Privilege and Pride

When I was young and ambitious I thought I could earn privilege and that it would buy me freedom; as I have now grown much older I have slowly come to realise that privilege does not buy you freedom, but responsibility.

Privilege is, by definition, un-earnt – something bequeathed to you by the happenstance of your birth, genes, gender, colour, place, and class.

I did not earn being born in a country beginning to recover from two world wars and at a time when I would be saved from having to do military service.

I did not earn my native country being one of relative great affluence and with a climate that avoided major droughts, floods, or plagues of locusts. A country which had recently launched a National Health Service and where there was a welfare net.

I did not earn having state paid education for 20 years – yes 20 years! at a time when, in other countries, many had no years of classroom education, only what life and their family could teach them.

I did not earn the privileges that came with being white, male, and a part of a country still living off the dividends of slavery and colonization – a wealth extracted from the sweat and oppressed labour of others.

I was taught to take pride in ‘my’ family, ‘my’ town, ‘my’ nation; also ‘my’ clothes, ‘my’ house, and ‘my’ garden. But I did not make or build them, just acquired them or better still to say I became the temporary steward.

Like my Father before me, I took pride in ‘my’ children’s (and later grandchildren’s) successes, at school, in sport, in work and in their offspring.  As patriarchal men we saw this as ‘our legacy’.

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When Edward Colston was iconoclastically dragged by a noose from his pedestal in central Bristol, history was not so much re-written, as false history was unwritten. The statue had been erected (sic) to make Edward Colston a role-model of white male success and philanthropy; to show how Bristol took pride in Edward Colston and he took pride in Bristol; to show how he shared ‘his wealth’ with the people of this privileged city. But the plaques on the pedestal that declared One of Bristol’s ‘most virtuous and wise sons’, failed to mention whose wealth it was. The riches had come from the Royal  African  Company and the rich triangular trade that took slaves at gun point, and then chains, to America, and then brought back sugar, tobacco, cotton and cocoa which was manufactured in Bristol and Britain and sold back to Africa and elsewhere. This company played an active role in the enslavement of over 84,000 Africans (including 12,000 children) of whom over 19,000 died en route to the Caribbean and America. I was particularly moved by this event as my family were Bristolians, going back several generations, I had relatives who gone to Colston school and I had gone to concerts at Colston Hall. As such my family had benefited from Colston’s legacy to the city.

But beware symbolic one-off moments of iconoclastic fervour, for they alone do not change a culture. We can fall into false relief that we have toppled the ‘evil one’. But it was not Edward Colston alone who invested in this Royal Company or benefited from British slave trade and gun barrel colonization, or reaped privilege flowing from the sweat of slaves. It was all of us, born in so called ‘Great Britain’ or Western Europe, who have lived off the financial and cultural dividends of slavery and colonial oppression, and still do.

We all need to be pulled down from our plinths of privilege and our pedestals of pride.

But how, for we have to also do the pulling? Well it all starts with me, with each of us, as all social change does. These are just a few of the first small steps I have discovered with the help of many.

–        From pride to giving thanks for each and every blessing.

–        To realise that success is never mine alone, it is always co-created with others, and with the wider ecology and is supported by the happenstance of my privilege.

–        To awakening to the realisation that racial and sexual liberation are what white men need to engage in, as we are the perpetrators and beneficiaries of Euro-patriarchal oppressive systems.

–        To rewriting history with others that engages all voices and perspectives, not just those of the victors, the violators, and oppressors.

–        Apologizing for what was done by our ancestors, our race, our gender, and ourselves and finding ways to make reparation.

Small things do make a difference but are never by themselves enough.

Professor Peter Hawkins will be teaching with his colleague Nick Smith for the fifth time their very popular and successful  three day advanced course in “Transformational Coaching” on December 9th -11th 2020 in Bath, UK, which will address how to work with difference and privilege in coaching. Details are to found on https://www.renewalassociates.co.uk/events-training/transformational-coaching/



We need to move beyond ‘High Performing Teams’

I need to start by apologizing. For many years I have written about the importance of high performing teams, created models of them and written and taught about how to lead, coach, and develop them (Hawkins 2011, 2014, 2017, 2018). Over the last two years I have woken up to how, like nearly all writers about teams and team coaching, I was caught in what is an out-dated paradigm. I now believe that the term is not only beyond its sell by date but is problematic and leading team development and team coaching in the wrong direction.

There are four ways that I see that the term causes problems.

A mechanistic rather than a living organism metaphor

High performing teams is a concept that grew out of 20th century mechanistic linear thinking. High performance was a term used for manufacturing machinery, or cars that could accelerate fast from stand still to 60mph. It was about achieving greater productivity and efficiency out of a fixed system, so that it creates more, faster, and cheaper. High performance is unconcerned about whether what is produced is of beneficial value. It is focussed on efficiency rather than creating benefit for all stakeholders.

Sub-optimisation

Some teams I have worked with over the years have been motivated to be the ‘best team on the block’, the standout region in their company. When they have succeeded they have often done this at the cost of other parts of the organisation and not through creating benefit for the whole organisation and all its stakeholders Their achievement has been built on by being the most successful at gleaning joint resources, such as marketing, HR, sales support; and the least willing to share knowledge and to second staff when other teams and regions were struggling. The team member’s loyalty has been to their local team. not the rest of the organisation.                                                                                         

A Place of arrival and a tick-box exercise.

For some teams, becoming a high performing team is the next thing on their development agenda. Last year it was becoming a ‘Lean organisation’, the year before decentralization and empowerment. They ask me: “What are the top things we need to do to be a high performing team?” They want help with creating a check list, that they can tick off, step by step. Often team leaders request a clear timetabled plan and ‘Gant chart’ including a date and place of arrival. But team development is not a pre-planned journey you can buy off the shelf. Being a successful team is never a place of arrival. As Bill Gates wrote: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” A team that thinks it is now ‘A High Performing team’ often slips into complacency and arrogance. Successful teams and organizations are often the last to notice the world is changing around them.

Claiming the success as your own

Let me tell you an imaginary story, that could come true in the very near future.

It is a future gathering of the top team at ZoomThey have just received the annual performance figures for the organization and are celebrating a record year. Revenue, profits, and reputation have all risen sharply. In the midst of the champagne toasts, and congratulations echoing around the room, one team member says, “I think we should pause and thank the team member who made the biggest contribution to our record success. A team member who only joined us this year.” She is greeted by blank and questioning faces. The CEO eventually says: “Who are you talking about? The reply comes: “Corona Virus.” There is a stunned and awkward silence

All evolution is co-evolution all development is co-development and all success is co-created.

The success is co-created between a team and its wider organization, between the organization and its business eco-system, between a species and ecological niche. All evolution is co-evolution – a species and the niche co-adapt and respond to each other – so does a team and its context.

 High Value creating teams

To move from an outdated mechanistic concept of teams, we need to find concepts and models rooted in systemic and organismic ways of seeing the world; approaches built on collaboration and co-adaptability, rather than competition and sub-optimisation of parts of the larger system. We need team development that is part of creating a wider ‘team of teams’ as Genera McCrystal discovered while leading the Allied forces to try and create sustainable peace in post war Iraq and finding they were constantly out manoeuvred (McCrystal et al 2015).

We need to support and coach teams that can ‘continuously co-create beneficial value with and for all their stakeholders’, both human, and the ‘more-than-human’ stakeholders of the wider ecological environment, which is always the largest contributor to all human success.

What is beneficial value? That which improves quality of life, diversity, well-being, and sustainability, at all the nested systemic levels that our life is living and breathing within.

I again apologise for taking so long to move away from writing about high performing teams and promise my next books will be about the practical ways we can create and sustain high value creating teams.

References

Hawkins, P. (2011, & 2014 & 2017) Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership. London: Kogan Page.

Hawkins, P. (2014 and 2018). Leadership Team Coaching in Practice; Developing High Performing Teams. Philadelphia: Kogan Page Publishers.

McChrystal, S., Collins, T., Silverman, D. and Fussell, C. (2015). Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. New York: Penguin. 

Professor Peter Hawkins June 2020

Peter Hawkins will be running the next face to face Systemic Team Coaching certificate December 15th -17th in London. Meanwhile AoEC have places left on the Systemic Team Coaching taught by Peter’s colleagues as a 3 day virtual replacement program from 21-23 July 2020 – for full details for both trainings and to book a place, click here.

The Global Team Coaching Institute led by Peter Hawkins and David Clutterbuck, is about to launch the second level Practitioner program starting in October. Peter will be leading the Systemic Team Coaching course with a global faculty of his most senior colleagues. For full details contact Kirsten@wbecs.com

My next Blog I will publish next weekend 12th July on “We are all in this together: Coronavirus, Climate Emergency, Collaboration and Consciousness Change.”

There are more blogs and other free resources on https://www.renewalassociates.co.uk