Archive for February, 2011

Attended an interesting talk yesterday over on the Whiteknights campus, where John Hendry introduced Prof Keith Grint of Warwick University, who spoke around his paper “Leadership and the Sacred: Separation, Sacrifice and Silence” to an audience of faculty from the Business School. Yiannis Gabriel, of the School of Management at Bath, provided commentary as response.

The paper explored our ideas of leadership, between ‘heroic’ and ‘distributed’ poles, and via the etymology of the concept he expanded on three aspects of the sacred (seperation, sacrifice and silencing opposition and/or anxiety) as they refer to the concept of leadership. Keith’s presentation was generously dotted with examples old and new from literature, culture and history, and it made me think of some of the later work of Gregory Bateson, who was also interested in the importance of the concept of the sacred in our understanding of the nature of living systems.

Food for thought.

As an aside, it’s been a long while since I went from the Greenlands campus in Henley to Whiteknights at Reading , and the first time I’ve used the library there. The students all seem so young! Or do I just feel old?


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Attended a really interesting half-day session on Systemic Constellation Coaching today as part of the Henley Coaching Forum. John Whittington was the facilitator, and not only was he really good, the concept shone through as being a way of reaching something very fundamental about the relationship of (invisible) patterns within organisational systems. There were some memorable one-liners from the session, which was suitably experiential. “There’s only what feels true”, for example, rang nice-sounding bells for me.

This was on my mind anyway this week, following the preliminary recommendations of the mysterious “Reshaping” project that the School of Management has been the subject of by the powers that be at the University of Reading and the Business School.

I see the use of the principles of the idea of systems constellations (which I have covered in various ways in some previous posts) as being a really exciting opportunity to improve my practice, so I’m eager to know more. Exploring “stuckness” is close to my heart.

Other highlights of the day included spending time with some of the lovely Exec MBA students, who are in for their Managing Financial Resources module. This has been a bit of a stressful time for (many of) them, with their first graded assignments only recently submitted, and the pressure of the MBA hitting home. On the other hand, I hope that they feel that this whole experience really does work on several levels.

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Back from the PhD Experience conference in Hull. There were three days of themed sessions with about 100 people in attendance.

It was a pleasant surprise to find so much common ground in the emotional states of people doing their doctoral studies, despite differences in subject matter (though I think most people were researching in the social sciences). The topic of procrastination and of “imposter syndrome” were discussed, but there were plenty of positive messages, too.

Highlights for me:

1. Giving my first conference paper, albeit a short one, was a good experience. It struck me how different this is from the type of work I do at Henley, where there is generally more of a workshop atmosphere, stops and starts and interaction. Here, I was supposed to talk, and they were supposed to listen. I learned that a good (and rehearsed) start is important.

2. Feeling that the central messages of my slot made people think. These were: that we reflect through telling stories, that stories only have meaning when they venture out and bump up against other people’s stories, and that a good model for reflection(or reflective learning in Personal Development) needs somehow to acknowledge the “inward-outward” necessity.

3. Spending time with several fellow travellers, and hearing about their research experiences, helps me in my own.

I also got a lot out of Ann Cunliffe’s session on research perspectives, and thoroughly recommend anyone looking for direction in social research to read some of her stuff.

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