Maybe Love's the Answer
"The power of love is that it does not have too be convinced, persuaded, negotiated, deserved, compelled or rewarded." (Roger Harrison)
"The power of love is a curious thing. Make one man weep, make another man sing." (Huey Lewis)
As I've reflected on the process of burnout and recovery, two main themes have emerged for me.
Firstly, I've been able to reconsider what brings life to my existence and to think deeply about where my future contribution might lie. This is still work-in-progress, and is likely to stay that way for a while yet, but I suspect something significant is on the way. I've used my 'time off' to experiment, nurture my creativity and to review several of the books on my office shelves. Roger Harrison's 'Consultant's Journey' was on my list and has become the inspiration for this blog.
Secondly, I've been incredibly grateful for messages and gestures of support from colleagues as they have held my process, but shocked by the number that have referred to their own brushes with burnout. Some have been minor but others more significant and, for a few, they have been unable to return to their previous work.
'I began to draw a comparison between my own process and what needed to happen in the world. I thought there must be many others who felt trapped in assertive, competitive modes that brought excitement and challenge but no peace and contentment. I wondered if the energy for the next wave of change might in fact be those weary warriors. Perhaps, as people felt more isolated and threatened, they would become at least a little ready to explore the nurturing power of love.'
In reviewing his own work history, Harrison is sure that training programs, so keenly promoted by consultants and executive educators, do not lead to organisational change but that they need to be placed within a larger context of organisational strategy. My own guilty secret is that I'm sure that learning and growth does not occur through academic programs. Rather, we need to do this work within a larger context of personal development and change. Over the years, I've worked my way through a first degree, an MBA, an MSc and a doctorate, then became responsible for a doctoral program, yet I'm increasingly sure that the 'academic' component of these programs is, at best, only incidental to personal change and transformation.
The faculty on our 'Executive Doctorate in Organisational Change' at Ashridge work incredibly hard to maintain a safe, productive space for participants in the face of the 'usual' organisational pressures and the more specialised educational industry need for papers, reports, etc. required to demonstrate 'academic output' and, more recently, 'impact.' But, as action researchers, we believe that our work becomes valuable and impactful when it serves enduring, flourishing change within our communities. The research 'output' is the change, not a paper about how change should happen.
So, perhaps unconventionally, faculty aim to hold a high quality, safe space for participants to direct their own developmental agenda, and our participants mirror this in holding space for their communities as, together, they research the kind of change that they hope to enact. I think this is how genuine, transformative change happens.
There is a particular feel to this 'holding' that is absolutely critical to both personal shift and wider, organisational transformation.
It's not an abstract, intellectual research endeavour; it's intimate, caring and relational.
Love might be a good word for it.
Please take a look at Roger Harrison's book, 'Consultant's Journey.' It was published just over 20 years ago but is as relevant as it ever was...
You might also enjoy Nigel Cutts' 'Love at Work.' which is a helpful, practitioner guide to the subject.