Agency and owning it

The after Easter doldrums that seemed to affect everyone resulted in a long wait to get through a bureaucratic hoop. This allowed some time to reflect on how we prefer to be treated.

Everyone seemed to be on a go-slow over the last week. After being lulled into a soft sense of Easter egg comfort over the long weekend we were rudely tipped into the dark and cold reality of Stage 6 load shedding. Ten to twelve hours of power outages, possibly more if sub stations baulked at the impact of being turned back on and fizzled and spat into nothingness.

It’s no wonder that those coming back to work did so with little enthusiasm and low motivation. So it was that Chantal sat for over an hour and a half at the French Visa office in Sandton waiting her turn to be interrogated. She had with her, in duplicate, the reams of paperwork she had diligently prepared for a family trip to France later in the year. She had arrived early and sat for the officially sanctioned photo shoot.

“Is that okay, madam?” asked the polite security guard / photo booth operator.

Not really, thought Chantal, look at those bags under my eyes! But ok let's just get on with it. She smiled, felt the rush of adrenaline creating a heat rash up over her neck and face, took a seat and waited. And waited. And waited.


Working in a daze

Obviously we could not connect with all the people we find dear this weekend. It is tempting to invite everyone that we’ve been wanting to catch up with to a big shindig. But we battle with big crowds, even of friends. We find the energy both overwhelming and too surface. The joy of hosting one or two at a time and digging deep over several hours into what is most important to them, is what we find the most heartening.

And so it was that we gathered around our small pine table on rickety chairs that squeak and moan, and swapped stories about those things that mean the most to us. Stories about sacred contracts and how the universe has a way of getting us to do things we most want to avoid. Stories of hurt and hope. We laughed at the audacity of some brave (or stupid) souls and gasped at the consequences that thoughtlessness bestows on others.

As we hugged and waved our visitors goodbye we felt fuller not only by the delicious food and decadent treats we had consumed but by the conversations and warmth we had drunk in.


Sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses

Bureaucracy is not our thing

Bureaucracy is not our thing. At all. To visit a bank is a torture, the prospect of engaging with any government department can bring out rashes but we have nothing like the kind of hoop jumping that happens in a place like the UK. We have been watching Clarkson’s Farm and the amount of red tape he had to wade through could have papered his entire property, all 1000 acres of it, four times over.

It feels as if South Africa has wobbled and tripped to the one extreme of amorphous, slippery, floppy, almost non-existent (neglectful?) civil service while the UK and Europe have over compensated to the point where they have to oversee everything. There is literally an oversight committee, “police” if you will, for every tiny step you wish to take as a business or a farmer, even on your own property. The authoritarian “parent” is well and truly in the room treating everyone else as ignorant kids about to do themselves or others some harm.

None of these extremes is helpful. Authoritarian approaches breed fearful, dependent, and insecure communities and neglectful approaches result in impulsive, disinterested, even delinquent communities. Neither offers the opportunity for agency, innovation or development.


A welcome opportunity to be creative, a chocolate Marilyn Monroe

Agency and owning it

As human beings we want agency, we want to be treated like competent adults. We want acknowledgement that we are creative, clever and resourceful. That is why coaching as a methodology works so well when it comes to adult development and learning.

“Your clients are whole, healthy and resourceful,” Matthew reminded the group of young peer coaches-in-training at their Saturday session.

We taught them the GROW coaching model which gave them a structure to their conversations. A start, a middle and a close. Directed and outcomes based.

“What I like about this model is that it makes it easy to support the client to find their own answers,” commented one participant.

“It makes it easier to remember not to give them advice,” said another.

“I don’t like it when someone else tells me what I should do, so this helps me support my client with the thinking around options and solutions,” remarked a third.

Exactly! Offer, don’t give. There is nothing that builds self esteem and a belief in ourselves more than finding our own solution to our own problem. From helpless to wholeness. As one character in a recent TV series reminded us: “If you solve it yourself, you own it.”

Here’s to you solving and owning.

Until next time,

Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew

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