A criticism was levelled at a previous (Blair/Brown) government, particularly towards the end, that cabinet had become driven by the ‘how will this look?’ question rather than the more useful ‘what shall we do?’.
That ‘give a good account of yourself whatever the situation’ virus has spread, it seems, across the land. It’s a power-point contagion. In recent work with teams, a heated debate about the choice of the right visuals or presentation sound tracks seems to have noticeably squeezed out any real conversation about …….what is actually going on.
It might be the case that the (lovely and impressive) presentation technology available to us all has swapped the gift wrap for the gift, but that would be too easy a target. The ‘lights, camera, action’ approach appears to take root wherever there is – anxiety: wherever the leadership ethos tends towards the narcissistic, and wherever blame is the handiest currency in circulation.
And it happens so easily.
Therapists know all about this.
Ask those who know, and they will describe a similar behaviour seen amongst anxious clients. The individual might begin to think on the way to the session about what they are going to say this time. The sub text here is that they feel they must impress (even entertain?) the therapist with some worthwhile material, and that they must fill any possible gaps with experiences and stories.
(Remember that the client is paying for the session. Interesting.)
Some colleagues report a process of elaboration as the client nears the consulting room that would qualify for 5 star reviews anywhere on the Edinburgh Fringe.
But the point is that the therapist knows all about this.
Time, technique, care and attention will eventually win through. The truth will be reached, the anecdotes discarded, the client able to explore that which needs to be explored.
Leadership teams don’t have these skills. The constructed drama will continue to disguise reality. Yet all they need to do is take one leaf from the therapy room’s book.
Create a safe space for discussion.
Let your teams spend their precious time thinking, critically and honestly, out loud with you: not aiming for a video award.