Never Work With(out) Animals Or Children by CSA Accredited Supervisor Wendy Robinson
I’ve had a couple of experiences in the last few days which have really made me think.
And re-remember that it’s not helpful to separate parts. For example:
- ‘Here’s me at work and here’s me at home’.
- ‘Here are the young people and here are the older people.’
- ‘Here are the humans, and here are the animals.’
And this has relevance to coaching supervision.
My first experience was in conversation with a supervisee. She was talking about a (non-coaching) work experience (team facilitation) and how she had brought along as a guest, a young person, for work experience. The host company had graciously agreed to have the teenager sit in on the session.
My supervisee was blown away by the impact this young person had. She quickly realised that her young colleague saw things, felt things, intuited things, that almost made her ‘seem wise beyond her years’. She was open, natural, vulnerable, potent. And the adults in the room were caring and welcoming towards her, and really open to hear her thoughts and feedback. Wow. I thought – ‘Isn’t it wonderful that the presence of someone who isn’t normally part of the status quo in organisations, has such a beautiful impact on the human dynamic within a work team?’
It reminded me of a tiny incident, about 20 years ago. I was concluding a week long, residential leadership programme, with senior leaders from an Oil & Gas company. We’d had a good week – long hours, we’d worked hard and played hard, lots of learnings, lots of good outcomes, but I was utterly exhausted (being the Introvert that I am). As we were starting to pack up our things, 20 people milling round the hotel conference room, saying their goodbyes to each other, a dog ran into the room. A Golden Labrador if memory serves me right.
(He was later followed by an embarrassed Mum and Dad and children, who were staying at the hotel and had wandered into our room by mistake…)
I will never forget the change of energy in the room.
It was like ‘normal life’ had burst in. Everyone became ‘normal’ – exclamations of ‘Aw, hello Dog!’ Or gentle chidings ‘What are you doing here?’ Petting of the dog. Smiles. Warmth. Laughter.
And that’s not to say that we didn’t have warmth, smiles, laughter, ‘normal’ behaviour all week! But….it was just different. A different feel to it.
It was like we were playing the parts – playing them really well – of how to be a senior leader on a leadership programme; how to be a facilitator on a leadership programme. Having ‘real conversations’, giving feedback, raising self-awareness, proving a point, dealing sensitively with defensiveness. Etc. Etc.
But….were we actually ‘playing roles’?
Do we learn to put on a work persona? To fit in to the culture round about us at work? To be ‘grown up’. To be a ‘good leader’, ‘good colleague’….to behave a certain way….to cope with things we don’t like or agree with at work, because everyone else is doing it? Or, on the other hand, to rebel against it, and become known as the ‘difficult one’, or the brave one, who says what he thinks?
There are schools of thought, in the world of Occupational Psychology and OD (Organisation Development) which talk of organisations being products of our imagination. We see them as tangible, solid things. Real things. But actually, when you think more deeply about it, they’re a construct we believe in and have bought in to. And constantly reinforce in our minds. What we perceive, we bring into being. And we believe in it.
What would it be like if we could truly be ourselves in the organisations we work in?
Do we play the role of ‘Executive Coach’? Believing we’re being ourselves? What would we say or do differently, if we were ‘unfettered’, if there weren’t organisational norms to unconsciously adhere to?
And the final experience I had this week was listening to Clover Hogan deliver her Keynote, the opening event of this years Coaching Climate Alliance Conference.
Clover is an activist, entrepreneur and global speaker. She is 22 years of age. She has been an activist since she was about 16 years old. She is, in my opinion, utterly amazing.
You can read about her on the links below, and listen to her TedTalk (nearly 2 million hits) on the link below.
And the reason I link her in to my Blog today….
She talks to leaders in boardrooms, she has a way of understanding our world, the climate crisis, the corporate world, adults’ fears, denials and despair, and she understands the power of stories.
The stories we tell ourselves.
We are unique as a species in the use of our imagination and our ability to tell stories; our ability to ‘entertain fictions’. We create our world, in the stories we tell, the stories we listen to, the stories we are moved by, the stories we believe in.
We can therefore change the story.
We can be “drunk on the Corporate Kool-Aid” or we can start a new story.
She says: “Imagination is a radical, powerful tool.” “What would it be like to create a realm beyond what we can see? ….To exercise that gift every day….”.
It’s not comfortable to realise that we’re operating within what I call an ‘Old Paradigm’. And if we’ve lived within that story for four, five, six decades, it is entirely and utterly understandable.
Perhaps the Coaching Supervision space is the safe space to experiment with, ‘try on’ a different worldview. It’s where I personally gain clarity and confidence. We are ‘the instrument’ of our work. As coaches and supervisors we must ‘fine tune’ ourselves first. THEN, we do our work. And see what new story is possible.
A Bit About Clover:
“At 19, I started Force of Nature with the mission to mobilise mindsets for climate action. Our team has since delivered programmes to thousands of young people, and moved decision-makers across business and policy.
We’re helping our community channel eco-anxiety into agency; develop the skills to make a difference; and inspire change at the systemic level.”
Our global youth perspective supports businesses to be the leaders in climate and sustainability by shifting mindsets in the room. We offer training sessions, intergenerational forums, partnerships, and more for companies who are ready to provide youth a seat at the decision-making table.”
To close, a couple of marketing mentions from me:
If you’d like to explore the possibility of 1-1 supervision with me, I’d love to hear from you on firstname.lastname@example.org
Find me on LinkedIn
Subscribe to Wendy’s Newsletter
‘Til next time….Go Well