Posts Tagged ‘Personal Development’

Following my argument in Part 1, which was expanded on and clarified by some very welcome comments, I would like to conclude this brace of postings by setting out what I hope will stand as an opening statement for a “Henley approach” to Personal Development. It will need further thought and development, of course.

The Henley position needs to achieve two things. In the first instance, it must be of practical use to the managers who come on our programmes. In other words, it must serve individual goals and the unique, individual purpose behind each person’s study. Secondly, I believe it must go beyond just complementing other modules on the MBA; it must unify the individuals’ purposes with two others, namely the purpose of education and the purpose of business (as in the figure below). No small task.

In Part 1 I argued that where Personal Development is mentioned on an MBA programme at all it tends to manifest either through external factors or internal ones. Where PD has been placed on the MBA in response to external factors (competitor offerings, accrediting body recommendations, assumptions about the job market and demand for preparation of students looking for jobs, and so on…) it is accompanied by a strong sense of being “bolted-on”, of consisting of cumulative add-ons. These extra components are like a buffet that a person may visit if they want (repeatedly, if they so wish) but, equally, they can ignore them too.  The rhetoric of this external version is fundamentally externally focused. The programme will shout very loudly about these opportunities and will showcase them, linking them closely to the idea of the “career leap” implied by the degree offered. Yet that integrative link is by implication only and this external model is actually highly individualistic, short-term in outlook and unproven.

Contrast this with the kind of approach to Personal Development on an MBA where it has emerged from internal factors. These factors are those that are (or should be) also intrinsic to the philosophy of education ascribed to by the MBA provider. Such an approach is essentially a position arrived at privately, and one would not expect any one Business School to look to, or to try to out-do, any other in this regard. Although the need to look over the neighbouring MBA School’s garden fence is not there, the vocational roots of business education would suggest a more harmonious relationship between what hiring organisations need and what the institution stands for. But even this may not be enough, as few hiring organisations ever take the time to consider why they are in business in the first place (beyond making money, which is just an abstract goal). Some, not all, organisations have become as equally short-term in their thinking as some, not all, MBAs, and just as eager to jump on band-wagons.

At this point it should be noted that while the majority of MBA programmes at least cater for PD via the “add-on” approach, many do also already have elements of both the external and the internal positions. It seems that these days catering for the external factors is important (the minimum), and catering for the internal ones is desirable, if you can get it into the course. Neither, however, constitute a position to PD which unites all three elements of purpose that I mentioned earlier.

So my suggestion for the Business School is to go a step further and ask three fundamental questions about all these different forms of purpose (and I have suggested a few possible answers in the diagram above).  I think this is to go beyond the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) definition of PD as “a structured and supported process undertaken by a learner to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development” and allow Personal Development to be an idea that pervades every aspect of Management Education. This is therefore a meta-position on PD, and I think it that supports the role of the “question” as the primary route to learning. At the heart of PD is curiosity, both practical and philosophical.

All of the modules on the MBA should have this in common, as this is the appropriate mode of enquiry in adult education. Managers are hardly ’empty vessels’ which need to be filled up with content. If anything, the problem is the opposite. Managers are so full when they arrive that they can only achieve change by first freeing up some space. They have to adopt an open-minded position to learning and doing, and the first and most important step is becoming aware that this is so. This is difficult because the prevailing experience outside the Business School (back at work) is one of knowing, of having answers, of finding solutions (and quickly) and of never questioning assumptions beyond those which stand in the way of the problem being solved.

Finally, in my opinion faculty too must be part of the unification of these three sets of purpose. This will be tricky, as universities are not usually cultures that excel in being comfortable with ambiguity, or in working across disciplines, let alone in trans-disciplinary thinking. Faculties can be silos, and programmes can be merely products. But the challenge is there, and I hope that we will understand that all of these things are inextricably linked.

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I’ve been thinking about what could be Henley’s official “position” on Personal Development. If this sounds like a simple question to you, then allow me first to disabuse you of that thought; it’s actually quite problematic.

In this post I’d like to try to explain why and then, having addressed that, in the second post I will move on to stating several tentative ideas about PD which, I think, state where we are taking the subject, positioning it not only in relation to the MBA education experience but extending it as a statement of something much bigger.

Many Business Schools have some kind of position on Personal Development. Usually the only way to find out what that is by seeing what they say about it in their marketing material or what they reveal about it via their programme information. Any position on PD could be said, I suppose, to come predominately either from without or from within. ‘From without’ means that a school has probably surveyed what it considers to be its market and come to the conclusion that this market demands PD, or something like it, be a component of the course (i.e. be one of the course’s benefits). Alternatively it could also be that because so many of their competitors seem to be think it so then they, too, must follow suit.  This is a compelling position among MBA programmes entangled in rankings battles and it ensures that PD will be pluralistic, plastic and will often rely on non-teaching staff supplemented by “expert” input bought in from outside. There’s an overlap with career-related skills development and an advocacy of competency-based frameworks, an extensive use of psychometrics (and resourcing), and advocacy of coaching and mentoring support. Actual integration with the MBA curriculum is minimal when it is mainly the external that influences PD because assessment is expensive and integration of behavioural skills to academic learning outcomes is hard to do without a deeper philosophical intent. The net result of this position is often a strong marketing message but a weak return on an MBA’s investment because the intellectual energy of the course is focused on the rest of the curriculum. PD is demoted to a very few measurables, such as how happy the participants were with the CV writing classes, or the presentation courses, or the mock interviews, or the mentor programme, or just simply with the time taken for job placement (and, of course, level of salary). No connection to the education is really needed to measure the effectiveness of the PD in such a case.

The other position for PD, whereby it comes from within, is often driven by the institution’s culture, history and type of clientele (i.e. the sort of students and the sorts of organisations they work for). It is also much rarer in the market. Where a School has taken the position on PD that it is intellectually significant there may still be many of the manifestations of career assistance and advice that one finds in externally driven schools, but there is something else, too. PD is part of the curriculum itself. This may be implicit in practice-oriented forms of assessment that require a reflective component, and it may be explicit in PD being a course in its own right. To take this position is to acknowledge not only that PD is not merely ‘training’ and ‘skills-building’, but is an epistemic member of the family of domains such as Marketing, Finance, Leadership or Strategy (albeit a much less researched one).

Anyone wondering what the hell I’m talking about can compare and contrast two examples. The first, which I would class as illustrative of the “PD from without” school is an Exec MBA from a little-known institution, London Business School.  The second, much closer to my “PD from within” idea, is the Exec MBA at Aston University in Birmingham.

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The philosopher Alan Watts was adept at stating certain truths that would otherwise remain just beyond our grasp (at best), or deliberately hidden from us (at worst). Because Personal Development is often seen as a process of understanding oneself through study of the self, in many people’s minds it is just a type of introspection. And though people may or may not think that they like to introspect, they are frequently willing to subscribe to the idea that the personality is just the set of qualities which one possesses (or doesn’t) and a pre-set series of potentials which one does (or doesn’t) live up to.

This belief has spawned an industry of self-help literature and know-how guides and gurus, and their proliferation is either evidence that the world is really like that, or that it is not. I take the latter view, and I think there is a serious flaw in the idea we hold in our minds when we are thinking about how we come to be what we are.

“Trying to define yourself is like biting your own teeth”, said Watts. And the point is, surely, that we cannot define ourselves in relation only to ourselves;  it’s an impossibility. What we need, in order to find our own outline, are other people’s outlines (and they need ours). So the first point I wanted to make is that our existence and consideration of “self” is entirely a matter of our relations with ‘the other’.  This is true for individuals and it’s also true for organisations, and it’s true for nations… for any concept which is imbued with identity and culture.

The second issue is that we do not seem to be able to talk our way out of this easily. When we come to attach meaning to ideas as if they were “things” with definable qualities, we are caught up in doing what the Polish-born philosopher and scientist Alfred Korzybski famously referred to as confusing the map with the territory. The truth is that our beliefs and values have no physical reality, neither in personal nor in business life.

This week I have been working with MBAs on their Personal Development. As part of this we looked at the process of learning, through the lens of Kolb’s experiential cycle, and then through the secondary lens of Honey and Mumford’s learning styles (Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist). We also used the labels developed by Belbin to indicate behavioral preferences when working in a group or team (Plant, Shaper, Co-ordinator and so on…). How easy it was to begin to label oneself as being one or other of these “things” (and someone else, by implication, as not). What one is tempted to do is then to identify oneself as these things. When someones says “I’m a Teamworker” or “I’m an Activist”, they are in fact jumping across several levels of abstraction without knowing it. There is “me” and there is my “description of me”, and they are not the same ‘thing’ at all.  Our problem, in short, is our addiction to nouns. We love giving names to things to separate them from the background mess of not-things, and this is so that we can analyse them and, perhaps, infer from that one, tiny part something about the limitless, unknowable rest.

My assertion that we should be very wary of substance does not accord with much of what one will meet inside an MBAprogramme. Subject Matter Experts like to perpetuate the concrete and the measurable over any system of abstractions. To them, their subject “matters”, is material in fact, and any kind of musing which suggests otherwise is a bit of an anathema. I know this because often I notice that this is how I see it, too. Why not? We’re not only very good at it (at imposing order on the world), we have been able to become incredibly productive as a result. And yet I can’t help being drawn to the idea that the aim of education should be to leave everyone involved (faculty and student alike) in a state of some confusion and flux about what it is they are studying, and what it means to “study” at all, and so on.

This may just be one of those “out there” blog postings that hints at something under the surface but does not capture it, and having kicked the idea around a bit then just carries on in the ordinary, day-to-day life – until there is another glimpse, where it resurfaces in another way.

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I was contacted by a journalist who is writing a piece for a national newspaper on the use of social media by business and management students in their job search. It’s an interesting and very current topic, I guess, but is it true that managers have moved online in their career development?

My answer(s):

moved online? Yes.

Online to sell themsleves overtly? Only partly, and then mostly only because that appears to be what everyone else is doing, or what everyone else says everyone else is doing; following the crowd (not necessarily a bad thing). In summary here is how I see it:

1.       To an extent, there is still a digital divide according to age in the use of social media by Business and management students.

2.       Younger users of Social Media can navigate the myriad emergent means of communication with ease, and may use these as their primary way of keeping in touch with others, finding information or just “getting things done”. Any boundaries between these different platforms are what these users are looking to break down, and the fluid nature of the virtual self and identity is embraced.

3.       Older users (which covers most of those who are undertaking an MBA, particularly in Europe) are still predominantly and primarily using email to communicate the important stuff. They like LinkedIn because they are reasonably comfortable with the idea of transferring their (probably over-long) paper chronological resumes onto the site. Although many managers are fascinated by what technology can do for their productivity, with regard to protecting their self-identities, boundaries between different platforms are what they are seeking to put up, not dissolve.

4.       LinkedIn itself is seen by most mid-career MBAs as a way of building potentially useful networks of people they already know or already have common ground with (this is reinforced by the sense of community that Business Schools try to create). These contacts are often seen as being part of establishing credibility in their identity in their current job environment. They may appreciate that LinkedIn is also a shop-window, and that the hype says that many companies now recruit there, but this is not usually the main reason they are there. A benefit of social media has they appreciate rather more is the way in which interesting content can be shared and made accessible (e.g. links to magazine articles, papers etc.).

5.       The types of jobs Henley MBAs are moving into are often not those recruited by answering job ads, online or not. However, the ability to connect with head-hunters in a more direct route is interesting and it’s possible that they will use Social Media for this more in the future. LinkedIn has emerged as the place to do this, I would say (much more so than Facebook).

6.       A lot of older people feel that Twitter is a great answer to a question no-one has asked. This may be changing slowly, but see points 2 and 3 above.

7.       My advice for anyone looking to use social media to boost their career prospects?

a.       Golden rule: always give something before you expect to get something back.

b.      Be consistent and ethical in your online presence – there is no doubt that others that don’t know you will be able to join the dots fairly easily, and the resulting picture is what your “brand”looks like to them. You can be one thing on Facebook, another on your blog and a third on LinkedIn, but you will not be using the interconnectivity of the web these days to your advantage.

c.       Be open to new ideas. Try Twitter, start a blog. Don’t be discouraged. Follow others that you admire and learn from them.

Someone finding a job (other than as a blogger) on the strength of their blog is, I’d say, possible but very rare. It’s more likely, in situations where there is some competitive for a position, that a person can demonstrate enough “savvy” via their various online activities to avoid being eliminated in an early round.

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It was such a beautiful morning at Henley this morning. When I arrived the last of some early morning mists, early autumnal in the way the light shone in shafts through the leafy branches and onto the lawns. I took one or two pictures on my phone, which I have attached at the end of this post.

Otherwise, I’m in a period of interesting challenges. Plenty of Personal Development workshops to keep me busy (and a few coming up which involve travel), as well as a few newer and therefore somewhat ‘off piste’. I’m preparing a one and half day session on Personal Development (so far so good) for a group of senior HR directors (Ok) from AVIC of China (more intriguing) to be delivered with consecutive translation to and from Chinese (yikes!). That’s at the start of November, and will be delivered over on the Whiteknights campus (a first for me), where everyone looks very young. Well, not the faculty.

Next up will be short presentations to the management teams of two companies in South Africa, which I will do either side of delivering a one-day workshop for one of the MBA intakes. My topic, no surprises, will be “Reflection – seeing the world with fresh eyes”. One of the companies deals with entertainment, TV and all sorts of media, and the other operates a fleet of private ambulances (including air ambulances). Don’t know what they’ll learn, but I’m sure I’ll come out of it wiser.

The Economist rankings for 2011 for the full-time MBA came out yesterday and Henley slipped from 17 to 57, which was a real disappointment. I have no doubt that next year will show a rise, possibly a big one since the Economist allows for more movement year on year than, for example, the FT. The rankings have a weight to them which is actually very unhealthy. Their origins lie in the attempt to gain credibility for the business press so that they could maintain circulation rates. They don’t celebrate diversity and they probably are responsible for some schools taking attention away from innovation on their MBA programmes. That’s not a criticism, either of the newspapers/magazines or of the business schools that want to do well in the rankings, but we should acknowledge things as they are. Most schools will want to play it safe and seek a strong position in a ranking, especially where recruitment of international students is important. But rankings are, ultimately, counter-productive to the occupation of a niche (how can one occupy a niche AND be compared with everyone else?).

In a couple of weeks, our new full-time MBA students start arriving. I’m really looking forward to it, partly as I’ll be trying my hand as Personal Tutor. So far, I have only tutored the Exec MBA group. Not that that’s not great fun…..!




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Yesterday I attended my second session as part of John Whittington’s Learning Circle, which is an exploration of systemic coaching, using Constellations techniques originally developed by Bert Hellinger . It’s very absorbing, intense and also very interesting to see the unfolding of people’s systemic glitches and “stuckness”. Constellation work is focused around a small number of organising principles, which reveal truths about the way open systems work. Sounds kooky, and probably looks that way from the outside, but let me tell you (as some past postings here have attested) it’s very real and very therapeutic.

What’s even better, it is very practical and I have already started to allow the principles to filter into my workshops. There’s even no need to frame it for participants. We just get on with it, and you can tell from the stillness and concentration in the room that something is working. I find it complements reflective practice, too.

Now we all have a two month space before our next meeting in September, and I shall be looking for further chances to expand my repertoire and gain more experience. I already have an idea on how to change things around for my forthcoming “Building Career” PD workshop. Next stop, having a go with “sentences” (constellators will know what that means).

One reflection from the discussions at the Monday session was trying to articulate differences between “regular” coaching and systemic coaching.  John shared his “list-in-progress”. One which caught my eye was the idea that coaching very often begins and ends with the client’s goals. Somehow goals “fix” things. But do they? Is it that simple? Maybe, yes, sometimes it is, but then if that were so simple why wouldn’t people just work this out for themselves?  The systemic approach creates permission first to “acknowledge” properly things as they actually are. Standing there can reveal a lot, about us, about our goals… and so on. This is a good take-away for me back onto the MBA and another subtle differentiator for the Henley PD module. A tough one for many to feel comfy with at the beginning of their course, but then this is why PD runs all the way through.



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It was quite a productive February. Aside from the progress made on the PhD, the conference paper in particular, I delivered several PD workshops at Henley and learnt a lot about the structure and flaws of the material. I have now started to think about a re-vamp (I won’t say re-write) of the PD materials. The trick will be to bring in some more contemplative or reflective ideas on self without sacrificing the practical and structured element of planning that many people seem to enjoy. But some of the material is frankly now getting a bit long in the tooth. One immediate success this week was completion of the first draft of a new “Values Questionnaire”, which will now need some road-testing.

The PhD is moving up a gear. My supervisors are suggesting I work on two of the chapters as part of presenting for an up-grade in th early summer. I shall also need to crack on with data collection. This is the scariest part, because a] I ave no idea if people will volunteer and co-operate, and b] if they do, there’s no slacking off.

I am enjoying browsing through the Learning Journal entries in the various online learning areas on the MBA. I know a lot of people never bother, or never pluck up the courage, to write, but often those who do are clearly getting something worthwhile from it. Some of them are actually quite moving!

Completed a half day workshop on “Building Career” with a portion of intake 41 today. I had to apologise to the group because there was just too much stuff to get through in half a day, but I think the main points were made. I know that I am trying to twist their brains a bit and challenge their patterns of thought, so I’m grateful they took it in good humour.

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I’ve stopped at a sort of mental picnic spot on this journey, and I went back to the Day Two posting, and revisited the definition of reflective learning and the Atkins and Murphy model.  I still like the definition of Boyd and  Fayles :  “reflective learning is the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern, triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self and which results in a changed conceptual perspective” (1983),  but would now wish to qualify the meaning of “internally examining”. I am not sure how that, alone, would be enough. If it is true that our conceptual perspective is a product of us and our environment, then surely the examination must also in some way be external.

The model for reflection, which I also still like, did get me thinking about models, though. Is the intention here to map what people naturally “do” when they reflect, or was it to provide a step-by-step recipe for reflection, a sort of “how-to”? Or perhaps a bit of both? I’m not sure.  Most writers on the subject of learning would agree that a] we are learning the whole time (though what kind of learning is going on might be open for debate), and b] we reflect as we go. However, we don’t easily reflect that we’re reflecting (though we can, we do have the ability to abstract), which means pointing this out to us inevitably results in us using that consciousness to start reflecting on our actions. We just can’t help it. So the model is both? My head spins.

I do think it is reasonable to suggest that this reflection-on-reflection is itself open to development (and, of course, reflection) and that practice is needed for this to happen and become habitual. So for this reason, these blog postings are probably having some kind of “muscle-building” effect on my reflective powers. 

Now, here is a list of concepts:

  • Time
  • Identity
  • Reflection
  • Learning

Are these individual or social phenomena?  I have an idea, but am curious what anyone (anyone out there?) reading this thinks. Come on, have a break in your day, and join me in the picnic spot.

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When I first applied to do a part-time PhD at Lancaster (a while ago now), I thought that doing a doctorate would be challenging. I had no idea it would challenge more than simply whether one is becoming a subject-matter expert. Among the questions I find being prompted by this month’s exercise are:

a. Am I doing this for myself or for an audience? [and what is the significance of the answer to that question?]

b. Then, what significance does undertaking a PhD in my mid forties have in my understanding of who you are?

I really wanted to have a go myself at an educational biography writing task, one of two that I recently piloted with a group of managers at Henley. The intention then was to provide a focus for thinking about personal reflection and also with some “food for thought” at their two-day off-site meeting. It worked well, both as a pre-work exercise and even more so when each person actually read out what they had written to the others at the workshop. The discussion that followed each one, the respectful yet probing questions, the noting of the contrasts between styles and stories, and the added insights on their own stories from listening to others were noticeable. 

This was the brief I set them:

1.      Life Chapters

Start by imagining your life as if it were a book, with each part or stage making up one chapter. Although the book is still unfinished, it probably already contains a number of interesting and well-defined chapters.

Divide your life into its major chapters and briefly describe each one. Whilst you may have as many as or as few chapters as you like, we suggest a minimum of two or three and a maximum of seven or eight. Think of this as a general table of contents to your book. Give each chapter a name are describe its overall contents to give a flavour of the story. Discuss briefly what makes for a transition from one chapter to the next.

You can use any style you like, and it doesn’t have to be long.  Most people take about 250 -400 words for this activity. 

Life Chapters   – Chris Dalton

Chapter 1 –  Ages 3ish (or 4ish) to 16ish (0r 17ish)

My life begins, and I have no idea for several years that it’s going on. When consciousness begins to stick, the toddler years and teenager years are still both a blur. My earliest memory is of jellyfish on a beach (probably a snatch of imagery from younger than 3) in Sandycove, a Dublin suburb where I lived with my older sister and brother and my English mother and Irish father.  She took us back to the UK – apparently a very brave and audacious thing to do in those strict days, leaving him there.  We moved to a Kent seaside town, which is where I did my growing up, living and squabbling with a kind of middle-class poverty . First loves, dreams, jobs, friends, broken hearts, they litter the streets, pubs, bus shelters and friend’s bedrooms of Deal and the classrooms of Sir Roger Manwoods in Sandwich.  I can recall my liking  (though this is a retrospective thought) for the instant enthusiasms (and, equally instant disinterest, often) for certain people and (as soon as puberty hit) painful crushes on certain girls. Also a comfort with being on my own with my own thoughts, in having only a few close friends, and for giving things up (e.g. most projects before completion, belief in God, any subject related to science or maths).  I connected with language and felt the importance of words, but since I didn’t really read much (oh, the wasted years!), could do nothing with those feelings.

I left the grammar school at the end of the 5th form, which I had convinced myself was a very mature thing to do, and started doing ‘A’ levels at a college of further education in Ashford. I had picked English, History, Geography and Drama as courses. I applied myself, sort of, and even applied to study archaeology at university. But, a new world had opened up. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Long hair. Politics. (to Mrs Thatcher I owe a lot since she provided me and an entire generation with something to believe against).

Chapter 2 –  Ages 17ish to 24ish

I left the FE college before that project could be closed, somehow moved up to London, and got a job volunteering for a couple of years in the CND office in north London, working mostly as part of the Youth CND office.  I felt then and still feel now that this was a rich period, full of novelty, importance (at the time, CND was really big…), and this was the first of my five “real learning” events to date (turning points, that is).  On top of the excitement of the campaign, there was communal living in flatshares and squats, the Dole, Ken Livingstone’s GLC, music, bands, clothes, travel to demonstrations, independence (all without money), and a banking of experience and experiences for a rainy day.

After CND I held a series of part-time jobs. I was a bicycle courier, I delivered pizzas, I worked in a Covent Garden music venue behind the bar. I loved and hated London in equal measure, and I was completely without any goals.  Then in 1984 someone suggested volunteering on a kibbutz.  What sense did that make?! Of course, I did it. I spent six amazing months on Yad Mordecahai and it was there I learned what it really means to work (and enjoy the feeling of physical exhaustion from manual labour), to build something alongside others and be judged for your ability to work, and to live and argue with others in a complex environment. This is my identity/learning event number two.

Back in London again, and more drifting from job to job, back on the bike, some DJing and even a short and disastrous spell as a self-employed painter and decorator. This time, I only hated London, and the transition out of this chapter was via another suggestion made by a person at the right moment – if I liked travel, why not learn how to teach English as a foreign language? I did an intensive, month-long course at International House in Piccadilly. The course was an incredible piece of training and the principles of instruction they used are still with me in my classroom management today. That month is key learning event number three. I passed with a good enough grade to be offered a job in another IH school abroad and I was determined to head to the mediterranean. However, the only IH School with a vacancy open was in Budapest. In Hungary. 1987. Behind the Iron Curtain!  What sense did that make?! So, of course, I did it.  I had no money, so I travelled to Budapest from England by train, crossing the channel on the ferry and feeling very adventurous as I watched the Kent cliffs retreat in the wake. A slow train journey allows for a transition to occur.

Chapter 3 – Ages 25ish to 42ish

I felt very alone in my first few weeks in Hungary. But Budapest is where my career in management training and education began. I first worked in the language school, and marvelled at the novelty of the crumbling grace of the city, the time-warp one-party society, and the impossibility of ever learning the Hungarian language. I found that, being a Brit there and then, actually it was I who was the novelty, but mostly in a good way. I worked my way up from running general English classes, to taking business English groups, then to working mostly with corporate clients, and after a  short return to the UK in 1991, and a few months commuting between Budapest and Vienna for work, I arrived at the International Management Center in Budapest. I have no doubt that my credentials then would not have got me hired to work in a business school in the UK or US, but everything about Hungary in 1992 was flux, change and possibility and I was just in the right place at the right time.

Hungary is also where I got married in 1989, and where I had two daughters, got on to a post-communist property ladder, endured the intricacies of the Hungarian school and health systems and a Hungarian version of a whole set of “grown up” family experiences. I did my MBA, distance learning, whilst there.  I was very glad that I did as it laid to rest some very long-standing questions about finishing difficult projects once started.  And, for a while, I was no doubt convinced and resigned that I would remain in Budapest just about forever.

Chapter 4 – Ages 42ish to present day

The fourth turning point was a marriage break-up and divorce, and a return to the UK after 18 years abroad. This was a turbulent couple of years, and one where I found dread and exhilaration in equal measure. My work was my focus, as were my children, but I also found tremendous solace in finding out some family history (which has been covered in other, much earlier, posts in this blog) that played a key role in forming my sense of self.

Professionally, I had built up a lot of experience working in training and education in management, had been in charge of an American MBA programme, gained an MBA from Henley, developed a strong method for working in a classroom or training room using experiential learning techniques. And I really wanted to come back and settle in, and to pick up my career at Henley. I have been very fortunate in both respects. I’m happily remarried and following a wonderful (and stressful!) five years in charge of the Flexible MBA, here I am now enjoying a new position at Henley in a subject close to my heart and also experiencing the fifth of the key learning events in this narrative – my part-time PhD.

Reflections on this exercise

  • Reading this back, it feels now like the early part of my life was a series of themes being opened, and that the mission of  my middle age is to understand those things and be able to close them.
  • Another recurrent theme feels like it is saying something about the role of chance and the suggestions of others in the beating of what i could easily look back on as my personal path.
  •  These little chapters can shift their sands all the time. Told again, tomorrow, they would probably run differently. Is the reflecting on one’s past therefore a document of the present?
  • It feels very broad-brush. Big chunks and important minutiae are both left out, and the fact of ‘public’ation is an ever present thought. Nevertheless, I can sense already which are the “knots” in the wood, the stubborn parts that call for more work.
  • I speculate that a single narrative might contain its own patterns, but if identity is collective, those patterns will emerge in relation to other people’s narratives. I’d be curious to know what those reading this think about this.

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