Facing Threats to Safety and Identity

thumb_shutterstock_106553426_0.jpgAustralasia has been rocked in past weeks by a series of events that have deeply challenged our sense of identity and security.    While it is tempting to think of things that happen on the world stage as ‘out there’ they send shock waves that reach into our workplaces and families.   And we need to know how to recognise and respond to these secondary effects.   Those of us with specialist skills in conflict management are called to leadership roles at times as individuals, teams, families and communities navigate shock, denial, anger, rage and fear. 

One would imagine that events like the Christchurch hate crime or conviction of George Pell, would bring us together.  And these events do have that possibility.   However when our sense of security in the world is rent, we are typically thrust in the fight, flight and freeze dynamics which ironically result in increased tension and conflict in other facets of our lives.   In addition the dynamics of power and privilege are brought into stark relief.  Let me elaborate…. 

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Organisational Transformation: Five Traps to Avoid at all Costs

6.rollercoaster.jpgOrganisational transformational or change initiatives represent a big commitment.   They take focus, energy and time.

Whilst we know organisational change is now a constant,  significant transformations take a toll on the human and emotional capital of the workforce, with many people reporting heightened anxiety as a result of the uncertainty that arises.

So the question of how to do change well is one we need to pay attention to.

In our work consulting on culture and change management, we have seen transformational initiatives that deliver on their promise and those that seemed like a lot of pain and effort, for not much return.

Here are four common traps we have witnessed, and our advice on how to avoid them.

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Leadership and the Power Factor

Leadership.jpgBarnaby Joyce is not the first politician or leader to be blindsided by the consequences that come with using power poorly.  It seems that for many years, peers, directs and the media would turn a blind eye to rank transgressions.

However, things are changing. Perhaps it has been the widespread exposure of phenomena such as abuse in our religious and many public institutions.  Perhaps it was the global financial crisis.  Perhaps we are simply becoming more educated. 

Whatever the reason, the public’s intolerance for the misuse of power and call for change and accountability is growing louder.

Many leaders sense this and are growing nervous.  So what can organisations do to address the issue and support leaders to use their power more effectively?

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Building Peace Through Our Relationships in 2018

6404961855_f6a022a48f_o.jpgThe New Year is not just a time for thinking about our bucket list and what you want to do, but who you want to be as a person.  That includes how we want to be together in our teams and communities.

Over the break I escaped the cut and thrust of life, got out into the natural world, and reflected on what brings me true peace and contentment.  Interestingly it wasn’t more stuff, more possessions or even more achievements.

If I have one wish for 2018, it is that we learn to be more human with each other, more curious, more tolerant and more related.  That’s my vision and commitment.

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Helping the Bullied Bring Out Their Power

In my last post I spoke about the film 'BULLY'.

One of the great strengths of this film is that while bullying in many schools and workplaces is managed in private, the camera allows us to witness and reflect on escalating incidents of bullying and individual, peer, family and the school systems’ attempts to deal with it. It’s easier to learn from the comfort of our seats, when we’re not caught in the intensity of the moment ourselves. Our brains are not surging with stress-related hormones. We’re not under pressures to act and fix things.

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BULLY: Learning From Tragedy

I’ve just seen the film ‘BULLY’, which follows the lives of five young people who experience bullying. Of the children in the film, one was seventeen year old Tyler Long, who committed suicide on October 17 2009. The documentary provides a compelling insight into the dynamics of bullying in the school yard and on the school bus. The film has been so powerful that it has now been viewed by over one million parents, kids, educators and advocates. Everyone should see it, but a word of warning, its contents are graphic and disturbing. 

A particularly shocking revelation, following Tyler’s death, was that several of his fellow students had come to school with nooses around their necks. What distances a person from the impact of their behaviour, to the extent that even the death of a peer does not wake them up to the fact that it’s no longer a joke?

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The Links Between Conflict and Workplace Health and Rehabilitation

lady.jpgMy interest in workplace conflict developed during my work as a rehabilitation consultant specialising in psychological injuries in the workplace.  It was evident that the mechanisms in place at the time for the early resolution of conflict were inadequate.

As a result people held on trying to cope as best they could, usually with a result that their conflicts escalated.  Feelings such as rage, hopelessness and fear kicked in.   Many people experience sleeplessness or report a deterioration in personal relationships as they took their worries home.

The stresses associated with interpersonal or team conflict are hard on the body.  Over time it can and does lead to health impacts such as adrenal fatigue, immune system depletion, anxiety and a depression, with signs of PTSD evident in many sustained cases of bullying.  For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, the deterioration is usually evident much sooner and can be catastrophic.

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In The Face Of Crisis: Showing Up

donald trump.pngAs I went about my business today in a far nether-region of the world called Australia, CEO’s attended to urgent meetings before returning to view the live telecast of the US election and primary school children on public transport announced emerging ballot results from their mobile phones while their friends played Candy Crush.

As the trending results revealed themselves, I, like many, rode a roller coaster...

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An Individual Or Systemic Problem?

Last night the ABC’s Four Corners program aired shocking footage of the treatment of young Aboriginal children in custody in the Dondale Detention Centre. What I witnessed fills me with shame and a sense of responsibility to speak out.

The CC TV footage revealed assaults on young Aboriginal boys as young as 14, with groups of guards kicking, beating, goading, forcibly restraining them and using tear gas on them. The accompanying image to this post is taken from that footage. Independent Ombudsmen report the extraordinary and unacceptable use of solitary confinement, while other minors describe being pressured to attack those targeted by warders as troublemakers.

When questioned about the treatment of minors at the Centre, the NT Minister for Correctional Services, John Elferink, deflected any focus on his own failure to act on extensive reports on the problem by benignly raising questions about whether the personnel dealing with these youth had been adequately trained.

To dismiss this behaviour as a reflection of inadequate training ignores the systemic dimensions of this situation and offers little confidence that the disgraceful patterns of behaviour and norms that have developed within the institution will be addressed. And I say this as someone in the learning and development field!

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Addressing the Amygdala Hijack

 During my early career as a therapist rehabilitating people after brain injuries and stroke, I became fascinated by the workings of the brain. These years taught me a lot about what happens when things start going haywire. It’s an understanding I still value as a coach…

Leaders need to be able to think clearly. We expect them to make decisions based on sound reasoning. We also expect leaders to engage proactively. But too often this is not the case. Many leadership decisions are reactive, occurring when people are at the mercy of what neuroscientists refer to as an amygdala hijack.

When we are triggered by a problem that is overwhelming, when someone who challenges our identity or we encounter perceived threats, the amygdala kicks in. We become reactive. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for our fight and flight response.

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Forthcoming Events


Conflict Management Coach Practioner Program & Worldwork

Our four day training program introduces participants to the CINERGY® Conflict Coaching model and the Not-So-Merry-Go-Round of conflict which is central to developing insight and change. With a focus on experiential learning participants become skilled in facilitating others in a process of change.

Worldwork workshops - learn powerful tools for working with complex organisational dynamics, supporting diverse voices to be heard, addressing conflict and creating awareness about the effect of our subtle biases and unconscious use of rank and power.