Tuesday 22 December 2015

Merry Christmas to all Clients, Colleagues and Friends

I wish all my clients, colleagues and friends a very blessed Christmas and a happy and successful New Year.

2015 has been another good year for us;

  • I continue to have lots of interesting work with interesting people;
  • I have finished the long awaited book, and once the graphic work is completed, it will be published (early 2016, I hope);
  • I have also started a post-graduate diploma in Coaching, which I am enjoying enormously;
  • Jane has wrested complete control of my diary, the back office, the accounts and all the other important parts of the business, which has resulted in a huge improvement in all areas;
  • Annie has qualified as a teacher, Clare has spent time travelling in China, working in Zambia, and now has a job with a charity in Manchester; Mike got a First in his Graphic Design foundations course, and is now enjoying life as an undergraduate at Northumbria; and Lizzie aced her GCSEs and is loving the 6th Form.
Here's a family portrait, as we appear to Mike, when we are reading:

I always think Christmas a good time for poetry, so here is one of my favourite poems:

The Journey of the Magi 

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

T S Eliot

Wednesday 9 December 2015

My Dark Side

A number of my coaching clients, and some fellow coaches whose work I rate highly, have spoken well of the Hogan psychometrics, and especially the one that identifies potential career de-railers - the so-called Dark Side assessment.

So I have decided to get trained on these, and as a first step, had  a go at completing one myself, under the guidance of Julia Cater of People Decisions. It was very interesting.

My initial reflections on the report that emerged are that it has quite high face-validity; that is, I recognise myself in it (rather more than, say, a horoscope). Moreover, my wife (if not my greatest fan, certainly my most acute critic) also recognised me in it.  And we could both see, even though there are areas where we both think it gets it wrong, that it is a very useful basis for reflection and discussion with a coach (I have yet to meet Julia for the de-brief).

Overall, it suggests that my high scores (that is, my strengths-that-might-become-weaknesses-under-pressure are being Reserved (Independent can become detached), Imaginative (Imaginative can become eccentric) and Colourful (vivacious can become dramatic).

I also score very low on some areas where perhaps I lack the strengths at all: Diligent, Dutiful and Sceptical.

By and large, that's not too far off the mark.  However, I strongly disagree with Lacking few well-defined beliefs or interests, but with regrets about past behaviour and Lack passion or enthusiasm.

I think the Reserved is somewhat overstated, particularly Not communicate frequently or well,  and likewise the Colourful  especially Talk more than he listens.  And clearly, those two points, Not communicate frequently or well, and Talk more than he listens, sit rather oddly together.

However, I can see how it arrived at all of these, and they (and many of the other points) are worthy of thought and discussion - and even as I type, I am wondering if, under extreme stress, those may have some validity...

The big question, of course, is about the self-report aspect. For instance, I answered some questions based on the literal words, even though I suspected (and I think rightly) that they would be interpreted in a way that is not what I feel about myself. For example, when a question has ‘never’ or ‘always’ in it, I always take that literally so will tend to disagree, as there is nearly always at least one exception; whereas if it has nearly always or almost never, I will answer the opposite way.  So the process didn’t feel very robust in that way. Also, I was aware of what it was likely to be saying about me, and there is always that tendency to answer about the Andrew I’d like to be…

All in all, very interesting, despite these reservations, and as I say, it could certainly be the basis of some useful exploratory discussions and reflections.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Reply from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust

In my recent post about the misrepresentation of Merhrabian's research (that stuff about words being only 7% of the way we understand communication), I mentioned that I had been told it was sourced from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. I looked at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust Website, and found it did not, in fact, quote these percentages, but did make the claim in words. I gather the text on the WWW is taken from their leaflet Keeping Safe: Dealing with Aggression. I concluded my last post by saying that I would write to them about this.

Therefore, I emailed as follows:

On your website, (here) you say that 'The majority of communication is through body language, a lot through tone of voice and only a little through words.’ (your emphasis). I assume this refers to the work of Albert Mehrabian, but he himself distances himself from such claims, and puts important caveats on how his research is interpreted and applied. 
I think you should re-consider how you present this. If you are interested in my particular thoughts, I have just blogged about it here. 
I am writing to you, as I think the work you do very important - and therefore want to help you to do it as well as possible.
I heard nothing, so wrote a follow up,  
Did you receive the email below? 
I see that your website remains unchanged. 
As I said on my blog on the subject (here): I find this misrepresentation of Mehrabian's work bad enough in corporate life; but in the context of safeguarding, it is worse. For instance, if it becomes widely accepted as fact, what is to prevent a rapist claiming that, although his victim said No, 93% of her communication was saying Yes?... That cannot be a justification that the Suzy Lamplugh Trust would accept.  

I got an apology: my email had apparently been misrouted, and the promise of a fuller reply in due course. Eventually I received this:
Thank you for your email. Suzy Lamplugh Trust is a personal safety charity and we work to reduce the risk of violence and aggression for everyone. The information provided in the leaflet you have referred to aims to help individuals who are in stressful or difficult situations to understand the options available to them. The specific quote to which you refer seeks to highlight the need for workers who undertake difficult and/or stressful tasks to be aware of how their behaviour may be interpreted by the people they are interacting with. This will enable them to complete a dynamic risk assessment and take measures to defuse, de-escalate or exit a situation if necessary. This information is given to educate and empower individuals.  
Whenever a crime is committed, Suzy Lamplugh Trust is clear that the responsibility for that crime lies solely with the perpetrator. Everyone has the right to live their lives safely.
I hope that this alleviates your concern however if you have further questions please get back in touch.
I did not think that really addressed the issue I had raised, so I wrote again:
Thanks for your reply. 
I think you misunderstand my concern. I am well aware of the excellent work and reputation of the Trust. 
My concern is very simple. Your wwwsite says: 'The majority of communication is through body language, a lot through tone of voice and only a little through words.’
I believe that to be untrue, and think I have understood and indicated the source of the error.  
I also think that publishing untrue information may have unintended negative consequences. 
I am sure your intentions are honourable, etc. However what I am not clear about is whether you think that the information is in fact true (in which case I would be fascinated to know your sources); or whether you think it untrue (or simply don’t know), but are happy to publish on that basis in pursuit of a good aim?
Today, I received this further reply:
Thank you for flagging your concern. We regularly review the information on our website and will take your comments in to (sic) consideration when we next revisit our website material. 
So I will re-visit their site occasionally, and see if they make any changes. But if this is a polite brush-off, then I will take it further up the chain, as I believe it to be a serious issue.