Friday, 28 October 2016

Shifting Stories

After a long gestation,  Shifting Stories (by Andrew Scott, ISBN 9781785893551) is now available to order from your local bookshop, on Amazon (also as an ebook, but without the wonderful graphics), and directly from me (If you would like a signed copy) via the website (see below)

I would ask that you consider buying from your local bookshop, rather than Amazon, for a few reasons: bookshops struggle for business, but we would miss them if they disappeared - and they pay a much better margin to authors than Amazon does (so this is also a self-interested request!)  

If you want to know more about the book, there are a few Youtube videos (between 4 and 6 minutes long), and a lot more detail on the  website.

The Youtube videos are 
  • a (mock)TV interview, here: 

  • a (mock) radio interview here: 

  • and a presentation including a case study here (this was produced as a reminder video for people who have been on my workshop):

The website is at  

If you like the book, please tell everyone, and write a glowing review on Amazon.

If you dislike the book, please tell me, and tell me why.

If you want to discuss anything in the book, please go to the website (  where I hope lively discussion will take place, to develop my own understanding, and other peoples’ too.

I hope you buy the book, enjoy it, and find it useful; but above all I hope that you engage in the discussion. I think this is a fascinating approach, and am keen to learn more - and hope that you will be part of that process.

I would like to record particular thanks to the many people interviewed for the book, all those years ago (you should have received your complimentary copy a while back: if it did not reach you, please let me know.) And especial thanks to Andrew Derrington, who coached me into writing a readable book, Mike P-S who did the cover and all the graphic work, and Jane P-S who did all the practical editorial work, and built the website.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Continuing to explore The Dark Side

I am always interested in the theoretical underpinnings of the tools I use, so have been reading up on the Hogan Development Survey instrument.  I have blogged about this tool a few times already (see the tag Hogan for the other posts).

So, where do the scales used by Hogan come from? The HDS Manual states that each scale is designed to describe various personality disorders as they may manifest in working adults:

Excitable - borderline
Sceptical - paranoid
Cautious - avoidant
Reserved - schizoid
Leisurely - passive aggressive
Bold - narcissistic
Mischievous - antisocial
Colourful - histrionic
Imaginative - schizotypal
Diligent - obsessive compulsive 
Dutiful - dependent

I recognise that it may not always be helpful to make that explicit when working with the tool: if my feedback had started with: you have a high risk of displaying Schizoid, Schizotypal and Histrionic behaviours, it might have been a bit of a distraction from the learning...  

Moreover, I think it would have been inaccurate; for what the Hogan tool is doing, if I am correct, is exploring how these tendencies might manifest in healthy functional people under stress (or when over-relaxed) and not at the extremes suggested by the label 'personality disorder.'

I find it helpful to know the link, however; and not least because the Hogan labels are not always perfect: Leisurely has quite different connotations for me than the passive aggressive meaning implicit in the Hogan scale. The Hogan sub-scales are helpful here, of course: the sub-scales for Leisurely are Passive Aggressive, Unappreciated and Irritated. 

One other thing I noticed with interest is that the way the Hogan groups these is different from the way the NHS does:

I do not think that is problematic, as they are focusing on different issues, in their groupings; and, as already mentioned, the HDS is meant to be (I think) the non-pathological manifestations of the traits (‘working adults’), rather than the more extreme manifestations implied by ‘personality disorders’ in the NHS categorisation.

But it is interesting - not least to me; my high scores for Reserved and Imaginative (Schizoid and Schizotypal) now sit together in Cluster A, Odd; it is now Colourful (Histrionic) that is the outlier, in Cluster B, Dramatic… Food for thought.

Incidentally (and perhaps manifesting some of my tendency to go off on tangents that may leave people behind) Stoppard's Dark Side is a great radio play....

Friday, 14 October 2016

More Learning From my Dark Side

I have blogged a few times about the Hogan tools, and my learning from them. In particular, here I talked about the insight into myself generated by the famous Dark Side tool, and the fact that my dark side high-risk factors are an odd mix: high Reserve along with high Colourful and high Imaginative.

Well, Hogan is the gift that keeps giving. Yesterday, in a supervisory session with the excellent Jan Allon-Smith, another light came on. We were discussing my coaching (as you might expect in a coaching supervision session) and some particular questions I had about it, and Jan asked how the Hogan tools might inform my thinking.

It proved to be a very rich question, and I realised that my coaching, when I am not at my best, could be reasonably characterised as Reserved (in the ways meant by the Hogan use of the term). That led to a great discussion about what more Colourful or more Imaginative coaching might look like - and the recognition that sometimes my coaching does look like that, and I think it is the better for it. That is to say, it can be more fun, and more risky; and I allow more of myself to show through. 

That is not always appropriate, of course; and further, my Reserve is necessary to stop the Colourful or the Imaginative approaches from moving the focus from the coachee onto me, or from intimidating the coachee and failing to create that learning environment which is a sine qua non of coaching.  

So I am not going to jettison some of my Reserved behaviours: they go very well with a highly attentive approach to listening, as Nancy Kline's model (of which I am a big fan) advocates. But I think I had allowed them to dominate some of the more Colourful and Imaginative behaviours in my coaching (and to a lesser extent in my facilitation) and that had reduced the range of my repertoire.

I found this a very energising, exciting and slightly scary conversation - what de Haan would call a critical incident in our coaching supervision meeting.  Now the challenge is to integrate the insights gained in conversation with Jan to my practice: so if you have a coaching meeting booked with me, you may want to see if you see me as more Imaginative (though not, I hope eccentric, which is the risk) or more Colourful (though not I hope too dramatic, which is the associated risk with Colourful).

Friday, 7 October 2016

A World Without Down's?

I was very moved by Sally Phillips' documentary on Down's Syndrome and pre-natal screening this week: A World Without Down's

In the first instance, I was shocked by my own prejudice. I like to think of myself (who doesn't?) as without prejudice, but I noticed a small but discernible visceral reaction to the physical appearance of Olly, Sally's son, who has Down's. 

I was quickly won over, of course, by his infectious personality; and it made me reflect that I know nobody with Down's, and that my life is the poorer as a result. I know some people - including family members - with varying degrees of autism, and am aware how that has resulted in my being fully comfortable with such people.  But, as I say, I was shocked by my own visceral prejudice, based purely on unfamiliarity.

I was also profoundly moved by the interview with the young mother who had terminated her pregnancy at 25 weeks on learning that her baby (probably) had Down's. Her description of the moment when she could feel her baby moving within her, then it was injected in its heart, and then it stopped moving was terribly upsetting - not least for her.

To me, it seemed to cut through some of the easy rhetoric about 'My body, my choice.' For it was clearly not only her body that was at issue here: the heart that was injected and stopped was not her heart. Perhaps that was compounded by the fact that my daughter is currently expecting a baby.

But this notion of autonomous choice is very dear to us as a society. Sarah Ditum's review of the programme in the New Statesman exemplifies this. To say that Sally Phillips' programme was 'anti-choice' is enough to damn it, in Ditum's view.

However I want to think a little more about this notion of choice.  On the one hand, it seems very atomised. Each individual mother making a choice to terminate a Down's baby has a cumulative effect that reaches beyond them: that was the thrust of Phillips' concerns, though she herself was careful not to actually contradict the choice mantra, in the programme.  But the programme raised the question: who do we think is worthy to live in our society?  And it is not just about people with Down's but also autism (as pre-natal screening for autism is also nearly with us).

I think that the world would be a poorer place if we eliminate all those who are markedly different, or different in ways that 'we' find uncomfortable to deal with. Yet that is the foreseeable consequence of the sum of the individual choices that mothers are likely to make (as Iceland demonstrates). And there are other consequences too: as one mother put it on Twitter: 'We try so hard for inclusion/acceptance & NIPT makes it harder. That our kids are only here b/c tests failed?'

There is another aspect of choice that I think worthy of reflection, too. We talk of 'informed' choice; but as Sally made clear, no amount of information can tell you the reality of having a child with Down's; and still less how you will in fact respond to that reality. So the choice is inevitably made on the basis of assumptions, and as we heard very clearly in the programme, fears and prejudices.

Further, thinking of Kubler-Ross' research, and the transition curve, we are compelling women to make that choice at a particular moment, when they are going through the emotionally charged experience of learning that their child has Down's. But we know that the way she will react will change over time - but the nature of the choice demands a quick decision. Such a decision may well not be the one she would make given more time and more support.

That is why we do not offer people who are attempting suicide the choice of a quick and easy way to do so: we recognise that the choice to commit suicide is very often one that is made at a particular moment, and that with help and support the individual will be glad not to have been able to act on that choice. For, as with abortion, it is an irreversible one.

So am I anti-choice?  Well, I am anti- some choices. As we all are. We don't say of (say) bullying behaviour that 'it may be wrong for you, but you can't judge other people.'  We recognise that bullying behaviour is wrong, not just for me, but for everyone. The degree of subjective responsibility may of course be mitigated by particular circumstances, but the behaviour is still wrong and harmful.

Further, I believe that choices made from fear and based on partial knowledge and prejudice are likely to be less positive and life-affirming than choices that spring from love and courage.

So, of course, we cannot and should not pass judgment on the woman who shared her story of terminating her pregnancy at 25 weeks.  But I believe that objectively, that was a wrong thing to do - and a wrong choice for her to be offered.

This is a complex and fraught area: but I am grateful for Sally Phillips' powerful and thought-provoking programme for making me reflect more on it.

And I, for one, don't want to see a World Without Down's.