MindShift Conference

Another tiring full day on Zoom but it was also energising, inspiring and definitely worth it. This conference last Friday was a collaboration between various Swedish organisations – the Stockholm School of Economics, the Karolinska Institute, a medical university, and 29K and the Ekskäret Foundation, which both foster personal growth and societal change.

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Freedom Regained by Julian Baggini

Just when we have to put up with Lockdown 2, I wondered if this was an appropriate theme. But the subtitle – The Possibility of Free Will – really grabbed my attention. Mr Baggini is a British philosopher and writer whose lively debates for the layperson often have witty titles like Should You Judge This Book By Its Cover?

In Freedom Regained, he explores free will from eight different perspectives, starting with the Neuroscientist and the Geneticist, who give too much credit according to Mr Baggini to the laws of nature and fatalism. In contrast, both the Artist and the Dissident reclaim their personal freedom as an act of will, compelled by their deep convictions and principles. Freedom for the Psychopath and Addict is, however, relatively diminished.

The conclusions presented by the Philosopher and Waiter are persuasive in that we can earn our freedom by developing our capacity to make our own choices. In this way, free will is not a state but a process, not something we have or do not have. Rather, it’s a matter of degree, Mr Baggini reiterates, “something we have to work on, to protect and to nurture”.

He writes: “To be free is for one’s decisions, actions, beliefs and values to be one’s own. We are free to the extent that we are more self-directed, running along our own tracks rather than on those laid down by others”. Interestingly, he claims freedom to be a cluster of capacities – for originality, for spontaneity, and reflection. It involves being aware too of how our freedom might be hampered, if not be a repressive political regime, then psychologically through fear and manipulation or through conventional social structures.

One political dissident he interviewed recognised how we don’t always appreciate or take full advantage of our opportunities to exercise our free will, that we can let our “free will muscles” atrophy if things are easy. This was something I also noticed on my return to Germany after living in China.

There’s no mention at all of personal development work or coaching, yet there is a call to action – to all of us to become more conscious of our possibilities and choices and to gain an enhanced sense of agency and responsibility for being who we are. Ultimately, we might be puppets within our culture but we can still pull our own strings, claims the author. Now, that’s a curious notion worth pondering.

Maybe then it’s a truly democractic act to foster more free will in ourselves and others, as it is to manage better our minds and emotions and recognise the scope of our autonomy and freedom.

The 6 Team Conditions

Models with numbers are often good mnemonics, from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Well, last week I was introduced to Dr Ruth Wageman’s 6 Conditions framework that underpin and drive team effectiveness. Who’s Ruth Wageman?, you ask. She’s an American scholar and professor (Columbia, Harvard et al.), who researches team performance and building capacity for collaborative leadership.

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Coaching leaders for humility, but no quick fixes

In a couple of sessions recently at WBECS (World Business and Executive Coach Summit), attendees were invited to think about coaching leaders out of their arrogance towards greater intellectual humility, as well as the pros and cons of giving advice. In an effort to prevent Zoom fatigue, both presenters used various creative techniques to keep the sessions dynamic and engaging.

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Humble Leadership by Ed & Peter Schein

Back in 2018, the Scheins proposed this leadership model as a way of evolving managerial culture. It was then urgent; now, it is more so. Part of the Humble Leadership Series that includes “Humble Inquiry” and “Humble Consulting”, this book is a timely call-for-action for professionals, especially senior managment, to practise and role model “humble” behaviours, like being curious and asking, listening, and getting more personal and vulnerable.

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Lencioni’s advantage

Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of the consultancy, the Table Group, based in the San Francisco bay area, kicked off the World Business & Executive Coach Summit last week. With his signature dynamic enthusiasm, he summarised and blended his thinking from two of his eleven books, “The Advantage”, about organisational health, and, probably the better known, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”.

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The new facilitators

At the Amerikahaus second-hand book exchange here in Munich, well before Covid-19, I chanced upon “Managers as Facilitators” by R. Weaver and J. Farrell, described as a “Practical Guide to Getting Work Done in a Changing Workplace” – a great find with some helpful tips for team leaders and managers wanting to build their facilitation skills.

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The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

This short, beautiful book that became a world bestseller may seem to have nothing to do with our current crisis – and yet it has. Yes, this surely is the moment – and maybe Fromm would agree were he alive today – for us to be practising his “art of loving” in whichever form that may take. It may be through care, compassion, altruism or solidarity, and could include our relatives, neighbours, colleagues and ourselves.

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FT Digital Dialogues – Leadership & Resilience

This was just one panel session of the FT Global Boardroom event moderated by Opinion & Analysis Editor, Brooke Masters. She spoke to Jesper Brodin, President and CEO of the Ingka Group (IKEA), who said that short-term resilience for him has been about setting up a taskforce to get back to business, keeping the business going and focusing on safety. Supporting others with kindness has also been important. That’s nice.

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