Tuesday 20 June 2023

Pedagogy of the Heart

"But it's simply not true!" the senior leader told me. "We consult them all the time!" He was frustrated - and bruised - by the Staff Survey; and some of the specifics, like a complaint from Department Heads that they were never consulted, particularly rankled.

I bit my tongue. And he calmed down a little, and continued to think. "We could, I suppose, do a sort of You said we did piece of comms work?..." He looked at me for my response. I looked back at him.

"You're right" he said, although I had said (and I think indicated) nothing. I think he was probably talking to himself. "That would merely demonstrate that we don't listen - which is just what they are complaining about.  Logic isn't really going to cut it here.  If I have learned one thing, it is that you can't argue when people are emotionally upset. And whatever the specifics, I think the message of this survey is that they are upset - or downright angry might be nearer the mark...."

I continued to listen, completely fascinated.

"So what do we do?  What would I want the senior team to do if I were in their shoes - angry, frustrated, feeling under-valued?  Because that's what this is really about. The specifics may be wrong (or not entirely true, to be really fair...), but if they want to give us a good kicking, that's where it's coming from."

I wondered where he was going with this.

He continued to think out loud, considering when and by whom he had felt valued, when he had worked as a Department Head. He concluded that it was a particular leader who had made time for him; who had listened to him without telling him what to do, but had been ready to warn him if he was considering something really unwise...;  who had taken risks, championing his ideas... and he realised that he and his colleagues were generally too busy to do that. Because there was always so much to be done - so many problems to address, crises to attend to, decisions to be made and communicated.  And then he stopped short.

"That's it! That's what we've got to do. We've got to shift our attention - in fact our intention - from making things happen (which is what drives the perception that we are too 'command and control') to enabling great leadership. We've staffed this place up with good people but we don't let them get on with it. If we do that, they will start to feel that we believe in them and value them. And I'm sure that's where we need to start. So my job is to coach my senior team into doing that."

He visibly relaxed.

"Thank you Andrew: that has been so helpful. I always find your advice really valuable!"

I thanked him and smiled inwardly. The advice had certainly been valuable, but it was his advice to himself. I had just co-created the Thinking Environment in which he had developed it.

As I reflected on the session, the phrase Pedagogy of the Heart came to mind, so I wrote this blog post.


With thanks to Yogendra Singh and Tim Marshall for sharing their photos on Unsplash

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