My professional life has been dominated by the study and practice of Psychology. For 33 years I was on the full-time teaching staff of the UCT Department of Psychology, and when I took early retirement from the university at the end of 1999, it was in order to devote myself more fully to the practical application of what I had discovered of those powerful psychological principles which can transform our lives for the better. In the course of that work I have been involved in a wide variety of activities in the field of leadership development and human resource management. This work has been undertaken with corporates and other business organisations, NGOs, and various educational institutions.
For the last two years or so, however, I have taken a “writing sabbatical” in order to complete a book on the Psychology of Religion, which harks back to the work I did for my Ph.D thesis of almost 40 years ago. That book, entitled “The Two Faces of Christianity” was published in London on August 29th. Now that the writing of it (my twelfth published book) is complete, I am focussing my attention once more on my consulting work to business (and other organisations).
The break that I have had from that work for much of the last couple of years has proved valuable in allowing me time to look carefully at where my particular strengths lie in my support activities to people in the business world. The result of that period of reflection has been to cause me to decide to now focus my efforts in this field particularly onto the two (often closely-related) fields of Executive Coaching and Conflict Resolution.
My approach to business coaching is set out in my book Deep Structure Executive Coaching. (See my website for details). An important part of that process is an educational one. That side of things consists of helping my client to understand the general psychological principles which are, for better or for worse, and consciously or unconsciously shaping their behaviour both within and outside the workplace. Coaching should not, I believe, consist of a series of ad hoc do’s and don’ts, but rather help the client to understand themselves, and better empower them to more effectively take control of their lives in the future.
Most of the mistakes we make in both our business and our personal lives are not made out of a desire to hurt others or to make their lives a misery. Mostly those mistakes are made out of ignorance – ignorance of what is really going on in the mind of others, ignorance of what inner fears and insecurities are driving their often unattractive behaviours, ignorance of how to help them to change to a better way of living their lives, and ignorance of the part we may be playing in maintaining whatever behaviours of others we find undesirable. Sometimes the mistakes we make are because we are not aware of the often conflicting motivations which lie within ourselves.
But knowledge is power, and the more we understand of human psychology the greater power we have to change any situation which causes us any unhappiness, or drives us to make foolish decisions, and to behave in ways which make us look less than impressive in the eyes of others.
At its best Coaching offers the client a safe, supportive, non-judgemental environment in which they can be honest with themselves about their faults and failings, but in which they can also rejoice in the awareness of their good qualities. It also offers a place where the client can catch a vision of a better way of life – better for themselves and better for all those they live and work with. Most importantly it is a place where they can learn some practical skills in making that vision become a reality.
Nowhere is knowledge of the psychological principles governing human behaviour more important than in dealing with conflict. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. What determines whether it is a good or a bad thing is the way the conflict is handled.