The Emotional Content of ‘Enterprise Support’

I am no fan of entrepreneurship based reality TV – however I do make an exception for Gerry Robinson’s Big Decision.  The basic premise of the programme is as nauseating as most – Sir Gerry Robinson, one of Britain’s most respected businessmen, comes to the rescue of several companies across the UK, armed with his personal cheque book. The ‘white knight’ rides in carrying all before him with his expertise and cash.

But the reality of the programme is somewhat different.  On occasion Gerry refuses to open his cheque book because he recognises that an injection of cash will actually prevent the management team from doing what has to be done.  And he seldom ‘diagnoses and prescribes’, preferring instead to use good questions to get the various members of the management team to face up to what they know has to be done – but have previously repressed.

It is also clear that any help that Gerry is able to offer is based on a real human connection.  There are tears, anger, fear and real affection and caring  as well.  And in my experience these emotions are always present whenever help is ‘non-trivial’.  Yet most business advisers tend to professionalise their relationships with clients.  They objectify both the company and the management team – viewing it as a black box to be fixed – rather than a very human system of passions and self interest in which they too need to participate.

Carl Rogers in On Becoming a Person had this to say:

It has gradually been driven home to me that I cannot be of help …by any means of any intellectual or training procedure.  No approach which relies upon knowledge, upon training, upon the acceptance of something that is taught, is of any use.  These approaches are so tempting and direct that I have, in the past, tried a great many of them.  It is possible to explain a person to himself, to prescribe steps that should lead him forward, to train him in knowledge about a more satisfying mode of life.  But such methods are, in my experience, futile and inconsequential.  The most they can accomplish is some temporary change, which soon disappears, leaving the individual more than ever convinced of their inadequacy.

The failure of any such approach through the intellect has forced me to recognise that change appears to come about through experience in a relationship.

If I can provide a certain type of relationship, the other person will discover within himself the capacity to use that relationship for growth, and change and personal development will occur.

Carl Rogers – On Becoming a Person

Although Rogers background was in psychotherapy his practical interests were in all kinds of helping relationship.  I don’t know if Gerry has ever read any Carl Rogers, or is a student of person centred helping relationships, but I am certain that he understands that it is his relationship with the people behind the company that matters most to his ability to help – not his expertise and cheque book.

It is his ability to build the relationship through openness, empathy, rapport and congruence that makes Gerry perhaps Britain’s most powerful company helper.

  • To what extent does your practice rely ‘upon knowledge, upon training, upon the acceptance of something that is taught’?
  • How could you make your practice more ‘relationship based’?
  • What risks might such progress entail?
  • What benefits might accrue?

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