Back in late 2006, Henry and I decide to turn the work I had been doing running learning meetings at my organization into a business. We agreed on the name CoachingOurselves. “Fine”, I figured, “But what about the tag line?” Henry said the tag line should be, ‘Changing the practice of management’. That’s a pretty bold tag line. But he’s Henry Mintzberg, so I agreed.
I asked him, “But why are we changing the practice of management?” Henry responded, “To improve society.”
When Henry published his first book in 1973, The Nature of Managerial Work, prevailing management theory said that the manager’s tasks were to plan, organize, coordinate, and control. Henry observed 29 managers in their place of work, simply following them around and writing a journal detailing their activities. Not a single one of them did much planning, organizing, coordinating, or controlling. Henry ‘discovered’ that management is a very action- oriented, fluid practice; not at all what management theory said. Of course, anyone who has even spent one day managing knows this!
In 2003, Henry published his book Managers Not MBAs. He outlined a novel approach to management education, which he had been using in his flagship International Masters Degree for Practicing Managers.
Henry said that the way in which managers are educated has a crucial impact on the way they manage. When you take young students, give them lots of case studies, and have them suggest what big decisions the actors in the case study should do, then you give young students the false idea that they can make big decisions without really thinking or even knowing much about the context. Not only that, you inflate their egos. When you do this for hundreds of thousands of young managers and unleash them into organizations, you end up with a financial crisis like we saw in 2008. Henry claims that this was a management crisis, not a financial crisis.
Henry’s approach to developing managers is through reflection on their own experiences in light of conceptual ideas. This encourages a reflective, thoughtful approach to management, nurturing committed, engaged managers.
At a macro level we have business schools educating managers. Then these managers go into organizations and make decisions. They can be cold and calculating or thoughtful and balanced. The results of their decisions shape our society.
Business schools have evolved over the years and are making increasing efforts to live up to their responsibility to society at large. Given the situation our society and the world is in, they have no choice.
Leadership development professionals, and associations thereof, need to get moving and come to terms with their responsibility towards greater society. The design, development, and deployment of leadership development programs in organizations can have a direct positive, or negative, impact on this. Managers can be taught in a way that gives them a false sense of security or given the space to reflect, dialogue, and humbly learn from each other.
In the end, CoachingOurselves has changed tag lines periodically. But our mission and our vision has always remained the same: to change the practice of management to contribute to a better society. We know that our approach of helping a leadership development professional set up and support peer-coaching groups results in better leaders, better teams, and improved organizational results. We believe on the large scale, it will also make society better.
In 2014, Henry published his book “Rebalancing Society”. As with many of the enduring, iconic, management thinkers, Henry has evolved to become a social philosopher. In his perspective, strengthening community is key to a stronger society. CoachingOurselves rebuilds the sense of community in the organization, which then goes on to better strengthen the communities within which it serves. All the dots are now connected!
Disconnected and calculating or thoughtful and balanced? You choose.
If you want to learn more about this vision, come join us for our Reflections Global Conference in Montreal.