The PhD journey

March 25, 2010

I entered the University of Calgary in 1968 as a mature student doing English in a B.Ed degree having left school at 15 in Glasgow Scotland.It was a long and tough four years driving taxi at the weekends, getting robbed once and beaten up twice and drinking too much in between the grind of university and part-time work.   Being quite uncomfortable with public speaking I went out to the University of Victoria and did my 4th year senior English courses ( modern American and British literature) coming back to do the professional teaching year when I was more ready.

Moving on from teaching  junior high English at Victoria and then Branton Junior high schools (hardest work ever),and getting married I went back to the UK, probably to prove I could really do it and did my MA at the University of Sussex in 1977.

This was an incredible experience and I lucked out as the School of Education program under  guidance of Dr. Michel Eraut was very flexible, no exams, minimum bullshit but really challenging and perfect for a self-starter who could get out and find schools to do research in. Most of them were pissed off with the university so it was pretty difficult for an outsider. This led  my  developing academic brain to the world of curriculum development within organizational behaviour and planned change. It had a pass/fail system of grading and two significant projects,  An Institutional Profile of a school (Whitehawk Middle School), and a Curriculum Analysis (South Downs High School). The final was a major organizational project (A Case Study of Curriculum Innovation in Scotland). The latter was quite a ‘full circle’ for me as I was researching the four major curriculum  centers (English, Social Studies, Modern languages and Science) in the very system that I had hated with a passion as a young schoolboy. At one point when working out of the Social Sciences Center at Jordanhill Teaching College I could look out my window at my old  school for which I had developed a very unhealthy loathing for and had left in a foul mood on a pissing wet day at 15 to head for the shipyards.

With my MA completion came my first daughter, born in Glasgow about the same time I got my degree in the mail. Complete with baby, debts, voluminous student loans we came back to Canada in 1978 to a very changed situation and a major recession with hundreds of teachers out of work including myself. It took a few tough years but I developed a behavioural oriented consultancy practice within policing and enjoyed the excitement and motivation of working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other law enforcement organizations  for the next decade. My teaching and curriculum research capability was a great asset. During that time I met many  police officers who were exceptional people and showed great resilience in very difficult situations. The germ of an idea began to form and I considered writing a book at the time about the “what’s in them” question – why were some so resilient to stress/trauma and adversity.

Family, travel, young kids growing and a full on teaching load put that into the background until many years later, now living in Australia at age 67 (See my Why Now article on this blog)  I approached a wonderful friend and academic colleague from teaching MBA organizational behaviour in China with, Dr Steven Segal and it all came together. With his encouragement I applied to do a research PhD at Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) under his supervision. I am now 7 months into a planned five-year part-time doctorate. I even have a business card that says I am a ‘Doctoral Scholar’ not bad for a tearaway kid who left school at 15.

The PhD journey has begun: More later

Coaching Beyond the Blindspot!

March 22, 2010

Many technical managers’ – engineers, doctors, scientists, finance or IT specialists, academics and other professionals – become managers without any formal managerial development or coaching. They are promoted to their positions because of their technical expertise, rather than their people management experience. The messy business of ‘people management’ is often neither their strength nor their inclination.

This is their blindspot.

The consequences can be detrimental for the business. often resulting in a stressed and anxious culture, personal burnout, loss of confidence, ineffective teams, interpersonal and departmental conflicts, ineffective change management of major projects, non-management of poor performance, demotivation, and loss of expert staff.

The blindspot can be very costly…

To find out more about the technical blindspot, how it can affect your business, and most importantly, how to deal with it, please visit our website or click here for our coaching brochure.

Albert Bandura – Introduction to the “Resilience Guru”

March 15, 2010


I haven’t failed. I’ve identified 10,000 ways this doesn’t work.”
Thomas Edison

Most of the ideas for my PhD are based on the work of Albert Bandura, who is probably the most prominent academic figure in the field of self-efficacy. Without Bandura, a PhD on this stuff would certainly be a lot harder… I want to try to introduce Bandura to you in a nutshell, which will be hard to do with a man who had such an incredible life.

Bandura’s family were no strangers to adversity themselves, which might have been the reason for his devotion to the subject matter later on. As the son of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants, Albert Bandura was born in 1925 in the 400-soul village of Mundare, Canada, as the youngest and the only boy of a set of six children. His parents had no formal education, but showed remarkable resilience and self-efficacy throughout their lives, with his father, for instance, teaching himself to read three languages.

The pioneer life proved to be difficult for the family, however. In tough years of drought they had to feed part of their thatched rooftop to the cattle to save them from starvation. They lost one of their children in a hunting accident and another was claimed by the pandemic flu. Bandura’s mother worked as a nurse at the time wandering from home to home to help those who had survived.

Nevertheless, the family succeeded in providing Bandura with an education and he went to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver after finishing high school. To make ends meet he worked in a woodwork plant in the afternoons and took classes in the morning. By coincidence, he decided to enrol in a psychology class as a filler for an earlier time slot. Psychology sparked his interest; he found his passion for it and never looked back. In order to find what he called “the stone tablets of psychology”, Bandura then went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Iowa, where he received a PhD degree in clinical psychology in 1952.

In 1953, Bandura joined the faculty at Stanford University, where he also published his first book, Adolescent Aggression, in 1959. His further research concentrated on the development of a theory of social modelling, taking into consideration how people learn by observation rather than simply through the consequences of their own actions. In 1964, Bandura became full professor at Stanford University and in 1977 he published his ambitious research results in the book Social Learning Theory, which was to dramatically alter the direction of psychology in the 1980s.

Looking at Bandura’s life and experiences, it becomes very obvious just how important self-efficacy and resilience are in any success story and that it’s not only about the opportunities that are given to you – may they be positive or negative in nature – but how you choose to make use of them…

He who has a why to live for, can endure almost any how.
Dr. Victor Frankyl, Psychiatrist


Bibliographical information from

What is Resilience?

March 15, 2010

Imagine you get called into your boss’ office where previously you had been told that you have been doing a great job and the company really appreciates your contribution for the last five years, BUT unfortunately they will have to let you go…At the same time you are living on your own after an acrimonious divorce and the final straw is you need a hip replacement. This is when having a resilient spirit is going to be very important.

Most of us would have heard about resilience it in one way or another. Maybe someone has commended you on your ability to bouncer back before, or maybe you have read one of those great quotes you find in the ‘Inspiration’ section of the bookshops, like Confucius: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” But what does it really mean?

Resilience usually goes hand in hand with a few other terms such as self-efficacy, adversity, and motivation. How people deal with misfortune or hardships in their lives is an important aspect of their character. It means facing life’s difficulties with courage and endurance and a healthy belief in oneself. It’s about not giving up! Now, the really interesting question is why are there some people who seem to have a very strong resilience, who just keep going no matter how hard it is, and there are others who find it much more difficult to get themselves back up…

I might come back to this thought a little later, and will leave the topic with a quote by Albert Bandura, who is in some ways a ‘resilience guru’: “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.”