How I work
First and foremost I take time to get to know you – your organisation, your questions and your hopes and concerns. No two projects are ever the same, and everything I do is entirely bespoke – created specifically for your situation and context.
Once we agree to work together, I will integrate a variety of approaches (below) into any programme or project design. I regularly introduce these individual elements in one-off talks and taster workshops – both public and in-house. Alternatively they go much deeper when they form part of longer term development programme or change project.
I’m a big believer in emergent planning. This means starting a project with an agreed plan in mind. Then as our relationship and shared understanding of the situation develops, it is helpful to regularly revisit starting assumptions in the light of new information and continually refine the focus and approach as we go – rather than blindly following a plan that no longer fits reality.
Please contact me if you would like more information on any of the areas below. People who work with me know that I am usually very happy to talk about any of them!
Action Research is an approach to learning and change that deliberately blurs the roles of researcher and research subject. This approach encourages people to become active and curious researchers into their own lives, professional practice and organisations.
Action Research emphasizes participative, questioning and non linear approaches to consulting and organization change.
Action Inquiry is widely used in professional and leadership development and encourages leaders to continually ask themselves probing questions about their practice and to reflect deeply on what they do and why they do it. This then forms a basis for trying out new forms of action in their lives and work.
It is possible to apply this basic approach to individual questions (e.g. coaching and leadership development), group questions (e.g. team, group, project development) and whole systems (e.g. organisation development and culture change).
In more complex projects we can also connect questions at these levels – so that for example leaders reflect on their own practice as they try to lead change in groups and organisations.
Many leaders seek to master change and influence while rarely considering what power and change actually is. As the Action Researcher and social scientist Kurt Lewin famously said, ‘there is nothing as practical as a good theory’.
I emphasize systemic and complexity based views of change, contrasting them with more mechanistic or rational-linear approaches. I also introduce frameworks about power that help leaders and employees make distinctions between subtle or invisible forms of power and those that are more obviously enacted in organisations.
The result of exploring a new frameworks on both change and power can be a radical shift in people’s willingness to experiment, take risks, speak truth to power and recognise much greater potential for agency and creativity within their existing roles.
Systemic constellations work suggests that stuck or problematic patterns usually exist at the level of the whole system and can rarely be effectively understood at the level of the individual. In other words although something may seem to be entirely ‘our problem’, it can be really helpful to explore the wider system (team, organisation, network) in which we find ourselves.
An approach to change that manages to acknowledge the whole range of systemic elements and forces in play across space and time, is particularly powerful in offering insights and solutions.
I have trained with leading organisational constellator Ty Francis in this method, which uses physical and embodied representations of stuck or challenging professional and organisational issues to highlight hidden dynamics and potential resolutions. It often feels a great relief and a genuine revelation to investigate organisation issues this way.
In terms of Leadership Development I draw extensively on insights from research suggesting that all adults go through discreet and recognizable stages of development throughout their lives. Each stage tends to revolve around a certain pattern of thinking, doing and being – and leadership development often involves becoming more aware of one’s pattern, noticing – perhaps for the first time – the limitations, and then creatively experimenting with new ways of thinking, doing and being with greater flexibility, richness and responsiveness.
Presentation and exploration of these models, combined with ongoing reflective and inquiring approaches to one’s own leadership in action, is the basis for my work on the Ashridge MSc programme which a HBR article in 2007 referred to as ‘path breaking’ and ‘transformational’.
I am also qualified in the use of psychometric tools (level A and B British Psychological Society), and specifically OPQ, MQ, CCQ, 360° feedback and MBTI.
Many professional and organisational struggles can be usefully understood in terms of tensions between wholes and part, and centres and edges.
For example, individually we may wonder how to bring all the different parts of our self into a leadership role or professional sphere. Some parts seem welcome, others get left out. We may also feel more or less aligned with the core values or central principles of the organisation we work in.
At group or team level, issues of exclusion in terms of whose voice, input or style is welcome and whose is marginalised are the source of much conflict and limit creativity and innovation.
Finally at the organisational level, the question of how to align different departments, divisions and groups so that they harmoniously support a single, central purpose rather than competing with one another is perennial challenge.
Mandala is an Indian term meaning literally ‘centre’ and ‘boundary’. It is strongly related to Western systems thinking, offering both a theoretical and experiential way to explore key organisational topics and issues in radically new and insightful ways.
I offer this work through coaching, consulting, introductory workshops and ongoing training. By combining ideas, discussion, practical and experiential exercises people quickly discover new ways of thinking about familiar issues with increased clarity, sensitivity and creativity.
All the approaches to personal and organizational change that I use assume that our intellect has but one role to play within change, and that successful learning interventions must find ways to engage all our parts (e.g. emotional, physical, spiritual, imaginative).
Thus in all projects – whether large or small – I seek to integrate what the researchers Heron and Reason have called an ‘Extended Epistemology’ and what I more simply call – ‘The many ways we know things’.
As well as opening up powerful new territory for learning, there is a suggestion that mainstream business approaches tend to marginalize the realm of the emotional or the creative, both consciously and unconsciously. Bringing such approaches in, respectfully and in tandem with conceptual / intellectual approaches is in itself a significant change intervention.
I have considerable experience over many years in finding safe, fun and productive ways to introduce ‘multiple ways of knowing’ activities in ways that groups find highly insightful and worthwhile if also at times appropriately challenging.
There is a growing interest in the role of mindfulness practice in many areas of modern life and an increasing awareness that it has much to offer contemporary questions of work, leadership and organisation.
I have been practicing meditation for nearly 20 years and have been integrating insights from my experience into leadership and development work for the last 10. Mindfulness and meditation practices can be useful for managers and leaders as a simple tool for developing greater relaxation, awareness and a more integrated sense of presence.
They can also be ways to quickly and powerfully open up deep dialogue about aspects of working life and organisational culture that are often hard to discuss openly. I am very interested in combining these two aspects – I feel that many current approaches to mindfulness do not encourage a deeper exploration of our day to day organisational cultures and habitual activity and are only scraping the surface of what this work could mean for the way we run organisations and think about work.
I introduce practices of meditation and presence as a basis for discussing the nature of burnout, ambition, leadership, responsible decision making and sustainability. There is greatly increased depth and openness of conversation when presented from the experience of simple meditation.
I am particularly interested at this point in developing training programmes for executives using mindfulness and meditation to support leadership development over a medium to longer term time.
Reflective Practice maximizes and supports opportunities for reflection and learning within the busy activities of daily work life. It draws attention to how rarely most managers and leaders openly embrace opportunities for real learning, feedback and personal reflection, preferring instead to minimize the potential discomfort in opening up their world views and habitual approaches.
There are a number of methods that I use in service of introducing and deepening the reflective practice of executives – such as personal journal keeping, group dialogue, peer support and more. The aim is both to enable new insights and avenues, and also to leave participants with their own tried and tested tools for personal reflection on an ongoing basis.
Increasingly my work introduces a deep consideration of those aspects of self, group and society that exert a strong influence energetically, but which for the most part are not yet conscious.
Many of us are both driven and limited by unconscious projections – relating to what Jung calls the shadow.
This theme appears in the groundbreaking work on Money of Peter Koenig, augmenting my wider work on new approaches to economics, value and wealth (personal and societal). We use what Koenig calls ‘reclamation work’ to unpick the deep and usually unconscious dynamics that shape individual and collective (e.g. board, organizational) relationships to money. This work helps us to see the unconscious projections we make onto money and thus radically and powerfully enables people to make the steps they need in careers or professional decisions.
I use related ideas when supporting would be activists, change agents and social / organisational innovators, who long to take some sort of leap into radical action, but feel limited by apparent constraints of their organisational, cultural or family systems. Framing some of these blocks in terms of opportunities for mid-life development, or for understanding more deeply the very systems we aspire to change are often fruitful and energising.