Thursday, January 13, 2005

Gold-Collar Workers

The American workforce is becoming more and more diverse with an increasing proportion of women, persons of color, and older employees. Trends in Canada and the European Union are similar. Besides more diversity, two especially important and contradictory workforce characteristics are (1) the impact of generation X or "Gold-Collar" workers (those born between 1965 and 1977), and (2) the impact of poor educational preparation of some high school graduates. In fact, U.S. test scores were the lowest in one comparison of 16 industrialized countries. Both characteristics present a current OB challenge but in very different ways.

The list below shows that the Gold-Collar Generation X workers demand a lot from a company. They want a challenge on the job and flexibility in work schedules; some even want to work at home. But they also want to work in teams, and they are interested in empowerment - being allowed as an individual or group to make decisions that affect their work. These needs, wants, and desires are likely to be the strongest for knowledge workers - employees whose major task is to produce new knowledge, typically through computer-oriented means - and other jobs with workers in high demand and low supply. The level of skills and abilities among many of these workers allows them to function well in highly challenging jobs and work settings.

Below are the values and preferences of the Gold-Collar workforce:

Today’s employee needs, wants, and desires at work:
· Self-control and independence
· Empowerment
· Let people furnish their own offices
· Signing bonus
· Full-tuition reimbursement
· Flex benefits
· Work in a team
· Casual Friday to everyday is casual
· Work at home
· Extended family benefits
· Self-fulfillment
· Fun
· Company loyalty is dead
· Flextime work hours

Article taken from Organizational Behavior by Schermerhorn, Hunt and Osborn (Wiley)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Vicious Cycle

To do or not to do, that is the question

Emily was forever putting things off. She never seemed to have much time and anytime she did she found herself worrying about all the things she had to do. Today was to be no different. As soon as she got home her mum sentenced her to clean up her room and to get her schoolwork in order. Being the compliant child she was, she made her way upstairs, closed the door and sat on her bed wondering where she should begin. The longer she stared the more lethargic she felt; her mind clocked in and began to work overtime.
The focus on cleaning her room faded and her homework was forgotten as she began to think about all the other undone things in her life. She told herself that she should do it, and repeated this song over and over again in the hope that she could convince herself. Nothing changed and the list grew bigger. Her mind went deeper as she began to think about all the things she wanted to do in life but never got to do. She came to the realization that she didn't have a life and began to resent everything around her. All she ever seemed to do were things for other people. She became angry that she had been dealt such a hand in life. It wasn't fair. She wanted to hide and avoid this life she found herself in. She closed her eyes and lay back on the bed. Her breathing dropped and she began to snooze. Life disappeared for an hour or so as she explored a less threatening world inside her head.
Emily woke up to the sound of her mum calling for dinner. She sat up and took a wide-angle snap of her messy room and unfinished schoolwork. She dropped her head into her hands feeling a rush of pressure in her chest, it was all too much. She got up and walked downstairs to join the rest of the family for dinner. She wanted to talk with them but what would she say; that life was too much for her? Her dad asked what was bothering her and she shrugged it off. Her mum asked if she had cleaned the room and finished her homework. Emily's paralysed look said everything. Her mum's eyes rolled and like watching a ball in a roulette wheel Emily stared wondering where they would land. The gamble was a sure bet as she had lived this moment on many occasions. Another awkward family dinner played out leaving Emily to do the dishes. When everyone else left the table she sat with her list of additional chores and stared at them blankly. She felt a cold coming on and took a lemon drink. Her body was sore and she had no energy left. Her mum postponed the work for another day and sent her to bed to rest for the next day of school. She got into bed, stared at the ceiling and couldn't sleep. The cycle continued.

Change is Inevitable

Life for David was living in the repeat of Groundhog Day, or in the words of Maxi Jazz, he was contained in the hum between voice and drum. This morning before opening his eyes he hoped for something more in his fleeting unconscious moment. He fought the smell of the coffee in case this day would be the same as all the others. With eyes wide shut David pulled up his knees, rolled to the edge of the bed and got out from underneath the duvet. As the last piece of his body left the bed he opened his eyes in anticipation of something new. Anything would do. Just one glitch in the matrix would give him the energy he needed to believe in something more.

The undercurrent took the feet from under him as the door opened, pulling him into the ocean of veiled faces in the subway train. Like a masked ball the people paraded behind their magazines and newspapers. He scanned the headlines and pictures grasping for today's hope. Money and success, education and power, sex and happiness were the wisdom for the day, the meditation of the moment and the ingredients of a well baked life. The carriage stopped, the people got out and history repeated itself once again.

As David drifted with the tide a strange voice entered his head and said "STOP". He had never thought that this could be a possibility; he had never considered that this was an option. As the voice of reason resonated between his ears he lifted his head and discovered his balance. He planted his feet on the ground and paused. The people rushed by and the clock spun endlessly as David waited for a new moment. The longer he stood the longer his perspective changed. He began to think differently and to believe for something more than the vain pursuit of the masses. He turned around and faced the flow; he slipped the pack off his back and unbuttoned his Jacket. As the jacket dropped to the ground David began to run. The crowd parted like the Red Sea as he picked up the pace. His muscles tingled with every intake of breath and the thrill of the injected bloodstream egged him on for more. The harder he pushed the more alive he felt. The superhuman speed carried him until everything blurred like advertisements in the subway. Before he knew it he was on the far side of suburbia and skipping between trees on his way up the mountainside. The salt of his sweating brow brought the needed flavour to break the tree-line and scamper the crux of the day. The smell of moss and the feel of crisp air caught the attention of the hairs on his skin. Every piece of him was alive like never before. He ran but did not grow weary; he walked and was not faint. As he stood on the peak he saw the world before him with different eyes. He felt like he could fly, conquer and be free. He had broken through to the other side. He began to believe that he had been made for great things. This is the sound of inevitability.

A Strange and Funny Dream

I almost died last night. My dream was stranger than going to work with no clothes on. I was sleeping in bed and woke up but didn't wake up, if you know what I mean. I was afraid but did not know why. There were no demons waiting to haunt me or zombies hoping to eat me. I knew something was going to happen but didn't know what it was. Someone told me that the anticipation of death is worse than death itself. Last night I knew that feeling.
I began to shrink; in fact everything began to shrink like a magic tea-cake in Alice's wonderland. My bedroom walls stretched further away and before I knew it I was lying in my tiny bed in the middle of a giant distorted room. I was small, insignificant and vulnerable. My heart raced and I began to shake. I wiped away the globes of salt water wedging out of my forehead as my cotton Pyjamas got soaked by the rest of my trembling body. I left my body for a moment and floated to the ceiling for a bird's eye view. I looked like an ant on a slice of white bread all curled up and afraid of being swallowed into a dark hole. I tried to wake myself up but the trance was deeper than a child's temper tantrum. I was stuck in a moment. As I looked at myself a thousand thoughts ran through my head. I felt the frustration of Ebenezer Scrooge during the revelations of the Ghost of Christmas past. I wanted to tell myself so much before it was too late. I shook my head in regret of all the things I had missed, of all the opportunities I had ignored. I saw the people I did not notice on the journey and the way I treated others like they existed for my success. I saw my girlfriend cry over my blatant disregard for her feelings and desires; of having no one to listen or care. I saw my dad and how he longed for my attention and love. I saw my mum how I broke her heart by living beyond healthy boundaries. I saw my sisters and how I was leading them astray. "Wake up!"
The walls began to move in and the ceiling dropped like the inner faces of a metal crusher. I had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. I shouted for help but no one heard my voice. I pounded on the door but no one noticed me. I cried but there was no one there to console me. I pushed against the wall but was rendered powerless. I froze on my bed as the room got smaller and tighter. I lay back and waited for the inevitable to happen. The room closed to the size of a me-shaped coffin and the ceiling touched my nose. I gave up the struggle and surrendered the fight. I had been overpowered by something greater, something beyond my control. I accepted my death and waited for the white room of heaven.
My eyes opened to my mother's face. She was wiping my brow with a cold and wet facecloth. I had been out for several hours and the doctor was concerned. He gave me medicine to deal with the virus and to lower my off-the-chart temperature. I lay on my double bed and looked around the room. It didn't look the same. I think I died last night.

High Performance

What makes a high performance organization?

According to Coffman and Gonzalez-Molina (2002), the hope of sustained growth and real profit increase is in developing an engaged employee (p.14). This has been built on the Harvard's research into the customer service profit chain, where focus on the internal customer is demonstrating long term gain and exponential business growth. This contrasts the focus on external marketing and hones in on bringing out the best in employees. The result is higher energy, lower turn-over and a higher retention rate with customers. This connects with Schermerhorn et al (2003) who classify high performance organizations (HPO) as those that are "intentionally designed to bring out the best in people and create an extraordinary organizational capability that delivers sustainable high performance results." (p.22).

HPO’s have a well developed feedback loop and could be viewed as working well as an open system. Businesses like these have flexibility and an agility to be able to move with what the customer wants based on a good understanding of what their employees can offer. The emphasis on quality has gained quantity for many organizations like Nokia an INTEL who have been able to deliver excellent products that are relevant to the market while enhancing the performance and work life of employees. HPO's are moving beyond tradition and are experimenting with new ways by listening to their staff and customers. They are pioneering in the 21st century and leaving many traditional companies in their wake. The main components of a HPO according to Schermerhorn et al (2003) are: employee involvement, self-directed work teams, integrated production technology, total quality management and organizational learning (p.27). One of the obvious marks of an HPO is value of the environment and contribution to society as a whole.


Coffman, C. & Gonzalez-Molina, G. (2002). Follow This Path: How the world’s greatest organizations drive growth by unleashing human potential. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.

Heskett, J.L., Jones, T.O., Loveman, G., Sasser Jr., W.E. & Schlesinger, L.A. (1994). Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work. Harvard Business Review Article.

Schermerhorn, J.R., Jr., Hunt, J.G. & Osborn. R.N. (2003). Organizational Behavior (8th ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Organizational Learning

According to Tom Peters (2003, p17) many of the new challenges facing business and corporations are similar to current military challenges, and in the words of General Shinseki, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." Fluidity, flexibility and adaptability have become essential attributes to survival and growth in the 21st century. This applies to people, groups, and organizations alike. The study of individuals and groups in organizations has therefore become interesting and valuable to corporations and business leaders who face the reality of changing or dying. This study has been defined as Organizational behavior by Shermerhorn, Hunt and Osborn (2003, p.3).

Organizational learning is more than training people within a corporation. It is a systemic view of the organization that has the capability to be more than just the sum of its parts. Shermerhorn, Hunt and Osborn (2003, p.5), define it as the process of acquiring knowledge and using information to adapt to changing circumstances. The acquisition of this knowledge comes from within the organization and also from the environment it finds itself in. The application of this information then hinges on the ability of organizations and sub-groups to understand and shift to become well-suited to its surroundings. This necessitates the organization to be an open system that can develop and adapt like any organism. According to Pedler, Burgoyne and Boydell (1991) a learning company is an organization that facilitates the learning of all its members and continually transforms itself. This allows an organization to not only adapt but be creative.

When comparing the U.S. census data between 1990 and 2003 it is noticeable that disposable personal income has almost doubled and that cellular telephone subscriptions have grown at an exponential rate. This will allow many people to work remotely and on the go without harming accessibility. This combined with a "Gold Collar" workforce that want more flexibility and opportunities to work from home or a coffee shop has the capacity to impact the way we view a workforce today. New businesses can start without need for an office space, thus lowering overheads. The lean competitive edge of these new companies will be able to recruit from the established corporations because of the flexibility offered; they will be able to deliver services faster and at lower prices. This increasing growth in cellular communication will also allow more consumers to access information and buy products from their cell phones and PDA's. This in itself will change the buying trends and patterns we know in business. This is a time when corporations need to be learning organizations to respond quickly and effectively before losing the ground they have gained in previous years.


Schermerhorn, J.R., Jr., Hunt, J.G. & Osborn. R.N. (2003). Organizational Behavior (8th ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Robertson, I.T., Callinan, M. & Bartram, D. (2002). Organizational Effectiveness, The Role of Psychology. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Pedler, M., Burgoyne, J. & Boydell, T. (1998) The Learning Company: a Strategy for Sustainable Development. New York: McGraw hill.
Peters, T. (2003). Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age. New York: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.

U.S. Census Bureau (2004). USA Statistics in Brief. Retrieved April 7th, 2004 from


The relationship between workforce diversity in relation to common perceptual distortions.

When I grew up in N.Ireland there was a significant amount of common perceptual distortions when it came to the protestant and catholic divide. I grew up hearing that people from the other side had eyes that were closer together, they did not wash and also that the kicked with the left foot. It was interesting to see how my childhood predisposition led me to find what I was looking for. These common perceptions are mere folklore that had taken a hold of people in more polarized environments. These perceptions were defense mechanisms to protect people from losing the truth of their beliefs.

There are similarities to this in the workplace. I believe that many common perceptions are held as a defensive system. These are used by many who fear what the uncommon will do to their beliefs and lifestyle. Unfortunately this only polarizes people more and breeds a high level of suspicion and a culture of sarcasm and judgment. In a time where the globe has come to us and the global village is in our living room as well as our workplace we need to be willing to explore and open ourselves to learn. The term I used in my last discussion was become curious once again. It does not always kill the cat.

Robert Chia has written significantly on cultural mindsets that are not indifferent to common perceptions. He lays out the ease of getting locked up in our own worldviews and unable to see beyond our collective blindness. This connects also with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which states that unless we have the same language, we cannot be living in the same world: we see the same thing but see it differently. We nominalize, generalize and delete depending on our unique map of the world and the life experience developed filters.

If we begin to realize that each of us is unique and diversity can be broken down to the individual and beyond culture, skin tone, gender and ability we are forced to learn and listen again as there is no one like us. We can break out of the psychic prisons that Gareth Morgan mentions in Images of Organizations, by seeing our own uniqueness as well as the uniqueness of others.

Another important factor to consider when introducing the attribution theory to this discussion is the concept of observer participancy. Do we also get some of what we are looking for? Is it possible that we can draw out the traits and commonly held perceptions in others by being fixed in our mind about what we are looking for? A good analogy of this is Wave/Particle Duality. This is the understanding that light sometimes behaves as a particle and sometimes as a wave. It all depends on what you are looking for. A causal chain may be possible between perception and behavior therefore we need to be careful when coming to what we attribute things to.

Resistance to Change

Flexibility and adaptability are essential to survival and growth in the 21st century. In order to successfully navigate in an unpredictable world, individuals, groups, and organizations alike need to be agile and take risks. According to Schermerhorn et al, “people in the new workplace must be comfortable dealing with adaptation and change.’ (P398). People have a great capacity to change if they are guided in a helpful and understanding way. Learning to do things differently is not easy and pulls people out of an unconscious competence cycle of behavior into a level of conscious incompetence for a short season. Few embrace this with open arms as it is normal for human beings to get comfortable doing something in the way they first learned. Resistance to change emerges until someone is convinced of the benefits, sense and support for the change. Those who have a tendency in life to be motivated away from pain more than towards pleasure need to be nurtured carefully through change and may take longer than those who are the reverse of this personality style. The change process is not easy and complex as it touches every area and personality of the organization. The change agent assists the organization to minimize the negative consequences and maximize the possible benefits while responding to a perceived performance gap.

One of the strategies used in organizations was developed by Psychologist Kurt Lewin. He divided the change process into three main phases, unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. The thinking behind this process was the appreciation of the pre and post change situations that many agents miss while implementing change. Learning the process of change preparation is highlighted in the unfreezing process. The analogy itself allows for people and systems to loosed, soften and moldable. The reminder of this phase can help keep leaders and change agents alert before change in a transformational way occurs. The changing speaks for itself and the refreezing is the process of institutionalizing new methodology and patterns that are more effective in the current environment. This makes sense but may not be the best solution. It presupposes that institutionalizing or freezing is necessary. If one were to take the analogy further into Cryonics, the outcome would be life and mobility instead of suspended animation. This may be the flexibility necessary for the every changing environment today.

Other strategies of organizational change include force-coercion, rational persuasion, and shared power. Different situations call for different style and strategies. If the organization needs to act in an immediate crisis force-coercion may be necessary as rational persuasion and shared-power techniques are much slower and time consuming. Before implementing a particular strategy it is important for the leader or agent to be clear about the predicted outcomes of a particular strategy. Force-coercion will typically deliver temporary compliance whereas rational persuasion and shared-power, if implemented effectively in the right setting can deliver long-term internalization. Force-coercion is the use of legitimacy, rewards and punishments and the primary means of change. This is a much more command based approach from a positional stance. Most situations and people resist and resent this strategy as it leaves them out of the process and are merely directed to do something different. The rational persuasion strategy assumes that people will be motivated to change mainly by self-interest. This approach uses special knowledge and strong rational arguments to motivate people. This intellectual approach was favored in the modern era but as business and people shift towards a postmodern society it is less desirable as it elevates the intellect above experience, intuition and other senses.

The shared-power strategy or normative-reeducative approach, gains the support for change through the participation and empowerment of the people in the process. Change agents utilizing this strategy take the time to actively listen to the people and work at a deeper behavioral level to gain the buy in and direction from the wider team. This process acknowledges changes necessary at the attitude, values, beliefs and identity levels of the people and the impact on relationships during structural reengineering.

Leadership Theory

Leadership is a commonly used term in business and life that is not commonly understood. There are so many understandings and meanings conjured when someone mentions leadership that if everyone hearing the term was to leave the situation and write down what it meant to them, there would be as many perceptions as there were people participating. Not only does the word mean different things to different people but the strategies of leaders and what followers expect can be just as diverse. There has been much debate and opinion over the true and definitive meaning of leadership. A couple of the most significant things to emerge from this debate has been the greater diversity of terms and complexity of analysis.

If we evaluate leadership from an etymological perspective, it can be understood to be the life and behavior of someone who has created a desire in others to follow them, imitate them, or become like them. This is when we can understand leadership beyond the organizational and positional structure but instead from an influential point of view. Leaders in this understanding are more recognized than appointed and can transform organizations from the inside out. According to Schermerhorn et al (P287) this form of leadership is called informal, whereas positional or appointed leadership is referred to as formal.

The study of leader and non-leader difference has been categorized as the trait approach. This form of study is now over 100 years old and seems to emerge from a time in history where there was more interest in knowing what separated the heroes from the masses, or what exactly made up a “great person”. The trait approach has developed over the years to encompass a greater understanding of all people and what traits are beneficial to leading effectively. This highlights one of the universal traits of a leader which is integrity that breeds trust.

Behavioral theories of leadership take the study of leadership one step beyond trait analysis. It began by breaking leaders into two main centers of behavioral focus, employee and production. The employee focus can also be referred to as human relations oriented, considerate, or socioemotional. The production focus is also recognized as task oriented with an emphasis on initiating structure. These theories were pioneered by Michigan and Ohio universities. Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed the theories further with the development of the leadership grid which plots a graph and offers a sliding scale understanding that is more useful for situational application.

The setting, circumstances, and team where a leader is positioned has been termed the situation. Situational analysis has come high on the agenda of research as well as the traits and behaviors of leaders as many are becoming aware that leaders can impact and influence outcomes but the situational understanding is necessary for connecting the right style of leader with the situation in order to have more predictable outcomes. These theories have been brought to the fore by Fred Fielder’s leadership contingency theory and the situational contingencies of House and Aditya. These studies have taken the emphasis away from the fixed traits of a leader to an emphasis on fit and deliverables within an organization. This evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of certain behaviors such as directive or non-directive style within specific settings. This theory plots situational variables in order to discover the preferred leadership style to bring certain results.
Hersey and Blanchard contributed a situational leadership model that highlights that there is no single best way to lead and again offer a map for understanding what to apply when and where. These contributions to the study of leadership have been very beneficial in that we now look systemically at a situation when planning for results and do not expect all things from some leaders. This has broadened the understanding of leaders and has “allowed” more to become categorized as a leader when they would previously have been outside of the camp.
One of the ongoing areas of discussion has to do with the relationship between the leader, the team, success and failure. For instance, can a leader be attributed for great leadership when his/her team is successful? Or can is weakness attributed to the leader when the team fails or under-delivers? There is also the situational issue when it comes to attribution, in that certain circumstances attribute to the performance of a team. This is a natural process for a leader and a team to attach success or to look for meaning. The problem with this can be that many leaders will attribute success to their personal efforts and failure to the lack of effort or experience in the executing team. Attribution theory then enters a deeper realm of understanding and evaluating the esteem and needs of the leader and the team involved. It can be beneficial however to find new ways of doing things as well as ways to improve performance.

Schermerhorn et al (P298) also deal with the issue of leadership prototype and the mental picture a set of people will have about good leaders and real leadership. What seems interesting in the how the mental picture someone has of a leader will effect how they perform in certain leadership scenarios. According to Schermerhorn et al, “The closer the behavior of a leader is to the implicit theories of his or her followers, the more favorable the leader’s relations and key outcomes tend to be.” (P298).

After evaluating the leadership theories above in addition to new leadership theories such as transformational leadership and leader as coordinator in a company thriving on self-managing teams, it seems plausible for companies to draw from each at different times. It also appears like there is a lot of space for a team of people to take things a step further in synergizing all of the above into a matrix grid that is easily implemented for leaders and managers alike.

Big Fish

Growing up in a small farm town outside of Belfast in Northern Ireland was eventful in itself, so the thought of life beyond climbing trees and jumping bales of hay on a self-customized bicycle rarely entered my mind. At least it did not take any form of pre-eminence in my mind until I began grammar school (a posh, all boys, high school) located in Belfast City centre. I think it was the reality of commuting downtown everyday that opened my eyes to a bigger world and a bigger pool to swim in. I had been a big fish in a small town and quickly became a small fish in a big city. I started in a school with no one who knew my name mixed in a classroom of young boys who came straight from prep school. It did not take long to me to realize that I was out of my depth and quickly gained the nickname of Dozy Dowds.

Being an outsider and without some of the prior knowledge of the subjects led me to rely on other skills to get by. I became the prankster, did not take school work serious and determined myself to prove everyone wrong while blazing my own path towards success. The paradigm for success for me was immature and materialistic in form but it was a useful motivator to endure school and get a job. I left school at 16 years old with a clear path of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to posses by the age of 21.

Just before I turned 21 I had already achieved all of my goals only to ask myself the question - Why? The emptiness of this success led me to a deeper inner dialogue. I began wonder who I was and what I had been put on the earth for. I began to wonder what my contribution was. I began to wonder if there was more than what I was experiencing. I was left with a cry in my heart that said there must be more than this. I began a new pursuit with no less vigor; a spiritual quest of sorts that led me to inquire of God why I had been born.

My experiences of God over the following years led me into a new vocation. I left the business world and became a minister who had a deep compassion for people and their quest for meaning. I had a story to tell and I told it to as many people as I had opportunity. These were many wonderful years of my life when I saw many people come alive and experience more of the world around them. The more I worked with people, the more I realized I was inadequately equipped to work at the level I desired and see the needed healing and discovery in their lives. I traveled to many countries in the world to see who was doing what within the churched demographic. I deeply believed there was a way for people to be free to live in a way that was unique to them but most of what I saw was a sub-culture of people who had lost the meaning of their religion. This led me into a season of disorientation and chaos. A lot of the people around me did not understand what was going on inside of me at the time and made sweeping judgments on my character and steadiness. This hit me hard and I resigned from my role as a minister only to wonder what I would do with my life and how I would carry the equal financial load in the household with my new wife. I hid from the conflict and comforted myself with the pleasure of a mild depression which I acknowledge now but was is denial off then.

My wife suggested we emigrate and start a new life somewhere else. She had mentioned this almost a year before I woke up to it being a great idea. I got offered a job in a big church on the west coast of Canada. I took the job and we moved within a few months. We were there only several months before realizing that I did not want to work in a church again. I had taken the job to start again but had forgotten that I did not want to work in this career any longer. Grass was not any greener on the other side. My deep frustration opened me up to dreams of a more exciting nature. I began to dream of new ventures I could start, of other people I could help and of how we could shape the world we lived in. I began to do other things outside of my job as a minister in a church but was widely misunderstood. I tried to explain to some folks about my good intentions and desire to live out my Christian faith in a more significant way but it was deemed as the disguise of an unhealthy drive for money. I was told that I could not serve two masters and had to make a choice. I continued along the path of an entrepreneur starting businesses and helping others do the same by incubating their ideas. Some of it worked and some of it failed. Some people got helped and some people got hurt. More conflict arose and I was at the end of my rope. I called for help and a friend from England suggested I meet with a therapist/coach he knew.

I knew I needed help as some things I had faced before I was facing again. I could not travel to the far side of the world without them resurfacing in my life. It was hard for me to face up to my need as I had learned to pull myself above every situation with sheer determination and will. For the sake of my sanity, my marriage and by this time family, I reached out to someone who could help me. I called the person my friend had recommended. He flew over from London and met me and helped me work through many of the situations I was facing. He helped me to see the part I had played in the drama and helped me look at things from the desires and intentions of others. He helped me to reframe what I saw and it opened my eyes to new possibilities. He helped me to understand the various perceptions of others and how to navigate the conflict. Before long I was facing people instead of hiding from them or blaming them. I was asking more questions than making statements. I began to have a more appropriate relationship to my opinions and saw new opportunities for learning and discovery.

I moved to Toronto and continued my journey of discovery and healing. I started taking classes in Neuro-Linguistic-Programming and in Bioenergetic-Analysis. This not only changed my life but gave me tools to work with people. It helped me work with people in the way I had previously desired. I began to come out of my cocoon as a new being with a whole new view on the world. I began to help and coach people in the workplace instead of caring for people in a church. I found this more fulfilling and I realized that for me it was a better fit. I could help people see what they could bring and how they could make the world a better place. I began to see people overcome barriers and deal with hidden fears. I saw people talk who had been long silent. What I had received was more than personal healing. It was a gift for others.

I have always had a weird sense of knowing things when dealing with other people. I could in some strange way tell them everything about themselves. It was like a party trick. As much as this ability had been helpful it had also been a hindrance as I would miss much of the beauty of the person in front of me. After a while, however, I began listening to people instead of reading them. I became curious again. The one with all the answers had all of a sudden more questions. Instead of seeking for all the answers this time I chose to live in a greater sense of wonder.

The possibility of becoming a corporate coach excited me and I began to dream of how it could change the business world to become a healthier place to work in and enjoy. The enjoyment of learning various disciplines of therapy opened me up to more learning about how the brain and body work together. A new vision became clear. I wanted people to find their niche and enjoy work again. I began to believe that if business leaders listened to their staff and served their ideas, the corporate world could become a fun, unpredictable and passionate place to work in again.

As I studied more I wanted to learn about adult transition, career planning, needs assessment, and performance management. This in turn led me to study Industrial/Organizational Psychology in the hope that I would become better equipped to do what I love; setting people free to contribute from their place of uniqueness.


After many years of formal education and theoretical learning I have come to a deeper appreciation and need for insight in my life and work. The word "insight" in many ways speaks for its viability - in-sight - or looking inside. For a long time I perceived myself and others as empty vessels needing filled with information to make effective choices. In recent days I have come to the realization that my worldview was not as helpful as I once perceived, if not extremely inaccurate and presumptuous.

My experience in working with people has led me to see that we are far from empty Tupperware containers that need filled with information. Rather we are complex organisms with unique value systems that rely on an endogenic and subjective conception of knowledge.

This had led me to a deeper life of reflection and use or intuition in my work with people. This does not deny the benefit of objective knowledge but rather allows me to hold the both in some form of tension to discover and select the best choices available to me.

There is significant controversy around being a reflective practitioner and its potential underlying assumption that “hidden within the minds (and hearts) of practitioners is a substantial body of knowledge, which if elicited, would put to shame the abstract and desiccated formulations of academics and researchers.” (Howard Gadlin, Framing New Directions for Theory from the Experience of Practitioners, P328)

This has certainly caused me to think about how much I believe can be benefited from the tacit knowledge of any individual and how much can be drawn from academics when it comes to practical living and change.

The use of insight has greatly benefited my contribution to the world around me as it has enabled me to listen and explore the views of others while reflecting on my own. It has enabled me to recognize the alignment, or often lack thereof, between my beliefs and my practices allowing more room for dialogue, discovery and growth. It has begun to lead me towards learning how to draw out the strengths and natural gifts of others instead of solely focusing on developing second nature skills. I believe that this is a more humble approach to others as it puts me on the same level with a greater desire to listen and learn.

I like what Grady McGonagill ( ) proposes with a methodology of framing reflection as a model to build and introduce discipline and structure instead of allowing it to run its own random and episodic course. This form of insight and practice will allow me to monitor and evaluate my performance and outcomes to become a better business leader and coach.

Journaling thoughts, ideas and inner conflict allows me to come to grips with what is not yet clear for me and helps me to become either more articulate about the process I am experiencing or allows me to ask more effective questions that can bring understanding to my situation.

Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich is a man worth talking about. He was the man behind Orgone therapy (or Reichian therapy) that paved the way for several forms of holistic body-mind psychotherapeutic disciplines such as Bioenergetic Analysis (developed by Alexander Lowen, a client and disciple of Reich).

Wilhelm Reich was born in March 1897 and died in November 1957. He originated and developed a new science called orgonomy that focused on the functional laws of cosmic energy. He grew up in the German Ukraine on a 1000 acre farm owned by his parents. His mother committed suicide when he was 11 and his father died when he was 17, leaving him to inherit and steward the farm until it was destroyed by the Russians in 1915. He had an early intrigue with the life process of both plants and animals that eventually led him into medicine in when he was 21 years of age.

While studying at the University of Vienna he became interested in Freud and psychoanalysis that opened up the opportunity to become a first assistant physician when Freud organized the Psychoanalytical-Polyclinic in 1922. A few years later he published his first major book, The Function of the Orgasm. This was an extension of his discovery of a connection between the satisfactory sex life and the lack of neurosis.

His early approach to psychotherapy was to make contact with the person he was treating. This may not appear radical today but it was controversial in a time when it was normal to sit behind the patient who lay on a couch. This alternative tactic initiated much of Reich’s research into energy regulation within the body. By engaging with the patient he was able to notice resistance and defenses which were not understood in his day. He helped the patient by pointing out their resistance and began working with the defenses of the body. As much of this defensive armor dissolved the root of the neurosis spontaneously appeared. Many patients experienced significant changes in attitude, behavior and expression.

Reich proposed that psychological and emotional distress is the result of blocking positive emotions such as sadness, joy, grief and fear. This blocking in turn gave way to what Reich called armoring. He then set out to develop effective ways to undo this armoring to free people who were emotionally inhibited in their daily life. He discovered that armoring formed through some of the painful and traumatic experiences in life that necessitate defense. He noticed that the more armoring the less movement and the more restricted an individual was when it came to giving space for painful emotions such as anger and shame. He recognized that the armor was expressed not only in the attitudes and posture of a person but also in their musculature and a new discipline of character analysis was born.

Reich used both dialogue and physical intervention to work with a patient. For those who had the opportunity to be one of his clientele experienced more pleasure, streaming and a deep feeling of being alive. This was to slowly replace their previous life of pain and rigidity. Not only did a patient become healthier psychologically but also was freed from many of the previously chronic pains. As Reich further developed his practice patients began to move and flow with the energy in their body. This soft undulating movement was called the orgasm reflex. Reich called the capacity for this type of experience “orgastic potency”.

Reich’s level of curiosity did not wane. He researched more on how to regulate and stabilize the energy levels, their charge and discharge. He studied the energy charge within people and creation by developing many new tools by entering the world of biophysics. He later named this life energy as “orgone energy”. He was widely misunderstood by his peers and eventually was imprisoned by the FDA for distributing orgone accumulators that were viewed as fraudulent devices. He died soon afterwards in prison.
There is no doubt that many of Reich’s theories and opinions were outside of the box and bazaar. Whether or not he was a criminal is very debatable. He demonstrated a determination to find an effective way for more people to experience life through research, study and some activism. I am attracted to Reich’s work not only because of his research and discovery but also because of his pragmatic approach and social responsibility. His researched sparked a concern with more than the individual. He became concerned with the social causation of the neuroses and armoring.

I believe that the work of Wihelm Reich can help us discover new ways to work with organizations and industries so that they may become more sensitive to the cause of neuroses while making moves towards a new way of being that would enhance the health and expression of staff, the wider community, and the environment.

Mark Dowds

Lowen, A. (1975). Bioenergetics, NY: Penguin Compass
Keleman, S. (1987) Embodying Experience, Berkeley CA: Center Press
Baker, E.F. (1968) The life and work of Wilhelm Reich, reprinted from the Journal of Orgonomy Volume, 1: American College of Orgonomy