71M+Ou8rssL._SL1500_A thing is not a thing until we call it a thing. The thing then becomes a thing but only in the context of how we’ve learnt to see things. Does that mean there is nothing before a thing is called a thing? Are there such things as pre-existing things? In my thinking yes, but these things are, only what they are, because of what we think they are.

Here’s a tweet from my former tutor, Ken Gergen on this very thing, “One cannot describe something for what it is, because there is no ‘thing’ before the act of describing. Why not describe in hopes of what something can become?”

If I had a hammer

I believe that the obsession with mechanistic/scientific approaches to measuring outcomes and evaluating goals has led to the ubiquity of highly regulated, technocratic organisational cultures. I have no doubt that most people don’t thrive in such cultures. Even task orientated leaders with low EQ know this. So, what do they do? They pour money and effort into culture change initiatives – very often using mechanistic, pseudo-scientific interventions, not surprising if this is the only grammar we know. If we get it right, we are said to have ‘nailed it!’. Well, if we only speak ‘hammer’, we will see all our problems as nails. [A Senior Executive once said to me “I know I have a high IQ and low EQ. My IQ tells me that to achieve success, I need to be relational, so I schedule this into my project plans.”]

Meg is right. That’s not how it works. Productivity and outcomes cannot be evaluated and measured without also inquiring into, arguably the most essential variable in productivity, the quality of relationships.

Human beings are intrinsically relational. We thrive when relationships are good and whither in the face of toxic relationships. Great relationships beget cooperation, kindness, support and camaraderie. It is this culture of mutuality that is more likely to lead to sustainable productivity. Evaluation points to what needs to be done. Valuation is how we do it.

The social construction of age and ageing…

These two dogs, Panda and Cassidy are about 11 years old. That makes them 60 in people years. Tried as I did, I couldn’t help thinking, talking and treating them as puppies. Found myself reflecting afterwards, what does this say about the social construction of age and ageing, and the consequences on our thoughts, actions and interactions?




Participation without meaningful engagement is futile


Some thoughts about participation that emerged in conversation with Chris Blantern – a very wise person.

Some leaders treat participation as an end-in-itself – a box to be ticked in the proverbial good leader manual. Arguably, how conversations happen is more important.

Depending on prevailing organisational culture, meetings can be discursive rather than action orientated; or, it can be action-orientated without being discursive. Frustration with either pattern can generate adversarial forms of talk, which could, in turn beget active or passive resistance.

There is a skill/art to facilitating/hosting conversations that generate genuine engagement. However, there is only so much a facilitator can do at each event or meeting. Organisational actors need to be attentive (listening), appreciative (thinking the best of others), curious and inquiring. For many these skills do not come naturally, they have to be learned and practiced. Attending to developing this culture should be the raison d’etre of organisation development practitioners.

group of people reading book sitting on chair
Photo by Helena Lopes on

Exit, Stage Left…

It’s been an emotional last week at Tearfund. It’s been hard to leave the work and people I’ve come to love and admire after seven years. While I knew it would be difficult for me, I was surprised how sad my team were. I think it was the realisation that come Monday we would no longer be in community and that the bond that has been built over the years would be broken. Social media seems a poor substitute to everyday relating but it will have to do

I was even more surprised by the kind words and tributes. It was like being at my own wake!


To the Lovely Global HR Team

I put our latest group photo on my FB last night with the caption… probably the best team in the world. And it seems to have started a FB
war about whether this current team is better or whether the team from 2 years ago was better! Soon after that my former team at CMS got involved also. I guess I walked into that one!
Any hu… I’m writing to thank you all for making yesterday such a meaningful, albeit emotional day. Thank you for your your presence, your kind words, your fellowship, your support, your gracious participation of art-full prayer sharing, your thoughtful gifts but most of all for your unconditional love. I will miss you all greatly.
I have been blessed to get to know all of you. As I said yesterday, I’m always embarrassed when people put the words leader and Patrick in a sentence. I believe that people are purposeFULL and leaderFULL. Most of the time, I just turn up, listen, observe, notice, encourage, make a few suggestions, and things aways seem to click into place, no matter how difficult the situation or issue we are dealing with. It’s my experience that groups of people are normally self-organsing, and that leadership therefore is about facilitating this inherent self-organising propensity, rather than get in the way of it. For those of you who have appreciated this, I pray for more of the same for you. For those who wanted me to be more directive, I hope there’s room for this too in what happens next. Whatever you find life-giving.
The great thing about working for a Christian organisation is that even before you join, you know that love is already there (John 13:34-35). I have certainly found it here, especially in our team. It has been an amazing privilege.
Blessings to you all. (I need to find a different ending for my emails in ODI ): )

And the people said…

The TF Chaplin encouraged me to write down what people have emailed and said to me over the last few weeks as this might lead to a sense of closure. I’m not usually given to such sentimentality nor for accepting praise but I thought I’d try it a try. As you can see, I started but could not finish. Sorry Phil. Maybe its still too soon.
I hope I’m not too late to say many many thanks for all your support over the last few years and for being such a lovely colleague. It’s been great to have you in charge of HR and I have so appreciated how you work and your team and your servant heart in all you do.We will really miss you here and pray that God will bless you abundantly…
I know you probably don’t want me to do this, but I wanted to say goodbye and thanks for being a great colleague!  It’s the end of an era, and I will miss you.  I’ve learned a way of being in the work context from you, and I will miss that in the current organisational climate.
I wanted to put in writing our earlier conversation, and to take this opportunity to thank you so much for all your great service to Tearfund. For me, it has been a joy to work with you over the two and a half years that we have worked together.
You have given so much to the communities we serve, and thank you again for your dedication, your commitment and the grace that you show to everyone. I pray God’s blessing on you for this next stage of your journey with Him, and look forward to staying in good touch…
Hoping this will reach you before you are cut off from the elect (TF email address). Thank you for your email and the excellent way you’ve outlined your leadership style.  I like it very much and it has worked for me.  Without being overly schmaltzy, don’t lose your style – it is an empowering, adult-to-adult style that removes fear,  builds confidence and responsibility in others and fosters friendship.
…you are such a wonderful human being. It makes me so sad to think of the organisation without you as there is nobody like you and I’m not sure there is anyone else with such a wonderful approach to leadership. I can’t even tell you how much you’re going to be missed. There aren’t the words.
I wanted to drop you a quick email to say that I am really going to miss you and to thank you for all the many things, big and small you have done to help me over the last 7 years! You are hands down the best manager I have ever had, I’ve so appreciated the freedom you have given me. Step out and be confident in your next role.
I’ve always appreciated your very humane and sensitive take on things and was looking forward to hearing more of that (particularly in this current climate!) but alas, it’s someone else’s gain. Lucky them, is what I say!
Will really miss you Patrick. Thanks for being one of the good guys. 😀
Will miss you during focus fortnight. I remember your support and help  to me during the Philippines operation;
you’ re an incredible asset to people and company.
The post-Goh Tearfund world is a strange one – I may need to arrange for someone to stop by my desk and tell me a terrible joke every couple of hours to help with the transition. Maybe we should have had a cardboard cut out of you made before you left too?! I feel we should have had some kind of pastoral debriefing plan in place for the team for after you left.
There were just not enough challenges left for you Patrick….  It seem our best talent is moving to ODI
We will miss you Patrick and have so appreciated your kindness and friendship in HR.
I haven’t spent time with you personally, but every time I have seen you, you have always had a smile on your face and have always made me fill welcome which is rare for a person who seats in a position of influence. I will really miss your presence in TF. Sometimes we don’t know the effect our actions have on others- Please do carry this nature wherever you go .
You are the best boss ever!!! Thank you for all your support, encouragement and grace over the last few years. I feel I have learnt so much from you, you are a wonderful human!
You have been a source of inspiration, an encourager, a ‘luminary’ for good practice, an advocate, a counsel for the defence, a prophetic voice and a good friend. Always looked to you as a benchmark in my life for integrity, grace and most of all fun.
Thank you for bring fresh ideas, challenges and human to TF.
Thank you for your support, you really go above and beyond!
You are really one of the loveliest people I have have every met.
I will miss your thoughtful conversations about leadership and innovative ways of working.