Drawing out thoughts and emotions (Cont’d)










[.. continued from last post]

Third, it is the space.  We held the session in her quiet little penthouse in a very old house.   From where I sit, I can see the trees through a small window.   The room is ‘populated’ with books.   The lighting is mild and it is always very quiet.    I find such environment to be like magic to me.   I feel like I am in a private and safe space.   I believe it makes a big difference.   To illustrate the point, if the same analyst runs the sessions with me in a corporate board room (especially if I work in the same company), I think we could hardly go that deep.    Overall, I do not think we always need exactly this particular set up in order to make people talk.   But the point is to create a safe and cozy space….  at least to avoid the corporate board room….

Last point. I come up the above for coaching and facilitation with an assumption.   For coaching, my assumption is that it is to draw out thoughts and / or emotions which would not be expressed without the work of coaching.   It is different from psycho-analysis, basically, in a way that coaching is future-focused.   But it is also about drawing out thoughts and / or emotions from the coachees.    The same applies to facilitation to group.   Whilst coaching is about enabling conversation with self, facilitation is about enabling conversations with each others.

There are of course some types of coaching and facilitation which are more transactional, and the above points are less relevant.

See also previous posts on similar topics – Power of ‘Question’ & ‘Space’ and What does a facilitator do?   Space and Time.


Drawing out thoughts and emotions



In my exploration of what some people called ‘Depth Psychology’, I have been receiving psycho-analysis in recent months.    There are a lot of angles for me to reflect on the experience e.g. feeling and sensation, mid-life, family.   In this post, let me take the perspective of facilitation and coaching.

We had very deep conversation in the sessions.   I could not help thinking – ‘What made the analyst so successful in drawing out thoughts and feeling from me?’   Further the question is ‘What can I learn from these sessions for facilitation and coaching?’    Well, there are factors which are specific to psycho-analysis e.g. her particular questioning skills in helping me make association with dream.   But there are some which can be borrowed to facilitation and coaching.

First, to start with, I am open to her because it is my own choice to work with her.   We had a chemistry session in advance like the those in some executive coaching arrangement.  Sometimes, this is applicable in group facilitation.   I know of a practitioner who was once asked by a CEO to do a challenging team development work.   He sat the condition that he would only take the job if he could interview 1 on 1 every single top team member and no one refused his appointment as the facilitator.  (How smart he is!    The interviews themselves were probably already interventions!)

Second, it is my analyst’s silence.   After she asked a question, or when we were like running out of things to talk about, she managed to keep silent with her gentle eye contact.   In particularly, I am impressed with her way to start almost each sessions.   She greeted me, we took our seats, and then she just remained silent and waited for me to start!    To me, this was more stimulating than questions like ‘So, what would be useful to talk about today?’

[To be continued….]

Individuation, Abstract Art and Corporate Learning (Part 2)


The question I raised in my last post is ‘What is the implication of the individuation concept to corporate learning?’ The individuation is the ultimate developmental work (psychologically).   Ideally, a more self-harmonious and self-aware individual would contribute better to the workplace.

My first thought to the question is that most corporates would not really care.   In my experience, corporates expect return on investment in learning (in fact any other areas) in a relatively short period of time, with high certainty of success and value directly applicable to work.   The ideal is like having a Microsoft Excel workshop with what a participant can then use the Project Tracker template on his product development project the day after the workshop.    So, the challenges are:

  1. Time – Work on depth psychology takes time. Psycho-analysis or therapy takes months.
  2. Certainty – Some argue that the degree of ‘success’ varies. At least, it seems to be less scientific than traditional developmental interventions e.g. coaching, training, which are already difficult to evaluate
  3. Value – To individuate, becoming more ‘whole’, is not regarded as ‘valuable’ at work in most corporates. The quote from Henry Ford illustrates the extreme ‘Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?’

And 2 more challenges come to my mind:

  1. Branding – Concepts like ‘Depth Psychology’, ‘Dream Analysis’ are generally associated with mental illness – not exactly an attractive ‘branding’ for corporate executives as most are (or would like to be seen as) tough-minded.
  2. Preparedness – Learning professionals are generally not prepared for and told not to step into the Psycho-analysis or therapy area. Instead, some companies engage external counselling services for those who needs help.    (Again, work on depth psychology is associated to be something ‘negative’.)

In short, it seems unlikely corporates will one day run interventions dedicated to work on depth psychology e.g. a workshop called ‘How to individuate’ (!).    Yet,

  • Teal – There are movements in the world which embraces ‘wholeness’ as researched and described in the book called ‘Reinventing Organisation’.   See the summary in this Strategy+Business article.    In short, such Teal organizations encourage people bring all of themselves to work – their moods, aspirations, uncertainties.   So, point 3 above is less an issue.
  • Different Form – In fact, some Jungian theories have penetrated into corporate learning very successfully….. not in the form of psycho-analysis or therapy.   MBTI is an outstanding example (though under a lot of scrutiny these days).   It is said to be used by about 80% of Fortune 100 companies.    See Forbes article here.   We individuate as we attend to our inferior functions in MBTI.
  • Design Consideration – I think it will still be beneficial to take into account the individuation process in designing developmental interventions in corporates.   First, it is about how middle-age (35-45) learners develop themselves, say, compared to the late 20s / early 30s.     With the individuation process, the middle-age learners are likely more receptive to open reflective space rather than content-filled experience.   In fact, they may even need the reflective space.   They would also be more receptive to work on self-awareness and mindset (way of thinking) rather than skill-set (way of doing)

Overall, I sense that there are other things going on between the depth psychology world and corporate learning / development.   I am curious.   What do you see?    And what do you think is possible?

Individuation, Abstract Art and Corporate Learning (Part 1)

This post is related to my recent exposure to Jungian psychology and in fact the last post on Abstract Art.

I set out the Swiss journey as an opportunity to discover.   In this spirit, I attended a workshop in the Jungian institute in Zurich earlier this year.   Frankly, I was lost like 50% of the time during the workshop.   All the strange terminologies are difficult to me.   The one-way lecture (even reading from note sometimes) did not help much.

Yet, I am fascinated with some of the concepts.   Above all, I love the idea of individuation.   Jung advocated that the goal in life for all is to achieve individuation or self realization.  To become undivided.  It implies becoming one’s own self / a psychological ‘individual’ / a separate, indivisible unity or ‘whole’    The individuation process will lead to mental health or a healthy functioning personality.   By individuation, it means to confront contents of the unconscious to bring about a more harmonious balance between the different part of the psyche (i.e. mind or soul)

And on the idea of unconscious – Jung advocated that the psyche consists of 3 parts – conscious, personal unconscious and collective unconscious.    The conscious is the part of the psyche which one is aware of.  The personal unconscious is composed of repressed elements from one’s personal history.    The collective unconscious is composed of elements which are inherited and which all humans share.

The ideas make sense to me.   I believe that each of us is unique by nature.   Yet, for most if not all of us, the first part of our lives is to ‘fit in’.   We are normed (parented and educated) to find some socially acceptable roles and play well in those roles e.g. to be a good son / daughter, to be a successful banker / teacher.   In order to fit in, I suspect that most of us suppress some parts of ourselves.    After we find our place in the society, it makes sense to find and play to our true-selves.   Probably one will never become totally his / her true-self but I think the path towards it would be fulfilling already.  And I think it is a natural process for most.

In fact, this coincides with my own experience.   Majority of my coaching clients are 40 plus / minus.   Most are drawn to work on a similar issue – ‘I have done well in what I am doing.  If I continue, I am sure I will still do well.   But I am not sure whether I shall spend my remaining life on this.’    Some may call it mid-life crisis.   It seems to me examples of how people are drawn to the individuation process.

The idea of ‘confronting the unconscious’ also makes a lot of sense.   I believe most have experienced occasions which we cannot explain how we came to certain decisions or what made us having certain emotion.   Or suddenly some of our long-lost memory came back just because of a specific smell.  There is some part of our mind which we are not conscious of. We parked, filtered out and forgot some parts of our mind personal unconscious), and we inherited some since we were born (collective unconscious).

In order to find and play to our true-selves, we thus need to approach the unconscious.   And that is where the Abstract Art comes in.  The hypothesis is that we can surface our unconscious by free association.   It seems to me a painting without immediate and direct meaning would be useful in inducing free association.   It is NOT what it is.   It is what YOU are.    I think the same logic applies to dream analysis.

What do you think?

Assuming the above is true (if there is any truth in the world….), I wonder what the implication is to corporate learning?   Let me ponder on it and share later.

Adding ‘Share’ buttons

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 10.10.51 AMI am trying to enhance the blog functionalities.   My first attempt is to enable readers to share the posts on social media including Linkedin, Facebook and Wechat.   Wishing to connect more like-minded people.

What’s the point?

 I still remember when I saw the first time an Abstractionism painting many many years ago, I wondered ‘what is the point?’ I have never managed to appreciate them.

I went into Albertina in Vienna earlier…. partly involuntarily. At least for the sections I visited, the museum contains a good variety of paintings in the last century including Monet and Picasso.

Interestingly, the one I spent most time on is this one, called ‘Face in a landscape’. I am not sure whether it is officially classified as Abstractionism (as there seem to be many -isms). But it does have the ‘what is the point?’ effect on me.

I cannot help wonder why I looked at it for so long. On reflection, the vague image is like the Tavistock experience to me. Like this piece, the experience is to create white space for individuals to make their own sense or to surface own assumptions. The key difference is that the latter is about how people behave in group and how group behave.

In fact it is also like many aspects of life in general. There is no single absolute truth. Everyone has his or her own truth. It depends how one perceives.

One particular aspect is leadership. 10 people can have 10 different ways to lead.. and they all could achieve the ‘result’ (the additional layer of complexity is that people define ‘result’ differently)

I was probably drawn to the painting because of such ‘no single truth’ notion. It speaks for the path I have been trying to develop myself into in last few years. And in the spirit of this blog theme, such notion also points to the importance of questions (rather than answers), both in developing myself and helping others develop re the complex aspects of life like leadership.

Perhaps I start to appreciate such paintings more.

French and Leadership – The limitation of traditional classroom training


Some thoughts came to my mind when I was attending my French class earlier this week.  (Yes, apparently, I was not an attentive student to French!!)

During the class, the teacher played some recording.   We listened and tried to understand.   He corrected our mistakes and then also introduced some grammar points.  We then practiced some more and got corrected.    This lecture-practice-correct loop (in whatever order) seems to me a rather typical classroom training scene.   In the corporate world, similar things happen in the training rooms.

Some argue that such notion of training in the corporate world was naturally borrowed from schools and / or military training.    It has worked there and thus it might work here.   In fact, if I were the first few people in the business history asked by the CEO to help people learn, I would probably adopt what I experienced before i.e. classroom training.  After all, the CEO has experienced the same and thus would likely agree with my proposal.

It probably worked well in the beginning.   I imagine the first few training topics in an organisation are technical in nature e.g. how to operate a machine, how to process a loan application.   For topics like these, there exist THE right answers (may be more than one). We can thus tell the learners some theories or models and correct their practices / exercises.

But problems arose when we extend such lecture-practice-correct loop into topics without THE right answers e.g. Leadership.  (Of course, it depends what one means by Leadership / Leadership Development.   I talked about it in earlier blogs – ‘Really, what is leadership?’ and ‘Leadership Development’.  We use this term to mean a lot of things.    If it means ‘how to use the performance review system’, there is THE right answers.   But if it means ‘how to lead better’, there is NO right answer.)

In the latter version of ‘Leadership’, any response to the question depends on the situation, the one who wants to lead, the ones whom to be led, etc.    There is no correct answer.   In the language of Cynefin Framework, the technical topics being to SIMPLE or COMPLICATED domain, whilst the latter version of leadership beings to the COMPLEX domain.

Apparently, the lecture-practice-correct loop would not work here.   Any lecture can at best be inputs for individual experiments.    It would be demotivating and frustrating (to the learners and the organisation) to take any lecture content as the Holy Grail.     More, without THE right answer, any attempt to correct would be in vain.

Yet, from what I have experienced so far, we are still largely ‘conditioned’ by the lecture-practice-correct approach, no matter what the underlying topics are.   This probably adds to the list made by Mckinsey on ‘Why Leadership Development Programs Fail’.   In short, we are helping others learn leadership like the way we do French.   C’est bizarre!

(You may ask ‘So what then?’.   See my thought on earlier blog posts like ARL and ‘Forget about Training’)

What story would you like to tell?



Many years ago, I was facing some difficult career choices.   As a coachee, I was asked a question which I found very powerful.   My first kid was a few months ago at that time, and the question was like ‘The best way to raise the kids is to role model.   How would you choose so that you will have the stories you want to tell your kids when they grow up?’

I suddenly became very clear on what I will do.    On reflection, the question is powerful because it connected my emerging identity to the problem.   Since I had a lot of energy on such identity, the question empowered me to address the problem the better.

The implication for me as a coach is then to look for the different identities a coachee has, especially those outside the natural scope of the underlying problem.   So, if the problem is in the workplace, look for identities like a mother, a father, a daughter, a son, a sister, a brother, a friend, a sports team member, a church member…..    Sense which one the coachee has energy with.   Prompt the coachee to look at the problem from such identity may give him / her new perspective.