The Living Organisation :

July 2011

Current Work

Lots of activity in the first half of 2011:

  • A number of new CEO Coaching clients in public and private sectors
  • Team Coaching in different sectors including with a ftse100 Exec team
  • Starting OD work with new client organisations
  • Partnering with Locus for broad OD interventions
  • Progressing joint venture with Wilderness Scotland

Leadership and Lessons from Sport

I’m not always convinced of the connection between sport and business. However, a couple of articles (both about rugby) caught my eye recently.

Allan Massie starts a piece by stating that: “All changes in the laws of a sport have unintended consequences.” He then goes on to explain how changes to the rules re scrummaging have had significant unforseen and negative impact. The link that I make to leadership is in the need for flexibility. Clear thinking, planning and strategising are a must in business. And this work needs to be integrated with a present-focussed approach to implementation. For me this means seeing what is actually happening on the ground as I take my plans and thinking into action and responding appropriately to this reality, rather than sticking with my preferred imaginary world where I am in control and all outcomes are as I originally intended!

Chris Hewett tells the story of Andy Saull, a player new to the top level being mentored by Richard Hill, the famous, battle-hardened England and Lions player. Saull states that: “When I first started playing rugby at Saracens, I thought I could do the lot. I was always looking to throw the miracle pass or make the magic offload. What I’ve learned, much of it through Richard’s mentoring, is that rugby at Premiership level is less about doing one outstanding thing in a game and more about doing lots of little things that add up to a performance.” As I write, I wonder what little things I can focus on this afternoon that will add up to a performance.

Organisational “Splitting”

I currently have a relationship with builders, painters and decoraters that is more frequent and long-lasting than I had hoped for. However, I do get the chance to observe and learn. Two weeks ago, the joiner turned up and part-completed the work but needed to get some particular skirting boards specially made up. He left saying that he would call HQ to cancel the painter. I also called to cancel the painter but he turned up anyway only to leave when I showed him the in-complete woodwork. The joiner came back last week and completed the job. When I told him about the painter, he smiled broadly and launched into a lengthy tale of woe re the shortcomings of “the office.”

I found myself wondering how this “splitting” process serves all of the people involved. From my direct experience with the joiner, I imagined that perhaps (in his mind and mostly out of awareness) he gets to be my reliable and trusty friend who always turns up on time and gets the job done, despite the worst efforts of HQ. And perhaps the people in the office have a parallel story of woe re their own best efforts, constantly undermined by those pesky, uncontrollable tradesmen.

Much of the above is supposition. However, this is how splitting works in organisations. Both “sides” get to protect themselves by blaming the other. And the customer, who wants service from and a relationship with the organisation as a whole, ends up speaking to two different parts of the organisation and getting poor service.

All well and good, but how could this be sorted out? The first thing to say is that trying to improve matters through a “systems and procedures,” approach is unlikely to help. All the tradesmen who came to my door had incredibly detailed job specifications but the problem is not at this level. What’s more likely to help is supporting all of those involved to surface and examine some of their out-of-awareness assumptions, stories, fantasies etc about each other and to get each party to look at what they personally get from maintaining the current stalemate i.e. supporting everybody to take responsibility for their own part in the current tangle.

There are lots of creative ways of exploring this ground in a safe enough manner and lots of areas of applicability in organisations, from teams who are not co-operating to the challenges of helping post M&A organisations to function effectively.

New Venture with Wilderness Scotland (up-date)

The Living Organisation and Wilderness Scotland are coming together to offer a range of new experiences to our business clients. We will go live with a range of offerings in late Autumn this year.

The common thread that links all of my work in business and organisations is how we can develop quality “Thinking Space” together. A different environment can be an important part of doing so. More about this in my next Newsletter.

Coach Training

We now have taken bookings for over half the places on the “Beyond Talking,” 2-day Coach training in Edinburgh on 25th and 26th October with Alan Gilchrist and Marjorie Shackleton. If you want to take part, please get in touch soon. (More details in the January Newsletter on the website.)

Gestalt International Study Centre

During my working year, I take time to focus on my own training and development and to get feedback. I spent a week at GISC in Cape Cod in May and go back there in September. (GISC have been at the cutting edge of Gestalt informed OD consulting for many decades.) The training was superb and lived up to all my expectations. With lots of practicuums, feedback and support, I focussed on how I can expand my own range and strengthen my own presence as Coach and Consultant.

I go to GISC because the work is practice based, and solidly grounded in relevent theory. Through practice (i.e. encounter) I learn about myself as Coach and Consultant when working with others (as well as about models and theory which unhelpfully, is often the pre-dominant focus of many programmes.) As Bill O’Brien, ex CEO of Hanover Insurance said: “After many years of working on organisational change initiatives, I came to realise that the success of the intervention depends upon the interior condition of the intervenor.” An interesting idea for all of us, whether Coaches, Consultants or Leaders.

Connecting to this, I had a fascinating conversation with a colleague recently about a Coaching programme run by a major UK University which includes zero hours of observation/feedback of the trainee actually Coaching. My colleague was concerned and rightly so. Coaching is a methodology of encounter. That’s the difference between working on your leadership in a Coaching relationship and reading a book about how to improve your leadership. And as a Coach I strongly believe that my own processes of learning and development must include this same process of encounter. After all, that’s the method that I believe works for my clients.