freedom. Something important was released for them.

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Presence and positivity

31st May 2023

Positivity of thinking, behaviour, communication, leadership, and the way we relate to each other as human beings brings benefits.  And yet, positivity without a foundation of reality and connection with one’s audience isn’t useful at all, and can indeed be damaging.  If I share a dilemma or a problem with another person, I feel unacknowledged, unheard and let down if their response is simply to invite me to look on the bright side, to look for the pluses, or to look for the solution – or even to give me what they think is the solution. Any positivity I might experience is then short-lived and insubstantial.  I need the other person’s presence.  I need to be seen, and then I can feel a connection.  Without that connection the other person’s positivity is too superficial to make any kind of difference for me – and at worst can actually betray my trust.  I also need the other person to be attuned with me – to be paying attention to my inner experience. 

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Mirror, mirror

28th April 2023

Following his arrival in a new role, a leader had been struggling with what he experienced as his line manager’s micromanagement and feeling like he had no voice. His line manager seemed to constantly present himself as being right, inviting no other views. The leader felt stifled and unheard. He felt isolated, and was beginning to get so disillusioned and distressed that he was wondering if the job was right for him. Things started to shift when he started to give attention in the coaching process to compassion for his line manager and the benefit of bringing more humility to the relationship. In a lightbulb moment he was shocked to realise that he, too, was behaving somewhat like his line manager in his interactions with his own team. His first step was to become more insightful and aware in the present moment. When we detach, we can more easily become aware of what might be reflected back to us from both others’ behaviour and our own. Might there be anything to learn from what we see in the mirror?

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Power and place – and invisible women

31st March 2023

She was a senior manager in a male-dominated environment. Did she really need power in order to establish and maintain her position?  Did she have power by virtue of her position, and if so, only because of her position?  How did her power show up and how did she think it showed up? How can women reclaim their power in a balanced, proportionate, appropriate way when they feel it’s been misplaced between the genders?  Factors that help include leaders who have humility, sensitivity and perceptiveness, and contexts of real psychological safety and openness to learning.  This might well be the stuff of development once leaders have realised the central role of psychological safety in effectiveness, collaboration, teamwork, innovation and improvement. importantly, it’s worth remembering that power isn’t simply external, something that goes on between oneself and others.  It’s also internal: a sense of power that we create inside ourselves, a message to ourselves about our place in the world and about our agency over our own lives, behaviours, and patterns of thinking and acting.

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The Art of Reflection - part 2

28th February 2023

What is reflection? First of all, reflection after a coaching session, or after a learning experience between sessions, is space for enquiry, to build on the content of the coaching session or the experience, to surface more of what you're curious about and what you've learnt. And secondly, it’s time to be with yourself, just you and you, with the ease to allow thoughts and intuitions to surface – thoughts and intuitions that can hide when we’re caught up in the busyness and noise of doing, but which can be signposts to what doing, and what kind of doing, actually matter. Recall is supplemented by curious exploration and enquiry into why things happened the way they did: what were the messy bits, the puzzling bits, the successful bits? What behaviours, and on whose part? Very importantly, it’s a space where we can distil what we’ve actually learnt, what change we want to create from that learning, and what we become aware of that’s changed or changing. It’s a necessary complement to coaching sessions, which can only ever be part of the story, and not the whole story.

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The Art of Reflection - part 1

30th January 2023

The key benefits of executive coaching are learning, development and change. Not only a coach enables those benefits, but a leader does too if they’re to get the most from their people and to enable, and boost, the delivery of results. Single Loop Learning is about enlarging the size of the toolbox. Executive coaching can produce results in this context, but they are likely to be limited in scope and over time. Double Loop Learning involves identifying and understanding causality, and then taking action to fix the problem. It’s about doing the right things. Reflection on why we're doing what we're doing is a critical first step, not only for executive coaching to be most effective, but also for leaders to be most effective. Triple Loop Learning explores the reasons why we even have our systems and processes, and why we set our desired results in the way we do in the first place. This is the space in which we can enquire into how complexity works in our environments. It’s a critical contributor to both impactful executive coaching and effective leadership, and can be transformational. And it only happens in the presence of reflection.

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Thoughts on entanglement

31st December 2022

It’s so easy to get tangled up as we race through our lives, as a crisis, or even simply the demands of the moment, grasp our attention.  In the process the plot – our purpose and our place - of our lives might get completely lost, and we lose sight of the bigger picture. Responsibility matters.  Leaders have a responsibility to themselves, to their people, to the healthy co-design and fulfilment of the missions of their organisations, and ultimately to the wider world. In the view of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (2013), where what we want to do meets what is crying out to be done, that is where we should be.  And that demands being in healthy relationship with ourselves, with others, and with the systems we are part of.  I’m exploring what becomes possible when I’m not tangled up in the backdrop, by stepping back from what seem to be the immediate imperatives.

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Coaching through COVID and Beyond drawing to a close

30th November 2022

Coaching through COVID was born out of a compassionate response to what NHS and care workers were going through when COVID hit the UK in March 2020, and intended most of all to serve, rather than help or fix.  It was set up spontaneously by a small group of executive coaches (including myself), and began to offer coaching within days of being launched.  After 2½ years, what started as Coaching through COVID, and became Coaching through COVID and Beyond, has drawn to a close, having offered coaching to 650 people, through 250 experienced and qualified coaches, culminating in a final, celebratory (virtual) conference at which we marked the ending.

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Power, voice and the relational nature of work

31st October 2022

He was a C-suite leader in a multinational company, fulfilling a demanding, multi-faceted role. His CEO wanted staff in the office four days a week, and he was beginning to feel peripheral to his family. He knew that for his own and his family’s wellbeing he wanted to be in the office only three days a week. He was, however, very hesitant to raise his dilemma with his CEO: he felt out on a limb, risking his sense of belonging. It struck me that the predominant dynamic was an imbalance of power, in contrast to the possibility of creative collaboration, and he didn’t seem to be hopeful that he would be heard. How might leaders enable their people to step into, and leverage, more of their own power? How might both leader and led transform their perceptions of their roles and their places into something less atomised and individualised and something more relational?

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A journey through risk

31st August 2022

An emergency admission to hospital..... Until the surgery had been completed and pronounced successful, and the biopsy showed there was no ongoing problem, the nature of what my life was to be was at the extreme end of uncertainty, with a possible threat to it. Being present to my own experience without resisting it, and accepting both the experience and the situation on a moment-by-moment basis, have, I realise, been central. I feel sure that my years of mindfulness practice accounted for my capacity to accept, and to face in to all the available facts and the possible outcomes. During my hospital stay and afterwards I’ve been struck by how many people remarked on my effect on them. For leaders every action, every tone of voice, every conversation has an impact. The leader who accepts mindfully that things are as they are will be realistic and very likely have more insight than the leader who resists a situation they wish was otherwise. They’ll feel calmer too, and that will be viral. The leader who’s appreciative, supportive and caring (and who encourages that sort of culture) will have a workforce with high levels of engagement, discretionary effort, effectivenes and customer satisfaction.

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