Vogel Wakefield blog

Vogel Wakefield blog

May
15
2014

How should executive coaches respond when the role of business in society is contested?

Indignant, in any language.

Indignant, in any language.

I’m looking forward to the APECS symposium on the future for executive coaching on 18th June. As part of a group working on the social and business context for coaching, I’ve submitted a discussion paper. I found it a useful opportunity to pull together the themes I’ve been developing at this blog over the past few years. I’ve been receiving a number of requests to access the paper even ahead of the symposium, so I’m posting it here with the following caveat: my thinking on this is a work in progress rather than my last word. Feedback, critical or otherwise, most welcome.

Anglo-Saxon capitalism is experiencing a shift in the socio-economic paradigm by which we organise ourselves. In the period after the Second World War, a consensus was established around social democracy, with its emphasis on welfare, corporatism and mitigating inequality. As this became dysfunctional, it was replaced by a consensus around free markets, managerialism and shareholder value which, itself, is now being called into question by systemic failure. What replaces it will be contested. It could be a more benign form of capitalism in which organisations accept responsibility for greater stewardship of the public realm or it could be something much closer to fascism or something else again. What role, if any, should coaches play in helping executives both to recognise the shift and to play a role in shaping a constructive outcome?

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February
14
2009

Meeting behaviour in a recession

difficult meeting

A difficult meeting

 

As a practitioner in medialand, I learned the value of creative behaviours – ways to open up thinking and new ideas in order to develop better products.  I particularly admired a book called Sticky Wisdom by ?What If!, a group of consultants who – while challenged with punctuation – cut through the fog regarding innovation.  Sticky Wisdom demonstrates that creativity needn’t be the preserve of a particularly talented cadre of employees.  It can be cultivated through techniques and exercises to encourage freshness of thinking, open mindedness, and a determination to incubate abstract proposals to tangible reality.

The book seems to point to a more attractive way of being in organisations.  It provides ways to challenge the bureaucratic reflex which closes down ideas with criticism before they have even had a chance to develop, and it shows how to facilitate behaviours which display respect to one another.  So it is perhaps not surprising that organisations have drawn on creative behaviours and tried to apply them more widely.  As a freelance consultant, I have been struck to find the ?What If! model and others like it being adopted as templates for meeting behaviours in general.

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October
12
2008

Libraries are needed now more than ever

West End Lane, NW6 – home to a dozen cafes and a library

 

Camden Council in north London, where I live, is considering changing the ethos of its libraries – to allow people to bring in food and drink and use their mobile phones.  The intention is to make libraries more appealing to young people.

As both a library user and the parent of a young person, this strikes me as an unfortunate and misguided idea.  Libraries are one of the few public spaces in the inner city to which people can turn for quiet.  Swiss Cottage, in the borough, hosts one of the best public libraries in the capital.  Young people constitute a significant proportion of the users.  They go there to find space where they can give unashamed attention to learning.  It’s a place of thought, study and contemplation.  It is wholly unsuited to be a stage for mobile phone conversations or snacking.  Urban life provides an abundance of venues for these activities.  The library offers an alternative realm.

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October
01
2008

Thoughts on getting through turbulent times

Lehman Brothers staff, London, 16 September 2008

 

When I talk to people in the financial sector, I understand the meaning of the current turmoil being a crisis unprecedented in our lifetimes.  The experience of redundancy is  unlike that any of us are likely to have come across before.  With banking institutions disappearing at a rate of knots, others laying off staff in their thousands and many of the remainder uninterested in hiring, the impression of alternative options rapidly closing down throughout the world can only compound the sense of shock for those who have suddenly lost their jobs.

I’ve seen plenty of advice to bankers along the lines of: polish up your CV and interviewing skills, tap into your network and be prepared to move.  There may be a place for these tried and tested career tactics.  But I wonder whether it is adequate to the moment to rely wholly on this approach.  When people suffer a shocking loss, they typically go through experiences such as denial, anger and depression before they feel able to accept the situation and engage with it constructively.  The slightly frenetic character of well-intentioned advice on job search skills seems to me to risk encouraging people into activities which – for some of them, at least – may be counter-productive.

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