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Beyond rocks in hard places

Change has been a huge theme in my life and work. And whilst it has often been difficult, moving beyond the rocks and hard places of change and helping others to do so in their work lives and their organisations has brought extraordinary successes and exhilarating journeys. My blog will explore different aspects and ideas about individual and organisational change and what it takes to get beyond the rocks and hard places we find ourselves in.

Small acts of leadership

The latest painful chapter of the Lawrence episode opens up many difficult questions which will take us a good deal of time and patience to understand and work through in our institutions. Justice must be fought for with courage and determination and on the public stage. To my mind, we must also be careful about what happens to human rights in the small and intimate places where we socialize and work every day.

If justice does indeed live in small places, then the everyday transactions between people matter hugely. We already know a little about how unconscious implicit assumptions about race and cultural difference can have a powerful impact on how we see the world and how we communicate. We are shaped and influenced in profound and often unconscious ways to associate those people whom history determines to be ‘other’ as threatening or lesser. In his book ‘Blink’, Malcolm Gladwell, who is himself of mixed heritage, describes how disturbed he was to learn from participating in a social psychological test, that he unconsciously linked the images of black men with many negative associations. Yet, whilst this left him feeling greatly ashamed, he became convinced that although it was not within his gift to overturn these deeply ingrained stereotypic assumptions, it was his duty to be aware of them and to make explicit conscious choices. Everyday we have the opportunity to make these kinds of choices about how we behave and how we communicate with those whom we have been conditioned to regard as threatening or inferior.

Mary Rowe’s work at MIT, provides an extraordinary insight into how micro-inequities, the often small, unnoticed and unintended acts that overlook or convey disrespect to others regarded as different, erode opportunity and shape career trajectories. It is in the mirror opposite of these disempowering communications, that the power to change some of this negative cycle and culture lies. It is in micro-affirmations: in small acts of recognition and remembering, that validate and root us in a positive experience of the social world- in our teams and institutions- and allow us (and those around us) to thrive and fulfill our potential. Living and leading in a global world requires us to navigate a richly diverse and multicultural environment and to hold a dynamic balance between different or clashing cultural perspectives without denying the operation of inequality or the privileges of history and a dominant white culture. Including its sequelae and consequences today: tragedies big and small; known and hidden from view. There is ‘no right way’ or simple answer to navigating well. Yet so often the powerful feelings of guilt, shame and anger that get in the way make it impossible to set sail on the journey and to look afresh and make positive choices that bring human rights alive in small spaces and between people.





© Tammy Tawadros 2014

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The trouble with hot desking

Hot desking makes sense for modern organisations that need the flexibility and cost benefits that the rationing of desks and space can undoubtedly bring. And for some people desk hopping works well. Yet the majority of people I have spoken to about their experiences seem to find it hugely discomforting. They complain bitterly about the inconvenience of moving from one workstation to another and the unsettling lack of a designated desk. They describe not only being dislocated but also feeling less sure about their role and even disoriented when they carry out familiar tasks. Often there is a profound sense of ambivalence: progress is good, something they believe in, yet they experience anxiety and dread about desk hopping.

Is it possible that some of these feelings about hot desking are rooted in our psychological need for the ownership of things? The excesses of material consumerism notwithstanding, ownership seems to be really important for our sense of identity. We form all sorts of attachments to objects throughout our lives. From the transitional blankets and teddies of early childhood to the sentimental attachments to ephemeral belongings that have no great monetary value, but are rendered special by association- a certain mug; a picture post card; a favourite purse. Possessions contribute greatly to our sense of self. They are sources of comfort and vehicles for expressing ourselves.

For untold numbers of us our desk is our base in the world of work. It anchors our sense of self and helps us to organise our daily routines. It gives us a sense of safety: a place we return to to touch base. For many it becomes a miniature home decorated and personalised with plants and pictures and other artefacts. It is endowed and invested by us and it becomes an extension of ourselves.

Without a desk to call our own we may not only lose a sense of territory and terrain in the workplace, but also a sense of identity, the sense of who we are in the world of work.


© Tammy Tawadros

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Everywhere it seems the talk is of trust. Why we lack it, how much we need it and how essential it is for our lives: our personal relationships; our public institutions; the businesses that create and manage wealth; the organisations all around us; the places where we work. Everywhere it seems we are stirred up and anxious about how much and whether we can trust: we worry about where the trust has gone and whether we can rebuild it. We are forced to think again about the very nature of trust and about our ability to judge the trustworthiness of those around us.

In an age of uncertainty and austerity, in a world of transgressions and breaches, there are a multitude of reasons to feel cheated and let down, disappointed and mistrustful. And yet trust abounds and it works very simply. It is created, forged, fostered, and nurtured an infinite number of times a day in countless ways between people. It holds and binds them in long-term contracts of friendship and love; in small temporary encounters and transactions; it soothes and smooths innumerable transient moments; and it enables and speeds up very many types of business.

Trust eases our dealings with others and brings immeasurable value to the world of work. It mediates productivity and loyalty and provides a precious connection to others in our organisations. It cannot be bought or sold, but it can be built carefully and slowly between individuals, among teams and different groups. It is the single most reliable fund in which we must all invest.

Click here to view the Building Organisational Trust infographic.

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What people say

Tammy brings a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of people and their interactions to her consultancy work. She is creative and responsive and able to build rapport with a wide range of people, building teams and developing shared understanding of objectives and goals. Phillip Berechree, FCIPD Head of Commissioning, Workforce and Provider Development, Westminster City Council
I had largely given up hope that I would find a coach who truly offered what I have hoped for, and who represented value for money for the organisation I serve. I'm pleased to report this is no longer the case! Tammy has revived my faith in coaching and is warm, creative and challenging. She helps me bring something new and fresh to my work, I work differently because I am coached by Tammy and that for me is what it’s all about.Alison Simpson, Assoc. Director, BSMH Foundation Trust
The 1:1 coaching has been hugely helpful to me – just to have a safe space to discuss the issues I have been struggling with. I felt able to trust completely. The work with the team has also been beneficial and I was again aware that individually and together there was trust in your facilitation. I think your excellent listening skills and groundedness were hugely helpful. Jane Pettingell, CEO, Generate UK
Thank you very much for your positive contributions to my self-development. You have contributed immensely to my professional life. I only knew you for six months and you gave me an entry key to my inner-self and my leadership skills. Semi Adekunle, Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust