Monthly Archives: February 2015

Love is…

I wonder what will happen when I submit an academic report about how I inspire leadership in other people (coaching and mentoring approaches). And my answer is: I love them.

I wonder if part of becoming masterly is about the courage to write/speak/practise what is true to you, strengthened by awareness of criticism, in fact seeking this, and being reflective and open.

I wonder how comfortable you are with a blog about love.

My Twitter profile reads “Be kind, Love freely, Nice is underrated” and a wonderful nameless-friend has made me re-think this message time and again, by querying what ‘love freely’ communicates. To said friend, I know you’re joking, but we know where the normality and acceptance of that joke comes from. Because unfortunately, as a woman, as a human, it’s generally not ok to love freely. To love someone of the opposite sex is too readily considered sexual, whereas same sex relationships can be openly full of love and accepted. So many corners of culture in the UK today make loving other people a negative, and my career path has crossed these corners. All of them. I’m aware, and this isn’t love. (For one #lovedoesnthurt). I also notice in some corners that it’s not ok to hug, as touch and tactility hold similar meanings as above. Yet at the same time I’ll never forget exploring the power of facilitated communication for people with autism. Where touch enables previously impossible  communication.

Love is a verb, with different meanings and intentions. I’ve seen relationships end because ‘I’m just not in-love anymore‘. I wish I’d been in a position of insight and maturity (impossible) to say, “what about just doing it then instead of waiting to feel it?”. Do we expect that enough love to fulfill and sustain can be provided by just one person?

Love, has multiple facets, reflected in Greek by several words for different kinds of love (as Steve Wheeler recently reminded me) which Roman Krznaric describes in The Wonder Box. The seemingly uncontrollable and all encompassing sexual passion of being deeply in love is EROS. The long lasting love forged after years of coupledom and unity is PRAGMA. Then there is playful love, emergent from laughter and free-ness in social interactions called LUDUS, and love from within loyal friendship and mutual appreciation called PHILIA. The ability to see the best in someone, and look for their goodness, showing care selflessly is AGAPE. And PHILAUTIA is loving yourself, of which there are two kinds: one reminiscent of narcissism, the other involving self-compassion and self-esteem. The art of loving deserves a fitting vocabulary.

How many of these do you recognise in your life and relationships? What value do they have to you, and your experience?

Coaching and mentoring practice, with its models and approaches is ultimately about a way of being, with and for others. A philosophy in action. This extends to leading learning, and creating environments and relationships conducive to this. Then this week I find Nancy Kline:

“It’s the love of a person’s mind. Love of their capacity. Love of their yet un-thought thoughts that only they, not you, can generate, but that your Attention makes possible. It’s a love of their goodness. Love, most of all, of their intelligence. And it’s love like this, beamed through your Attention that is the change maker, the fire on the tip of the finger”

Then what happens? You can have open conversations including conflict, ambivalence, dissonance, because differences are valued and we know despite the discomfort, it’s safe to disagree.

One last thing, if it’s not obvious yet, love is a boomerang-verb. If you’re not ‘feeling’ it, maybe try doing it. And if you’re not sure how, go back to the top of this blog and read again.

Love is the first step to empathy and true listening, and then what happens?

Personal Responsibility

For the past 14 months I’ve been blending academia and professional practice through a taught course at uni. Mostly I like the student discount, but I’ve also been like a pig-in-muck when it comes to the literature. Subsequently working on my curating and literature reviewing skills, and trying to live up to expectations of desirable masterliness.
Last Saturday was a full day of learning on site, in a classroom, with a group of 18 and a fantastic lecturer, who understands how not to lecture but to lead and enable learning. My brain aches at the end of a Saturday like this, but I love spending my time this way, in an adult learning environment, with good discussion, and brilliant people to learn with and from. It ignites and fills up my energies, like Covey’s ‘fire within’. What’s more, because I’m studying learning and people, it’s constantly a subjective and objective experience. I find myself critiquing not just the theories, models and content, but also the style in which the session is being delivered. The communication, the influencing, the language, the meanings, the lecturing, the responsiveness, the discussion, confidence, behaviours, dynamics, environment, the little things, the big things – what’s working what isn’t. As a result I discover theories to test.
Then something happened.
A guest lecturer arrived to talk about creativity in organisations, explaining that facilitating creativity requires boundaries and structure, and followed with some such activities. The group task was explained. In fact the task was over-explained and we were asked to repeat back what the instruction was which left me wondering why. Do you assume we can’t manage it? Teacher-pupil. Then off we went to do it, and returned to present to the others our demonstrable ‘creative problem solving’ skills and learning, fitting the brief and structure we’d be assigned.
But, one group got it wrong. They’d misunderstood the instruction resulting in a piece of work/learning ready to share, that was wrong. It was determined as wrong by: “so you didn’t do it. Would you like to tell the group about what happened here” …and I laughed whilst no one else did. The owner of that last statement had a facial expression that could go either way. Did I laugh because it was funny? Or because it was awkward? Or (on reflection) because surely that could only have been intended as light comedy? Suddenly I found myself in and watching the stuff I dislike about pedagogical attitudes that shroud pedagogical learning. Resultant humiliation. Born out of a lack of laughter, and awkwardness, and one person’s authoritative ability to make others look stupid when they fail to behave as desired or expected. In a collaborative learning session about creativity, the distance between them/us and lecturer grew, and the open space diminished. Or maybe that’s a complete mis-interpretation.
Whilst our reactions are just that: reactive, there are always different ways to react. No one can ‘make you feel’ stupid unless that’s what you already believe about yourself. Somewhere, in our personal iceberg of values, beliefs, attitudes, etc. As an automatic thought, in that situation, in that dynamic, in that environment, in that context, the scenario permitted you to default to ‘I’m stupid‘. My 3 course mates sat silently, looked down and across at each other, they didn’t laugh, they barely reacted and yet communicated so much. They didn’t stand up and say “we didn’t do that but we did this bit…” and share. They didn’t take a mutual position in communicating with the lecturer and own this interaction as 50% theirs (or 75%). The assumed position was that of less, smaller, and one of the 3 later privately explained she was “gutted that we got it wrong” and had a named person to blame. How did this happen? Emotion and learning definitely go together but like this, I’m not so sure.

Does this even matter? Maybe they’d learnt stuff and demonstrating this to everyone else didn’t matter. Have I spent this finger energy analysing something irrelevant?

It matters because it’s 2015 and we still have formal learning situations giving taught courses a bad reputation, contradicting the skills under development at masters level. This above scenario is neither mature or mutual. Criticality and reflexivity need nurturing and practicing to become fluent. Who’s responsibility it is to enable a learning relationship where these can thrive?

I’ve been in situations where the following have been exclaimed:
“teach me something then”
“I’ve been doing this for years I’m not sure what else I can learn”
“Oh you’re a hypnotist, hypnotise me then”
“Oh you’re a comedian, make me laugh then”
I’m not a hypnotist nor comedian but each demonstrate the point.
As Phil Wilcox writes here about the underlying meaning and connotation of language in questioning, I wonder what such statements communicate. Who’s responsibility is my experience? Who’s responsible for learning? When there’s talk of accountability, what is really being communicated?
Then there’s entrenched learnt behaviour within addiction “if you don’t do [demand] then I will have to [high risk behaviour]” and it’s thrown like a grenade which you auto-catch. The fear of personal responsibility and not knowing how to own it, because so many times it’s been taken away. Like the manager who hears your problem, takes it, and solves it. Like the advice-giver who knows “what you need to do”. Like the teacher who gives you the right answer because maybe you asked for it. You sat waiting for it, because it was quicker, it was easier. Job done.

There is room for something else.
Is there room for something else?

Sometimes Things Are Cyclical

At the beginning of this academic year I felt privileged to speak at an undergraduate careers conference at Derby Uni. In preparation I got thinking about my undergraduate self, some 10yrs ago (jeez!), and considered what advice I would give my green-self back then. As an excitable first year I snuck into a 3yr careers talk for a similar degree, during which four obvious options were presented by the speakers: Police, Probation, Prison Service, and Addaction. After that day there was one place I really wanted to work…and at the end of year 3 only that employer remain desirable. I remember clearly the Addaction speaker explaining encouragingly “you are all going to leave with a degree – what will make you stand out”. Immediately after that I went over the road to the CVS and ended up signed up for Childline – something inconceivable at the time.

As well as the chain of job-related events between then and now, my talk went along the lines of…
1. Set yourself a HUGG = huge unbelievable gigantic goal, then make it bigger, and don’t settle. Find your passion and spend time doing what you love.
2. Be you. Appreciate who you are and discover your strengths. Craft them, hone them. What is about you? Why would I employ you over everyone in this room? What do you do in your spare time?
3. Don’t expect to walk into a ‘graduate salary’. Be patient and work with presence. Make every job and every interaction count in building and shaping the professional person you are. There is something to be learnt from all of your challenges and all your experiences.

May be I should stop and read this blog.