Dialogue Insights

reflections on leadership


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World Cities Day

Saturday was World Cities Day and I invited cities expert, Stuart Gulliver, to be our guest blogger. There has been much talk during COVID about the decline of cities with people departing for the countryside and settling down to a more rural life, working from home. Here is Stuart’s response.

Rumours of the imminent death of cities aren’t just premature -they’re just plain wrong

photo courtesy of Pedro Lastra at Unsplash

Cities, during their long and turbulent history, have been here many times before.  In the 1950’s and 60’s it was going to be ‘crime and grime’ that would inevitably drive people away from the city.  ‘Urban flight’ on a major scale was predicted in the 1970’s and 80’s with the collapse of industry and manufacturing and the arrival of a post-industrial society.  Without jobs what would be the point of cities.

And in the 21st century it has been fear of terrorism and now the fear of contagion that will finally ‘do for’ the city.  This global pandemic, this dreadful awfulness which is engulfing us all, is being cast as the urban game-changer, leading to an exodus on a scale not seen before in western society.  COVID-19, it is suggested, will lead to a ‘new normal’ – one of a raft of recently minted ‘new normals’ – that will radically re-set our everyday lives.

Downsizing’ in mega cities

In this particular ‘new normal’ the urban hegemony, so long enjoyed by cities, will now be over as former citizens, in a post-pandemic world, move to rural places and smaller settlements and communities, effectively downsizing their urban needs.

Well, there is some truth in this outcome particularly in the really big, global cities like London and New York – where the daily commute is often more than 3 hours and house prices and rents have become unaffordably high for most people.  Here, given greater scope for working from home, which is already an accelerating trend, and improved digital infrastructure, many households will undoubtedly make a major shift in their residential choice.

“Cities are the greatest invention of our species”

Ed Glaeser, Harvard Economist

What history has shown us, however, is that cities are immensely adaptable to change – it’s what gives them their resilience.  This ability to re-purpose, to re-invent themselves, lies at the core of their enduring success.

Urban analysts claim that the strength of cities rests on three key features; their scale, their density and, as a result, the phenomenon of ‘proximity’.  And it is these three qualities which underpin the competitive strengths of cities in two important respects. 

First, as a centre of production.  Both businesses and people working in cities are more productive that those not based in cities.  This is down to what economists have called ‘economies of agglomeration’ i.e. the advantages of clustering together – and this clustering together, amongst other things, has led to material specialisation, the development of expertise, increase in skill levels and encouraged the creative interaction between businesses.

Second, as a centre of consumption.  Not only for the consumption of services, experiences and activities that make cities great; such as galleries, bars and restaurants, theatres, entertainment, events and social gatherings but also higher education, training, skill development and healthcare services.  Their productivity and consumption strengths will continue post COVID-19.  They will inevitably change in their nature and composition but will, in combination, continue to be the major drivers of where people choose to live and work.

The post pandemic winners will be…….

not only those places where the production and consumption roles continue to be strong, but also those cities – that do not allow the car back into the city on the scale it has been accustomed to for the last 75 years; where ‘greening’ and zero-carbon policies have become a way of life and where deliberate, grown-up, large-scale action directed at deep-seated inequality will be commonplace.

Long live the evolving city!

Stuart Gulliver FRSE

Emeritus Professor, University of Glasgow


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Effortless Coaching

mentoring pair

 

Over the 25 years I have been coaching individuals and teams in organisations, and I have learned that there is one thing that makes a huge difference to the quality and effectiveness of my coaching practice.   That is the extent of my self-awareness in the moment.

The success of any coaching relationship has as much to do with how I am being as it has to do what what I am doing.

My ‘beingness’ has an impact on the coaching relationship in the following ways;

  • The more curious and interested I am, the more comfortable and trusting the relationship between coach and coachee becomes.
  • The greater my willingness to be vulnerable, the more I use my authentic voice and speak my truth, the easier it is for the coachee to do the same
  • The more respect I have for the coachee’s point of view – even when I don’t agree with it – the less need they have to defend or assert a position and the easier it becomes for them to question their own thinking.
  • The more aware I am of my own assumptions and judgments, the less need I feel to give advice and the more mental space I have to listen and appreciate.

Taking some time before beginning a coaching session to let go of the mind chatter and be present is one of the most important things you can do for your client.

Register for our Workshop in Glasgow on 30thOctober to find out more about how you can improve your coaching conversations using Structural Dynamics and Dialogue.

Tickets for Advanced Coaching Conversations; Raising the Bar  are available now through Eventbrite.  Advanced Coaching Conversations


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When you can’t make a decision

My sister and I went shopping yesterday. (Yes, I know, we were supposed to be working but that’s a whole other story).  For the first half hour we were all over the place – too much choice; no clear intention; too busy deferring to each other to decide on anything.

Then we remembered the Will Exercises we learned on the Avatar® Course – easy to do and fast results. So we went back to the office, got out our ReSurfacing® Workbooks and did Exercise 2: Awakening the Will.  The objective of the exercise is “to strengthen the will by describing objects“, so we went back to the shop and walked around, each describing out loud items of clothing that caught our attention. After 10 minutes we both felt more relaxed, present and calm and, interestingly, much more focussed on the task in hand.  We completed everything on our shopping list within the hour.

You can experience ReSurfacing Exercise 2 for yourself by following the instructions at http://www.avatarjournal.com/nl/home/exercises/78-ex-2-awakening-the-will.html.

If you would like a copy of ReSurfacing: Techniques for Exploring Consciousness by Harry Palmer then email maggie.williamson@me.com or go to http://avatarbookstore.com. Avatar® and ReSurfacing® are the registered trademarks of Stars Edge Inc.  ©2018 Star’s Edge All rights reserved.


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Tomorrow is United Nations Day

Source: Shutterstock, Andrew F Kazmierski

Today is United Nations Day and the year 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the UN and its founding charter.

Maybe it is time to remind ourselves of what our governments signed up to on behalf of us all. Here is an extract from the Preamble to the UN Charter.

“We the people of the United Nations determine:

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends:

  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples”

https://www.un.org/en/observances/un-day


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International Day of Rural Women

https://www.un.org/en/observances/rural-women-day

Across such of the world, women in rural areas have the most significant role to play in the economic and social wellbeing of their communities, even more so in the health and nutrition of their families. Yet rural women in many countries face poverty and violence and governments fail to protect them.

Today is International Day of Rural Women. #

Feminism in the West is an urban phenomenon. It is significant but it can also be a luxury compared with the lives of many women in rural areas. It is our time to show up and support women across the globe to create better lives for themselves and their children. Empowering rural women benefits whole communities and economies not just women themselves.


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The Hidden Secrets about Coaching

What makes the difference between a good coach and a great coach?

mentoring pair

It makes no difference whether you are a professional coach or a leader or manager coaching their staff.  It isn’t the length and variety of experience you’ve had.  It isn’t the coaching model you use, although some are more effective than others.  It isn’t the match of personal styles between you and your coachee; polar opposites can still have really effective coaching relationships.

The secret to great coaching is the work you do on yourself.

Leo Tolstoy once said

“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself’

Ask yourself: What are your mental blind spots?  What beliefs stop you being in real connection with the person or team in front of you?  How effective are you at suspending judgement?  What level of listening are you engaging in? What childhood stories are triggered for you by your coachee’s words or their tone of voice?  How good are you at recognising your own shadow behaviours as they arise and shifting out of them in the moment?  How are your unspoken rules about how people should behave in organisations affecting your interpretation of your coachee’s words and actions?

                           Great leadership and coaching comes from the ability to have honest, courageous conversations.

If you want to learn about taking your coaching conversations to the next level then register for our TASTER SESSION – Advanced Coaching Conversations: Raising the Bar.  Details and tickets are available at Eventbrite

 


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‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’

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Today is World Mental Health Day and the focus is on young people.  This isn’t something I would normally write about but growing up in the 60’s I had a happy childhood myself and I am deeply saddened by the experiences of so many young people today.

The  World Health Organisation has reported that 50% of all mental illness starts by age 14.

 

Across the world being resilient and having good mental health is challenging for young people in our current climate.  In Western Societies young people have to contend with pressure to do well academically.  Leaving home and starting further education can be times of stress and anxiety.  These feelings, if not addressed, can lead to mental illness.

There are estimated to be over 376,000 young carers in the UK, 45% of whom have reported that they had mental health problems.

The pressures associated with social media, particularly the incidence of cyber-bullying, can negatively affect the self worth and wellbeing of children.

Across the world there are large numbers of young people living in war zones, coping with the impact of natural disasters and famine, or migrating huge distances, often unaccompanied to ‘safe’ countries which then reject them.

In the UK mental health problems affect 1 in 10 children and young people – depression, anxiety and conduct disorders.  70% of them don’t get intervention at an early enough stage.

We adults have unintentionally created a world that is challenging for many children and young people.  It is time for us all to act together to create something different.


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Discover how to be an even better coach

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Last week I wrote about the importance of the coach’s presence in coaching conversations.  Today I want to focus on another aspect of self-awareness that really helps create great coaching outcomes –  understanding the way you tend to behave in conversation with others.

Knowing my default behaviours enables me to modify them in the moment to create more powerful coaching conversations.  This is particularly useful when I am under stress or when conversation is getting ‘stuck’ and we seem to be going round in circles.

I use the Structural Dynamics Model as the basis of my practice.  Based on the work of Dr David Kantor, it explores:

The Actions we take in conversation. Every conversation has a structure to it – separate from the story we tell each other, or the emotions involved.  Within this structure there are 4 basic speech acts we all use in conversations: Move, Follow, Oppose or Bystand.  My preference is to ‘Move’, to set the direction for the conversation, so there is always the temptation to give instructions or advice. Knowing this, I can choose to act differently.  One of the most valuable actions for a coach is the ability to ‘Bystand’ – to notice what is happening in the conversation and name it.

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The types of language we use. My default language is the language of Affect (emotion and feeling) which may not be very impactful for someone whose default is the language of Power (achievement and performance).

The unwritten rules we have about how human interactions should be organized.  My preference is for Open collaborative systems.  I need to be aware that I will always approach my coaching conversations with that filter and I may need to adapt it to work with clients who have a different filter.  Some people, for example,  prefer Closed (hierarchical) systems, others prefer Random (creative) systems.

Knowing my own behavioural preferences means I can be more mindful of my impact on others who are different from me.  I can notice when our coaching conversations are becoming stuck in repeating patterns and act deliberately to change them.

Register for our WorkshopAdvanced Coaching Conversations; Raising the Bar – in Glasgow on 30thOctober to find out more about how you can improve your coaching conversations using Structural Dynamics and Dialogue.  Tickets are available through Eventbrite.

 


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Today is World Post Day

I was reading the UN’s list of days of international celebration and discovered that today is World Post Day. The public postal service seems on the surface to be a bit outdated in an age of instant messaging, email and courier services.  However, I did some research and this is certainly not the case.

I found that the public postal network is the world’s largest distribution network with 640,000 outlets.  It employs around 5.5 million people.  It processes and delivers more than 350 billion domestic and international letter post items and over 6 billion parcels and with the growth in e-commerce I doubt if those numbers will reduce anytime soon.

The Universal Postal Union was established in Berne Switzerland in 1874 and is the second oldest international organization worldwide.   It is an agency of the United Nations and has 192 members across the globe.

‘The UPI sets the rules for international mail exchanges and makes recommendations to stimulate growth in mail, parcel and financial services volumes and improve quality of service for customers.’

shutterstock_228821785

I offer an apology in advance for talking about Christmas at the beginning of October but this is the time the international and domestic post networks really come into their own as we shop online for gifts, send cards and calendars to friend and family overseas and order from the endless mail order catalogues that seem to come through your door, courtesy of the post.

Let this be a day of appreciation for all that they do.

 


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Lessons to improve your coaching practice

seeing-things-differently

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of the coach’s presence in coaching conversations. Today I want to focus on another aspect of self-awareness that really helps create great coaching outcomes –  understanding your own default patterns when interacting with others.

Knowing my default behaviours enables me to modify them in the moment to create more powerful coaching conversations.  This is particularly useful when conversation is getting ‘stuck’ and we seem to be going round in circles or when I feel stressed.

I use the Structural Dynamics Model as the basis of my practice.  It explores:

The Actions we take in conversation. My preference is to ‘Move’, to set the direction for the conversation, so there is always the temptation to give instructions or advice. Knowing this, I can choose to act differently.  I have found that one of the most valuable actions for a coach is the ability to ‘Bystand’ – to notice what is happening in the conversation and name it.

The types of language we use. My default language is the language of Affect (emotion and feeling) which may not be very impactful for someone whose default is the language of Power (achievement and performance).

The unwritten rules we have about how human interactions should be organized.  My preference is for Open collaborative systems.  I need to be aware that I will always approach my coaching conversations with that filter and may need to adapt it to work with clients who have a different filter.  Some people, for example,  prefer Closed hierarchical systems, others prefer Random creative systems.

Knowing my own default behaviours means I can be more mindful of my impact on others who are different from me.  It makes me more respectful of similarity and difference.  I notice when our coaching conversations are becoming stuck in repeating patterns and I can act deliberately to change them.

Contact me if you would like more information about how to uncover and make sense of your own behavioural profile.

or

Register for our Workshop– Advanced Coaching Conversations; Raising the Bar – in Glasgow on 30thOctober to find out more about how you can improve your coaching conversations using Structural Dynamics and Dialogue.  Tickets are available through Eventbrite.


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Better Boardroom Conversations

 

If any boardroom conversation is going to be effective there are four ‘speech actions’ that need to be present:  move, follow, oppose and bystand.  A ‘move’ sets the direction for the conversation, for example, – “Let’s talk about last quarter’s results”.  A ‘follow’ completes and validates a direction – “That’s a good idea, let’s review our performance”.  An ‘oppose’ challenges an action and corrects it- “This isn’t a good time when we don’t yet have all the figures”.  A ‘bystand’ provides perspective and connects competing acts – “I can see we have a difference of opinion, maybe there’s a simple way to resolve it”.

board conversation

“Conversation is the magic dust that underpins board effectiveness” Good Governance Forum

When a balance of these four speech acts is absent, conversation can become stuck.  Sometimes conversation goes round and round in circles. Sometimes there are lots of ideas but nothing is decided or acted on.   Sometimes it is the same people who are always playing out a ‘right/wrong’ game.

When your board gets good at communicative competency it can recognise and correct imbalances and improve the effectiveness of its’ conversation.  Dr. David Kantor of the Kantor Institute has developed a model to help leaders and their teams to ‘read the room’, to understand what is going on in terms of the four speech actions and to deliberately intervene to create better business conversations.  Contact me to find out more.