At a recent client event Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, was a guest. He shared a story of a taxi driver asking him what he did. Chris told him about the agency’s work. “Haven’t we got better things to think about than saving the planet?” the driver replied.
It’s a funny, serious, fascinating question. What could possibly be more important than the place that gives us fresh air and water and food and energy and somewhere to play and work and rest and live? Well, nothing really. No planet – game over. So why is looking after it, and all that lives upon it, not an upfront and central part of all we do, including our work?
Perhaps it’s because life is big. There’s money and houses and health and children and parents and careers and sex and hobbies and lots of stuff to think about. And perhaps it’s a big question. In our recent research we asked David Clutterbuck about social, environmental and economic issues in relation to coaching. He responded “I feel these issues are so vast I wouldn’t know where to start!” We know from other conversations that he is not alone. Many people care about these things, and most feel deeply lost at times in the search for answers – ourselves included.
Aboodi Shabi offered us a Buddhist antidote: ‘Act as if the future of the universe depends upon everything you do, and then laugh at yourself for thinking that anything you do makes any difference anyway.” There is something magical about bringing these two elements, the serious and the humorous, the profound and the playful, together. And as Ed Gillespie of Futerra said recently “If you want to subvert the dominant paradigm you need to have more fun than they are, and let them know while you are doing it”. Loving that.
We started The One Leadership Project in 2011 in response to our questions that wouldn’t go away; “What can we do now for our grandchildren yet to be born? What’s our role in helping to address the big issues facing the world? If we weren’t afraid, and were doing what we really loved, what would that be?” Serious stuff. And we began working with people who are being catalytic in bringing change for the better; supporting them, their teams and researching their world. And it’s been life-changing, challenging…and a blast. For us. And for clients. As Camilla Arnold shared in our recent article for this magazine, ‘There are clients I work with, and clients I play with’.
Profound, game-changing work can be playful. In fact, perhaps this is essential.
In which case…What do you care deeply about? And how can you play with clients as you do something together about it? If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear from you.
All rights reserved. © This article originally appeared in Coaching at Work, Vol 7, Issue 4, 2012
Image courtesy of Harry Scotton