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”.
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?
October 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Have you ever thought of leadership, or leaderful behaviour, as a hosting activity?
If you’re hosting a meeting, you might find yourself:
- Providing conditions and group process for people to work together
- Ensuring the resource of time (the scarcest commodity of all)
- Keeping bureaucracy at bay
- Reflecting back how people are doing, and insisting that everyone – and the system itself – creates space for reflection and learning
- Co-designing relevant measures of progress
And from a wider perspective, I’m finding that more and more people are fulfilling their leadership roles in organisations by acting in similar ways. They’re giving up trying to manage away instability, and instead to create an organisation which can survive and thrive within its unstable world.
If this sounds relevant to you, you may be interested in Meg’s article “Leadership in the age of complexity: from hero to host”. It is full of really practical, hands-on advice for those who bear responsibility for supporting people or organisations through times of complexity and difficulty.
“From hero to host”?
It can be tempting in these times to yearn for an old-fashioned hero to steer us through. You know, the hero in the movies who rides up on a horse just at the moment of crisis. They have the guns on their hips and all the answers in their saddlebag. They’re great at issuing orders and saying they’re keeping control of everything (despite what everyone else knows).
Well, Meg offers some advice here.
“It is time for all the heroes to go home, as the poet William Stafford wrote. It is time for us to give up these hopes and expectations that only bleed dependency and passivity, and that do not give us solutions to the challenges we face. … It is time to face the truth of our situation – that we’re all in this together, that we all have a voice – and figure out how to mobilize the hearts and minds of everyone in our workplaces and communities.”
And so what is better, other than more command and control? To build buy-in through collaboration; to reward people’s yearning for meaning and possibility in their lives and work; to be a holding vessel, hosting conditions for working and learning together.
And if we’re working with people who have given up, or who are feeling discounted, ignored or invisible: let’s use our deep sincerity, and our convening skills, to open up invitations to re-engagement.
And what if we think we’re heroes too? Our good intentions, and our dreams for community and planet, drive us to work and work; and somehow if we just worker harder and smarter, we’ll breakthrough and everything will be sorted.
Well, there’s some final advice for you from Meg: it’s time for the heroes to go home!
And, to notice that actually we’re not alone, we’re surrounded by those who want to help and who aren’t anyway looking for heroes.
They might, instead, welcome a good host.
Meg’s extensive collection of articles are free for download at http://margaretwheatley.com/library/
Leadership in these times:
August 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
As befits someone with such a global reputation, we’re delighted to see the widening international participation at Meg Wheatley’s Leadership in these times workshop in London on 9 November.
We’ve welcomed recent bookings from continental Europe, expanding both the insights available and the potential outcomes for this day-long inquiry into leadership: how has our own leadership has changed in the past two decades; and what form of leadership are we called to?
For more information, please contact me or visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leadership-in-these-times-with-meg-wheatley-tickets-35507976313
October 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
I will be chairing the third lecture in the series of ‘Talking of Peace’, this Thursday 29th October 2015 at 7:30pm in York.
The speaker is Kat Craig, and her topic is Britain’s War on Terror at home and abroad – making the world a safer place?
Kat is Legal Director of the Abuses of Counter-Terrorism team at the human rights organisation, Reprieve.
The full program for the series is listed below.
7.30am, Thursday 29 October 2015, Quaker Meeting House on Friargate (off Castlegate).
Please Note: due to extensive building works in the neighbourhood of the Meeting House, the bottom end of Friargate is closed for a considerable period. It is therefore necessary to approach from Castlegate rather than Clifford St. Also the cycle rack in Friargate has been removed by the builders so cyclists will need to use one of the other racks in the Castlegate area.
Invitation to a series of Peace Talks: Thursdays in Autumn 2015
1st Oct: Faith, Power & Peace – Creating peace by peaceful means
Diana Francis, Trainer in Conflict Transformation, & Past President of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation
15th Oct: Security and the Dispossessed – How the military & corporations are shaping a climate-changed world
Steve Wright, Reader in Applied Global Ethics at Leeds Beckett Univ
29th Oct: Britain’s War on terror at home and abroad: making the world a safer place?
Kat Craig, Legal Director of the Abuses in Counter-Terrorism team at Reprieve
12th Nov: Reimagining Security: an alternative approach to the UK’s national strategy
Celia McKeon, Assistant Secretary, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust
Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York, YO1 9RL
7.30 – 9.00pm
For more details: tel 01904-624065
December 18, 2014 § 1 Comment
It seems appropriate to post a seasonal reminder of some positive things that are happening. It’s a personal collection, of course, and for some of the stories the good news is the shining of light on the forces which oppress or undermine human fulfilment.
Thank you to all those I’ve worked with over this year, it has been inspiring to see and support your work and your aspirations for the future. One shift in professional development is to move from seeing yourself as the hero, to instead seeing your clients as the real heroes of the piece; and that more and more seems my experience in the work that I do.
So, those positive news stories:
Naming the past: the secrets of Brazil’s military dictatorship. How fitting that the report should be introduced to the media by Brazil’s current president Dilma Rousseff, herself a torture victim under the country’s military dictatorship
But of course we don’t need Truth Commissions in the UK, surely? Find out here about the work of Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission.
Though there is much more the Church of England could do (for example, joining the disinvestmnet from fossil fuels movement), here’s the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking up about hunger in the UK; and news of the Church’s first female bishop.
Amnesty International UK is highlighting the UK’s complicit role in torture and illegal rendition; and here are some of Amnesty’s own good news stories.
Two images to finish with:
First, a stunning info-graphic on the numbers which make up the internet – such as the number of tablets and smartphones sold each day around the world, the number of e-mails sent, the number of sites hacked…
And second, all the water in the world is just a tiny drop on the world’s surface; no wonder it’s such a precious resource, if only we knew it.
With best wishes for 2015,
August 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
I was privileged this year to convene an online Module on Leading and Managing Effective Human Rights Organisations. the Module was part of the Centre for Applied Human Rights‘ Postgraduate Certificate in Defending Human Rights.
The Centre is an amazing department at the University of York, distinguished by its applied approach to promoting and protecting human rights around the world, and its annual protective fellowship scheme for at-risk Human Rights Defenders.
The Centre is aiming to run the three Modules again this coming academic year.
You may know of colleagues in your networks and partner organisations who you think would benefit from joining the course? It’s specifically targeted at those who are already working in human rights defending and who want to build their knowledge and practical skills needed for effective human rights work under challenging circumstances.
- A part-time programme designed for human rights defenders and related practitioners, running from September 2014 to July 2015
- Scholarships available to cover 50% of fees
- Online teaching by tutors and guest lecturers with practical field experience
- Modules in International Human Rights Law and Advocacy, Working Safely: Managing Risk and Strengthening Protection, and Leading and Managing Effective Human Rights Organisations.
- Modules can be taken individually; or the whole course offers a Postgraduate Certificate in Defending Human Rights
June 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m speaking in York on Monday 21 July.
Quakers, Slavery and Climate Change
Learning from 18th Century American Friends’ journey to abolitionism: parallels for our responses to climate change
This is as a result of some personal research I’ve been doing over the last couple of years. My aim has been to examine how an organisation and its communities made a fundamental internal change over an issue which every member was connected to, directly or simply as a citizen of a society in which slavery was embedded. I hope that there is enough similarity between the two contexts to draw some useable suggestions for approaches and ways forward, today, in responding to climate change.
Chaired by Danielle Walker, Director, Friends Provident Foundation
Monday 21 July, 7.30 pm, Friargate Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York, YO1 9RL
Copy of my paper here: Quakers, Slavery and Climate Change.
Contact me for more information or to respond to the paper: 07986 016804, firstname.lastname@example.org