Ep. 029:  Prof. Peter Hawkins

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Show Notes

Susan considers the weather, the President of the United States’ proposed budget, and the Me Too movement, and finds them all connected. Susan thinks peace is possible and that is not just a child’s hope, but one that's based on some serious work by some serious people: John Hogan, Bill Ury, Scilla Elworthy, Riane Eisler, to name a few. Susan feels that all these people have consensus that peace is in our grasp, and she would venture that it can be within our lifetime.  Susan reiterates that the empowerment of women will be key to planetary peace, which would necessitate a move away from patriarchal models in family systems and in organizations, the two building blocks of our world.

Susan would like to explore the connection between organizational culture and building a more peaceful world with Professor Peter Hawkins. Based in the UK, Peter has been working with companies for decades on leadership culture and change initiatives. He is a leading expert in what he calls Systemic Team Coaching. Susan was also trained by Peter and thinks of his training as a kind of the infrastructure for building collaboration in systems, very much like the training she received from the Gestalt Organizations and Systems Designs Programme.

In addition to his professional credentials, Susan would also like to just talk about Peter himself.  Susan was really impressed with Peter’s approach to working with executive teams and what stood out for her most was how he gets executive teams to think very intentionally. He would hold their collective grandchildren as a stakeholder when they make decisions and even put empty chairs out for them. Sometimes he would have the executive teams sit in those chairs to consider the implications of their decisions on their collective grandchildren.  What would their granddaughters or their great-granddaughters be saying to them about the impact of the decisions they are making? He does the same with invoking the stakeholder of the environment.  He likes to be thinking as he says: "Forward, Back, Outside, In".

Peter’s models are brilliant, and Susan believes you will really enjoy listening to this highly experienced and intelligent man talk with great humility about how to bring about what he calls “WeQ” in great depth.


  • Peter will address Susan’s question about whether there is a relationship between getting gender and diversity right inside organizations and creating a more harmonious world and will find that indeed there is.
  • Peter will address the idea that the era of heroic leadership is dead and gone, and that there is an urgent need we face to develop collective leadership and collaborative intelligence.
  • Peter will talk about what men and women can do together as leaders in our places of work that we couldn't do apart and why it is so critically important for our organizations today.
  • Peter will speak directly to men in organizations, whether they are leadership or rank and file, and provide valuable guidance about how to think and how to proceed in the Me Too era.
  • Peter will address the need for companies to really rethink their career design model, which he says is designed for twentieth century men, not twenty first century human being.
  • Peter will address a question that has always nagged Susan, about how can companies get gender right and still stay competitive. In other words, not feel like they're doing the right thing, but falling behind because of it in a hyper competitive world.
  • And lastly, Peter will talk poignantly about the impact of absentee fathers, either because of wars or work some profound words of wisdom to guide us as we go forward into this complex and exciting future.


  • Working with organizations for the past 30 years, Peter has witnessed a transformation from IQ (or an analytic intelligence) to EQ (emotional intelligence). He believes the next 30 years will focus on moving IQ to WeQ (collective intelligence). We are moving into a phase where challenges for organizations are facing a level of complexity and interconnection in the hyper-connected world. CEOs are no longer individual heroes. We need everyone on the team to be able to represent the entire team, and not just their part of the team. This is forcing the development of WeQ. The last 30 years was about how we get women in leadership positions. Peter calls this “Diversity 001,” which is merely trying to get better representation. We are entering the next stage of diversity of gender, age, cultural background, race, etc. The point of this diversity is not only to exist in positions, but to diversify the mind and thinking of the entire team. How can we utilize this diversity for the benefit of the team?
  • He poses the question: When was the last time you went to a meeting where you came out of the meeting with an idea that was not in anyone’s head before the meeting started? Are we CREATING ideas in our meetings?
  • Peter briefly discusses David Bohm (nuclear physicist)
    • Late in his career, Bohm analysed how we change cultures
  • Collaborative intelligence is all about culture. Most meetings only address “pre-cooked” thoughts. Meetings should be about cooking together. Thinking new thoughts and pushing ourselves to the edge of what we know. 
  • Peter discusses a blog he wrote just before his 40th wedding anniversary that argued that partnerships are not created by partners. He attempted to link what happens in marriages to what happens in organizational merges and what happens in leadership teams. We used to think that leadership team would go off and create and promote the mission of the organization, but that is actually wrong. It’s actually the mission that creates the team. A need is already out there in the world waiting for a leadership team to respond.
    • Leadership and success is not only about having good relationships. Effectiveness comes from a collective purpose that they can only achieve through collaboration.
    • This is important in all fields and levels
    • “What is it that we can do together that we cannot do apart?” What are we both in a service to do?
    • In a marriage, these purposes might change as time goes on. The best marriages are built on what we can do together that we can’t do apart.
    • During th e Bush and Blair era, Peter was speaking at a conference. He was asked what he would say to the duo: “What can you two uniquely do together that the world of tomorrow needs?” (Not about the electorate, it’s about the future of their countries and the world.)
  • We have to think triangulatedly, not only from two vantage points. Peter used to work as a consultant with Relate, an organization that counsels couples. When they work with couples, they have three clients. Third client is the relationship and it’s the most important. 
    • Asks “what does the relationship need from the two of you?”
    • Think in TRIANGLES. Purpose driven, not representationally driven.
  • Requisite Diversity
    • When he works with a leadership team, he asked everyone what they are working in service of? Who are the stakeholders? (communities, customer’s, partners, environment, investors, employees) What is it we receive from all of those and what do we give back? The team must be accountable to these groups.
      • Added stakeholder: our future collective grandchildren (because our decisions today will be left to the future)
      • He heard this quote from a Native American leader: Make decisions with the 7 generations before you, the 7 generations after you, and all living beings that share this moment in time with you
      • Uses empty chairs to represent these stakeholders so that the board/team/company has their attention
      • We need the same diversity in the leadership team that is there in the stakeholder world        
  • Peter recalls a social worker agency where most of the clients and staff were women and the leadership was entire white, older men.
    • His wife is writing a book about white privilege and how white people can confront the history of creating classifications for minorities and consistently putting ourselves on the top of that pyramid. Even today, we live on the foundations of societies built from colonization, slavery, and the exploitation of other parts of the world. 
      • Her argument is if we can’t face that, we are like an addict who is in denial of his/her/their situation.
      • Peter applies this to being a man: What is the hidden privileges of being white? Of being male?
      • An exercise for acknowledging this privilege: Write down a list of privileges that are simply given to us/them because of these identities.
      • His wife gives a list of 48 privileges while most people struggle to come up with 3-4. (Also see “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.)
      • In the UK, a popular spot for middle class white families are the National Trust Historic Houses, which were built off the proceeds of slavery.
      • How can men/white people/other privileged identities become aware of this privilege and stop taking it for granted?
  • Susan: Organizations and companies care a lot about competitiveness. How can you address the tension between keeping women in leadership roles where they have power and influence, but simultaneously create an environment where women can give birth to, and raise, children while continuing to have this influence? There is a backdrop where organizations/corporations have to make these decisions. What is the advantage from a competitive standpoint to keeping women in these positions while their attention has to also focused on domestic responsibilities?
    • Peter responds on two levels. The real question being asked here is how can women compete in a workforce that is designed by and for men?
      • Companies will ensure that they are interviewing diverse groups of people, but they fail to see that their entire work structure is designed for 20th century men, not 21st century human beings.
      • Same problems with millennials. They don’t want to be “partner.” This no longer motivates millennials who are seeking for more flexible work schedules and a healthy work/life balance.
      • This system doesn’t even work for men. We deigned a career path where people get more and more pressure and more responsibility, and then we just stop/retire at a certain age.
      • Companies need to totally redesign the organization of the work day. How can we change this structure so that it embraces diversity? How can we ensure that people are doing the bulk of their work in their 40s and 50s, and then enter into a period of “eldership” and mentoring which allows them to transition into retirement? This is a curve so that you don’t have to stop working at your “peak.”
  • Susan: Women can sometimes peak later because they get slowed down by domestic responsibilities earlier in their careers.
    • Peter says that this should apply to both genders so that everyone who wants to take time off for family is able to do so. We need to build in richer “career path diversity.”
    • The second level for Peter: Competition
      • In the West, we are stuck misunderstanding Darwin. The “Survival of the Fittest” and evolution is not an individualistic process.
      • The unit of survival is NOT the individual/country/corporation/team/family. That is also not the unit of flourishing. This individualistic mentality is foolish.
      • For success, or evolution, each unit must exist “in dynamic co-creation with its ecological niche.”
        • You can’t talk about “a great team”
        • You can talk about a team that is flourishing because it is creating value for all of its stakeholders.
  • Susan: Really looking at the workings of interconnection and where those connections are made
    • Peter: It’s nonsense to coach a team- you have the coach the relationships within the team. You have to consult the all of the connections that exist between stakeholders.
    •  Go shoulder to shoulder with your clients and ask them whom THEY are there to serve. Then make their stakeholders your clients and make your clients your partners.
    • We can only “evolve” and be collaborative when we are unified in a common driving force.
    •  The whole competitive, growth addicted, profit-driven, individualistic Western society of the last 200 years has given us this understanding of Darwin as cut-throat and competitive, which is false. All of evolution is collaborative, not competitive.
  • Susan: What is your advice to men of different backgrounds (those shaking at the knees/worried about all this direction of attention towards women and blue-collar/ CEOs/management, etc.)? 
    • Peter: again two levels
      • He was consulting with a professional global service firm last week. There was a group of male partners he was working with. They were getting complaints from Executive Assistants and support staff who were mostly female. What was the dialogue they needed to have with that group? Peter said he hopes that they feel confident that they are creating an environment where, if women are getting harassed at work, that they are able to talk to the administration of the company before talking to the press and their lawyers. Peter assures us that one of those firms will find themselves all over the press within the next six months with sexual harassment/assault accusations.
      • While it is important for men to evaluate how they have personally contributed to the harassment/assault/rape culture that exists in the world today, (you can’t only point fingers at obvious figures like Weinstein), but it is more important for men within companies to not be passive bystanders.
      • We don’t need to focus on the few telling sexist jokes, we need to focus on the good people listening to them who are uncomfortable but remain silent.
      • Every leader has the responsibility to ensure that the environment is created in which, if/when women get sexually harassed, she feels comfortable address the management of the company immediately instead of sitting on the information for 20 years and then having it go to the press.
  • Susan: In addition, leaders need to be equipped to support the person/people who are coming to tell you about these incidents.
    • Peter: Second, deeper level, for men. He has been alongside some very radical feminists imploring men to not “bandwagon” on their issues because it is impossible for men to fully understand what it is like to exist as a woman in society. Many of the men in the room would say, “We agree with you; we think some of these men are terrible as well and we would like to help you.” This creates the “classic triangle”: victim, persecutor, rescuer. The next trap that men fall into (Peter included) is that women can help them solve the gender issue.
    • Sexism is not a woman problem; it’s a man problem. Racism is not a black person problem; it’s a white person problem. Ultimately, white people and men have to face and  fix their own problems. They have to confront their guilt and shame on this and develop a way to move on and fix the damaged system.
  • Susan: There are two sides. Women also have a lot to do here. She quotes Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Women give a lot of their power over to men. There are ways that women need to unlearn their helplessness. Women have to learn how to embrace their unique power and understand that power does not only come from acting masculine.
    • Peter: This needs to be in service of a joint purpose and women have done much more work on this already.
    • When you see a group of young, gang-like, violent, adolescent men, they are desperately trying to initiate themselves into manhood because there are no adult men around. 
      • In the West, we have had generations of absent fatherhood. This is because of wars, men getting caught up in the corporate existence, and then men who simply did not stay around to do fathering.
  • Susan: She is moved by this analysis on fathers because Susan has seen in her personal experience, particular with women in Afghanistan, how critical fathers are on their daughters. Very often, she finds that successful women often have fathers who are encouraging and supportive. This is present in many sectors and research has supported this analysis. (See Rose Merlino Perkins’ “The Father-Daughter Relationship: Familial Interactions that Impact a Daughter’s Style of Life
    • Peter: This is particularly true when fathers can encourage their daughters to find their own power and uniqueness. Sometimes, a father can be very loving, but then the daughter can never really leave the father because part of the father’s identity is to protect, encourage, and support their daughters. Fathers should encourage their daughters to leave and be successful and different.
  • Susan: Nearing the end of the interview; any final topics?
    • The biggest challenge with have in the world is to change the way we are thinking. Need to reshape our thinking and how we are connecting with each other
    • In every action we take, we should think about how we will explain our actions to our collective grandchildren in 30+ year’s time. They are the ones we must be accountable  to.


Susan thanks the listeners. Keep an eye out for Peter’s book that will be coming out soon entitled, WeQ and the Urgent Need for Developing Collaborative Intelligence.

Thanks to Scott Grunberg in Portland, Maine, USA, who provides sound and editing.

And to Stephan Grey in New Zealand who is in the peacebuilding field. They have been collaborating and Susan has really enjoyed his insight.

Upcoming episodes include Joe Washington who was at the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan for several years and Scilla Elworthy, author of A Business Plan for Peace and Nobel Prize Nominee.

Notes by Mary Grace Donohoe.


Peter Hawkins, is Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School and founder and emeritus Chairman of Bath Consultancy Group and Chairman of Renewal Associates.  He is a leading consultant, writer and researcher in leadership and leadership development and an international thought leader in executive coaching, team coaching and coaching supervision.

Over the last 35 years he has worked with many leading companies in many parts of the world, co-designing and facilitating major change and organisational transformation projects and coaching Boards and Leadership Teams. He has helped a number of senior executive teams develop their vision, values and strategy for the future, both in commercial companies, public sector, higher education and large professional service organisations.

He now teaches Coaching Supervision and team coaching in several parts of the world, including leading the Bath Consultancy Group international programme in Coaching Supervision and co-leading with John Leary Joyce the joint AoEC Diploma Programme in “Systemic Team Coaching”

He is the author of several best-selling books including Leadership Team Coaching Kogan Page 2011&2014, Leadership Team Coaching in PracticeKogan Page 2014; Creating a Coaching Culture McGraw Hill 2012; Coaching, Mentoring and Organizational Consultancy: Supervision and Development McGraw Hill 2006 and 2013 The Wise Fool’s Guide to Leadership O Books 2005.  He is visiting professor in Leadership and Change at the University of Bath, School of Management and in Executive Coaching at Oxford Brookes University School of Management.  He is Chairman of Connect Assist and on the Board of a number of small companies and charitable trusts.

He is married with three grown up children and four grandchildren, as well as a range of animals and gardens to look after on his 37 acres on the edge of Bath.

Contact Peter

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