The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic - Peter Drucker

The TurningTides Blog

Ideas and inspiration from Turning Tides

The Generative Power of a Question

 The Right Question

The transition to the New Year always creates a desire to take stock….where am I now in relation to what I wanted to achieve last year?

This year is no different. Although, in one way, it’s completely different. It’s the first New Year without my dad. He died on 2nd February last year so we’re approaching the first anniversary of his death.


It starts with family 

Dad enjoyed marking the transition to the New Year especially when surrounded by his family. He invariably made a speech at midnight and encouraged others to do the same. It created a strong sense of being fully seen and heard. As if your personhood was being authenticated.

In my younger years the evening meal (tea-time in our house) was a time when the family gathered around the table and shared a story from their day. After me and my siblings left home, and returned for holidays, the tea-time gathering took on a festive vibe.

They were great listeners, my mum and dad. It was probably no surprise then that I followed a career path that involved listening and became a mental health nurse. It was deeply humbling to be part of someone’s journey to recovery through a profound human connection.


The art of listening

Many years later, and now an Executive Coach and Facilitator, I draw on the same passion and capacity for listening and building a human connection.

It’s easy in such an action-orientated digital world to dismiss the value of listening. Yet time and time again I’m reminded by clients in their testimonials just how much they value the space to think and be fully heard.

Reflective journaling can be a powerful adjunct to coaching and helps bring our inner voices into conscious awareness. I’m reminded of EM Forster’s words:


“How do I know what I think until I see what I say”


Coaching conversations help bring clarity and purpose. While listening is a big part of the offering, the ability to ask the right question at the right moment is also part of the alchemy. A fellow systemic coach – Michael Cahill of Market Matters - recently reminded me that “the brain works best in the presence of a question”.  

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Collaboration AK

Adam Kahane’s new book - ‘Collaborating with the Enemy’ - is a must for anyone having to collaborate with diverse others whatever the context. Indeed, it should be recommended reading on leadership programmes where there is a need to work across organisational and/or cultural boundaries. With the economic situation as it is, collaboration is fundamental to the sustainability of services.


To begin with oneself...' is a maxim that can trip glibly off the tongue, but Adam takes us below the surface. With honesty, humility and pragmatism he shows why we must change ourselves before we can reach out and fully connect with others who don't share our view.


"Collaborating with others, especially others who we do not agree with or like or trust us, requires us to join with them as equals".



Many of the case studies in the book relate to ‘high stakes’ fraught and sometimes warring situations. However, I would urge the reader not to be put off thinking that ‘Collaborating with the Enemy’ is less relevant if their collaborative assignments are more in the mainstream. I struggled with the language initially, especially ‘enemy’ and ‘fight’. However, having read all of Adam’s previous books I’ve always found something that resonates with my work in an organisational context. They prod and challenge. They change the conversations.


When faced with the need to work with others who hold opposing views Adam maintains that we tend to assume one of four positions. We collaborate, force, adapt or exit. However, our work environments nowadays are so complex that conventional notions of collaboration can be too limited.

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Collaboration: the hidden dynamics of belonging

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There are few work places these days where collaboration isn’t on everyone’s lips. Or at least on the horizon. Individuals and teams are brought together for a variety of reasons. To reduce duplication, improve services, promote sustainability and in some cases, to ensure survival.  But leading merged or integrated teams is probably what gives leaders the most headaches.

Bringing people from different backgrounds and philosophies together in a shared endeavour is often laden with factionalism. 

In previous leadership roles I was often left perplexed when teams would move in an agreed direction of change only to spring back to where they had been a few weeks earlier. Like releasing the stretch on an elastic band. Ping!

Something had the system in its grip, but what?

As a coach and facilitator I work with leaders who are navigating complex change. Health and social care is one such example where they are working together to create a new landscape of integrated services. It's a complex business.

There's a tendency to focus attention at the level of the individual or the team when things get stuck. But sometimes 'difficult behaviours', conflict and repeating patterns are actually manifestations of something amiss in the system. 

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