“There is a pivotal movement” Michael says, “when someone I am working with develops a better understanding of the working of their own mind that lets them act with more skill and make better choices. Then the world becomes a better place.”
The work Michael does can be intimate, one-to-one, or in groups. Sometimes it’s a larger scale teaching session.
It’s best to understand Michael’s impact through the story of one assignment.
It was a one-to-one coaching role, with a senior leader in a consulting firm, who’d been accused of corruption in a particular jurisdiction. This was a big deal and a parliamentary inquiry was called. The consultant’s firm hired a team of independent lawyers to assess whether there was a case against him. They concluded that he was not guilty, and the firm swung in behind him.
Michael was hired to help the partner concerned to prepare to face the ordeal of the inquiry. Michael helped him to understand his fears, to control his reactions to the accusation, and to prepare to meet the inquiry in a new way.
The process came, and the partner did an outstanding job in front of the inquiry panel. Why? He turned up as fully human. As someone interested in the committee and its inquiry, empathetic and genuinely wanting to help them to answer their questions.
Michael recalls: “He came to see the process as a mutual inquiry into truth. He was genuinely interested in them and in the process. He was present and curious; he cared about their work – cared that they did it well and arrived at a deeper understanding. He came across as utterly non-defensive.
It was a really valuable piece of work”.
Michael’s work rests on extraordinary foundations. Coming from a privileged family that fought apartheid in South Africa, including an uncle who defended Mandela at his trial, Michael left to avoid being conscripted into the South African army: he couldn’t face enforcing the laws of that regime. He arrived in London in the 1970s, discovered Buddhism, joined a Buddhist Order and along the way became a pioneer of purpose led entrepreneurship by creating a Buddhist trading company. That business flourished, coming in time to have sales of £10 million, a staff of 200, and giving away £1 million a year. After 8 years of running a hectic start-up Michael left and went on to leading a full-time Buddhist life. Meditating, studying, writing, and in time helping to lead a Buddhist organisation.
Nearing the turn of the millennium, he spotted a newly established master’s programme at Bangor University teaching clinical approaches to mindfulness. “I was lucky to stumble into that, it was a perfect fit.” On graduating, he taught on the programme for several years, mainly training clinicians in the UK’s National Health Service.
Gradually that morphed into organisational work more generally, along with the founding of his company, Mindfulness Works, and to all the practice in coaching, training, organisational work and writing that has come from that.
Michael’s research and writing is prolific – you’ll find some links to his books below this blog.
Michael has worked with the GameShift team to create some totally new material that is built on the theory of quiet ego states. The AIM / QEL Process is a brand new “light touch” and on-line process, that combines his mindfulness work with the complexity-based action inquiry of Chris Nichols and Philippa Hardman. It’s such a powerful application of Michael’s work to the urgent needs of organisations needing to innovate in turbulent times.
Michael sees the impact of this work as arising from “helping the people who shape the lives of others to know their own minds so that they wake wiser and more compassionate choices.”
Mindfulness and compassion training is one ‘thin slice’ of this work, but it goes wider in its impact, embracing ethics and values, relational skills and more. It’s a genuinely contemporary process created to address the challenges people and teams are facing right now in a very accessible form.
“This is the work I am here to do” Michael says. “I’m unusual in the Buddhist context in that I can engage with business leaders and can talk business language from my entrepreneurial experience. Both my business background and my psychological knowledge is useful. There is something very important in this marriage of the languages”.
Michael is an outstanding colleague to bring alongside any leader or team grappling with the way they see and respond to the world. An entrepreneur, deeply versed in the realities of business and organisations, bringing a compassionate laser focus to help make visible the workings of the mind, for individuals and for groups.
It’s a powerful offer. Michael may be exactly the Thinking Partner you need.