Julia Middleton of Common Purpose gives me the creeps

At the 2014 CSCLeaders programme, there was a talk by Julia Middleton. She was the founder and CEO of Common Purpose. CSCLeaders is run by Common Purpose and is the current incarnation of the Commonwealth Study Conferences founded by HRH Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1956.

I’ve been trying to work out what it is about this woman’s speaking that gives me the creeps. Surely it’s more than the fact that the head of a company that trains business people should be capable of delivering a speech without cue cards. I wonder if she uses them because she enjoys the little repetitive ritual of donning and doffing her spectacles? Is it to give her hands something to do? At any rate I trust that public speaking is not on their curriculum, or this glaring shortcoming places huge question marks over the rest of what they teach.

I know very little about Common Purpose except what I have gleaned from their website; but what I see makes me uneasy. For one thing there’s an incontinent splashing-around of the word ‘leader’. It’s a good word that does not deserve to be thus cheapened by over-use. I detest it when politicians use it for themselves, and it’s not just because I happen to know the German and Italian translations of “The Leader”. Politicians are people delegated by the rest of us to run things – and by “things” I mean as little as is absolutely necessary. When politicians assume the title of ‘leader; it seems to coincide with their arrogating the right to stick their grubby fingers into matters that are none of their business. And anyway, it is up to others to bestow the ‘leader’ title upon someone. Assuming the title for yourself is gauche and a nonsense.

Back to Julia Middleton and her speech (btw she calls herself a leader). Within the first minute she indulges in hagiolatry with respect to her father. It was cringe-making when Margaret Thatcher did it, it is no less so here. There is nothing wrong with passionate admiration for a parent, but keep it to yourself. If you want to quote them in a speech call them “someone I used to know” – or some-such.

Middleton employs a device beloved of George W Bush to draw the sting from a comment believed to be otherwise too harsh. It’s a phony smile that doesn’t extend to the eyes. She deploys it first at 2:33, and my toes curl.

The content of the first half – or thereabouts – of the speech concerns ‘core’ and ‘flex’. If you are desperate to know more watch the speech, but they are merely the sort of elementary concept that you find in self-help books at the lower end of the market. There: I’ve just saved you around ten minutes of your valuable time.

She then swings into the subject of a book she appears to have written on the subject of ‘cultural intelligence’. Intelligence can mean mental acuity or information acquired covertly. This is neither. Having forced myself to yawn and wince my way through this I can best sum up ‘cultural intelligence’ as a rather flabby variety of relativism. That’s another ten minutes I’ve saved you.

At 26:42 “I thought last night, and I thought ‘what are the eight things I’m going to suggest to them…”

What, in heaven’s name, is the value of a list that starts out with an arbitrary number of empty spaces which you then set about filling? A proper list creates itself the other way round with a range of items which you then count and write down. This is pitiful!

What really bothers me is that the above list is intended to help the audience embark on a week of this sort of thing. Who the hell is so under-employed that they can afford to throw away a week of subjecting themselves to such pointless garbage? You’ve got to be a bit of a lame-brain, a masochist, or an exceedingly conscientious blogger, to sit through this 35 minutes. I actually sat through it twice, not quite believing that it could be quite as awful as I’d thought. That counts as ‘above and beyond the call of duty’.

Anyone in that audience with genuine leadership qualities as distinct from being a sad little individual, desperate to belong to a self-satisfied clique of similar souls, would demonstrate it by making their excuses and leaving for the real grown-up world.

9 thoughts on “Julia Middleton of Common Purpose gives me the creeps

  1. I salute your stamina – found it hard-going and difficult to focus on, after a few minutes – not helped by sentences like “… you have to concentrate pretty hard on flexing the flex, because that’s what you’re supposed to do with the flex, you’re supposed to flex it.”

    It’s not quite up to the Sally Uren level of strange speeches but like Sally’s “Systems to Solutions”, I think there’s a certain quirky “insider” quality to it – it seems to be pitched to people very much within the same thought-bubble, as it were. There’s an example of this from about the 16:58 mark:

    “So interestingly, when I cam back from doing the work in Saudi, having been in an abaya, my colleagues – well, one colleague said to me ‘Then why do people from Saudi not wear western clothes when they come to the UK?’ And of course, it’s a totally stupid question [grin] because what I wear is in my flex and what they wear is in their core.”

    Why would that be stupid, rather than a perfectly valid question about cultural differences? Julia’s flashed grin might be signalling a rather ponderous sense of humour coming into play, but even so, seems to me the implication is that questions asked by people outside the magic circle of Common Purpose CQ training tend to be stupid ones. Not know about “flex” and “core”? How thick!

    Common Purpose has been around since 1989 and is apparently linked to quite a few of our current crop of politicians and quangocrats; while Cultural Intelligence courses presumably equip these leaders to be flexible when dealing with the Saudis and Chinese, ironically they don’t appear able to prevent said leaders from becoming ever more alienated from the people they purport to lead.

  2. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/cultural-intelligence/3/steps/84822 on herself and her “circles” which in common purpose speak means cronies.
    AS TRANSRIBED BY FUTURELEARN
    So as we get to the end of week one of this MOOC(pronounced “mook” ), which is quite a journey for us all. And you’ve just been doing the past, present and future exercise. I mean, I love that exercise. It reveals so much about other cultures, and it reveals quite a lot about your own culture. And I think it also actually transfers quite usefully into understanding your own leadership. If I look at my own circles they are– I suppose the past one is quite fuzzy.

    Because on the whole, the short-term past I can never remember. Occasionally, I meet somebody who’ll say, you’ve never forgiven me for that. The honest answer is, I don’t remember it anyhow. I’m not that interest in what’s happened in the short-term past. In the longer-term past, I’m very interested. But mostly, I’m interested in other people’s long-term past because if you want to understand other cultures, it’s quite helpful to look at the history of that culture. I thought I do this session with this on. I went diving this summer and found a wreck, and found all these pieces of china down at the bottom of the sea.

    And I’ve done masses of research as a result of it, on where that China must have come from. Apparently it was a ship that was going from the UK to the US, in about 1822. I’ve been fascinated about that, I love history. But short-term history, I’m hopeless at. What’s just happened is of no interest to me at all. Mostly, I can’t remember it. So a sort of fuzzy, biggish, but not very big circle. Present is tiny for me. I’ve got no interest whatsoever in what’s happening now. I think it’s my weakness as a leader.

    I tend to make– Common Purpose, because I’m the leader of it– slightly breathless, because I’m not really very interested in the present and what we’ve achieved. The present is merely a transition point to get in to the future, and that’s for me is absolutely huge. It’s both a strength and a weakness of my leadership. I’m always looking ahead, always having ideas, always planning ideas. Some of them work, some of them don’t work. Doesn’t much matter. So the future to me is absolutely enormous. And I think sometimes this exercise doesn’t just help you understand other people’s cultures, it understands your own culture.

    Why, you’re good at some things, and not good at other things. And for example, I think I should be better at being in the present and recognising what’s happening now, rather than always planning for the future and jumping ahead. And to some extent, celebrating where we’ve got to now. I think that, you know– my father, who introduced me to this concept of these three circles. It’s worth taking them out and testing them on people that you know and say, does this look like me. And at every opportunity, wherever you are, grab a little piece of paper and get other people to do a past, present and future. And then ask them lots of questions about why. Why, why, why?

    Why do you do this? Why do you do that? Why do you think that is? If it was your parents’ generation, would that circle be bigger, would it be smaller? It’s the conversation around those three circles that gives a richness of understanding. It’s over simple, like most things in life that really work, they’re over simple. But they prompt a really useful conversation.

  3. This so called charity should be closed down. How can a charity get away with charging thousands for the courses they run, with the tab being picked up by the taxpayer. The reason the taxpayer foots the bill is because the people who take these courses are mainly public sector workers such as Police Officers, Social Workers, Councillors, Government Officials, MPs and Educational Bodies. They follow the Cultural Marxist ideology. When you have people with power being trained in that ideology it is a threat to our way of life and democracy. Common Purpose “graduates” are like another form of Masons. One “CP graduate” is Cressida Dick, new Metropolitan Police Commissioner. If you google Common Purpose together with Rotherham Abuses, you will not believe how many people involved in hiding the facts of the abuses were CP graduates.
    http://www.ukcolumn.org/article/rotherham-common-purpose-effect

  4. The Rowner Regeneration was a Common Purpose Regeneration, we the leaseholders were offered like for like! instead what the Partnership did was pay the majority owners of more than 10 flats £50,000 each flat in 2005, the rest of us of the 301 minority leaseholders were compulsory Purchased for around £21,000 in 2012 the man responsible for this had a common purpose tittle of conversation facilitator and was paid £100,000,he is now the CPC of Hampshire.
    The fact of the matter is that these Regeneration’s come from the time Julia Middleton shared John Prescotts office in 2000, as he was then the Labour Housing Minister, as Julia was the ex-Marxist Today editor you can see these regeneration’s are her creation.

  5. Pingback: Common Purpose is Sinister and Evil. The Proof • Bruce On Politics

  6. I note the pauses, allowing the audience to feel a sense that they should say something, feel something. This technique is well known as a suspect interview tech. Also the hand gestures beloved of T Blair, A Campbell and B Bradshaw among others.
    Also the Milton Erickson hypnotic induction scripts. A fine example of therapy techniques being used for sinister purposes

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