On bringing your whole self to work

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.

Continue reading “On bringing your whole self to work”

Engage a coach to save humanity from itself

Humans are a clever species. Look at the world we’ve constructed. The very name homo sapiens describes us as wise. But somehow we’ve come to live in a way that is inimical to our nature and destructive of our wellbeing. The organisations in which we work are part of the problem. They are incapable of maintaining bonds of trust with their employees, and obstruct our efforts to sustain our closest relationships.

This is the thesis of A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon which attempts to explain the science behind our fundamental need for human connection. Written by three professors of psychiatry, it was published in 2000. In my layman’s reading, its scientific authority has been overtaken by more recent neuroscience. But its date of publication is significant. At the start of a new century, the book aimed to debunk the mythology – whether psychodynamic or behaviourist – which shaped our understanding of emotions through the 20th Century. Insofar as these mythologies remain influential today, A General Theory of Love remains a relevant read. Indeed it seems prescient in its cultural criticism of how Western societies have developed so as to deny our physiological need for attachment, and the social maladies that thereby arise.

Continue reading “Engage a coach to save humanity from itself”

The subtle balance between intuition and rationality

Rodin's The Thinker

Review of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, is a dense read which took me several weeks. But it was highly rewarding – challenging the mental constructs that I bring to coaching but reinforcing my conviction that the economic paradigm that has come to dominate corporate life needs to be supplemented with a more social one.

Continue reading “The subtle balance between intuition and rationality”

Book review: Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut

When humans evolved into seals

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1985 novel Galápagos is a Darwinian satire on the mess humankind causes for itself as a result of having evolved big brains. Set in the late 20th Century, it charts the breakdown of society and the near extinction of the human species — caused by a cocktail of hedonism, financial crisis and viruses. The twist is that the story is narrated from the vantage point of a million years hence, from which perspective the culture and behaviour of 20th Century humans seems inexplicable. The few surviving humans of the future — a small colony that settled on the Galápagos islands — have evolved a more stable equilibrium with their environment with small brains, minimal language and a simple life in which the only concern is when to dive into the ocean to catch fish.

The novel has a fragmented narrative but is brimming with ideas. Reading it in the wake of the financial crisis of the early 21st Century, it resonates more strongly possibly than it may have at the time of publication. Vonnegut evokes the rapidity with which society can break down when people no longer believe in the value of money: a catastrophe to which we came closer than most of us care to imagine.

Continue reading “Book review: Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut”

Stress at work

All too much?

The charity, Mind, is running a campaign on mental health at work.

It’s offering resources to help employees manage stress at work. Mind emphasises the need to recognise when you are feeling and stress and your ability to take action about it, however small. In most jobs, one has some autonomy to manage things without reference to anyone else; making the most of this gives you some sense of control and helps you to stop feeling the victim of other people’s demands.

Continue reading “Stress at work”

Why coaching works

Coaching reaches parts of the brain other approaches don't
Coaching reaches parts of the brain other approaches don’t

During these past three months, I’ve resumed my Masters studies in coaching – which partly accounts for the lack of posts here.  Aside from earning a living and maintaining family life, most of my spare capacity has been absorbed by keeping across the reading.  So it’s high time to put the studies aside and renew my acquaintance with my blog.

One of the things that strikes me is how my attitude to coaching has subtly shifted since I was last here.  I’ve always paid a lot of attention in coaching to my clients’ conscious sense of self.  I often tend to explore people’s values and aspirations, and what it would take to achieve better alignment with one’s values.  What this often flushes out is that we tend to hold a range of values that may contradict each other – such as the perennial tension between work and personal life.

Continue reading “Why coaching works”