Is this the right learning programme for me?

Is this the right learning programme for me?

What are people looking for when they ask about our programmes, courses and conferences?

What are people looking for when they ask about our programmes, courses and conferences?

I write to describe my experience of listening to and talking to people who are enquiring about the Tavistock Institute’s post-professional training programmes and discussing the suitability of these programmes for them.

During the past few months I have spoken to many people who say they have specific learning needs, are at a critical stage of their career or are going through changes at work and in their personal lives. They say they would like to deepen their understanding of individual, group, organisational or social dynamics in order to learn to do their work better and to function better in their roles. Some are confused by similar offerings of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust and are seeking clarification. Many, of course, would like to know how the TIHR programmes will help them to do their jobs in their organisations better after the programme. I answer these questions as best I can during a telephone interview. In those instances where people are seeking personal psychotherapy the Tavistock Clinic is recommended.

The enquiries can be grouped into the following clusters:

  1. Transformations – a good number of people have been recently promoted or are about to be promoted; moving from one tier of leadership to another in their organisations – from head of department to executive level; from executive level to the board; or they are moving from present employer to a new one as a means of advancing; or because their life circumstances are changing, eg. children have left home and they have become more flexible about location; marriages may be ending and new opportunities are opening up.
  2. Training – Some people say that they feel there is a gap in their knowledge of ‘dynamics’ and they want to study more and deeper. They say they feel inadequately trained for the responsibilities in their current or new upcoming jobs. People sometimes express disappointment that their professional training did not equip them to understand ‘dynamics’ or how to lead; that later management and leadership courses over-emphasised the rational and the predictable and seldom addressed ideas around complexity and chaos. They speak of the challenges of being expected to control complex systems that seem to be out of control.
  3. Attraction of the ‘Tavistock approach’ – some people are looking to supplement their profession-of-origin trainings with a more thorough introduction to the ideas of group and systemic unconscious drives and forces. They want to understand resistance to change better; and how to improve performance through avoiding tendencies to blame others for failure. Some say they wish to acquire tools for greater control; others say they want to understand the turbulence they are experiencing in their roles.
  4. Support – People sometimes speak about the loneliness of the job and their need for support.  There is an almost universal hope that the cohort they are hoping to join will continue to exist after the programme as a support group. The Tavistock Alumni exists for this purpose.
  5. Feelings – Many people said they wish to draw closer to the Tavistock Institute.  People are eager for the prestige of membership of a group of people with connections to a prestigious organisation. They can also experience anxiety about being regarded as not good enough; a fear of rejection or a fear that they have left it too late.
  6. Future employability – Many speak of their hopes that the programme will give them confidence and an enhanced sense of self-esteem; of seeking advantage in the employment market; of their hopes that training will support their identity as ‘leader’ or develop a new identity as organisational consultant or executive coach.
  7. Professionalism – Nearly everyone speaks of their commitment to ethical practice and high standards of professionalism in their work with clients, their teams and colleagues. They speak of their wish to be involved in the human relations aspects of work, of creating humane organisations and their interest in developing people.

My experience – I find the interviews fascinating and enjoyable.  I like speaking to people about their careers, their current jobs and their future aspirations, their role relationships and their life journeys. The interviews, seldom lasting more than 30 minutes, provide an insight into people’s motivations, frustrations, and their courage in taking risks by making significant changes in their lives. They welcome the need for the support of others to do that successfully. The interviews, to be sure, have the task of selecting out those who are unsuitable or not-yet-ready to undertake a course of study with the Tavistock Institute. Everyone is told that the interview is for selection purposes too, which they accept, but most just want a clarifying talk with someone who understands the challenges of either a shift in career or a major career change and who can direct them to the most suitable programme for them to achieve that. Successfully pointing people in the right direction for them is a source of great satisfaction for me.

Mannie Sher
Director, Group Relations Programme

Find out more about our professional development programmes.

Further reading: The Social Engagement of Social Science, Volume 1: A Tavistock Anthology

For further details or if you have any questions, please contact Rachel Kelly, Professional Development Coordinator.

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