Thursday, April 23, 2015


In Chinese philosophy, as well as many of the great philosophies and religions of the world, there has been an emphasis on human virtues placed equal to, and sometimes in the superior position to, truth itself. In the past this annoyed me somewhat: the conduct of a single man matters little to the Great Truth. But definitely older, hopefully wiser, I see things differently. Knowledge has always been different to wisdom. I remember trying to explain the original Pope quote "A little learning is a dang'rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring." in high school, and not succeeding.

I recently had an Internet interaction with a smart friend of mine, decrying the lack of humility people feel, how they're so quick to assert their truth on others. And all the time he was holding a truth so strongly that he'd like it to be held highest without question. I can only return to the wisdom of the greatest religions that might occasionally put the greatest truth subordinate to individual virtue, and seek to be silent and humble in the face of conflicting truths.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Hey, coach!

It's funny to think about bosses and managers. Before my current position, I hadn't had that many, just Reg and Murray. In my current company I've had a whole carnival of managers, Julie, Kathryn, Alan, Eddie, Ben, Linda, Philip, Amy, Don, another Amy, David, another Philip as it goes in this kind of company with a matrix-style structure. There have been some good ones, some god-awful ones, some talented but tarnished, some clueless but kind. Only one or two have really matched the my-way-or-the-highway approach that perhaps we traditionally think of bosses. Almost all the managers have rightly seen themselves as facilitators and organisers. But there's one role that is awfully rare among them all  and that is being a coach. In that list above, I can only think of one who'd get close to it. And I'm nowhere near being included.

The thought of coaching makes me think back on all the staff I've ever managed and never managed to impact meaningfully. I'm sure I trained them well, so that our students would learn, but my team didn't necessarily learn much from me. Often I thought the best thing I could do was model how to do something and model how to think. And sure enough that did change behaviours in my centres but I'm pretty sure that wasn't an internalised change. I can see that more as my old school was shut. Those who moved on, just moved to a new environments with new behaviours.

And then I think about those I wish I'd been able to get through to better: Apple, Brendan, Clive, David, James, Louise, Naf, Sophia, Steven and others. I sometimes metaphorically hit myself in the head with why they couldn't see the need to change. Of course, just as I see that others should change in some way, so do others look at me and think them same. Why is he so resistant? Can't he see what he's doing? He's just bothering himself and others needlessly!

Next week I'll be doing a Coaching course, and it feels like something I've always lacked. The pre-reading is great reading. It is focussed on self-limiting beliefs, and even ideas from quotes from philosophers. Here are some of the nice lines within:
"In 60AD Epictetus noted that men are not worried by things but their ideas of things."
"Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Montaigne claim that illusion and self-deception are an integral part of being human."
"Ellis coined the term "musturbation" to describe behaviour that is absolutist and dogmatic, and revolves around self-repeated "musts", "oughts" and "shoulds".
And my favourite: "As many authors noted, staying rational is a lifelong pursuit"

But as I read the hows and whys of coaching I get the feeling that I too have so many self-limiting beliefs. How can I advise someone when my own sleep is bothered by fretting? I'm remembering a theme in the Exorcist, as you do, that perhaps I cannot exorcise a demon till I've at least hacked through a few of my own. (I've been suffering a mild cold and re-watched the Exorcist yesterday. The key theme that I thought about is how one of the priests, who was wracked with his own guilt, couldn't free the possessed girl because he wasn't "clean" enough. The demon possessed him and he jumped from a window to end the saga.)

So far this latest program of management training seems to be the most useful. The previous session was very thought-provoking and I'm looking forward to more of the same when I head to Shenzhen on Tuesday.