Paradox by tyndale


Issue three                                                        Winter 2006

    Welcome to the third issue of Paradox, the newsletter of the

    The centre4gio is a social enterprise established to develop,
    promote and use Gestalt, and other associated means, to achieve
    effectiveness in organisations, through providing training and
    development programmes, publications and consultancy.

    In this issue of Paradox we look at the following -

      Our 2007 Gestalt in Organisations programme - update
      Moments of Leadership
      Coaching supervision
      Shame in organisations
      Parsifal rides out

    2007 Gestalt in Organisations programme - update
    Advance practice as leaders, change agents and consultants

    There is still time to join the 2007 programme.

    The dates in 2007 for the five modules are -

      January    23,   24,   25
      March      27,   28,   29
      June       18,   19,   20, 21, 22 (with guest facilitator Seán Gaffney)
      Sept.      18,   19,   20
      Nov.       27,   28,   29

    Please get full details and an application form from the website

Moments of Leadership – By Trevor Bentley & Howard Boorman

There are moments when people in all walks of life display leadership. These
moments arise in the natural course of life and are in no way remarkable
except for the fact that they give rise to a display of leadership.

In these moments something happens which causes someone to act and
take the lead in some way that causes others to respond by following. These
leadership actions are often spontaneous and in response to some
unexpected event. They may also be premeditated, in the sense of someone
deciding that an act of leadership is necessary at this moment for some
reason. Whatever the reason for the act of leadership, it emerges in the

The role of leader and leadership

This is perhaps the moment to clearly define the difference between
leadership roles and leadership. People are appointed or elected to
leadership roles in a hierarchical sense, i.e. they are given a position that
has authority over the actions of others. In such positions people can make
decisions, give directions and orders and determine the distribution of
resources. This is the exercise of authority, it is NOT leadership.

Leadership is transitory and momentary and in response to some
circumstance or situation that calls for an immediate action that will
determine what happens next. The action will be such that others will be
willing to follow the lead of the person taking the action. They will choose to
follow because the action seems right at that precise moment, rather than
because of who is taking the action. Someone who has a leadership history,
i.e. has taken leadership action on a number of occasions, may elicit a
response in followers simply because they know and trust the person. If the
trust is strong enough people may follow even when the outcome of the
action is disastrous - at least once, that is!.

When people follow because they have no choice this is not leadership. Many
of the people we have experienced in leadership roles have failed to display
any leadership even when it was clearly needed. Others have fulfilled their
roles quietly and unassumingly until they act when there is a need for

       I experienced Michael over a ten year period during which
       time he probably only made a couple of dozen acts of
       real leadership as he ran the organisation of which he was

      Chairman and Chief Executive. He was an excellent role
      model, creative and innovative, thoughtful, caring and he
      knew what he wanted. All valuable traits in how he chose to carry
      out his role and work with his team. His real leadership came
      when he had to act in response to something that had happened.
      When he did this he acted quickly and with confidence .

Of course leadership is displayed wherever there are people, especially
when they are working or playing together.

      Davy was seventeen when I first met him. I was interviewing
      him for a position as a director for a Young Enterprise
      company based at the local comprehensive school. He was
      somewhat hesitant until I asked him about what he had
      written about his hobby of rock climbing. I had done some
      rock climbing, so I wanted to query his comment that he led
      XS routes. I knew that XS meant exceptionally severe and I
      suppose I was surprised. He immediately became more
      confident and talked to me about his climbing. In this
      particular field he was confident and inspired confidence in
      others, especially when leading a climb.

Leadership as a process, rather than the behaviour of a leader, is an idea
that has been current for some time. It is an idea which supports the
notion of leadership being transitory and momentary and capable of being
enacted by people who would certainly not consider themselves to be

Some people have many opportunities to live up to their leadership
potential. Others have very few opportunities in their lives to use their
leadership potential. Nevertheless when they act with leadership they are
leaders, however infrequently this might be.

A moment of leadership

The following story describes a moment of leadership that happened for
Trevor on a walking trip in the English Lake District. He tells the story in his
own words.

      It was a cold winters day in early March when I set off with a group
      of friends to climb Great Gable. We were attending the annual meet
      of the Bradford Straddlebugs. One of our members had died since
      our last meeting and we set out in a number of groups to meet on

      Great Gable to scatter his ashes. We had chosen a route that I knew
      very well and that was not too demanding. As we walked, the
      weather deteriorated and it started to snow. I noticed the way the
      clouds came lower and the sky darkened and I suggested that we
      were in for a blizzard. We continued for a short distance and as the
      blizzard hit us we stopped in the shelter of some rocks to put our
      crampons on. Within a few moments the path had disappeared under
      the snow and we could hardly see each other. I suggested that we
      should retreat off the mountain to a mountain hut that I knew. We
      had a discussion and I decided we should go down. I asked the fittest
      walker to bring up the rear and I said I would lead as I knew the
      path. There was some dissent but after a few moments everyone was
      in place and I led the way down.

      It took about 40 minutes of careful and slow walking before we
      dropped below the cloud and there, across the moor, we could just
      make out the hut. We arrived at the hut cold, wet and in need of
      food and drink. We had all brought some food and drink with us so
      we shared what we had and rested in the shelter and safety of the

      We talked for a while about what had happened and as we did so
      the blizzard stopped and the clouds lifted. We then had a
      discussion and we decided to return to the hotel via a lower route
      staying below the clouds.

      Later in the hotel we shared our story with the others who also
      had their stories to tell and it turned out that our friend’s ashes
      never did reach the top of Great Gable and were scattered on the
      mountain in Windy Gap a rather inhospitable spot.

      In the warmth of the hotel and with the company of my friends it
      was hard to imagine how cold and scared I had been on the

The emergence of leadership

Opportunities for leadership emerge in all kinds of situations and with all
kinds of individuals and groups. It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict
when they may occur and so it is equally difficult to be ready for them in
an anticipatory sense. However, we can be prepared and available to the
unfolding moment with all our senses attuned and with our awareness
switched on. And then when that moment arrives, if it is our moment, i.e.

if it fits our leadership profile, we may be able to respond and provide the
leadership needed.

We are working on our latest book, with moments of leadership as the key
theme. We would be interested in hearing your stories of moments of
leadership. If you have a story you’d be willing to share, please email
Trevor at or Howard at

Coaching supervision

As more and more people offer coaching services it is essential for them to
consider how they can maintain high quality provision of best practice.
Perhaps the most effective way is via professional supervision.

Professional coaching supervision is available from experienced coaches
who have also developed the skill of providing supervision, which will
usually include.

      Review of current practice
      Specific support of client work
      Self-support re issues arising from current work
      Development of personal style

Review of current practice

This will generally look at how the coach is working at present with their
clients and examine current patterns of practice. Coaching is moving on all
the time with many new ideas and ways of working being developed. It’s
the supervisor’s role to keep abreast of such developments and to pass
them on where appropriate.

Specific support of client work

Coaching is never easy and most coaches will get stuck from time to time
and find specific client support very helpful. Over a period of time the
coaching supervisor will get to know a particular flow of work with clients
and be a ready source of support.

Self-support re issues arising from current work

It is not surprising, given the nature of the work, that coaches will have
many of their own buttons pressed, accidentally or deliberately, by their

clients. Working with a supervisor on these issues will help coaches to keep
their working sessions focused on their clients’ needs.

Development of personal style

Perhaps the one thing that differentiates one coach from another is their
personal style and how well this fits with, or contradicts their clients’
needs. Maintaining a sense of differentiation whilst also maintaining clarity
of awareness of client needs is fundamental to providing a high quality

Shame in organisations – By Trevor Bentley

Shame is an experience that each of us has when humiliating situations
arise, or there is the possibility of such situations arising. At such moments
we might react physically or psychologically by hiding, running away,
withdrawing, acting defensively, becoming passively aggressive, angry or
aggressive or trying, in some other way, to avoid humiliation or threat of

It is a completely natural and innate survival response and helps us to
steer our way through life without too many traumas in our relationships
with others.

      Shame is… continually ready to inform us of the perceived possibility
      that our desires and urges are not supported by others who are
      important to us. In this way, the experience os shame facilitates our
      pulling back from risks that are possibly unsupported. (Lee 1996)

Shame is not an experience that someone does to us, even though others
may deliberately create situations that they anticipate may be shaming for
us. Shame is something that we do for and/or to ourselves.

Avoiding shame is a powerful regulator for some people. For others it does
not seem to have a particularly regulatory power. It is apparent that there
are different levels of sensitivity to shame, possibly along a spectrum from
highly shame sensitive to shameless (or apparent shamelessness).

Shame in organisations is the elephant in the room that everyone knows is
there, but no one seems to notice even when we have to squeeze past it or
it sits on us and crushes us.

Four ideas or hypotheses

Over the years working in organisations, I have rubbed shoulders with
shame on many occasions, both my own and other people’s. Often on
these occasions it was as if it was shaming to admit to feelings of shame.
When that is the case, some other process comes into play to try to
ameliorate the shame, though the shame response is still usually evident -
often in the form of anger or withdrawal.

The first of my hypotheses is that acting to avoid shame is one of the
principal reasons for poor performance.

When shame surfaces attention is diverted from what is supposed to be
happening towards dealing with the shame. This interferes with an
individual’s normal functioning and, though it may not be particularly
noticeable, this interference will be present - and it will affect performance.
Here is an example of what can happen.

      David was serving a customer in a bank. The customer was wanting
      to open a savings account and David was helping them to complete
      the form. The customer was having trouble following all the
      questions and David was carefully explaining each one. David’s
      supervisor who was passing noticed what he assumed was David’s
      difficulty in helping the customer so he intervened asking David if
      he could be of help. David’s immediate reaction was to feel shame
      and to struggle even more to explain the questions to the
      customer. This seemed to confirm the supervisor’s original
      assumption and he suggested that he would complete the form with
      the customer. This increased David’s sense of shame and he
      apologised to the customer and left his supervisor to complete the
      form with the customer. David went back to his desk hardly able to
      conceal his anger and did no worthwhile work for the rest of the

In this example the supervisor was not intending to shame David and was
blissfully unaware at the time of what effect his intervention had had.

I have seen this impact that shame can have on performance in numerous
situations, especially where there is an attempt to ignore the presence of
shame or where it has not been recognised.

My second hypothesis is that achieving organisational advancement
means negotiating the organisational processes that are designed
to select out those who are highly shame sensitive.

There seems to be an unspoken rule that you have to be tough to get to
the top. This seems to imply that those who succeed have a high shame
tolerance, i.e. are able to minimise their reactions to shame or are not
easily shamed. Those who are more sensitive to shame seem to be
considered weak and/or unable to cope with the hurly burly of
organisational behaviour.

     Mary was being fast tracked in the marketing department of a large retail
     chain. Her boss had noticed how she seemed able to cope with the banter
     of her male colleagues, much of which had sexual undertones. She seemed
     able to ‘give as good as she got’ which is how he described it to his boss.
     Mary enjoyed her job and on the surface didn’t seem bothered by the
     rather crude behaviour of her male colleagues.

     In one of my coaching sessions with Mary she told me how much this
     banter and sexual innuendo was getting her down and she didn’t know how
     much more she could take. We explored options that she might follow to
     deal with what was happening. The one she opted for was to respond to her
     colleagues by letting them know how she felt when they spoke to her in
     way they normally did. The words she was going to use were, ‘When you
     say that I feel …’ She was also going to speak to her boss to let him know
     that if this behaviour continued she was going to ask for a transfer.
     Needless to say when she did both these things her boss and her
     colleagues were surprised and their behaviour towards her and their
     opinion of her improved.

Sometimes it takes a great deal of effort and energy to avoid shame
reactions and to continue to perform at a high level in shame inducing
situations becomes very demanding, and one outcome is for people to
leave the organisation.

Paradoxically, often individuals who have enormous capacity for shame but
who have learnt to hide this very successfully through anger or by bullying
others, rise to the very top of organisations. In other words, they have
worked out how to navigate the organisational prejudices against shame by
masking their capacity for shame.

My third hypothesis is that shame is used in organisations to control
and punish those who don’t fit or who don’t perform.

It seems that those who do succeed in organisations have low shame
sensitivity or become good at avoiding shame and don’t understand those
who are at the other end of the spectrum and so deliberately or

accidentally continue to trigger shame reactions and shame avoidant

      Miranda had worked at the company for 18 months and her confidence was
      increasing as she got to know her way around the office politics. She had
      noticed that the deputy MD would often embarrass people with his acerbic
      and facetious comments, so she had steeled herself for his reaction when
      she was presenting a new marketing plan at a meeting he was chairing.

      She was well into her presentation and all seemed to be going well when
      the deputy MD said, ‘OK that’s enough, I would like you to completely re-
      think your approach and leave out all this fancy stuff about a loose-leaf
      brochure.’ Miranda was devastated and acutely embarrassed. She couldn’t
      continue and left the meeting in tears.

      The following day the deputy MD summoned her to his office and asked her
      if she was OK. He went on to tell her that he thought he had been rather
      hard on her and apologised for upsetting her. She told him how she had felt
      and how difficult it was for her to face her colleagues who had been at the
      meeting. He responded by saying that he was sure she would get over it.

      In my coaching session with Miranda she told me how she had felt ‘put in
      her place’ and that she would be very careful in future about what she
      presented and that she would make sure she had covered herself and took
      little if any risk and that she would agree her ideas with the deputy MD
      before presenting them.

I find this attitude of putting people in their place very prevalent and the
usual way of doing this is by engendering some form of shame reaction.

My fourth hypothesis is that shame reactions are themselves a source
of shame and that people can very easy slide down the shame
spiral until there seems like no way out.

This is the process that Robert Lee (1) describes as a shame bind.

Lee suggests that a shame bind operates in this way:

In the example with Miranda the deputy MD’s comment that ‘he was sure
she would get over it’ is a further invitation for Miranda to visit her shame.
She had chosen to share with him her sense of shame and now he was
triggering her shame about feeling shame.

In my experience in organisations, people think that they have to
desensitise their reactions in order not to feel shame, which is itself
shaming. So if we don’t feel shame in the first place we can avoid the

shame spiral. This sounds a useful strategy except for the fact that the
process of desensitisation blocks our capacity to feel and to relate so that
we become robotic in our reactions and contact.

Working with shame in organisations

If my hypotheses are correct then the organisational field is a veritable
shame minefield. In such a situation it becomes essential to provide some
means of negotiating through the minefield without causing self or others
permanent crippling damage.

To be continued…

(1)   Lee, Robert. G. and Wheeler, Gordon (editors) (1996) The Voice of
      Shame: Silence and connection in psychotherapy. Jossey-Bass
      Publishers, San Francisco

Parsifal rides out

Parsifal climbed gingerly into the saddle of his horse Lightning. He had not
been in the saddle for more than a week and he could feel Lightning’s
excitement as she quivered beneath him.

‘Whoa, steady girl,’ he said to her whilst patting her neck. She whinnied in
response and pawed the ground. Parsifal gently pressed his knees and
Lightning stepped forward.

Once they were clear of the courtyard Parsifal slackened the reins and
Lightning pricked her ears and moved into a sedate canter.
‘OK girl, off you go,’ Parsifal said and Lightning stretched into a
comfortable mile eating gallop.

Parsifal loved the feeling of power as Lightning rippled and flowed beneath
him. There was something about the simple muscular strength of the
galloping horse that thrilled him and made him think of the more
complicated and confusing power of the King’s court. He had never been
one for getting involved in the political intrigues that ebbed and flowed in
the court. Just as he was riding Lightning, he preferred to sit and ride the
galloping power of the court.

Lightning moved over the ground at a seemingly effortless pace and
Parsifal had little to do other than grip lightly with his knees and allow his
horse her freedom. Wouldn’t it be great if the King could sit easily on his

throne and allow his ministers and Barons the freedom that Lightning was
enjoying. ‘Ah! But there’s the rub,’ thought Parsifal, ‘there is no way that
the King could trust his courtiers like I can trust you Lightning,’ he said
giving voice to his thoughts. And then he had an idea.

Later as he walked Lightning over towards her stable he made his mind up.
He would talk to the King about his idea that there had to be a better way
for the ministers and the barons to work together.

To be continued…


Please contact Trevor Bentley with any comments or submissions at
Snows Farm Cottage, Steanbridge Lane, Slad, Stroud, Glos. GL6 7QE.
Tel: 01452 813908 Email:

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