#cawconf16 – Keep a green tree in your heart…

Here at the Coaching at work Conference 2016 and the opening keynote is with Hetty Einzig about green trees and VUCA.

Hetty’s starting by acknowledging that coaching is still a young profession and in an ever-moving environment we need to maintain a good capacity to think to help others make meaning.  And an explanation of VUCA. Volatile. Uncertain – Even so-called stable institutions can feel woobly in the recent changes – long-standing businesses, government, religion – what do we believe in now? What are our reference points?  Where are our rocks?. Complex – entangled and entwined, or intertwangled. Ambiguous – what we first see might not be the whole picture, there’s ambiguity in orgs that stops us seeing the whole or being connected.  If we don’t feel part of something, connected, it can trigger our threat response.IMG_0502

All the VUCA means the world can feel tumultuous – a roller coaster, a ship on stormy seas….. And it’s our feelings that will signal to us that this is how it’s feeling.

Impact of VUCA – anxiety vs fear, control vs authoritarianism, stress inhabits us => Perverse Organisations.

Insight about anxiety – the closer the anxiety is to us and our world, the more we feel anxiety. Brexit an example where the use of immigration as a fear-based campaign tapped most into those for whom immigration is a close-to-home reality.

4 types of anxiety :

  1. Existential – we depend on others to survive, especially as babies.  Existential anxiety gets triggered easily in a VUCA world.
  2. Ambivalence – wanting to individual, and reliant on others (connection back to existential)
  3. Meaning Making – we’re meaning-making creatures “why?” as our first question as children.  Our desire for knowledge is how we learn. We also have a desire to turn away from, to turn a blind eye. Denial. In  VUCA world we can’t always know and it can cause anxiety
  4. Outside coming Inside – terror entering our homes, first on TV and now through phones and SoMe but we’re not wired to have that level of continuous and persistent terror from events n the news, etc. We’re porous, or absorbent, so we take the emotion of these situations on board.  External literal horrors become internal metaphorical horrors (ref work of George Lakov).

“Taking back control” is a knee jerk reaction to VUCA e.g. banking industry increasing reporting from twice to four times a day to track and measure more.  Authoritarian beliefs that someone “up there” is going to have the answer.  We close down, we follow the rules, keep your head down and we’ll be OK.

Perverse Organisations – Susan Long – showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way which is unacceptable.  Maybe instead it should be Perverse Cultures.

Features of the perverse mindset:

  • Individual good before collective good
  • Incapacity to see what’s really going on, denial
  • Having instrumental relations – people feel like cogs in a machine, interchangeable, not valued
  • Engage others in the group think, gang mentality, complicity or self-deception becomes institutionalised – hold this as a thought given there are limits to coaching and we may be coaching in perverse organisations

What if instead of crazy intertwanglement we saw trees in a forest – even in unstable physical environment. What if we saw the fluid ecology of the forest and could carry that with us instead? What if we learnt to loved complexity instead of trying to code it, classify it, tidy it up, box it in and lock it down.

This is one of the challenges for us as coaching comes of age.

New generation of coaching – partnership (commitment & collaboration), systemic mindset (complexity & interdependence), secular spirituality (values & meaning), purpose (contribution to global challenges).

How will coaches step into this responsibility?  Step onto the stage.  We can no longer position ourselves as the Switzerland of the helping professions.

It’s difficult to feel OK about our dependency as human beings when we’re told we need to be independent – we need to embrace the duality of life – it’s both dependency & interdependence. Not one or the other.

Everyone on their feet for a short mindful breathing exercise with a tree metaphor left people feeling relaxed, bigger, calm.  Hooking into : Joy – key antidote to anxiety, Values – knowing what we stand for, Language – metaphors & narrative, Embodiment – engage love & will.

Positive drivers for change at work –

  1. sheer force of numbers of millennials, women and third actors (baby boomers are still in work and have contributions to make) – we’ll reach a tipping point where these are the majority of the workforce
  2. new ways of doing business – desire to repair harm done to the earth, to regenerate, more taste for risk and experimentation through pilots, resilience – staying well for the long term – positive deviants

Focus on Care, Compassion (including in the heat of battle), Courage (as much about endurance, not acting & sitting still as it can be about acting & doing).

This has been live blogged from the Coaching at Work Conference and I’ve done my best to represent the session accurately as I heard it – and of course I’m human so I might have captured the bits that resonate with me more.

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