Mayvin - A specialist Leadership and Organisational Development company
Mayvin /‘meIvIn/ def: [also Maven - Yiddish/Hebrew]: ‘trusted expert in a particular field’
There is a risk that as consultants we may collude with a prevailing view that behaviour in organisations is driven by rationality and logic. While many of us might wish that this were so, experience in organisations indicates that less obvious drivers, which originate below the surface of what we consciously know, may offer a better explanation.
A group of consultants from different organisations and nationalities are engaged to work with a delegation of leaders from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. They accompany the delegates to a neutral venue in Sweden where they will meet for three days. The consultants are prepared for significant conflict between the delegates, reflecting strife in the old Yugoslavia and the profound religious and cultural divides.
Two days in and the delegates are apparently working collaboratively. Between the consultants however there is open warfare.
The vignette above comes from an independent consultant, who was one of the warring colleagues. He made sense of these events by reference to that part of the human psyche that is usually ‘in the dark’ from our conscious selves. The unconscious is like a black hole without physical substance that exerts a powerful influence on anything in its sphere. Based on Freud’s original thinking, the unconscious of each individual is a repository of desires and impulses that the maturing child has learned to control. The process of learning to cope with these raw wishes is a dynamic one that gives shape to the individual’s personality. To keep these hidden impulses in check, an individual may unknowingly use a range of defence mechanisms.
Building on Freud’s work, Melanie Klein and her followers describe how the ego is formed as the infant develops defence mechanisms against anxiety about death or annihilation. These may then be reproduced in the adult as a defence against anxiety and help shape our relationships as individuals and in groups. Whether repressed sexuality as was central to Freud, or fear of annihilation lie at the heart of unconscious, the defence mechanisms associated with reducing anxiety or controlling unacceptable impulses are familiar to most of us.
In the example above, the consultant understood the conflict among the professional as an example of the defence mechanisms of projective identification. He believed that the delegates were mindful of their roles and responsibility to find solutions at home. This did not of course lessen the differences between them, nor the hatred and mistrust they probably felt. They - undoubtedly unconsciously - had split the professional duties and laudable aims of their meeting off from their hostile feelings and projected those feelings onto the group of consultants around them. When the consultants discussed this interpretation among themselves they were able to resolve the conflict they felt to each other, and address the delegates at a different level; exposing and acknowledging the dislike and suspicion between them and by this releasing energy for the real task they had met for.
The example shows how psychodynamic approaches to organisations centre on the idea that apparently rational behaviour hides feelings, concerns or forces of which the players are unaware.
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Having worked closely with Martin on several leadership courses, I can say he is one of the best training facilitators I have been on any course with. His natural passion and ability to listen and help people reach their full potential is outstanding. The feedback he gave me was as if he had known me all his life and was really helpful.”
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The world is full of customers, clients and opportunities.
Like a weather system, the world is not predictable.
In human systems, the heart matters as much as the head.
The physical body matters as much as the heart.
Knowledge is not absolute - people’s perspectives and contexts matter.
There are different types of knowledge - insights and feelings matter as much as clear-headed reasoning.
People’s stories about what is going on matter more than the ‘objective’ truth.
Relationships, connections and politics matter.
Repeating patterns matter.
Diversity is a business-critical issue, not just an ethical one.
The world is ever-changing, messy and not always as it seems, but it is possible to find moments of clarity when the way forward suddenly becomes clear.