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April 2013

A tribute to my teacher

Dr G Max Clayton, a significant teacher of mine, died last week. Max has been influential in my professional and personal development for over 27 years. He instituted a system of experiential training and learning in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and in several European countries. His vision was that our responses to one another, both at work and in life should be in the moment, relevant and life giving.

  Max was funny, perceptive and fierce. He was a challenging, empathetic and demanding teacher. Max's life work was teaching people to approach old situations in fresh and new ways. The methods he used were unconventional. Max had the capacity not only to bring the elephant into the room and make it visible - he also bought in the other animals, birds, and zoo keepers; effectively the whole zoo.


Max talked of behaviours as having three components: thinking, feeling and action. He and others identified that when one of these components is out of balance with the other two and becomes habitual, the person's behaviour tends to have a limiting impact on those around them. Max's vision was that people, regardless of their circumstances, should live spontaneously1. He wishes us all to develop our capacities to respond relevantly in the world around us - to be human.


I am grateful for the many life-giving moments from my times with Max.


1. Spontaneity includes five elements: vitality, creativity, flexibility, adequacy and originality

Are you thriving or barely surviving?

There are at least three criteria for working successfully in organisations:

  • Technical abilities
  • Experience
  • The qualities you have when working with others - relationships. 

Ten years ago, staff were expected to do as managers said.  Then, expertise, and some experience were sufficient to be appointed to leadership roles. Increasingly a third factor is necessary - people having positive experiences through working alongside you as they produce results.


Some leaders find that creating a culture where people want to work together can be challenging. Increasingly leaders are expected to work with teams where group members may not know one another, or group membership is unstable with people in acting roles, or where the organisation purpose and priorities are shifting. New approaches are necessary.


Learning from our organisation experiences is fast becoming the norm. Early in my career, leadership development programmes were month-long or week-long events. Currently we accept that people can develop their abilities by learning on the job. Three ways to assist on the job learning:

  • Managers giving responsive feedback
  • leadership coaching
  • Challenging assignments, with strong governance or a mentor

New roles, shifting organisation structures and different priorities require leaders to use new approaches. They have to develop greater abilities in leading diverse groups of people, - making work meaningful for group members under rapidly changing circumstances, and continue to deliver services and products relevant to customers and clients.


Contact Diana for a coaching programme to assist you thrive


Read what clients say about Diana's coaching: Testimonials


Education leader also now published poet


Discovering then building on hidden talents  has long been one of Maris O'Rourke's special attributes. This year, long time friend and colleague Maris has published her first book of poetry. Maris was Secretary of Education here in New Zealand and then Director of Education for the World Bank. She has worked in education systems in over 50 countries.  
Singing With Both Throats is published by David Ling Publishing and available from Unity Books in Wellington or via Fishpond. Here is part of poet Siobhan Harvey's recent review.... "Collectively, what you get in Singing with Both Throats is a book as raw as it is accomplished, the poet's past lives and enduring obsessions informing the arresting imagery and insight, and providing a template for narrator and reader to intersect personal history, poetic travelogue and a survival-map. The result is a work of bite, beauty and intrigue."

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In This Issue
A tribute to my teacher
Thriving or surviving?
Dr Maris O'Rourke publishes book of poetry
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