Part 2: In defence of daydreaming…
However, we live in an ever-changing, super-paced, busy world in which the contexts around travel, team schedules and leader availability can change in a heartbeat. The good news is that online coaching and development via online tech can be more than simply a substitute for face to face coaching programmes. More and more coaches and coachees are finding smart and creative ways to work together online. Even counsellors and psychotherapists are finding that working at a deep, intimate level around sensitive and vulnerable issues with clients can be highly effective when undertaken online. When thinking about taking on a coach, whether you are working on your personal growth as a leader, your impact as a speaker and presenter, your communication skills as a manager or your network and career progression as a valuable contributor to your organisation – building a strong coaching relationship online can tangible and outstanding results.
Here are four reasons why you might want to turn to online coaching to take your career, personal or leadership impact, company culture and performance to the next level:
When working online you can work from the comfort of your own home or the convenience of your own office. It means you save on valuable travel time which means you can maximize your development and learning time.
When scheduling and working online it means you can be far more flexible when it comes to rearranging a session or the amount of time you might spend on a call. Once trains and planes have been booked and paid for it can be challenging to rearrange coaching sessions at the last minute so by cutting out the travel you immediately embed more flexibility into your coaching programme. On top of this most coaches, if working face to face, may charge a minimum fee of one or two hours. Which locks most face to face coaching programmes into traditional length sessions. Whereas when working online you might schedule a quick 10 or 20 minute session with your coach when your diary gets squeezed. Allowing you to have that all-important touch point and check-in, even when the pressure of your working day is squeezing your timetable.
By choosing to work with a coach online you are also giving yourself the gift of choosing from the best coaches in the world. By working virtually there are no limits to who you can partner with to help you succeed. If you have seen a coach speaking online and loved what they had to say, if you have read an inspiring piece by a coach or if you follow a coach on social media who works in the specialised field you are keen to explore – whether they are based in Boston, Bali or Blackpool – this is your chance to drop them a line. Nothing is stopping you working with the pick of the international coaching crop from the comfort of your own couch.
As a leader or manager you will be spending much of your time holding and participating in meetings, exchanging updates and idea sharing via conference calls – particularly at the moment when travel is limited. Another advantage of doing online coaching is that your coach gets to see you and your leadership impact online and so can get a real-world sense of how you relate, interact and make an impact in a virtual context. Meaning that they can help you adapt and develop your style to maximise your leadership impact across the web and across the globe. So that you as a leader can then model a conscious, impactful, present and engaging online leadership style to your team and people. Which is the beginning of the ripple effect for the culture of virtual communication you will create across your organisation.
As teams and tasks go more and more online, as business and briefings increasingly take place virtually, and as community and communication happen more frequently over the world wide web, a great online coach can be the partner and support that makes the world of difference to your personal, impact, professional success and your organisation’s journey. If you’re interested in exploring powerful and bespoke online leadership coaching with 4D Human Being do drop us a line and we can talk about how virtual coaching and development will take the impact and performance of you, your team and your organisation to a whole new level.
And while a great tech platform is important to host your conference, the key to making your event engaging, impactful and memorable depends on the human host running the show.
With increasing pressure and restrictions around business budget, organisational travel and employee health and safety many companies are looking to run large scale events through virtual online streaming services. So how do you ensure your event, while virtual, is still energising, motivating and connecting? There are plenty of articles out there about the tech, timing and troubleshooting of hosting virtual conferences. To help you make sure the timing of your event is aligned for all the time zones you are dealing with. To ensure you have the appropriate technology and bandwidth to run your online sessions and finally to check you troubleshoot for potential process and platform glitches before you hit the live button.
YES…that’s all super important…AND…for us at 4D Human Being most conferences fall down once all these things have been checked, once the go-live button is pressed and then the energy drops to zero. Because even if you have the best platform hosting on the market, if you don’t have the right kind of ‘human hosting’ leading your conference, it’s all too easy for your virtual audience to switch off, drift away and go and do something less boring instead. Hosting Virtual Conferences requires a specific skill set, and drawing on our unique background in performance, acting, improvisation, TV, film, directing, storytelling, online training and coaching, here are our five top tips for giving your virtual event the wow factor – big on engagement, high on impact and unbeatable on online experience.
Whether you are choosing to hire an expert host or using an in-house presenter, make sure your host is skilled at working online. People can be much more easily distracted when attending conferences remotely, so your host needs to navigate your audience through the agenda in a particularly concise and clear way. Tell your audience exactly which segments are happening when and what you will be expecting from them at various points through the schedule. Finally, keep them hooked in by letting them know the sections further down the line that are simply NOT TO BE MISSED. That if they drift off to grab a cup of coffee they may just miss the golden nuggets that are coming their way. Assume FROM THE GET GO that your audience will WANT TO SWITCH OFF OR leave the room and THAT THEREFORE IT’S UP TO YOU TO set a clear intention from the start to keep them glued to their seats
Also, be more directive with your hosting. When you are hosting live in a room with your audience you can ask more open, general or rhetorical questions and you can get away with a looser format as the energy in the room can fill the gap. But when it comes to hosting online events you need a host that understands how to clearly and tightly navigate your audience and be more directive with posing questions to guests or attendees. You can still, of course, have fun, engage and get people enjoying themselves, but you need to keep the event structured and scaffolded along the way. So instead of “Has anyone got any comments?” Try asking “Let’s hear one comment from each of you on that.”
While we as human beings are highly visual creatures, research reveals that the quality of your audio will influence whether your audience finds your content and messaging credible. “When the video was difficult to hear, viewers thought the talk was worse, the speaker less intelligent and less likeable and the research less important,” scientists wrote. So, when hosting a conference online we need to ensure our audio is as good as our visual equipment. If not better…as some people can actually tolerate poor video quality more than they can tolerate poor audio quality. Double the reason to maximise the sound quality of your virtual event.
Hosting on the internet can still mean hosting interactively. Running a conference online doesn’t mean leaving your audience flatlined. Your host can still give your audience members a highly interactive experience. Pairs exercises and thought-provoking conversations and games will inject your sessions with the dynamic energy you are looking for. Making your virtual event highly memorable and practical. Your host can run short interactive, experiential exercises designed specifically for small remote working groups or individuals at their laptops at home. Meaning that a virtual conference can still feel truly connecting, intimate and personalised.
We are definitely obsessed with energy at 4D Human Being and when it comes to working online our obsession becomes fanatical! Your virtual conference host needs to be used to working on camera and needs to understand the power and dynamics of ‘Host Energy.’ Being a host in a live arena requires energy, but hosting online requires energy PLUS! The reality is that the camera sucks away 20% of your energy. So, as a virtual MC and host you need to up your energy level higher than you think might be necessary. It may only be one camera in front of you but it’s not one person…it’s one camera and hundreds or thousands of people all feeding off your brilliant hosting energy. And it’s your job to ensure your hosting feels connected, energised, personalised and really reaches into the offices, living rooms and workplaces of your attendees.
One of the most exciting things about hosting virtually is the opportunity it presents to create an instant feedback loop with your audience. Most platforms and tech include the possibility for your audience to do things like vote, chat and message the host and organisers in real time. This means that you can create a truly global and ‘live’ experience. Make sure your host has excellent improvisational skills and has humour and courage at their fingertips. Because then, they can flex and flow, incorporating comments and feedback into the conference in real time. Which simply put…for your audience…looks like genius.
These are some of the techniques that you can use to take your virtual hosting to a whole new level. You can find out more and sign up for our newsletter through our website as well as check out the 4D articles, podcasts, videos and online training programmes.
Good luck with your virtual event and if you’d like us at 4DHB to help you engage your audience, get your messages across online and have some fun…do get in touch.
4D Human Being – helping leaders, teams and individuals consciously communicate with impact every day.
The impact of the Coronavirus will be felt by all of us. Most importantly those people whose health will be affected. As an asthmatic, I watch the news with the same concern as many of you. Let us hope that the actions taken by governments and each one of us will save lives and get us back to normal soon.
There seems no doubt that the current situation will also accelerate the adoption of business tools for remote collaboration and communication. Indeed, we have seen our friends at Cisco offer free Webex licenses to help people stay connected during this challenging time.
This technology was already growing rapidly as a result of increased cost pressures, environmental concerns and the continuing improvement in what video conferencing and unified comms are capable of.
But are we making the most of the investment we have made?
For five years I worked with the irrepressible Mark Grady at Google, a superb team at Tech Data, and some terrific resellers to help build a B2B channel for Google’s video conferencing platform Hangouts Meet. We were also lucky enough to spend time collaborating on G Suite, which transformed the way our team worked internally, with partners and customers.
It’s clear that every major technology company has recognised this space as a huge opportunity – the large platform players like Cisco, Microsoft and Google have been jockeying for position for some time with Amazon’s Chime and Facebook’s Portal, Whatsapp Video Calling and Messenger gaining traction too. And that’s before we get to the other players like Zoom, Go To Meeting and the list goes on…
The immediate challenges business is facing – trying to keep employees productive, maintaining relationships with customers and partners, whilst also protecting the health of valued colleagues – is likely to see the requirement for remote working and Video Conferencing jump up the priority list for IT Directors and other Lines of Business leads.
My Linked In timeline is certainly busy with thought leaders and technology companies offering their perspectives on how businesses can meet the challenge.
What few people are talking about however is that, when it comes to successful virtual collaboration, it’s not enough to install and understand how to use the technology – we also need to get far better at understanding how to ‘be’ on a video conference call to make it successful.
What effect do we want to have? How do we want to make people feel? How can we maximise our personal impact to connect with people over video? How can we run a successful and productive virtual team meeting where people leave the call more motivated than when they joined it?
Like everyone else who has spent any time working in large corporations I have had my fair share of soul-destroying calls – the ones with no energy, no clarity of purpose and the ones where it feels most people are answering their emails…
At 4D we have been working with leading players in the technology sector for many years delivering a wide range of coaching and training courses centred on communication between human beings. We have seen the demand for how to maximise impact and improve the effectiveness in the virtual space grow enormously in the last few years.
We are continually asked:
We have developed a series of online programmes focused on exactly these problems. These provide delegates with an opportunity to think about the energy they bring to virtual communication, the atmosphere they are trying to create and how to be more conscious of the way they guide meeting attendees through a call.
Whilst the courses are very experiential, we’d love to share some of our top tips with you here:
1. Cameras On! – so much of our impact is in our facial expressions and our gestures. If you remove this you are reducing your impact by a huge amount (perhaps more than 50%). If your company, or that call, doesn’t have ‘camera on culture’ you can be the person that makes an even stronger impact!
2. Framing – once your camera is on, be aware of the framing. How much of you is visible? What height is the camera set at? Would a separate webcam be helpful? How is the lighting? Is there a pile of washing behind you…?!
3. Navigation – are you helping to guide people through the call, being clear on what they can expect to get from it? Are you providing an agenda? Are you creating a positive, engaging atmosphere? What expectations of the attendees have you communicated to ensure that they will bring something to the call and not simply be passive observers?
4. Energy – at 4D we are energy obsessed! We talk about it all the time because it’s absolutely crucial in our interactions with other human beings. One of the biggest challenges on VC is the energy gradually dropping out of the call, with a lack of interaction and a feeling that people are becoming disengaged. In a virtual meeting, the energy of the host is crucial – we often need to use more energy than we think if we want to maintain high energy on a call – it can feel strange to push more energy in when the camera is only 50cm away from you, but it can be the difference between a call that keeps people engaged and one that leaves people drifting away. We use a couple of very simple tools to help hosts maintain their energy and the energy of the attendees.
Whatever platform you are using to equip your teams with the right technology to work remotely if you’d also like to ensure that your teams are trained in the best interpersonal tools and techniques to get the most from their fellow human beings, do get in touch with the team at 4D Human Being.
Whether through face to face workshops and training or via virtual coaching and webinars, we help leaders, teams and individuals consciously communicate with impact every day.
Just some of the headline words in the papers today. It’s true we are living in an ever-changing world, full of uncertainty – whether that’s extreme weather, travel disruption, changing regulations, environmental concerns or as we are experiencing at the moment particularly – global health concern. So perhaps it is unsurprising that these are the headlines that greet us. And yet what happens to us as human beings when we are pushed into a state of fear is most likely to be a ‘defend and secure’ pattern of behaviour. Going into lockdown to secure and protect what we already have – contraction rather than expansion. And we can start to see the effects of this on ourselves and how we feel, our jobs, organisations and the global economy at large.
But is there a different approach? Is there a way to expand into uncertainty for the benefit of our own growth, security and flourishing as well as for the companies we work with? If so, how can we tap into this? Well for us at 4D Human Being it’s about responding creatively. In our 4D2C (4 dimensions 2 context) model, the environment has a much bigger impact on us than perhaps we are aware and often we allow the world (environment) to ‘happen’ to us. But how can we HAPPEN to the world? How can we create something new, exciting and positive in the face of uncertain and changing world events?
There are many models to use to delve into our business creativity and I’m going to offer three of them:
Listing out your existing Strengths and Weaknesses, and looking to the future by brainstorming the Threats and importantly the Opportunities that the market conditions are presenting could present new business streams. Recent GDPR data protection regulations may have felt to many of us as a threat due to additional costs, potentially falling foul of the complex laws etc. However, GDPR regulations opened up a huge opportunity for data protection companies and IT consultants to support and grow their customer base.
Recent floods and climate change fit many of those headlines above and are indeed global threats. However they also represent incredible business opportunities in the field of ‘Climate Adaptation’ – from flood defence systems, to agricultural solutions, to solving wifi connectivity in extreme conditions, the list goes on.
So how can we identify opportunities when we may be stuck in current patterns of working or fearful of the threats?
“Same thoughts always lead to the same choices, same choices lead to the same behaviour and the same behaviours lead to same experiences and the same experiences produce the same emotions and these emotions drive the very same thoughts.”
– Joe Dispenza
What is the problem you face? Where would you like to be? And what is the blocker or obstacle that is stopping you from getting there? Until we set this out in black and white, it can sometimes be challenging to even understand what the problem is – let alone respond creatively! So we find ourselves trying the same solutions or behaviours over and over again, frustrated that things don’t change. Isolate the obstacle and see how you can move through or around it.
4D Tool: Draw three columns and leap the obstacle!
I was speaking with a friend of mine recently who runs a restaurant business – which is likely to be hard hit by current global health concerns as people are going out less. He’s a great cook, runs a great business and loves delighting people with wonderful meals. He felt in a ‘holding pattern’ of waiting, whilst the business started to suffer. Clearly the economic impact of the current global situation may well evolve and change, however when he isolated the business ‘obstacle’ he was able to see that, for now at least, the obstacle was the willingness of the customers to physically locate themselves in a restaurant. So by brainstorming around the specific obstacle a new solution could be found – in this case the solution may be to take the food to them. Something my friend is excited to quickly explore….
Simon Sinek’s What How Why Golden Circle model so often helps pull us back to the real core of why we do what we do, which can be incredibly helpful in a crisis.
We can get lost in the What and How we do which can lead to less flexibility in the face of change. Here at 4D we have considered the impact of potentially less large gatherings and less international travel and reflected on the core of why we do what we do.
“Helping leaders, teams and individuals consciously communicate with impact every day”
– 4D Human Being
At 4D we have been working with global companies for many years delivering a wide range of coaching, training courses and seminars centred on impactful communication between human beings. What we are seeing right now is due to global events is an impact on WHAT we do – as we predominantly deliver workshops and seminars around the world. And of course for the time being we are seeing less travel and fewer large events as organisations and individuals take measures to protect themselves and the wider community from the spread of disease.
So, coming back to the WHY we do what we do…4D is about communication, impact, connection, leadership and growth – so starting from there, and with more people working from home we are well placed to help people learn, grow, connect and communicate with impact. It’s just about flexing the HOW. And the online and virtual space is arguably core to our WHY! We need strong connectivity, engaging communication and flexible leadership skills EVEN MORE as we migrate to virtual working.
So if you’d like to discuss high impact, engaging virtual training in communication skills, storytelling, team building, leadership or creativity – to ensure that your teams respond to the world with the best interpersonal tools and techniques – do get in touch with the team at 4D Human Being.
This headline is true. It’s just not one that appears in our papers every day. And to be clear, snake bites are in no way one of the biggest threats to life we face as human beings – heart disease, diabetes, suicide to name but a few of the larger threats. And yet I can imagine that if we saw this headline every day the fear of snakes would be top of mind. Because… it’s the stories that we are told that affect what we think, do and feel. It’s the stories we hear that shape our reality.
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come”
– Steve Jobs
We are currently in the midst of a global health alert with the spread of the COVID-19 virus and we are all uncertain of course how this particular story will unfold. What’s clear from the media focus and breadth of coverage is that the story of the virus so far has penetrated deep into our lives.
Story is powerful. Story creates our reality. And like a virus, stories can sweep across the world taking on a life of their own. And if we think about this in terms of our own day to day lives, the impact of our teams and the performance of our organisation, we would be foolish not to focus on the stories we are telling.
Storytelling is one of the most impactful tools at your disposal. Human beings are fundamentally wired to absorb information, buy into new ideas and trust people – through story. Studies confirm that social storytelling is responsible for more than 65% of conversations had in public. Often we either unconsciously absorb stories being fed to us by others, or we create stories of ourselves and our organisations without giving it much thought. I recently spent some time with an old friend who wasn’t feeling very motivated in his job and he casually made a flippant remark that his department was where careers came to die. We chuckled, and yet when I reflected on that comment I realised that he was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy based on the story that was being told. He was killing his own career through story!
Storytelling in our highly connected, online world is critical every day, but especially at times when perhaps the stories out there are impacting our business performance or team motivation. At 4D Human Being, through dynamic, practical virtual and face to face workshops and seminars, we help leaders, teams and individuals consciously communicate with impact every day. Discover the art of really engaging your team, colleagues and customers with emotionally charged stories that make you and you truly memorable, motivate your team, inspire your customers and shape the reality of your organisation.
(Click here to read Part 1: Let’s talk about texts baby)
I’m waiting in line for a coffee and I’ve already whipped out my smartphone- scanning, swiping and sending- simply to fill time. Or perhaps I should say to save time because I use the 30-second wait to send an email and post ‘Happy Birthday!’ on a friend’s Facebook wall. My coffee comes and I leave walking and writing, now on a mission to clear my WhatsApp inbox. I’m scrolling the screen, slurping coffee whilst simultaneously trying to weave my way through the early morning Oxford Street crowds. My masterful multitasking involves a meerkat-esque move, moving head up and down, from street to screen. I run through a red light, spill coffee on my coat, but somehow, I come out unscathed.
The commute has become an extension of the office ensuring that we can simultaneously travel and tick off the to-do list. Whether we use this time for productive work, playing a game or planning a night out with friends, our smartphones keep us constantly busy and never bored. But in eradicating boredom have we short circuited the mind’s capacity for creative thinking? Simple swipes and scrolls are innocent in isolation but when they fill up every crack and crevasse in a day, do they leave any room for anything else?
In eradicating boredom have we short circuited the mind’s capacity for creative thinking?
In eradicating boredom have we short circuited the mind’s capacity for creative thinking? The poet Joseph Brodsky saw boredom as a catalysis for creativity: “Boredom is your window…Once this window opens, don’t try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open.” He’s not praising boredom per se: he’s celebrating how boredom makes us think.Because monotony stimulates a very interesting type of brain activity: mind-wandering. In a culture characterised by constant acceleration, mind-wandering might be considered lazy, distracted and unfocused (Freud went so far as to call it ‘infantile thinking.’) So why would we ever favour procrastination over productivity? Here are 6 reasons why:
Wakeful resting can significantly improve memories. In a 2012 study, two groups of participants had to listen to a 10-minute story, followed by either 10-minutes of ‘restful waking’ or 10-minutes of spot-the-difference games. The results showed that wakeful resting led to significant enhancement of memory after a 15 to 30-min period and also after 7 days. So if you’re trying to learn lines for a presentation or memorise facts for an upcoming test, then why not take advantage of the “memory consolidating” effect of mind-wandering.
Answers to creative problems are much more likely to arise during mind-wandering. A study tested the effects of engaging in a demanding task or an undemanding- mind-wandering inducing- task when trying to solve a problem. The results showed that mind-wandering led to substantial improvements in performance on previously encountered problems. Psychoanalyst Victoria Stevens calls mind-wandering “thinking without thinking” and believes it is “critical to creativity in both art and science” because it enables you “to think playfully about how something might be different from how it is or has been” : the power of daydreaming is in its openness to everything and censorship of nothing. This is why some of world’s most celebrated thinkers- including Newton, Einstein and Paul McCartney- attribute their greatest ‘Aha!’ moments to daydreaming.
The power of daydreaming is in its openness to everything and censorship of nothing.
So if you’re stuck on a problem, stop googling for the answers and indulge in some absent minded musing, whilst walking the dog or baking a cake (#procrastabaking!)
Procrastination can lead to increased productivity and shorter working hours. In spite of our societal obsession with being busy, we aren’t necessarily achieving more. Psychology Professor Alejandro Lleras’ 2011 study on ‘vigilance decrement’ showed that constant stimulation not only leads to a reduction in sensory awareness, it also decreases mental focus. The research suggests that if you are faced with a long task, you will work more effectively and efficiently, if you allow the mind to wander from time to time. Perhaps Robert Browning was on to something when we coined the phrase ‘less is more’ because as Lleras states, “brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on a task!”
Whilst we often refer to daydreaming as a ‘resting state’ the brain isn’t actually resting at all. Neuroscientist Dr Muireann Irish sums it up: “I think there is a misperception that we’re actually being lazy and turning our brains off when we daydream but this isn’t true, the research is actually pointing to the fact that when you’re daydreaming, your brain is actually really hard at work.” Daydreaming activates something called the default mode network (DMN), which is essentially humanity’s ‘factory setting.’ New research has found that a particular type of neural processing- suppressed during focused attention- is exercised when the brain switches to the default mode network. So we should consider daydreaming as more than just a default mode of operating: it is a foundationalstate, processing memories and leading to the formation of identity. In fact, Irish goes so far to say that it is this type of “sophisticated thinking” that elevates us above other primates.
We should consider daydreaming as more than just a default mode of operating: it is a foundational state, processing memories and leading to the formation of identity.
Mind-wandering ‘co-creates’ daydreams using separate systems in the brain. Recent studiesusing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown that the brain becomes highly stimulated during mind-wandering and actually activates more parts of the brain. In addition to default network activation, mind-wandering was associated with executive network recruitment. It has been assumed that the brain’s two main operating systems- the analytical brain and the empathetic brain- work in opposition: when confronted with a cognitive task the brain requires the other system to turn off. As cognitive scientist Anthony Jack notes, “If you are engaged in a demanding analytic task, it doesn’t leave any room for empathy.” However, these recent findings suggest that mind-wandering allows these two systems to work in cooperation, creating spontaneous, fluid movement between different kinds of thinking.
Doing nothing gives us an opportunity to practice and improve our overall mindfulness. With so much external distraction it can be hard to hear your inner thoughts and feelings. So instead of using the lunch line for diary management, why not use it for self-reflection: disconnect from your device in order to reconnect with yourself. During daydreaming your mind- and not your brain- is in the driving seat. But when we micromanage our every moment, we suppress spontaneous thought and stop listening to the ‘body brain’, or our gut instinct as it’s sometimes called. Perhaps we should take inspiration from Pico Iyer’s TED talk in which he celebrates stillness: “in an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. ”
After all, we’re human beings, not human doings.
When we daydream we allow thoughts to flow freely, sparking new ideas and inciting fresh ways of thinking. By giving the mind permission to play, unpredicted possibilities arise out of what might seem to be silly, senseless ramblings. Whilst the name alludes to a sleep-like state, daydreams are still under our voluntary control, albeit distantly. And it is in this liminal space- between sleep and focus- where creativity is free to explore, fuelled by boredom and bounded by the limits of your everyday life (e.g. reaching your stop on the train).
Constant stimulation crushes creativity because it relies on external resources. Whereas boredom brings the brain a cognitive challenge: it has to create for itself.
So whilst I’m not suggesting that you daydream 24/7, I’d encourage you to make more room for mind-wandering in your day-to-day. During life’s little pauses, when we- almost automatically- reach for our phones, we are cheating ourselves of free thoughts and doodle-like daydreams. Constant stimulation crushes creativity because it relies on external resources. Whereas boredom brings the brain a cognitive challenge: it has to create for itself.