Denial Anger Bargaining Depression Acceptance

Roger Ebert, american film critic.

Roger Ebert, american film critic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are supposedly five stages of grief associated with significant change.  Elizabeth-Kubler Ross identified them as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.


Without commenting on the politics involved it seemed to me that people in Durham – and elsewhere – celebrating Lady Thatcher’s demise were acting out their anger.  They were nowhere near accepting that changes had affected local, national and international communities.


Lady Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore, singled out the BBC as a broadcast outlet which ‘behaved badly’ in stirring up non-issues about Thatcher dissenters.   In his grief he may have experienced some denial, as Sky News coverage of anti-Thatcher sentiments seemed to be just as extensive.


US film critic Roger Ebert’s inspiring achievements (both before his 2006 life-changing health crisis and subsequently) are also food for thought regarding the five stages model.  The BBC’s Ouch blog posting below contains details.

The Iron Lady

English: Margaret Thatcher, former UK PM. Fran...

English: Margaret Thatcher, former UK PM. Français : Margaret Thatcher 日本語: 「鉄の女」サッチャー英首相 Nederlands: Margaret Thatcher Svenska: Margaret Thatcher som oppositionsledare 1975 Русский: Маргарет Тэтчер, бывшая премьер-министр Великобритании (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a post I promised earlier concerning the Iron Lady.

Back in the spring of 1979 at my school Mr Robinson’s sociology class was set a topical assignment. We were given a project brief to write about the upcoming election in any way we chose.

I chose to survey the local shop keepers’ voing intentions; cut the editorials out of the newspaper; and watch a range of political programmes on BBC and ITV (this was years before multiple channels and social media).

Being a bit retentive I still have the project I completed all that time ago. It is quite something to look back at what I wrote then, a few days after Lady Thatcher‘s funeral service at St Paul’s Cathedral.

My conclusion in 1979 was that Mrs Thatcher won the election because workers wanted her to control their soaring taxes.  I also thought that underneath her ‘mother knows best’ persona was a much harder woman, who could do battle with the best of them.  I additionally thought that her offer to strivers, council house tenants, and small business people seemed to have helped her secure her victroy.

Who knew then that, subsequently, war in the Falkland Islands; struggles with the National Union of Mineworkers; establishing the Right To Buy council houses and the deregulatory ‘Big Bang’ in the City of London would help her toward two further election victories and cement her reputation as one of the significant political presences of the post-war era.

Amazing what can be achieved with a strong sense of self-esteem; defining set of values (Thatcherism) ;coaching to establish a powerful personal brand; and an instinct for meeting the aspirations of the politically non-aligned.

Even then it was possible to see that by standing out so clearly from the political crowd she would distinguish herself one way, or another.

Older And Wiser

The Age UK logo

The Age UK logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Without a great fanfare Dame Joan Bakewell has celebrated her 80th birthday.  She has been a mainstay of the brodcast world since the 1960s and shows no sign of taking it easy now.   It is a long way from the BBC’sThat Was The Week That Was‘ programme with David Frost, to Sky Arts 2013 portraiture competition, capturing the essence of Hilary Mantel.  The Guardian newspaper has a modest editorial on that subject, which I found interesting. was thinking of the impact of people living longer and enjoying good health when I came across some research from Age UK, the chariy for older people, concerning ‘Improving Later Life’.   Apparently one of the key issues for those in their mid to late 80s is continuing to have social interaction, to counter the trend to loneliness and isolation which might other wise set in.

Both of these points are important.  Remaining active and engaged with the world, whilst combatting isolation, help individuals sustain their health, well-being and confidence.  There is also a tremendous opportunity for self-discovery as there is more time in which people can indulge in some life long learning and further spiritual growth.  That’s a win for older people, their families and the community at large.

The Things You Learn From Rock And Roll

Yannis Philippakis singing with Foals at the B...

Yannis Philippakis singing with Foals at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have read my posts about David Bowie, or the Rolling Stones, you’ll know I like music created by established artists.  Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with newcomers, with the right attitude.  That attitude involves doing what you love for reasons other than wanting to be famous, straightaway.

That attitude is voiced neatly in a recent BBC News article on the Foals and the Maccabees.  The Foals frontman, Yannis Philippakis, gives a great quote to the BBC about his musical ethos.  He says:

“Music is its own reward and making music is what you do it for, it’s for the fulfilment and the beauty of the creative moment”

Equally important is the nurturing approach that record companies have toward their artists.  If the company is into making quick money from the talents of the winner from a singing competition like the X Factor they will drop the artist quickly if sales don’t meet expectations.

As a side note, I guess it helps if you have a robust sense of your own talent if you are entering those talent shows – like Will Young or JLS seem to have – since you know your abilities are strong enough to transcend the here-today-gone-tomorrow environment which introduced to the spotlight.

Anyway, record companies interested in developing their artists, rather than quickly exploiting them, form substantive working relationships built for the long term.  The BBC article notes what Martin Mills, founder and chairman of the Beggars group says about longevity being vital in the independent sector.

“You’re looking for artists that are more than just one moment, people that we think can grow over a period of time and become even greater”

The moral for the creative musician (and maybe for the person seeking a fulfilling non-creative career) seems to have a flavour of Laura Berman Fortgang’s philosophy: find your reward and fulfilment from doing what you love to do; build a relationship with an employer who supports your growth over the long-term; live the best life you can.

Under Pressure

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it is a sign of the (tough) times in which we live, or a more enlightened attitude to the subject, either way mental health stories are becoming more prominent in the media.

Mental health related pressures that young people, and their teachers, face are the subject of two recent BBC stories.

The first feature notes some imaginative work with story telling that allows young people to work their emotions into a narrative they create. This allows them to explore anxieties in a safe way.  Hopefully it also opens the door to the young people getting the support they need.

The second article records the increasing trend towards emotional or behavioural outbursts in the classroom that members of the Association Teachers and Lecturers have to deal with.  More effective training and support may help manage those classroom tensions.

What a huge challenge it must be to have the goal of delivering effective learning for a class of 25 when one or two students are intent on acting out.  Equally, how grim are the personal circumstances of some students that they cannot turn to supportive parents or carers to help manage their distress instead all they can do is challenge their teachers.

That is not to say all is lost, if disruptive behaviour leads to permanent exclusion from school.  As the feature article in the Observer newspaper suggests, Sirach ‘Angel’ Charles’ budding musical career proves there is life after the Pupil Referral Unit.

That’s What Friends Are For

Goal Setting

Goal Setting (Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

If you were to picture yourself sitting in your rocking chair, in your twilight years, what would you imagine were the highlights of your life?  Could they include your:

–       Big detached house in the country?

–       Fleet of fancy cars?

–       CV chock full of high-flying jobs?

If so you might want to think again.  Research conducted by Dr Gregory Bonn, a lecturer in psychology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia provides compelling evidence that ‘close and enduring relationships are considered central to life satisfaction’.  According to the coverage in the Independent newspaper, material achievements are not too high on the list of Things That Make You Happy.


Interestingly the survey findings also indicate that ‘Having a worthwhile career was rated as more important to a good life than having a successful one’.


There is a segue from the Independent story to one on the BBC news website.  It seems that the University of Chicago has researched the flip side of the ‘happy relationships equal happy life’ paradigm.  Their findings suggest that loneliness can lead to physical as well as psychological harm.


If that is sound information then it is timely, especially for the so-called ‘leftover’ women in China.  Their ambition and drive for early career success seems to have a downside.   According to BBC coverage, if these women mis-time their career peak they risk being viewed as too old for marriage.  The bad news is that over 25 may be ‘too old’!.


I wonder if these findings establish any useful goal setting principles?  One’s purpose in life fuels goal setting, so perhaps it is important that some goals relate strongly to building and maintaining healthy relationships.  These might take precedence over goals involving gathering material possessions.


That makes sense.  When goal setting we think about what we want to Be, then to Do and last of all, to Have.


Maybe the attachments to the key people in one’s life are more powerful and lasting than the links to physical possessions.

A Few Words About Office Politics


Scooby-Doo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like Oliver James’s analysis in his book ‘They F*** You Up’, a look at surviving family life and better understanding how growing up in your family made you who you are today.


I have read the Guardian’s review of his latest offering ‘Office Politics’ and I am unsure what to make of it.


It seems the book’s thesis is that, ‘where blame can be spread and credit stolen, and the bonus pool depends on staying in the boss’s good graces, you need to know how to hustle’.  Hustling in this context seems to involve looking out for number one without being full-on nasty about it.


It is probably unfair to critique the book without having read it (the review can only give an impression of the whole) yet I found myself thinking: what about fostering an organisational culture which helps staff be their authentic selves in the workplace?


It seems to me the energy involved in developing and deploying a work-persona is considerable.  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to put that energy into being authentic?  In that way there is no need to hustle, take others’ credit or keep in the boss’s good graces.


In addition what about the value of building a positive organisational culture, so there would be no need to look for some colleague, stakeholder or customer on whom to heap blame?


There is something quite small and petty about the idea of keeping a list of those to blame / identify as the enemy / seek retribution against.  Don’t misunderstand, mapping stakeholders who support what you are trying to achieve in a project makes sense.  Identifying those who will always oppose any change, your project will deliver makes sense.  Keeping a list of those you point to as, ‘always at fault’, seems like something out of Scooby Doo, (‘I would have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!’).  It certainly feels unseemly and makes an organisation seem less than self-confident.


The BBC coverage of the National Rifle Association’s newly-discovered list seems to fall into this category .  I would certainly feel a bit nervous being in that organisation’s bad books.

Folsom Prison Blues

Johnny Cash 2209720084

Johnny Cash 2209720084 (Photo credit: Heinrich Klaffs)

Johnny Cash died nearly ten years ago (the exact anniversary is September 12).  I knew a little about his music – for instance his reinterpretation on Trent Reznor’s song ‘Hurt’ is achingly intense

Despite my interest in the criminal justice system I did not know about the role Johnny Cash took in US prison reform.  The BBC has filled in the blanks, in recent coverage of his activism from the 1950s onwards.

Apparently he used his growing profile as a musician from the late 1950s to draw attention to the unnecessary harshness of the penal system.  His faith-based view was that prisoners could be redeemed.  Speaking about Johnny’s prison work his brother Tommy says:

“He identified with the prisoners because many of them had served their sentences and had been rehabilitated in some cases, but were still kept there the rest of their lives. He felt a great empathy with those people”.

Seemingly the US recidivism rate means more than four out of ten offenders return to prison within four years.  As I posted on 24 November last year (see Inside Out) in the UK six out of ten offenders return to crime within nine years.

There was an interesting radio documentary recently about faith-based interventions to help disaffected youth, and people on the margins of society, linked to David Wilkerson’s work as a street pastor.  The book ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ says more about how that got started.

In the final analysis, maybe the UK needs more community outreach towards people on the margins.  Perhaps it also needs an advocate with the persistence and credibility of Johnny Cash to start the conversation about the potential for the criminal justice system to change peoples’ lives?

Not Everyone’s Cup Of Tea

As this is the season of gifts and thoughtful reflection I wondered what is the ideal gift you would give yourself in 12 months’ time?

Coaching present
Could your gift to yourself involve switching jobs?

Perhaps you were thinking of finding an occupation which reflects your values & beliefs more closely?

Maybe it relates to having a satisfying balance between time spent with supportive colleagues, trading in ethical products and enjoying a good quality of life?

Does achieving a fraction of that change sound like hard work?

Well, apparently a step or two along the road toward those outcomes is possible.  BBC Business coverage of Henrietta Lovell’s Rare Tea Company records such a journey.

Henrietta realised that there was scope to meet the needs of rare tea enthusiasts and became a kind trader into the bargain.

I love the positive energy she brings to the enterprise she founded.  Instead of constantly eyeing the bottom-line, in a competitive scramble, she asked:

“Why can’t businesses be run with a generosity of spirit and a lot of goodwill”?

She is making generosity and goodwill part of her business offer.  She is also making the business work.

According to the article, that is an approach which other, less nichey traders are adopting too.  The article is well worth a few minutes of your time.

I wonder how many business leaders are inclined to think about working with a coach to improve their performance outcomes in terms of their ethical reputation, or social impact?

Perhaps that was part of Google’s initial philosophy when their informal motto was ‘don’t be evil’.

Either way it would be incredibly positive to coach organisations who were professional about the goods / services they provided but also mindful of their stake in society.

As far as I can see those organisations, their staff, customers and stakeholders would all benefit from sharing an ethically- based value system.

That thinking has to be good for business.  Even though, obviously, it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.


English: folded turtleneck

English: folded turtleneck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I started working in an office (late 1989) one of the first bits of training I received was a video presentation of ‘the office of the future’.


You could tell it was meant to be a futuristic vision since the workers were all wearing polo necks, rather than shirt and tie or blouses.  They strode around purposefully and they sat at uncluttered desks, tapping away at computers, efficiently.


The point of the training video was to get me and my colleagues to think about what the streamlined workplace of the 21st century would look like and how productively we would be as workers in that environment.


Naturally a big part of that more efficient, productive future would be that the office was paper free.


I remember thinking at the time, that part of the vision seemed unlikely.  Where would all the paper go?  How brave would you have to be as a manager to say to the Big Boss ‘No, we don’t need to print anything out.  It is all stored on the computer’?


Fast forward two decades and paper is still everywhere.  Even working environments where there is a shared electronic records system, rely on people printing off copies of big reports, or long letters.  However good the screen, it remains difficult to read anything lengthy online, let alone amend it.


The BBC’s technology programme ‘Click’ shows what paperless-ness might look like.  Don’t worry, I think there is still some time before it gets here.  And in case you were wondering there is not a polo neck in sight.