May 2010


We may have – with the exception of some devoted and dedicated environmental protestors – come down from the trees, but evolution goes only so far. We’ve written about a number of human instincts and urges here, but one we’ve not previously considered is our desire for a sense of belonging. Phrases like ‘birds of a feather’ may be trite, but the feeling that we are flocking with those with who we have some sense of identification is a reassuring, comforting and strengthening one for most of us. There are, after all, few perceived upsides to a sense of alienation, isolation or disengagement. Solitude is only a positive experience when it’s one that we consciously choose; when it’s merely something that happens to us, we tend to call it loneliness.

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In challenging times, retreat is a natural human response. Rightly or not (and sadly usually not), we tend to perceive some earlier time when things where ‘right’ and – at some level, conscious or otherwise – look for ways of returning to this blissful state. As Carole King sang, in a song whose lyric merits a less casual interpretation:

I think I’m going back/to the things I learned so well in my youth;
I think I’m returning to/the days when I was young enough to know the truth”.

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If you’ve not already read it and your organisation uses Executive Coaches, you might wish to download a copy of our recent article – Great Expectations – which was published in Coaching At Work in May 2010. In the article, our Practice Director, Dr Anton Franckeiss, makes the case that coaching must become more than just a cosy conversation as the world tentatively emerges from recession.

Although its contribution can be invaluable, coaching is a young profession that is still defining itself: its credibility is also vulnerable to its appeal to those who can relatively easily gain generic coaching skills but may not have the operational business experience to apply these skills to the very real requirements of senior level managers and leaders. But specific requirements cannot be met with generalist resources.

The message has to be that the purpose of the coaching relationship is to deliver outcomes that provide practical solutions to both business and people issues. The role of the coach should not be simply to soothe and sympathise, but also – in the context of a supportive dialogue – to challenge, and to provide signpost and options that deliver potential solutions: a willingness to change is central to the task.

As we enjoy thinking aloud, but not necessarily alone, we’d be interested in your responses to the article, and your comments on your own experiences and requirements – or your organisation’s use of coaching. If you’d like to share your thoughts and experiences with a wider world – and listen to the thoughts of others – please post your comments below. We hope that the conversation will be more than simply … well, cosy.

A joke recently cracked at the HR Case Studies Blog for your entertainment. And the answer (no sniggering at the back: the Internet is interactive – we can hear you): “None. But they would like to be represented at the meeting!” Which, metaphorically, is where the ‘next generation HR’ theme – much discussed after the recent CIPD report of the same name – is coming from. And the response is varied. It seems to range from “Hang on, I think I’ve seen that light bulb before …” to a less sceptical response that’s something along the lines of “The light bulb’s not the issue. What they need is a stepladder, so they’re in a position to reach high enough to change it”.

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Another article that readers can now download. Published in the May edition of Talent Management, the article – by ASK MD, Robert Terry, questions whether the way we engage with our talent is stifling their behaviour and, with it, the scope and opportunity to be creative and productive.

To give a flavour, one short extract is given below (the full article can be downloaded as a PDF file here):

Perhaps we will come to view the corporate and political excesses of the first decade of the 21st century as blessings in disguise, serving as they did to awaken us to the threat of manipulation, the fallibility of power and the meanings that lie beneath the surface of words.

 The lesson of the last 10 years is that legitimacy (and with it the right to set and pursue standards not just for the behaviour of others but also for their thoughts and feelings) flows from moral authority and cannot be commanded, no matter how big the PR budget. Legitimacy is a social construction and is conferred or withdrawn by those who would be controlled. It cannot be begged, bought or stolen.”

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We’ve added two new articles by Anton Franckeiss to the Elsewhere section of the blog (our online PDF archive of articles published in the management, learning, HR and coaching press):

  • Great Expectations, Coaching at Work, May 2010 – as a brave new world emerges from recession, coaching must become much more than a cosy conversation
  • Post-recessionary Leadership, Training Journal, May 2010 – themes for succesful leadership to have emerged from the recession.

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In less than 24 hours, we may be getting an interesting lesson in leadership and the forging of working relationships. Alternatively, we might get a lesson in leading while visibly having only a minority of potential available support, or a masterful (well, it will be a man) display of tantrum throwing at the electorate’s lack of gratitude for their potential services. (Today’s Times has published a recipe for a coalition cocktail for those of you for whom this is all too much to contemplate: you may wish to stock up on Galliano on your way home.) Whatever the result, the electoral ground has shifted in this campaign as rarely before: the level of public discussion about electoral reform may have interesting implications for the governing style of any ‘winner’. But I also noticed another very interesting aspect of the campaign that may see interesting developments in organisational development and leadership almost regardless of the outcome.

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