Professional Supervision NZ

Wendy Talbot PhD

From time to time I see or hear something that I think is worth sharing. This blog serves this purpose. My hope is that what interests and shapes me personally and professionally may be of interest to others. Please contribute to this conversation and share your comments and responses below.

Links to PDF copies of Blog posts

Why I Want to Change the World (Jul 2019) PDF

Find Your Work Purpose in 5 Minutes (Jun 2019) PDF

How I Work to Create Adventurous Conversations (May 2019) PDF

Let’s talk about diversity and inclusiveness (Mar 2019) PDF

Let’s talk about Heart-led Leadership (Dec 2018) PDF

The ordinary, everyday ways punishment culture can undermine care (Sep 2018) PDF

Culture of care or punishment? (Jun 2018) PDF

Let’s talk about values: Care, Community, Creativity and Love (May 2018) PDF

Let’s talk about feelings: A relational leadership response to emotion (29 Mar 2018) PDF

Responding to the need for relational leadership and values based organisational practice (13 Mar 2018) PDF

 

23 July 2019 

Why I Want to Change the World

I was having a conversation with a marketing consultant recently. After an elaborate description of my business activities, her response was, “So you want to change the world?” I was taken aback by the thought of such a lofty claim. That was not something I could imagine myself standing on a soap-box proclaiming to the world. But I must say that her words didn’t come out of nowhere. I did actually say those words in a round-about kind of way. It was just that hearing them summarised and reflected back in that way was not easy to accept.Those words continued to play on my mind over the ensuing few days until I reached the point of saying to myself, “Actually, I do want to change the world”.  Here’s why –

Click here to learn more

I do want to contribute to a world where:

  • people succeed in business by co-operating and not competing (or at least competing in a co-operative way)
  • work can be a place of sustenance and wellbeing
  • everyone’s contributions count
  • people and values become the bottom line
  • people have time to think, rest, create, innovate and play
  • power is used productively to build relationships based on mutual care and support rather than individual self-interest, self-importance and self-promotion
  • people can look out into the world for meaning and answers as well as to themselves
  • people can embrace diversity and be excited by what it can add to their lives
  • people care, support and encourage each other
  • blame, shame and punishment are eliminated (or at least directed at the structures that perpetuate inequity and marginalisation)
  • the good, the bad and the zillion things in-between can be acknowledged because when people understand and acknowledge situations they can take action to improve them
  • everyone fosters the idea that Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as Maori envisioned it, can be good for us all.
  • people recognise that colonisation is still at work and evident in the structures of our institutions and legislation because then those structures can be dismantled and dispensed with
  • people embrace the idea that holistic, collective, relational ways of living, much of what Maori culture is about (and many others too), are good for us all.
  • an inclusive both/and approach is adopted more readily than a divisive either/or.
  • people are more curious and interested in others and the world
  • people take a more appreciative view
  • people are more reflective and critical of the social, cultural and political world that shapes their lives, past and present, so they can have a say and take action without limitations or punishment
  • the gap between rich and poor is closed
  • equity is the universal driver of all endeavour
  • the only hate-talk ever uttered is directed at structures that are abusive, divisive or marginalising and never at people, their beliefs and values

 

Why then, did I find it so hard to stand on my soap-box and say “I want to change the world”?

Because this is not an individual pursuit. It is not all about me and I can’t do it on my own. Everything I hope for, and believe, I have drawn from the wisdom and contributions of others. The answers are all out there in the world. They mostly come from indigenous cultures but they are there in Western cultures too.

There is a move in the business world to have a unique selling point (USP) that has you stand out from your competitors. Because I stand on the shoulders of others, I find it so hard to say that what I offer is unique. What I can say, is that I’ve carefully selected a range of ideas that I believe are useful and effective. Perhaps what is unique, is how I have selected and assembled the collection and how I package them for sale.

If there are others out there doing it too. Great! Perhaps we can cooperate and collaborate. There is plenty of work to go around.

So, in summary, if I can join people in adventurous conversations that take steps towards a more connected, relational and civic engagement with others, then, yes, I do want to change the world.

Want to join me?

16 June 2019

Creating a Work Purpose in 5 Minutes or Less

It’s no secret that I am wary of one-size-fits-all approaches but I don’t dismiss them either. They can provide useful formats to think about work and life but they are not for everyone. I approached Adam Leipzig’s Ted Talk – How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes – with the usual scepticism coupled with open-mindedness that I apply to most ideas.

It was a helpful exercise, particularly for someone who is inclined towards verbosity. Sometimes succinctness is important too.

The idea is that you can crystallise your life’s purpose by responding to the following 5 questions without taking much time for thought.

Click here to learn more

Who am I? What do I do? Who do I do it for? What do those people want and need? What do they get out of it – how they change as a result?

I thought I would share mine.

Who am I? Wendy Talbot What do I do? Relationship consultant Who do I do it for? People in workplaces What do those people want and need? To be valued, productive, belong and supported to succeed What do they get out of it – how they change as a result? Wellbeing and satisfaction

What would yours say?

Here is a link to Adam Leipzig’s talk

 

Reference

Leipzig, A. (2013) How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes. TedxMalibu. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/vVsXO9brK7M


16 May 2019

How I Work to Create Adventurous Conversations

What do I do? I get around the table with people who want to get along better with colleagues, get on with the work and get on with succeeding.

Together, we nut out what people want, we then nut out how to best get to that destination.
Together, we work out what the obstacles are and how they have got in the way. We also work out what they have got in the way of. This question often uncovers important visions and goals that have been obscured. Once uncovered, they can be reclaimed and reactivated.

Click here to learn more

My role is to facilitate these conversations. I craft the framework and develop the activities to bring to the table. I ask the adventurous questions that help bring the visions and goals to life.

I get around the table with people who want to get along better with colleagues, get on with the work and get on with succeeding

I am wary of one-size-fits-all approaches because they rarely fit well for all.

In effect, I want people to select and assemble their own collection of visions, values, principles and practices that help them change their worlds.

People know what they want and why but they don’t always know how to get there.

Getting around the table and crafting ways of breathing life into organisations and creating wellbeing for staff, customers and the wider community are the kinds of adventurous conversations that drive me and my business.

So, yes, if I can join people in organisations to have adventurous conversations that foster more connected, relational and civic engagement with others. I do want to change the world!

If I can join people in organisations to have adventurous conversations that foster more connected, relational and civic engagement with others. I do want to change the world!

Why?

Because it breaks my heart to see people exploited, demoralised – to have their spirit, passion, wellbeing and energy – destroyed at work to see workloads climbing, excessive work hours taking over lives and the satisfaction of achievement getting more and more out of reach

I am passionate about social justice. To me, it is an injustice that professional integrity is being compromised at every turn; that the espoused values and policies of the organisation couldn’t be further from the living out of them.

I’ve been there and it is demoralising and debilitating. I’ve also been in workplaces that are antithesis of this. These are workplaces where people are valued and appreciated; where contributions are acknowledged and encouraged; where the priorities are right way up; where people matter most and every one works for the greater good.

These are the kinds of organisations I set up Adventurous Conversations to work with.

There are workplaces where people are valued and appreciated; where contributions are acknowledged and encouraged; where the priorities are right way up; where people matter most and every one works for the greater good.

21 March 2019

Let’s talk about Diversity and Inclusiveness

Two events in two days. Both left me inspired and heartened about the positive direction some organisations are taking with regard to diversity and inclusiveness. I am delighted to share some of the gems I took from these moments.

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Opportunity for inclusiveness through tragedy

First, it is important to mention that both events were held in the week following the tragic shootings in two Christchurch Mosques. I have nothing but awe for NZ PM Jacinda Ardern and her response to this tragedy. I hold enormous hope that the spirit of our nation will continue to become more caring and values-based through her leadership. However, I do have to disagree with her words “this is not us”. Unfortunately, while individualistic, punitive, neo-liberal, approaches to institutions, business and politics continue to dominate our society, the hatred and violence will continue to “be us” to some degree.

Unfortunately, Aotearoa does have a long history of violent assaults on community groups. The assault on Māori at Parehaka and the Night Raids on Pacific people are two infamous examples. And, sadly, there are more. Encouragingly, the recent events in Christchurch, and the violence that have impacted so many Muslim people and communities, have sparked the kind of outrage that leaves me with hope that people may engage in more examination of ‘conscious’ and ‘unconsious’ biases and move towards more inclusive ways of relating. This segues nicely into Event 1 where this kind of examination was called for.

Event 1 – Celebrating Diversity

The occasion was LinkedinLocal Hamilton. The topic that drew me to attend was Celebrating Diversity. Guest speakers included Rogena Sterling PhD, Jovi Abellanosa, Ellie Wilkinson, Meleane Burgess and Stefan Doll. I decided that the most eloquent way to respond to their presentations was through the following rescued speech poem composed of some of the speakers’ words that captured my attention:

Unity with diversity

We need to know our bias, to be more inclusive

Personal connection

Get to know people on a personal level

What are our similarities?

Create a safe space to be who you are

Connect

Belonging

Appreciate you for who you are – for your contributions

One-size-fits-all is not appropriate

Pathway to leadership is through service

Connect through hearts not mind

Building respect

Doesn’t matter what you know

How much you care will get more out of your team

Commonalities and differences 

Provide opportunities to celebrate and share

Unconscious bias – understanding our motivations

Conscious bias – not getting interviews because of your name

Inclusive leadership

Civic engagement

Tolerance means putting up with

Equality means equal treatment – sameness

We are not the same

Human Rights

Dignity for the human person and moral value

Basic human right

Basic humanness

For all without distinction

Diversity is critical to community

Unity within diversity

Everyone’s life is interconnected

Reciprocity of enabling the dignity of each other

Unity with diversity – I like that

‘Isms’ exist – racism, sexism, ageism

Open space for people to come together

As I witnessed these moving and invitational words, some of my own emerged:

Humanness unites us

Diversity invigorates us

Commonalities interconnect us

Leadership progresses us

Management enables us

I encourage you to read the rescued speech poem alongside the one composed of Simon Moutter’s words, featured in my previous blog (see links below), and his 2018 Reeves lecture. Together, these sentiments resonate with the work of Adventurous Conversations. If you want more heart and inclusiveness in your organisation, contact us today.

Click here for a PDF of blog and link to the Reeves lecture

Click here for the link to Simon Moutter’s 2018 Reeves lecture

Event 2 – A staff member endorsement

I turn now to the second event, another business gathering. I was fortunate to strike up a conversation with a staff member from ANZ Bank. She asked me about my work. As I spoke about my relational and values-based approaches to leadership and culture, she responded with her experience of recent changes at ANZ.

She told me about the ‘speak out’ culture that was being promoted. Other measures included a focus on inclusiveness, abandonment of sales targets and encouragement to be involved in community service. All of these initiatives were inspired by CEO, David Hisco. She spoke of the positive difference these developments made for her personally and for her team. And, unsurprisingly, all of this has led to increased productivity and profitability for the organisation and increased passion and commitment for her personally.

Well done David Hisco, and those who challenged and inspired you, for Adventuring into more relational and values-based organisational culture and leadership. It works.

References

Behan C. (2003). Rescued speech poems: Co-authoring poetry in Narrative Therapy. Retrieved from www.narrativeapproaches.com.

Hopper, D. (2019, 20 March). LinkedIn post retrieved 21 March 2019, from https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6514053388513214464/?commentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Acomment%3A(activity%3A6514053388513214464%2C6514217631904518144)

Moutter, S. (2018, 2 December). A heart-led approach to business [RNZ audio podcast]. Recorded at the 2018 Reeves Lecture. Retrieved from https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/reeves/audio/2018673385/in-the-2018-reeves-lecture-spark-ceo-simon-moutter-explores-how-his-firm-is-transforming-into-one-led-from-the-heart 

Talbot, W. (2018, 4 December) Let’s talk about Heart-led leadership. Blog https://www.adventurousconversations.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Blog-entry-4-December-2018-Lets-talk-about-Heart-led-Leadership.pdf  

4 December 2018

Let’s talk about a heart-led approach to business

The rescued speech poem, below, draws on the words of Simon Moutter, Chief Executive of Spark NZ, spoken during his 2018 Reeves lecture. His words tell an inspiring story of heart-led leadership which he has embraced and evolved over recent years. These ideas resonate closely with the work of Adventurous Conversations.

If you want more heart in your organisation contact us today. Here is the poem:

Click here to learn more

A heart-led approach to business

Days of businesses measuring themselves only by the numbers are behind us

Awakened, responsive leadership is needed more than ever

Getting the best out of our people is critical

Requires more than a rational mind-led approach

Lead with our hearts

Encourage people to move towards each other

Begin by uniting our people behind a common purpose

Setting a long-term direction

Including everyone

Demanding respect

Awakened leaders respond with a heart-led as well as mind-led approach

As much emphasis on values and behaviours as on systems and processes

Steer their organisations toward a higher purpose.

 

People want to be highly engaged in meaningful work

A clear sense of purpose

Ask tough questions

Demanding that we lead with our hearts

Refuse to accept a dichotomy between businesses who make money and businesses who do good.

Do both of those things

 

Being responsive

Adapting your leadership approach accordingly

Maintaining authenticity, listening deeply and getting things done

Real emphasis on values and behaviours

Think deeply about creating an inclusive culture for our people

 

Inclusivity is about how people are made to feel in their workplace

Feel they can bring their whole self to work every day

Involves taking a heart-led as well as mind-led approach

 

Drew together people from across the business to re-look at our company purpose and values

Empowered our people to rewrite them

Our people took over

Groups formed

We looked closely at our language

Swearing and aggressive language were unacceptable

Stopped always using the All Blacks as the go-to example of a successful team

Dropped the war analogies

Ended up with something far more meaningful as a result

 

Embracing Te Reo Māori

Brought a whole new level of meaning

Far more heart to our company purpose and values

Hits them at a deeper level and speaks more to their hearts

 

We should strive to be a truly diverse organisation

It’s simply the right thing to do

It is about fairness and respect for our people

Encouraging New Zealanders to move towards each other

 

Diversity and inclusion

Makes things better

Better for all of us

Gives us all the space to be ourselves and respectfully allow others to be themselves

Diversity is hard

Differing view-points challenge

Not comfortable

Almost always produces a better result in the end

Enriching.

 

Accept unconscious biases at play.

A platform for difficult conversations to be had in a respectful way

For every voice to be heard

 

When you lead with your heart conflict can be harnessed for good

You don’t just hear opposition

You hear the anxiety or frustration behind that opposition.

Don’t look to silence people

Look to create ways for them to express their views constructively and respectfully because they know they will be genuinely heard.

Look to find a way through it together by harnessing the different view-points

To create a stronger more open and more engaged productive work-place

 

Caused us to completely rethink what leadership means

Role of leaders is very different

Redefine it as your contribution to the business and the mastery of your craft as a leader

Still set clear strategies and execute well

Don’t tell people what to do.

Squads decide for themselves and get on and do things

Role-modelling is the most powerful force

Be authentic

Say it how it is

Transparency exposes talent

 

Lead with our hearts

Encourage people to move towards each other

Click here for the link to RNZ podcast of Simon Moutter’s lecture
References

Behan C. (2003). Rescued speech poems: Co-authoring poetry in Narrative Therapy. Retrieved from    www.narrativeapproaches.com.

Moutter, S. (2018, 2 December). A heart-led approach to business [RNZ audio podcast]. Recorded at the 2018 Reeves Lecture. Retrieved from https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/reeves/audio/2018673385/in-the-2018-reeves-lecture-spark-ceo-simon-moutter-explores-how-his-firm-is-transforming-into-one-led-from-the-heart

19 September 2018

The ordinary, everyday ways punishment culture can undermine care

This Blog post describes two recent personal examples that highlight the ways in which a culture of punishment can infiltrate attempts meant to foster care and support. When I encounter these kinds of situations, and they are surprisingly frequent, I usually experience a range of responses including sadness, concern and annoyance.

Sadness because they continue to recur seemingly without awareness of the potential effects. Concern because the effects are potentially serious and can significantly undermine health and wellbeing. Annoyed, not with those who make the comments, but with the enduring cultural sanctioning of punishment measures that enable them to continue to wreak havoc in people’s lives.

This blog attempts to expose some of the ways that punishment infiltrates situations which are intended to generate care and support. In particular, the focus is on the weapons that a culture of punishment has available in its arsenal.

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These are shame, blame and judgement and are often wielded in ways that undermine care and support. Having spent more than 25 years in the Counselling profession, I can say with some assurance that shaming, blaming and judgment are unlikely to contribute much to mana enhancement or wellbeing. In fact, they stand more chance of contributing to demoralisation and diminishment.

Shame, blame and judgement are often wielded in ways that undermine care and support

Here are two examples where punishment and its weapons infiltrate day-to-day interactions and relationships in unassuming but troubling ways.

Example 1

A group in my local community, founded to encourage environmental care and protection, and one with which I proudly associate, put a message on social media asking people to cast judgement on the following: Who do you think is at fault? 1. The people who drop litter or, 2. The companies that make single-use packaging on items we buy? This, to me, is a group with worthy and charitable intentions unintentionally inciting shame, blame and judgment.

Shaming, blaming and judgment are unlikely to contribute to mana enhancement or wellbeing.

Example 2

I regularly encounter social media messages aimed at raising awareness of mental health and suicide. They come with an expectation that I will circulate these, through my networks by using ‘like’ and ‘share’ functions. Yet, these messages too often point out that only a very small percentage of readers will care enough to read the entire message and bother to pass them on. Implicit in this is the idea that if you read and pass on you belong to the very exclusive 5%-10% of the population who care. Such messages, circulated in the name of care and support, simultaneously incite judgement, blame and shame on the other 90-95% . And so the cycle continues.

As I write this, I am aware of the potential for me to contribute to this cycle. Exposing these examples, comes with the risk that those who create and circulate these messages may experience shame, blame and judgment. I hope not. My hope is that in highlighting these practices, I am not taking the moral high ground and instead sharing some hard-won learning that I am still working at refining in my own life. I highlight them because they are often taken-for-granted and invisible. Making them visible makes it possible to attend to them.

Raising awareness helps make it possible for weapons of shame, blame and judgement to be identified and managed more mindfully. In so doing, competitive, divisive and abusive treatment of fellow human beings can be lessened. The examples may illustrate seemingly small violations but when widely circulated the collective and incremental harm can be significant for those they target.

The collective and incremental harm can be significant when seemingly small violations are widely circulated.

With awareness of punishment and its weapons lurking in our lives through our thoughts, emotions, expressions, media, social mores and other means we can decide whether to lay down these weapons and engage in more care and support. After-all, to what extent can punishment, judgment, shame and blame enhance relationships and personal identities? What kind of culture do they create?

To what extent can punishment, judgment, shame and blame enhance relationships and personal identities?

So what can be done? Hopefully, awareness can be generated without producing more blame, shame and judgement in the process. This is something I am working to refine.

Perhaps judgy, shamy, blamy bits can be edited out before ‘liking’, ‘sharing’ and publishing. This way, the caring and supportive bits can get widely circulated without being undermined.

What does this have to do with leadership and organisational culture? Everything. Messages like those I have illustrated are regularly circulated in organisations through all means of communication and they impact on organisational culture and staff health and wellbeing. How might a spirit of care and support be more alive in your personal and organisational relationships?

I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

18 June 2018

Culture of Care or Culture of Punishment?

Following on from my last blog that introduced Max Harris’s work, I have been giving considerable thought to values-based politics. This fits so well with the values-based practices I have been developing for my work with organisations. There are a couple of recent examples that have refined my thinking further.

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The first involves me personally. A local citizen from my home town set up an initiative which she called “Pick it up now”. She arranged for a community beach clean-up which was advertised through community radio and Facebook (Sanderson, 14 June 2018). The event was a tremendous success, with over 80 local people turning up to walk along the coast and pick up rubbish. It was a beautiful Winter’s day and a great opportunity for exercise and community spirit. As I joined with neighbours in picking up rubbish, I thought about the idea of community and how it belongs to citizens. So often, I hear the ‘them and us’ position being expressed. For example, “They, ‘the local Council’ should keep our town and reserves clean and maintained. We ‘the ratepayers’ shouldn’t have to”. Of course, the Council do have some responsibility to contribute to this work. However, the citizens of the town can work in partnership with the council. Rather than an either/or position, a values-based culture involves a both/and spirit of partnership. People, Council and other parties can collaboratively care for and support each other and our environment. A values-based culture involves a both/and spirit of partnership.

People, Council and other parties can collaboratively care for and support each other and our environment.

The second example is drawn from a recent media story. It involved a sales person making racist comments to a colleague about their client. The comments were unintentionally recorded on the client’s answerphone. This understandably caused considerable offense to the client, who spoke out in the hope that accountability would be taken. The story was discussed by a panel on a national television current affairs program (TVNZ, 10 June 2018). One panel member said, “That salesman needs help”. The panel chair responded, “He probably needs the sack doesn’t he?”. What this highlighted for me, are two very different positions – a position of care and a position of punishment. I began to speculate the human, emotional and economic costs and benefits of each position. Take a moment to consider this. The latter tends to be the most familiar and dominant response. Yet, to me, the former would potentially involve the least costs and the most benefits. There seem to be very rich opportunities for education and restorative outcomes that are likely to exceed the emotional, human and financial costs to the company, employees and their families of firing the employees. On the program, it was reported by a company spokesperson that the company and salesperson had made full and unreserved apologies. Furthermore, the company committed to provide a company-wide (including the sales person concerned) cultural and historical awareness program. This seemed to me to reflect a culture of care and support. A few days later in an online news article (TVNZ, 13 June 2018), it was announced the sales people concerned had been stood down pending an employment investigation.

I don’t know the circumstances, beyond what I heard and read in the media reports. However, I can’t help but think that the steps of apology and awareness education reflects a culture of care, whilst standing people down and embarking on an employment investigation reflects a culture of punishment.

What is your response to this example? As a leader, how would you respond to this situation? Is your position one of care or punishment?

A stance of care is cheaper and more effective in the long-term, can contribute to values-based political culture and a more caring, safe community.

I continue to notice many examples that involve decisions between punishment and care. Currently, the NZ Labour Government is confronting the question of whether to build more prisons to house an ever-burgeoning number of prisoners, or change ways of managing offending and offenders? The first involves doing more of the same, which clearly isn’t working. The second requires culture change and challenging ideas like ‘prison keeps the offenders locked away and the community safe’. A recent example of a culture of care being adopted is Housing New Zealand’s change of policy from evicting state house tenants who use ‘P’ to offering help and support. Let’s not leave it to ‘them’ – the Government or other institutions – to fix things. As citizens or visitors in this country, we can decide whether we take up a stance of care or a stance of punishment. There is research and examples to show that a stance of care is cheaper and more effective in the long-term, can contribute to values-based political culture and a more caring, safe community.

References

Sanderson, J. (14 June 2018) Pick it up now Facebook Site. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?   q=pick%20it%20up%20now%20kuranui%20bay%20beach%20clean%20up.

TVNZ On Demand. Marae. (10 June 2018). Retrieved from https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/marae/episodes/s2018-e12

TVNZ One News. (13 June 2018). Most read: Rotorua car salesmen stood down over racist ‘clever Māori’ remarks; auto dealer     says team ‘devastated’. Retrieved from https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/most-read-rotorua-car-salesmen-stood-down-over-racist-clever-m-ori-remarks-auto-dealer-says-team-devastated

23 May 2018

Let’s talk about values: Care, community, creativity and love

Yesterday I was fortunate to be referred to Max Harris’s You Tube clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqHcio3dfug 

As I watched and listened I was immediately inspired and moved by the ideas Max discussed.

Click here to learn more

For many years I have held concerns about the neo-liberal operations of our political system in Aotearoa which has rippled through our institutions. This has produced very real effects for people and ongoing colonisation. The political system fosters very Westernised individualism and competitiveness with every possible facet of our society becoming market driven and profit focused. The effects are that people have become products and money and power feed competitiveness and greed. People, community, values and health have all been affected and the bleak penal, health and mental health statistics support this. Loneliness, isolation, stress, poverty, divisiveness, fear, judgment, blame and shame have very real effects for people. Currently, it is hard to see how bi-culturalism is evident or demonstrated in many legislation, policies and practices of government, institutions or organisations. It may be espoused, accompanied by good intentions, but frequently not so well demonstrated.

Over recent months, several of our politicians have stated that neo-liberalism has failed, but, so far, alternatives have not been proposed. Until now, the backlash to these claims, usually made by media, has been the threat of returning to the past and to pre-neoliberal politics.  For a long time, I have believed that if we address hegemonic power and put people and community values before profits, the country would prosper. Happy, healthy, connected, valued people stand more chance of generating wealth (of all kinds) than those who are isolated, exhausted, sick, stressed, abused and demoralised. Research supports this.

Max Harris has proposed some alternative ideas and visions for turning around the political environment of Aotearoa. These begin with values – care, community, creativity and love. I can’t agree more. These reflect the work Adventurous Conversations Ltd was founded to develop with organisations who seek to embrace values-based, people-centred organisational cultures. Here are some other links to interviews of Max discussing his vision for our Aotearoa political environment and related areas including our penal system. I hope they provide some encouragement and inspiration for you.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201839964/the-new-zealand-project-confronting-the-country’s-challenges

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/2018638660/how-can-we-change-the-world-max-harris-and-shen-narayanasamy

http://www.writersfestival.co.nz/look-and-listen/podcasts/Page1/michael-king-memorial-lecture-a-new-politics-for-nz-max-harris-2017?platform=hootsuite

http://ondemand.facetv.co.nz/watch.php?vid=9ab1edadf

http://ondemand.facetv.co.nz/watch.php?vid=2e9194fce

http://ondemand.facetv.co.nz/watch.php?vid=2789ba5c6

http://ondemand.facetv.co.nz/watch.php?vid=7dbf8fa76

29 March 2018

Let’s talk about feelings: A relational leadership response to emotion

“Let’s talk about feelings”. Sadly (pun intended), this is not an invitation commonly issued in business or organisational contexts. Yet, emotions feature in all relationships to a greater or lesser extent. These inevitable human responses tend to present significant challenges for people in organisational relationships, particularly leaders who have a responsibility to manage issues that arise.

A clue as to why emotions can be challenging can be found in the ways emotions are viewed.

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If viewed as belonging in the private domain of individuals and governed by clearly defined, cultural prescriptions that dictate ways, times and places they can be expressed, it makes sense that emotional responses that do not fit with the ‘norm’, will be viewed as problematic. Responses such as, “You are over reacting” or “too emotional” or “irrational” or “making a mountain out of a molehill” tend to reflect this approach. The person and emotion are often seen as a problem. This private individualistic view invites a more private response. In these situations, emotions, and those expressing them, can be ignored, negatively judged, minimised or shut down.

If viewed as belonging in the private domain of individuals and governed by clearly defined, cultural prescriptions that dictate ways, times and places they can be expressed, it makes sense that emotional responses that do not fit with the ‘norm’, will be viewed as problematic.

Emotions that are not addressed effectively can present challenges for organisations. Discontent that is not appropriately acknowledged and addressed can be exacerbated and seriously undermine organisational success. So too, can expressions of enthusiasm and commitment. Furthermore, leaders often lack skills to effectively manage situations that involve emotion, particularly when expressed strongly and when they subscribe to this view of emotions as problematic.

Emotions that are not addressed effectively can present challenges for organisations. Discontent that is not appropriately acknowledged and addressed can be exacerbated and seriously undermine organisational success.

There are other perspectives about emotions on offer. One alternative approach views emotions as inevitable expressions of experience that present, to varying degrees for varying reasons, in relationships. This relational approach views emotions as “always expressed in relation to someone or something” (Hornstrup et al., 2012, p.52) and understandable and valid. Different people respond differently depending on morality, values, experience and a range of other cultural and contextual factors. A range of emotional responses are considered acceptable because the multiple factors involved generate multiple emotional expressions. Emotions are a form of communication, created in cultural and social contexts and conveyed in response to these contexts (Hornstrup et al., 2012). The idea of emotions as communicating a range of social and contextual values and experiences, invites more of a relational response. A relational response involves using appreciative curiosity to generate the meaning and significance of the situation that the emotional response relates to.

The idea of emotions as communicating a range of social and contextual values and experiences, invites more of a relational response.

I prefer to think of emotional expression as a reflection of passion, commitment and importance placed on the situation by those expressing the emotion. I have found that people who express significant emotion tend to care a great deal. It may be preferable to value these people in your organisation than see them as a problem. Of course, there may well be varying degrees of emotion that presents in less obvious ways that may not indicate less care, passion or importance.

Whatever the situation, the leadership task is to invite safe, respectful, appreciative conversation that creates space to generate meaningful understanding and consider possible further steps. These steps may involve no further action beyond acknowledgment and validation of the emotion. Or, they may require referral to relevant personal or professional support. Some kind of organisational change or development may be necessary. It is important to appreciate and respect that people may not wish to engage in such a conversation at a particular time or space, particularly if they also subscribe to the idea that the emotional expression is problematic. There may also be embarrassment or shame to deal with. Whatever the situation, leave the door open for further discussion and support.

the leadership task is to invite safe, respectful, appreciative conversation that creates space to generate meaningful understanding and consider possible further steps.

There are a range of possible options to consider depending on the situation and a collaborative relational approach can determine these. According to Hornstrup and colleagues (2012), emotions are a way of communicating and connecting and an expression of morals, ethics and values that are worthy of understanding and appreciating.

If you would like to know more about relational leadership or ways to address emotions effectively in your workplace, Adventurous Conversations Ltd has a range of services designed to help. Contact us for an appointment. We offer a complimentary, introductory, half hour session to discuss how we might work together. Check out our website. Download a brochure. You can phone, email or book online. The following book will provide further reading.

Reference

Hornstrup, C., Lochranza-Peterson, J., Madsen, J.G., Johansen, T. & Jensen, A.V. (2012). Developing relational leadership: Resources for developing reflexive organizational practices. Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute.

13 March 2018

Responding to the need for relational leadership and values based organisational practice

I have just finished listening to a podcast interview with a lead government advisor, economist and Secretary to the New Zealand Treasury that has left me heartened and inspired. This is one to share on social media, I decide. I have attached the link here, too.

Click here to learn more

https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/2018635582/measuring-whatmakes-life-worthwhile

I appreciate that these developments are actually happening. It seems that the more I encounter stories like this, appreciation becomes more readily accessible to me. I like that. Also, the more inspirational podcasts, You Tube and TED talks I listen to and share, the more I seem to receive through my social media sites and get to pass on. This reciprocity is an unexpected benefit of my temperamental relationship with Social Media. Engaging with stories and projects that foster human and environmental care has recently become more of a focus for my chosen work.

Engaging with stories and projects that foster human and environmental care has become more of a focus for my chosen work

Sharing and contributing to ideas that inspire and motivate me is one way of forging relationships with others who are similarly inspired and interested. There are other benefits too. I am revelling in the inspiration gained from discovering international movements of people motivated by human and environmental care and responsibility. It is moving to encounter stories of corporations and institutions dedicated to these priorities. The research is clearly showing that investing in these priorities is producing fiscal profits for these organisations and creating work spaces people really want to belong and contribute to.

Sharing and contributing to ideas that inspire and motivate me is one way of forging relationships with others who are similarly inspired and interested. 

I briefly illustrate, below, some of the different philosophical and theoretical positions that can shape organisational cultures. I have categorised them as two approaches to succinctly simplify these complex ideas. For more extensive and scholarly reading see the literature listed below.  My focus is on the tertiary education sector, because this has been my most recent work environment and the area I have studied most closely. However, the ideas can be applied to any organisational context.

The first approach, is the neoliberal or capitalist approach to education developed over the last few decades that have reconceptualised learning institutions as businesses, operating for the purpose of producing goods and profits. Students are considered to be consumers and education is a commodity. This is an individualistic view that holds people personally accountable for success which is defined by performance measures such as grades and evaluations. This commodification of education has occurred in an environment that is politically powerful. Government provides funding for education and that funding is strictly conditional and constantly under threat of being withdrawn or reduced. The mantra is ‘more for less’- more productivity for less resources. Meeting performance, reporting and surveillance measures along with standardised one-size-fits-all educational delivery approaches are required to receive funding. Hierarchical power is at work, dictating the terms of education and the sanctions imposed and this is generally overseen by managers using top-down managerialistic approaches.

The second approach is a relational or poststructuralist approach that subscribes to the view that experience is produced in relationship. People create and draw on social scripts or discourses that provide the rules or expectations for doing relationships. There are multiple perspectives that can be taken up and all are relevant and valid. These perspectives are dynamic and shaped by political, cultural and contextual influences. Relational approaches involve critical reflection on relationships to consider what discourses people are subscribing to and to collaboratively find more mutually productive and satisfying ways to relate. Responsibility for managing power is mostly taken up by those with authority so that all voices, expertise and experience can be taken into account in decision-making processes. Power is available to everyone (in albeit limited ways) and seen as a potentially productive resource. Relational leadership is one approach that leaders and managers can draw on for organisations founded on these approaches.

Over the years, I have encountered leadership practices that draw from both of these approaches and have complemented and conflicted with my relational stance. It is still common to meet neo-liberal, managerialist approaches and their particular ideas about leadership and power relations. Sadly, in these situations it can also be very difficult to critique or challenge some of the detrimental effects associated with these approaches without being positioned as troublesome. Yet, more relational, inclusive, ethical and critical approaches can help foster energy, passion, commitment, professional integrity and workplace satisfaction for staff that contribute to organisational success.

Adventurous Conversations Ltd emerged out of enduring hope and knowledge that there are ways to engage people and produce organisational cultures that are people-centred and values driven and that these values can provide the fabric for organisations to flourish and succeed. It makes sense to me that appreciating staff, treating them as the most valuable resource the organisation has, drawing on their knowledge, expertise and experience and involving them in decision-making must enhance the organisation. When people are valued and involved they are better positioned to contribute more productively, be committed and engaged. Adventurous Conversations works with organisations to foster workplace cultures that are life-giving and productive for people and profits.

Adventurous Conversations Ltd emerged out of enduring hope and knowledge that there are ways to engage people and produce organisational cultures that are people-centred and values driven and that these values can provide the fabric for organisations to flourish and succeed. 

It follows that the benefits of such an enterprise must outweigh the costs by creating and maintaining workplaces that don’t need to restructure, pay out, recruit and retrain staff. The tide is turning. The word is out that neoliberalism and capitalism have failed (see links below to Ardern, Bolger & Peters). As Hersted and Gergen (2013) claim, “the command and control organization is a thing of the past … a radical conception is demanded … Needed are effective practices of collaboration, empowerment, horizontal decision-making, information sharing, networking, continuous learning, appreciation, and connectivity” (pp. 29-30).

“the command and control organization is a thing of the past … a radical conception is demanded … Needed are effective practices of collaboration, empowerment, horizontal decision-making, information sharing, networking, continuous learning, appreciation, and connectivity”

Relational leading is an approach that seeks to address these needs and Adventurous Conversations has been established to facilitate this work.

References

Davies, B. (2005). The (im)possibility of intellectual work in neoliberal regimes. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 26(1), 1- 14. doi:10.1080/01596300500039310

Davies, B., & Bansel, P. (2010). Governmentality and academic work: Shaping the hearts and minds of academic workers. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 26(3), 5-20.

Davies, B., Gottsche, M., & Bansel, P. (2006). The rise and fall of the neo-liberal university. European Journal of Education, 41(2), 305-319.

Hersted, L., & Gergen, K. (2013). Relational leading: Practices for dialogically based collaboration. Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute.

Web resource links

https://www.odt.co.nz/news/election-2017/ardern-slams-capitalisms-blatant-failure

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/capitalism-is-a-blatantfailure-ardern/ar-AAtMp1j?li=AAaeXZz&ocid=spartanntp

http://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/the-9thfloor/story/201840999/the-negotiator-jim-bolger

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/94770147/winston-petersdismisses-irresponsible-capitalism-of-other-parties-with-neweconomic-policy

https://livenews.co.nz/2017/10/20/goodbye-maggie-baggage-ripneo-liberalism-in-nz-1984-2017/

Adventurous Conversations Ltd work with organisations to develop values driven, people centred, relational and collaborative culture and relationships. Call, email, or book a no obligation 30-minute introductory consultation if you want to turn the tide towards more relational organisational culture and approaches

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