geoffGeoff Bellman has written six books that have been hugely helpful to the consulting and organizational communities. Now in his mid-seventies, he’s easing out of a thirty-year internationally-recognized consulting practice. In this interview, Geoff reflects candidly on the  field of organizational consulting and some of the changes he has seen.

In this interview, I ask him to reflect on his highly successful career and consider what might be different if he were writing his tome about the practice of organizational consulting, The Consultant’s Calling, today.

  • Why it’s harder for some of us raised in 20th century organizations to work in 21st century organizations.
  • How the 24-7 workplace, and the possibilities and challenges of digital connections, are changing work.
  • How the pace or work has accelerated how consulting gets done.
  • Why Geoff purposefully limited his paid consulting work in order to create a balanced practice and life.
  • Why it’s critical to work internally before becoming an external consultant.
  • Why we must see our own shadows – as we go to work in organizations. “Organizations are  us.”  “We’re not as close to our aspirations for our lives as some of us pretend to be.”
  • The importance of embracing the distress of your client organizations.
  • Why we have to move beyond parent-child relationships in organizations.
  • The importance of embracing reality, the changes that are taking place that we don’t fully understand.

“Organizations are the world’s 21 Century dilemma…they are magnificent and mad, wonderful and wretched, crazy and compelling. They make so little and so much sense.”  

“We know more about our aspirations in leadership than  our shortcomings…there’s much to learn about the reality of ourselves and the reality of organizations – and embracing and accepting that reality.  Let’s know where we’re starting from.”

“We have a lot of clarity about the kind of leadership we like and should lean towards.  We don’t have a lot of clarity about what organizations are in the 21st century.”

“We don’t what the hell we’re doing.  We’re managing as best we can.  We’re in the middle of a transformation.”

“This is not work for cynics and pessimists. This is work for people who hold on to dreams that are not going to be realized in their lifetimes.  If you’re working on something that can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.  Well, I believe that.”

Geoff Bellman

And here’s the entire interview:

You can also find the episode in the Vital Presence Podcast on Itunes, episode 39.

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About My Guest

Geoff Bellman started his consulting firm in 1977 following fourteen years of work inside Corporate America. His external consulting has focused on renewing large, mature organizations such as Booz Allen, Verizon, and Boeing.

A prolific author, his books are in a dozen languages with over 300,000 in print

His consulting and workshops have taken Geoff to five continents. He has served as guest faculty for Pepperdine University, Fielding Institute, Sonoma State, OSR at Pinchot, and LIOS at Saybrook. Linkage International’s OD Lab for Experienced Practitioners is designed around his ideas and offered world-wide.

With others, he founded The Community Consulting Partnership in 1995; they offer almost-free consulting skills and consulting to community-based organizations in Seattle. He regularly consults to executive directors and boards including Whidbey Institute, Center for Courage and Renewal, Charlotte Martin Foundation, and Seattle Counseling Service.

Geoff received a national award from the Organization Development Network for his contributions to advancing the profession. The Whidbey Institute in Washington State honored him for community service.

Geoff grew up in Washington State, graduated from Gonzaga University and the University of Oregon. For twenty years, he and his family followed work around the country–to Denver, New Orleans, Tulsa, and Chicago. In 1981, they to returned to the Pacific Northwest. With his wife, Sheila Kelly, he lives in Seattle on the edge of Puget Sound in sight of the Olympic Mountains.

The Show Notes

Geoff’s books:

  • Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results, with co-author, Kathleen Ryan (Jossey-Bass, 2009). Sixty great teams and what makes them so.
  • The Extraordinary Teams Inventory with Kathleen Ryan and Kevin Coray (HRDQ Press, 2014).   An assessment tool for teams that aspire to great performance.
  • The Consultant’s Calling: Bringing Who You Are to What You Do (Jossey-Bass, 2002-2nd edition). FORBES cited as a most popular small business book.
  • Getting Things Done When You Are Not In Charge (Berrett-Koehler, 2001-2nd edition). A Fortune Book Club selection, the title says it all.
  • The Beauty of the Beast: Breathing New Life into Organizations (Berrett-Koehler, 2000). Successfully living with, working in, and influencing these huge creatures.
  • Your Signature Path: Gaining New Perspectives on Life and Work (Berrett-Koehler, 1996). Assistance in turning sharp corners in your career and life.
  • The Quest for Staff Leadership (Scott-Foresman, 1986). For middle managers and winner of the National Book Award from the Society for Human Resource Management.