Diversity & Inclusion : how we’re making it worse

What’s it like to consider that our efforts to make ‘different’ people feel included are taking us away from what we’re trying to achieve?


Image Credit: Perry Grone : Unsplash

It’s time to pause. Just notice for a second, and see if what I suggest here has an inkling of truth to it.

We are creating more exclusion in our efforts to include.

What I see in my sphere of the world is people calling out causes that need to be fought for.

I see people defiant and definitive about the change that needs to happen to include those excluded. read more

Heart-led leadership : what does this mean?

In business — and in life — we have increasingly lived in our heads, operated from our conceptual intellectual mind. This can of course be incredibly useful to turn ideas into things and practical application but it’s not the full picture and over-use of it has led to us being off-balance. Now there is a groundswell towards heart-led leadership. But what does this mean?


Anhata — Heart Chakra —this chakra signifies the state of freshness that appears when we are able to become detached and to look at the different and apparently contradictory experiences of life with a state of openness. Photo credit https://theyogahub.ie/open-your-heart-chakra/

I was working with a client the other day and a theme came out of the session. We’d talked about organisational purpose, culture development, HR policies and leadership of self. The theme that emerged through all of it was that — unless underpinned by heart — none of them would get traction.

An organisation without a heart-led purpose will be blown by the wind, attracted by bright and shiny deals that may or may not be successful. They might strike lucky but, if there’s no heart behind it, success won’t last as the cracks start to show in relationships founded only on profit. A race to the bottom. Soulless. Unfulfilling. read more

Confessions of a recovering Type A

I’m a recovering Type A, maybe with a bit of Type C chucked in! 

Like alcoholics, I’m not sure my treatment will ever be entirely complete, but I’m on the right track.


I’ve always strived to achieve. To achieve with the hope of being ‘good enough’ for the parental figures in my life – be they at home or work.  Having always found good grades fairly easy to come by at school I expected the trend to continue in work, sometimes sorely disappointed by the different type of race being run there with politics and relationships suddenly part of the game – not just working hard to deliver ‘the work’. 

And some Type A is good, it gets stuff done, it pushes boundaries, it challenges beyond what we first thought possible. But, as with most things, too much and it becomes a weakness. It’s downsides begin to outweight the up.

When I look back on my days in HR I see a me who was shoulder to shoulder with the tough-minded commercial leader : “Well, if they can’t cut it this might not be the right place for them.”  “If their caring responsibilities are going to take priority over their job then this isn’t going to work.”  “10% growth again this year? Of course we can do it! *collective leadership battle cries* Are you in or out?”

Some of this was because their Type A matched mine – deliver more, more, more, with less, less, less. 

And this behaviour was underpinned by an unkindness, a lack of care, a lack of empathy.  I was so fixed on (supposedly) doing the right thing for the business, so aligned with these focussed, driven leaders – who were meant to be the role models to follow – that it didn’t occur to me that anything else was an option.  I thought it made me a “commercial” HR person – what all the books said you’re meant to be.


I did change my attitude and approach to my role in HR in later years, seeing the importance of holding that space of challenge and providing balance to the Type A leadership style, reminding leaders of the human beings involved – my kids played a big part in that development for me.  And my attitude and approach have definitely changed again since leaving corporate life. 

But the biggest shifts have come through working with my own coach, that this unkindness I showed towards others started from an unkindness towards myself.  That I believed I was only good enough, only deserved praise / attention / love if I was tough and resilient, if I showed I could deliver the results – be they A grades in exams or improved sales and profit, only good enough if I worked hard.

These messages we get as kids, they reverberate through the years. 

And so although I know I’ve come a long way in my journey from that version of me back there, I also know there is still more to do to keep myself grounded in believing I’m  good enough as I am.  From that self care comes a genuine care for others and the ability to make the right choices for the human beings in this world around me, more than the business results and hours worked. 

Last week I had another realisation in this journey of mine and this little phrase that came to me resonated strongly – “I think if I’m being a high achiever it makes me better, but it only makes me worse.”

If you’re on a similar journey you’re definitely not alone and I’d encourage you to keep going, keep exploring, keep understanding and empathising with yourself because from there comes understanding and empathy for others.  

With levels of mental health concerns rising things aren’t going to improve unless we start here.

And for my own latest exploring on this journey?  It’s brought me to Buddhism which has put a whole new mind-blowing spin on it.  I’m still processing a lot to be able to write on that.  But maybe for another post…

[Photo credits : http://members.cogwa.org/man-blog/do-you-have-to-be-a-tough-guy-to-be-a-man/ ; https://www.surrey.ac.uk/quality-enhancement-standards/collaborative-provision

#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
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