On getting it wrong

At its edges, the world of coaching is influenced by memes that originate in new age thinking. This isn’t entirely to be deprecated. Coaching’s porousness to diverse influences helps make it adaptive and less susceptible to the orthodoxy that eventually stifles professions. But occasionally an idea threatens to break through that needs to be stamped on if we are to maintain rigorous foundations for our work.

One such that I have encountered this year is the comforting notion that “you can’t get it wrong”. I think this translates as: “Don’t worry about messing up – there’s no single right way to do something, so just go ahead and imagine that the way you are doing it will meet the exigencies of the situation.”

I have come across this in relation to the practice of mindfulness and with respect to how to practice as a coach or supervisor. Before long, this kind of thinking will be infecting organisations and letting leaders off the hook for all sorts of things. The idea has a beguiling appeal and sounds like it’s in the same terrain as constructs that are helpful to dealing with a complex world. But, in fact, it’s opposed to them.

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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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