Keeping in touch

March 22, 2021 § Leave a comment

A note to explain the recent lack of blog posts: I’m noticing that over the last couple of years my thinking and contributing has shifted to LinkedIn; so to keep up with where I’m up to you’re welcome to visit my LinkedIn profile and activity.

And once there, feel free to send a connection request, it would be lovely to connect with you.

It’s interesting how patterns change over time, and the role of sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter etc for engaging with professional folk compared to the blog-or-nothing habits a few years ago.

With best wishes,


Who do we choose to be? A workshop on leadership with the inspiring Meg Wheatley

August 16, 2019 § Leave a comment

With my colleague Penny Kay, we’re working with Meg to organise a workshop with her in Edinburgh, on 3 October 2019.

If you’ve not come across Meg Wheatley yet, here’s a comment from someone who attended a similar day with her in London a year or two ago: “To be up close and personal with someone whose books has had such an impact and influence on me over the years was pretty awesome.”

Meg has written many books on leadership, in particular the seminal “Leadership and the New Science”, and most recently “Who Do We Choose To Be?”.

A quote from her sums up her philosophy on leadership: “We need leaders who recognize the harm being done to people and planet through the dominant practices that control, ignore, abuse, and oppress the human spirit. We need leaders who put service over self, stand steadfast in crises and failures, and who display unshakable faith that people can be generous, creative, and kind.”

Meg was was until recently on the advisory board for Utah’s national parks, but she and other members resigned over Trump’s impact / roll-backs and destruction of key policies that the Board helped implement, especially those affecting climate change, science and funding

This is a day for those who are in – or who want to step into – leadership roles (activism, community, organisations, companies, networks…) and for those who support leaders to be more effective (coaches, consultants, mentors, colleagues and collaborators…)

Bursaries are available to those at the start of their career and for whom the time and company of thoughtful folk on the realities of leadership in these times would be beneficial. Please recommend to anyone you know who fits this description!

NB We’re charging in order to cover the costs of the workshop, but it’s a non-profit event so far as we the organisers are concerned.

A similar event in London with Meg in 2017 led to 30 thoughtful people in a room inspiring and supporting each other in their work and activism – some of their feedback comments are here:

The serendipity of being in a gathering of like-minded people exploring “sane leadership [as] the unshakeable faith in people’s capacity to be generous, creative and kind”

As a disillusioned HR Manager, it was liberating to ‘discover’ that there was another, non-mechanistic, non-positivist, way of looking at organising and leadership. I will always be grateful for this gift! 

I enjoyed it a great deal and it has provoked much thought and discussion already.

A really good event. It was an excellent refresh and time spent with very interesting people.

An excellent day. Very well organised and so thought provoking 

I got a great deal out of the day – Meg’s intriguing insights and leadings, fresh ideas from discussions with people working in different fields, and some useful material to further my own thinking about my context

The event itself has really stimulated my thinking on leadership on a profound level.

The Journey Begins

June 6, 2019 § Leave a comment

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


Supervision Skills training course

January 12, 2019 § Leave a comment

Update: Please contact me ASAP to book a place on this course – 07986 016804, or

Supervision Skills training course for supervising mediators, London, 12 and 13 February 2019. College of Mediators approved: 12 CPD points.

For practitioners across the mediation sector, including family, neighbour and community facilitation, inter-generational, restorative justice, schools and workplace mediation.

Feedback from my previous Supervision Skills courses:

  • “I really enjoyed the content, delivery and encouragement. I feel positive about becoming a supervisor.”
  • “I was particularly impressed with the sensitivity and knowledge that John brought to his role as facilitator and the way he supported each participant to find their own voice.”
  • “I felt comfortable to share my views with the rest of the group which I don’t normally feel able to do; so I was definitely more vocal and this was down to John’s training style and relaxed atmosphere. Brilliant!”

£235 per person (no VAT payable); discount of 10% for second and further bookings from the same organisation.

I am a supervisor and executive coach and former manager a community mediation service with experience of managing both staff and volunteer mediators. This popular course is running again as an open programme for the first time since 2016.

Venue: The Lift, White Lion Street, London, N1 9PW – a few minutes’ walk from Angel tube station

Announcing the next Supervision Skills training course for supervisors of mediators, 12 and 13 February 2019, London

September 30, 2018 § Leave a comment

Download full details via this link.

Suitable for staff and Board members, and volunteer mediators taking on an additional role within your service; for existing freelance supervisors; and for freelance mediators looking to add a new skill to your portfolio.

* Boost your supervision capacity amongst existing staff and resources

* Take home tools and approaches to improve service provision

* Understand the role of supervision in developing and retaining staff

For practitioners across the mediation sector, including family, neighbour and community facilitation, inter-generational, restorative justice, schools and workplace mediation

London, Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 February 2019, 9.30 for 9.45am to 4.45pm

John Gray, Autumn 2017 600 pixels

College of Mediators approved: 12 CPD points

Feedback from previous courses:

  • “I felt comfortable to share my views with the rest of the group which I don’t normally feel able to do; so I was definitely more vocal and this was down to John’s training style and relaxed atmosphere. Brilliant!”
  • “I was particularly impressed with the sensitivity and knowledge that John brought to his role as facilitator and the way he supported each participant to find their own voice.”
  • “I really enjoyed the content, delivery and encouragement. I feel positive about becoming a supervisor.”

The rich lawyer

June 6, 2018 § Leave a comment

I am pleased to offer a link to my appearance in “The Rich Lawyer” (not wealthy rich!, but lawyers who are “principled, passionate, and fulfilled”).

The Q&A interview touches on my journey into and out of being a lawyer, and where my work is taking me now.

Plus my best anti-lawyer joke – apologies in advance.

Coaching technical experts who also manage a business

June 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

Desk workI’ve coached a number of people over the years who have both been expert practitioners in their field (entrepreneurs, artists, technical specialists…), and who have also been responsible for the running of their business (directors, partners or equivalents).

Whilst their coaching has at times focussed on the development of their craft or expertise, most often the work has come under the heading of being an effective contributor to running the business. How to be a shaper and leader of strategy, for example, or how to manage relationships with colleagues, or how to take charge of their own future within the enterprise.

The refining of their technical expertise, their craft, whatever made them create or join the business in the first place, has often happened intuitively, outside the coaching and instead through their daily practice, almost without them noticing. And there’s no surprise here, as of course this craft is what lights their fire! It’s where they have chosen to put their heart and soul, and where they find meaning in work. So they already have effective strategies for developing this part of themselves; and these strategies are the reason they became experts.

But few go into business solely in order to go into business. Few gladly choose the path of people management. Few have set themselves the primary lifetime goal of effective delegation or increased productivity, or minimising the effects of stress.

So these latter topics are the ones which sometimes turn up in coaching, because for these experts they are not the arena of intuitive skills. They instead can be experienced for some people as arenas of uncertainty, of no right answers, or of inexperience, where a false step might lead to further complications.

In short, they are arenas where conscious attention has to be paid to ensure the experiences are unpacked and the learning converted into more effective future action. And that is why there are so relevant agenda items for coaching, in support of the growth of the whole person as an effective practitioner.


This is a copy of an article which also appears within my LinkedIn pages.

Coaching the living: lessons from sitting with the dying

April 17, 2018 § Leave a comment

I should straightaway say that I’ve never sat with someone who is dying.

But a few pages in a book which touched on the author’s experience of sitting with those who are dying, have led me to insights and confirmations about the role of coaching (Parker J. Palmers “A Hidden Wholeness”, 2004).

“We must abandon the arrogance that often distorts our relationships – the arrogance of believing that we have the answer to the other person’s problem … What is before us is not “a problem to be solved”, but a mystery to be honoured.” page 61.

In the phraseology of the Coactive model of coaching, the people we work with are naturally creative, resourceful and whole; not someone who needs fixing.

I’m learning that people who have sat with a dying person find that they are not just taking up space in the room. They may find words inadequate to describe their experience, but are often their description is some version of “I was simply being present”.

Butterflies Two pixabay

When I consider I’m being at my best in a coaching session, I notice afterwards that I too was often “just” being present: practising being present, sitting with a living belief in the value of the other person, and their capacity to pick their path (their path) through their truths and limiting beliefs. My contribution was the quality of my attentiveness, my listening to them and to myself, and my hopeful and supportive expectation of the best in them.

In his book, Parker J. Palmer quotes an incident in Nikos Kazantakis’ Zorba the Greek, in which the narrator is overly-impatient in watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. The narrator breathes on the cocoon to warm it, which at first encourages the butterfly to emerge. But it emerges too early, and its wings, which should have opened and dried naturally in the heat of the sun, are folded back and useless. He watches its struggles, as it is artificially and prematurely brought to a new place, before its time.

The metaphor for coaching is clear: we are not there to point out what for us are obvious solutions to the other person’s problem. For example, “Have you spoken to the other person about this?” may seem like an obvious and sensible suggestion. But the coachee might not be ready to take this step, or may not have the skills or awareness to ensure a good conversation. They’ve probably already considered and rejected this course of action. But their coach ’told’ them to, and imperfect skills or an imperfect inner commitment to the task may result in an unfortunate outcome.

Rarely does offering advice or a suggestion in coaching bring such dramatic consequences as for that emerging butterfly! But the story confirms for me that though I might offer models or abstract theories, or a reflecting challenge to help the person really understand themselves better, essentially my work is nondirective.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of “the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect, border and salute each other.” A definition of the coach’s role, perhaps?


The Body Keeps the Score

December 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

Some book titles are so insightful, or seem to carry the message of the whole book, that reading the book itself almost feels unnecessary. My shortlist of books like this includes Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, and – on a more humorous level – the parenting book We Were Here First, Kid and Captain John W. Trimmer’s How to Avoid Huge Ships.

The Body Keeps the ScoreThe Body Keeps the Score leapt out as a book really to read, as the issues the author explores have links to my coaching practice and to my own understanding of myself. The book explores the mental and physical impacts of significant trauma and how healing can be found; as one reviewer writes, it is “a brilliant synthesis of clinical cases, neuroscience, powerful tools and caring humanity”.

It’s beyond my expertise to work with trauma in coaching. If I ever had a sense of these issues surfacing within a client, I would discuss postponing the coaching, and checking what therapeutic or medical options they have taken up or might consider.

However, “The Body Keeps the Score” is still fascinating for me to read, as I believe the body often keeps the score in all sorts of ways in relation to strong experiences, whether happy, difficult or extreme. I know this from my own experience. In response to a very challenging work situation a few years ago, the best advice I found was not just to listen to my mind, but instead to use the wisdom of the body in finding a way through. This led me to opportunities for private moments of forgiveness of self and others, taking up painting, and using running as a way of processing thoughts and feelings.

Through my coaching, I believe physicality can open the door to emotionality and thus to new insights. When I’m feeling tired or stressed, my shoulders hunch up; noticing and changing my posture can help me feel a bit more positive. Inviting a coaching client briefly to repeat or ‘amplify’ body language – such as a clenched fist, a sweeping hand movement, or tapping of the feet – can lead to greater understanding of what might be behind the body language. As a coach, echoing or reflecting back body language can be a good way to listen more closely and to invite the client into deeper awareness. And active exercises such as time-lines, using spaces in the room or even chair work can make use of the links between physical experience and new realisations.

Van der Kolk writes: “Trauma is not just an event that took place sometimes in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain and body … For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.”

At times it feels like there’s too much in the world that needs healing. But if executive coaching can help people understand difficult or apparently inexplicable events at work (again I’m not referring to medically-traumatic episodes here) then maybe coaching can also result in some form of indirect healing?

Coaching skills for human rights defenders

December 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

Annie Medcalf (The Fusion Firm, and a fellow executive coach and consultant, and graduate of the Academy of Executive Coaching) and I had the great privilege recently of running a coaching skills training session for international human rights defenders at the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights. And together with Shirley Collier we also then provided coaching to some of the Defenders as well.

 Fellows in Scarborough 2009The Centre hosts an annual scheme for human rights defenders at risk. This year’s defenders come from Egypt, Ukraine, Sudan, Kenya and Azerbaijan, and over the years defenders from these and many other countries with poor human rights records have benefited from a three to six months’ protective residency in York. My involvement has included interviewing and learning from them about their leadership styles and experience; I also teach part-time at the Centre on leadership and management to the Defenders and to Masters students.

The coaching skills workshop began with the premise that these Defenders, in order to be effective and to mitigate the risks of detention and harassment, are already steeped in local and international networks. These networks offer support, information, co-operation – and some measure of protection. Most Defenders are also leading or working within a local human rights organisation.

So our approach to the Defenders was an offering of training in coaching skills to help develop their leadership skills, and to help them in situations such as supporting burnt-out colleagues, managing ‘maverick’ or disruptive partners, and nurturing up-and-coming activists.

Their response was enthusiastic, and with the support of the Centre for Applied Human Rights the training went ahead. We have since offered on-going coaching, to support the defenders in their practice of leadership when they return home.

Though Annie and I brought models and techniques to the workshop, we were of course learners too. It’s humbling to discover the challenges some communities and individuals face in standing up for freedoms that York citizens take for granted.

Additional links

·        Centre for Applied Human Rights

·        York as a human rights city

·        Academy of Executive Coaching