Leadership – self and peer development

September 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

Imagine you’re with your work colleagues, during a day-long annual looking-back-looking-forward review and planning session together.

In turn, each of you takes a few minutes to speak, reflecting on your professional performance over the last year or so, referring to your values, the nature of your commitment to the work, your achievements and challenges, and your hopes for the period ahead.

You’re listened to carefully by your colleagues, after which each of them takes time to affirm what they’ve seen of your participation in the team over the year, and to validate the claim you’ve just made about yourself – including pointing out where they think you’ve undersold or oversold yourself!

The spoken contributions come from places of inquiry and curiosity, not blame or condemnation.

The atmosphere of the session is calm, reflective, honest – and safe enough for everyone to feel they can challenge themselves and each other. The outcomes: deeper trust, greater self-awareness, and a greater sense of accountability to and reliance on each other.

Sounds implausible? Could any team trust each other so much to run such a process, let alone being interested enough in each other to do so?

Well, recently I had the privilege of supporting a senior leadership team to take themselves through this process. And they were in the public sector, amidst all the pressures of delivering a service in a highly-regulated environment.

For the past two years I’d watched them work out for themselves, and for the teams they managed, what they believed was needed in terms of greater leadership and leaderful behaviour within the service. They had communicated this to their teams, and endeavoured to live out this new form of leadership, which prioritised accountability, greater autonomy, stronger accountability to self and to others, and a much fiercer loyalty to the overall vision and values of the services.

The leadership development interventions I devised with them, and my coaching, were aimed at supporting them fulfil the resulting commitments they had made to each other and to the staff. The Head of Service, fully part of the process,  had inspired them and supported them over the previous few years, to reach a place where they now knew for themselves the importance and the genuineness of the work in hand.

This form of self review which they were now engaged in, with feedback from colleagues or peers, is a powerful alternative or addition to formal appraisal and 360 feedback processes. It requires a good measure of individual skill and confidence to participate in, and enough levels of trust (though there are introductory processes for less-resilient teams as a way of helping to build deeper trust over time).

The specific opportunities of the process are four-fold:

  • Participants are encouraged, within the scope granted by the organisational context, to set their own standards and aspirations – knowing that these will be heard and tested by their peers
  • Participants lead the processes of assessment, again knowing that gaps between aspiration and achievement explored from the perspective of how things could be better in the future
  • Participants learn from this self-awareness how to identify, choose and practice new behaviours and set new, more stretching, standards
  • Accountability is inherent throughout the processes – aspirations for the future will be remembered, and each can hold themselves responsible for upholding (not destroying) their colleagues over the coming months, on the basis that best performance is what’s needed to enable the team as a whole to succeed.

If any of the above has stirred your interest, do be in touch to share your experience.

Supervision Workshop at London Mediators Day 2016

September 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’m pleased to have been asked to run a workshop on supervision frameworks and supervising mediators, at this year’s London Mediators Day, Saturday 8th October.

Here’s the workshop blurb:

Why does supervision matter, and how can the supervisor and the mediator act to get the best out of the process?

This workshop provides insights and guidance on:

• How to structure a supervision session

• Frameworks for delivery – in-house or external

• Models for peer, individual and group supervision

• How the purpose and outcomes of supervision impact on mediating skills.


There are other great-looking workshops happening throughout the day, and plenaries too – information and booking details here.


Don’t be one of your organisation’s emotional dominoes

July 21, 2016 § 1 Comment

Here’s a nugget from a leadership book entitled A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix, by Edwin Friedman.

He explores the concept of differentiation, which he defines as

‘becoming oneself with minimum reactivity to the positions or reactivity of others … charting one’s own way by means of one’s own internal guidance system, rather than perpetually (seeing) where others are at’.

So for me it sounds like to what extent can I keep objective, and speaking/acting from my own judgments rather than just waiting to see – or being unduly influenced by – what others are doing. And note: I’m taking Friedman’s ‘reactivity’ to mean the likelihood of being stimulated to react.

Below are some examples of differentiation from Friedman, which seem to me – as someone interested in nurturing one’s true voice – to be a great list of aspirations for twenty-first century, emotionally intelligent leaders. See what you think. I love particularly the encouragement not to be one of your system’s emotional dominoes…

Differentiation is…

  • The capacity to take a stand in an intense emotional system
  • Saying “I” when others are demanding “we”
  • Containing one’s reactivity, including the ability to avoid being polarised
  • Maintaining a non-anxious presence in the face of anxious others
  • Ceasing automatically being one of the system’s emotional dominoes
  • Being clear about one’s own personal values and goals
  • Taking maximum responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny rather than blaming others or the context

(adapted from p183, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix, by Edwin Friedman. 2007. New York: Seabury Books).

By way of commentary on this: I knew someone, a very collaborative leader, who demonstrated some of the above. His ability to rise above and to read a group situation was amazing. On the few times when I saw him lose his cool, it was almost always out of passion for truth – and what struck me was that even in those moments he never lost his sense of the others around him and what they might be feeling and needing.

Unnervingly, Friedman also points out that effective differentiation by a leader will inevitably trigger sabotage from the ‘least well-differentiated’ people in the system. A health warning, therefore. Just sayin’. Sabotage is possible in any circumstances, of course; so differentiation may be a better path to choose, though not necessarily an easier one.

NB There’s a separate inspirational nugget I found in Friedman’s book, which I’m planning to post about in the next couple of days.

Coaching culture

May 30, 2016 § Leave a comment


Coaching is a professional relationship between a trained coach and a client (who may be an individual or a group) with the goal to enhance the client’s work or home life, their leadership or management or their personal and professional development.

As ever, it’s the verbs which tell the story – in this case, “enhance”. In my experience of coaching, stretching back to the early 2000’s, most people exploring coaching begin with “How…?” questions. “How do I manage myself better in this upcoming situation, How do I free myself to find a better way of …, How can I better lead this colleague…, How can I improve the team’s performance?”

It’s the opportunity created by having time with an experienced independent practitioner who is dispassionately and wholly on your side: questioning, supporting, reflecting, encouraging, challenging; and all with a view to enabling you to find new understanding or new ways of ‘How…’.

Coaches need coaching too!, and I’ve been skillfully supported by Penny Kay in recent years – and we’re delighted to announce our associate relationship. We are working together as joint coaches where there is a pair, group or organisation who want a coaching approach.

As Penny writes, “Coaching is a lovely integrative method of problem solving, resolving dilemmas and discovering a way forward. Here is a nice summary from ILM that shows how  the development of a ‘coaching culture’ in an organisation can be beneficial. But coaching can also be very useful for individuals who want to make positive changes, including their wish to improve their overall health.”

The ILM report that Penny cites shows how many organisations and companies, large and small, have used or are turning to coaching to change cultures and enhance professional development.

Contact either of us for more information – my details are here, and here for Penny.

The practice of reflective practice

December 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

This is a link to a blog piece describing a session on reflective practice that a colleague Jenny Gibbons from York Law School and I delivered earlier this year.

Our aim was to teach the basics of reflective practice, and to facilitate some practical experience for participants to take back into their work.


My prezi from the session is here; feel free to be in touch for more information or if you’d be interested in organising a session for you and your colleagues on reflection and learning within a work-based context.

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

Retiring collection

For more details: tel 01904-624065

or e-mail: peacenetwork@yorkquakers.org.uk
or see www.yorkquakers.org.uk 

Next supervision skills training for supervisors of mediators

December 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is likely to be in London in the first quarter of 2015 – a two day programme, focussing on core skills and on advanced techniques for influencing change in those you supervise. Please e-mail me to register for advance booking notification. Not in London? Let me know, as I aim to deliver these courses in locations according to local demand.

Aidex Brussels 2014

November 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

For the first time, the University of York will be exhibiting at Aidex this week. Aidex is a leading platform for the international aid and development community to come together, under one roof, over two days to meet, source, supply and innovate – http://www.aid-expo.com/brussels

In connection with my part-time teaching role at the University of York, I’ll be part of a cross-departmental staff team at Aidex, promoting a unique range of face-to-face and online programmes:

Social Policy and Social Work’s online Masters in Public Administration – International Development.

York Law School’s LLM in the theory and practice of clinical legal education.

The Centre for Applied Human Rights:

  • online Postgraduate Certificate in Defending Human Rights;
  • professional development courses on Leadership, and International refugee law and advocacy; and
  • MA in Applied Human Rights and LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice.

Post-War Reconstruction and Development Unit’s online MSc in International Humanitarian Affairs, delivered by the PRDU and the Overseas Development Institute’s Humanitarian Policy Group.

The University of York can be found at stand E26 in the Careers and Training Pavilion, so please do drop by and say hello and find out more about our education, training and consultancy services.

I will also be running a workshop to showcase some of our programmes and the opportunities they offer to participants. This workshop will run from 10.00 to 11.00 on the morning of Thursday 13 November, in the Meeting Room near the Main Auditorium.

Entrance to the exhibition and workshop is free http://www.aid-expo.com/brussels/visit/conference-agenda, and it is a greatopportunity to network with fellow professionals in aid and development.

If you or a colleague hope to come along, do let us know; and please feel free to pass this information on to your colleagues.

Applications now open: Postgraduate Certificate in Defending Human Rights

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 AdvocacyWorking 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
From Luisa Perez, one of last year’s participants: “I already started to recommend this course, one of the most useful trainings I have taken. Thanks again for making it happen and please keep this great contribution to the Human Rights movement.” Luisa Perez, Protection International.


Accredited Supervision Skills training, Edinburgh

June 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Scottish Mediation Network have commissioned me to deliver this two-day programme to further SMN’s objective of promoting quality assurance in mediation, and towards developing a register of accredited mediation supervisors as part of a specified competency framework.

For freelance supervisors and those working or volunteering as supervisors within mediation services – whether in Scotland or elsewhere.

Download the course flyer.

22 and 23 September 2014, Edinburgh.

£240, SMN members £220.

Accredited by the College of Mediators (12 CPD points).

To book, contact carol@scottishmediation.org.uk or call 0131 556 1221.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Learning at John Gray.