Creative coaching creates creative leadership

By Martin Vogel

In the knowledge economy, creativity is at a premium. But the same economy encourages lifestyles and working routines that crowd out creative impulses. This isn’t just bad for productivity, it’s bad for wellbeing. This presents a two-fold challenge for coaches: how to stay fresh and creative in how we practice; and, how to support our clients to nurture creativity in their likely busy lives.

It’s something of a paradox that modern life wrings us out. Digital technology, information abundance, the range of choices in how we use our leisure, opportunities for travel – these all offer rich stimulation to our senses and lower the barriers of entry to the means of creativity. But filling our minds with information and our leisure time with activity brings it own stresses, maxing out our capacity simply to process experience. The journalist, Oliver Burkeman, has written recently of how keeping up with the news has transformed from being a contained and relaxing ritual (reading a newspaper, watching the TV bulletin) to a civic duty that (thanks to inexorability of social media feeds) no longer has boundaries. The lost boundaries are not simply temporal they are boundaries of decency and decorum. Browsing the news today exposes us to abuse, hyperbole and dark thoughts about the state of the world – inducing in many a constant state of panic and insecurity. Hardly ideal circumstances for creativity.

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Leading from the right: understanding the divided brain

It’ll be ten years in October since Iain McGilchrist published The Master and His Emissary, his magisterial study of the division of the brain into left and right hemispheres and the impact of this division on Western civilisation. I began reading it in 2013 and have finished it in time for the tenth anniversary. Although McGilchrist writes well and lucidly, and although I devour books, I found this one a challenging read. I needed to take pauses from reading it to let its argument sink in. This isn’t just a reflection of my cognitive abilities. McGilchrist writes in ways that draw on both left- and right-hemisphere orientations. My struggle perhaps exemplifies his thesis that we have become inured to left-dominant ways of comprehending.

The outcome of 25 years’ polymathic scholarship, The Master and His Emissary cites 2,500 sources of neuroscience, provides a potted history of Western culture and philosophy from the Greeks to the present day, and displays refined critical appreciation of art, literature and music through the ages. Despite its challenging nature, it is widely cited in coaching and leadership circles, though often erroneously by those who take it to be a confirmation of pop psychology constructs of the left and right “brains” as having different functions: left for language, right for creativity, etc.

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On bringing your whole self to work

By Martin Vogel

wholeperson

Pilita Clark seems to have taken up a role in the FT, previously occupied by Lucy Kellaway, debunking fashionable corporate nonsense. Her latest piece takes issue with the trend to encourage employees to “bring your whole self to work”:

“This fatuous phrase has blossomed into ever wider use in offices around the world, where it masterfully suggests a company … is so anxious to please its workers it is happy to have them behave at work as they would at home. This is patently untrue. Companies want workers who are industrious and easy to manage. Workers, for that matter, are generally looking for companionable, civil colleagues who get on with the job at hand.”

Part of the problem that Pilita identifies is that nobody really know what bringing your whole self to work means: it covers everything from sharing your personal life with colleagues to bringing your dog into work. If her interpretation is true, it suggests that the notion of bringing your whole self to work has become so devalued through overuse as to be worthless.

This would be a shame since it has honourable roots in the human potential movement.

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In search of a good death

By Mark Wakefield

Ronnie's Funeral
Much to take care of before we reach our funeral.

Book review: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande.

I’ve just finished reading Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. I should declare an interest here, facing as I do my 60th birthday this year and having a close relative undergoing treatment for cancer. It is a sobering, important book that is shocking in its critique of the medical profession’s approach to death, made all the more powerful by the author being Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Gawande’s chief concern is with the “medicalisation” of death, a process that identifies death as the great enemy to be denied at every turn, regardless of the cost to the patient. So prevalent is this attitude that, as Gawande makes clear, it’s the patients who are as desperate to deny the inevitability of death as their doctors.

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