Looking for more than formulaic coaching? Try a “useful conversation”

Sometimes the only place to be is right here and now Coaching should be about much more than just setting goals to be achieved in the future. Important as this can be, it just doesn’t cut it for many professionals I work with. They are looking for something more meaningful, more immediate and more generally[…]

What is Personal Development? – Revisited

Personal Development is hugely popular and an important focus for many people. However, I rarely see anyone stop to think about what it actually is. Nor do I hear people ask what its potential benefits might be beyond the vagueness of “to achieve my potential” or more pragmatic outcomes such as “to get that promotion”.[…]

Time to rethink ‘systems thinking’

This post explores the limitations of systems thinking when referring to groups of people or whole organisations. It argues that differentiation is needed between the complicated and the complex and that, in the absence of this, the universal application of a system metaphor is propping up outmoded and unhealthy approaches to management within organisations. The[…]

Obsessed with change – what about tradition and stability?

I recently attended a conference at which Ralph Stacey, a renowned professor in the field of complexity, said something that resonated with me. He said that “we have become obsessed with change.” He went to say that “this is nonsensical. We also need tradition and stability”. I’ve recently become acutely aware of how much pressure[…]

Schein’s ‘Humble Inquiry’ – Old Ideas Rehashed. Thank Goodness!

After reading Edgar Schein’s latest book (Humble Inquiry, The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling), I was initially dismissive: ‘These are old ideas rehashed’. I was able to skim-read the book in less than 30 minutes and didn’t feel the need to deep-dive into any sections. This is usually a sign the material is[…]

Is your thinking ‘black or white’? Should it be shades of green?

I was recently watching a BBC current affairs programme during which Jeremy Paxman, a somewhat cantankerous British journalist, hosted a healthy, challenging debate about the English Lake District National Park. This debate was of particular interest to me. The Lake District is a place of significant spiritual meaning to me. From an early age, I’ve[…]

Culture Change – Time To Throw Away The Carrot And Stick

This post explores alternatives to the behaviourist-informed practices that currently hold sway as many organisations attempt to change their cultures. After writing about Gestalt as an approach to personal development, I’ve also been reflecting on how it offers solutions to the challenges facing many of our organisations. Flowing from what seems to be an endless trail of[…]

Passwords – symbols of disempowering organisation cultures

Congratulations must go to the humble password for adding unnecessary cost into our businesses, making our systems less secure and contributing to the disengagement of millions of employees. They are indeed symbols and actual contributors to disempowerment within our organisations. A bit harsh? I don’t think so. For me, passwords have become one of the[…]

HR’s “point of inflection” – Peter Cheese shares his thinking

I recently attended an event with Peter Cheese, newly appointed CEO of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), which celebrates its centenary this year (2013). Peter was answering questions put to him by an audience composed of mainly HR professionals. He was refreshingly honest and candid with his answers. He seemed to be[…]

Continuing Professional Development – promoting bad learning habits

In a previous post I wrote about weaknesses in formal Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes required of some professionally qualified sectors. I bemoaned the tick-box exercise that most had become as people attended events in order to achieve a target number of study hours. The so-called learning delivered through this CPD also came under my critical eye.[…]

Continuing Professional Development – a tick-box exercise?

This post covers some of my long-held concerns about formal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes. It was prompted by discussions currently underway in the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) on their support for ongoing professional development in HR. It finishes with an ask of regulators and professional bodies to review their thinking[…]

Disrespecting colleagues carries costs

I recently came across an article in Harvard Business Review (February 2013) on incivility in the workplace. The authors talk about the costs of incivility to the organisation: “Many managers would say that incivility is wrong, but not all recognize that it has tangible costs. Targets of incivility often punish their offenders and the organization,[…]

Why organisations do bad things

One doesn’t have to look far to see examples of unethical behaviour in our corporations and public bodies. The sale of unwanted or inappropriate products and anti-competitive collusion seems to be rife. Slavishly following process is proving to have lethal consequences in some of our hospitals. These stories add up to give the false impression[…]

Is risk-avoidance damaging HR’s credibility?

This post outlines my views on HR’s credibility in the board room and how attempts to earn it have backfired. The basic premise of my argument is that, in attempting to win credibility, HR has proposed and implemented copy-cat best practice as a low-risk route to delivering HR strategy. This low risk approach has back[…]

Learning Agility – Leadership Development through “disruptive experiences”

Jerry Connor (2011) wrote a very interesting article in People Management, the magazine of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. In it Jerry describes learning agility and its perceived importance in developing future leaders in organisations. He defines learning agility as the “ability to learn from experiences and to apply that learning to[…]

Desperately seeking OD – Shaking off the HR best-practice straight jacket

This post offers a brief summary of the similarities and differences between OD and HR as fields of practice. It also offers a view on the challenges HR is currently facing and how the field of OD could be the source of insight it badly needs. Let’s first look at the similarities. There is one[…]

Employer Branding – Lessons from London 2012

In the run up to London 2012, I attended a breakfast seminar put on by MDH recruitment. The focus was talent attraction and retention. The speakers were Paul Modley, then Head of Recruitment at the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Anna Herko, Head of Learning, Leadership & Talent at Shop[…]

My Strengths

For Organisation Development practitioners, a primary focus has got to be an attention to and ongoing development of, appropriate skills. I don’t bring any machinery or magic tricks with me to a client’s situation. I am the principle instrument of change through being both catalyst for change and leader of change. It is therefore very[…]

Reframing – The starting point for development

Traveling frequently, especially on trains, is part of my working life. For the most part it is for the sole purpose of getting from a to b efficiently (but seldom cheaply!). Occasionally I get time to admire the view as I speed through some of the UK’s glorious countryside. There is a debate raging in[…]

What is Personal Development?

I think it is important to ask this question. The thinking that unfolds below may help you focus on why you are on the journey you are on and whether it is the right one for you right now. I hope it also peaks your interest in the social sciences and their contribution to our[…]

Steve Jobs – Great Leaders Need Great Followers

Much has been and will be written about Steve Jobs and his leadership of Apple. He was certainly an amazing business man and brand evangelist. He was also obsessive over both form and function in product design. We have Apple to thank for much of the innovation in personal computing. Steve Jobs has left an[…]

Mind The Gap – Everyday reminders to think, then act

When I’m traveling by train or on the underground in the UK I often see the words ‘Mind The Gap’ painted on the platform edge. The phrase is also often spoken through a recorded message. This is obviously to warn passengers of the gap between the platform and the train. I took this warning on[…]

Express yourself – articulating feelings

As an Englishman, if I were to be stereotyped I’m sure the caricature would include a ‘stiff upper lip’ and ‘repressed emotions’. I’m not sure the former is accurate but the latter is, for me, where my stereotype is sometimes confirmed. I am not particularly good at expressing my emotional needs or discussing my feelings.[…]

Life Purpose – predetermined or predisposed?

I’m wary of using the phrase ‘life purpose’ because it is often assumed to be somehow divinely or genetically predetermined. Genetic predetermination actually holds some credibility for me, but more of that in a minute. Let’s first look at divine predetermination. I’m an atheist, so the thought that a supernatural entity has programmed my life,[…]