Taking back your personal power!

Taking back your personal power!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” 

 

– Marianne Williamson.

This article is all about helping you to take back your power by living in a more conscious, connected and creative way. By using our 4A’s method- awareness, acceptance, accountability, action- we help you to start to become aware of feelings of disempowerment; recognise language and actions that imply that you might be stepping into a victim role; take charge of your reactions; and consciously respond to situations in a way that best serves you. We don’t exaggerate when we say it can completely transform your experience of life. There are many things in life we can’t control: notably other people’s responses and behaviours. So, let’s start taking charge of what we can control: our response to the world. Take back your personal power and start playing the game of life…. your way.

 

 

Let’s imagine you just broke the record for highest sales targets in a year. Not only that, you’ve made more money in a month than the entire team made last year. Your boss calls you into his office. You presume it’s got something to do with a promotion or pay rise so you smile to yourself as you enter the room. As you sit down, your boss briefly congratulates you on your incredible sales results. He then segues on to your pay package going forward. Your base rate will stay the same and your commission will be cut by half. “What? … I made more money in a month than our sector made in a year?” “Yes” your boss replies, “and you’re also taking home more money than anyone else on the team. The commission structure is simply not serving the needs of the company.” You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. In spite of all of your hard work and success you’re going to be the one that loses out. And you feel completely powerless in the situation. Or are you…?

This is a true example that comes from a long-term coaching client, who we’ll call ‘Sally’ for the purposes of this article. Upon leaving the office Sally felt completely powerless to change her situation. As we like to say at 4D, it felt like the world was “happening” to her.

Think of a situation in your own life, work or personal, in which you feel like you are a victim of someone or something. Join us as we walk through the 4A’s for taking back your personal power, so that you can “happen” to the world, in whatever situation the world throws at you.

 

1. Awareness

 

“I also came to realise that if people could make me angry they could control me. Why should I give someone else such power over my life?”

 

– Ben Carson.

For the first few days Sally spiralled through many emotions varying from anger to grief, ruminating over unhelpful thoughts that caused her distress. This emotional rollercoaster and feeling of “stuckness” left her feeing exhausted and sick. Becoming curious about your responses during challenging situations can help you to reduce suffering, sickness and stress. In Buddhism this is called the ‘second arrow’. The first arrow that hits you is the situation outside of yourself and is something that often you can’t control. The second arrow that follows is the turmoil you create for yourself, and is a direct result of your response to the situation. Take Sally’s situation for example: the first arrow comes when she realises her hard work is being rewarded with a pay cut. The second arrow- the suffering- comes when she tortures herself by asking “why me?” and staying stuck in a loop of “it’s not fair.” It’s so tempting and human to respond like this, however it also prevents us from moving forward.

 

We’d encourage you to give yourself time to feel and be with the pain and disappointment of the first arrow as grieving and feeling the feels is part of the process. At the same time, stay curious to the second arrow ‘stories’ of suffering that you might be adding on top of the situation.

Think back to the situation you picked for yourself. What stories are you telling yourself about what happened, how you were treated and what it says about you? These automatic thoughts give us insight into our default modes of operating. If we become more conscious of these default responses, by getting curious about our own experience, we can start to see how these patterns show up in our lives. Becoming aware of these deeply ingrained patterns gives us the power to shift away from second arrow behaviour, and enables us to re-shape them into a different, more constructive response.

Here are 2 ways of becoming more aware of unconscious stories and thought patterns:

 

 

1. Journaling

Journal what’s going on in the mind. Journaling is an excellent outlet for processing emotions and helps to increase self-awareness. University of Texas psychologist James Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, acting as a stress management tool, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health. His research also suggests that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. If journaling doesn’t appeal why not dictate into your phone when on a walk or do a mind map on a flip-chart. There are loads of ways of doing this, so get creative! One way could be to divide a piece of paper into six sections… Life, love, money, work, family and hobbies or passions and journal or draw in each box.

 

2. Automatic Writing

Access your unconscious thoughts by allowing your pen to lead the way. The rules are as follows: pick a topic, set a timer for one minute and then keep your pen moving across the page (or your hands typing) until the time runs out. Try to write as quickly as possible! To quote Deborah Frances-White, author of The Guilty Feminist: “This method is a great way to establish your fears and low self-esteem points […] The scary thing about using this approach is that it may uncover your secret fears and insecurities. But while they stay hidden, you can never really confront them.” This exercise will make you aware of the automatic thoughts that are controlling you, and only then will you be able to take conscious control and focus on shifting them.

 

2. Acceptance

 

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; It means understanding something is what it is, and that there’s got to be a way through it.”

 

– Michael J Fox

An important step in taking back your power is accepting what you can’t change. An expression that really resonates for us is “Resistance to what is, is the cause of all of our suffering.” Initially, Sally felt powerless to change her situation. She couldn’t force her boss to change his decision (legally or otherwise) because of several factors including the fact that it was his company and she’d been hired as an independent contractor. If she could go back in time she’d be sure to get the proper paperwork in place, as opposed to relying on word-of-mouth agreements and good old-fashioned ‘trust.’ But she couldn’t go back in time and she couldn’t move forward if she didn’t accept what is. Railing against the unfairness of the decision, keeps Sally stuck in her role of victim.

In your situation, is there some reality that you are pushing against that it’s time to accept? Consider the concept of radical acceptance, defined as “completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and with your mind.” This idea of accepting an unchangeable reality, brings to mind the Serenity prayer: “God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” What can you accept in your situation that helps move you forward in your journey from victim to creator?

 

3. Accountability

 

Accountability adds momentum and drive to stages 1 and 2. This third step keeps us moving forward and enables us to keep learning and developing as human beings. We do this through curiosity and inquiry, in order to challenge limiting beliefs and unhelpful stories. A key question to ask yourself when you reach this stage is: What is my responsibility in bringing this situation to life? Stay self-reflective and curious about your own experience. What can you take from this experience that may help you in the future?

When Sally took ownership of her own mistakes, she was able let go, learn from and build on the situation. After reflecting on the situation, she was able to recognise the value in being upfront and clear around issues involving money.  As opposed to continually blaming herself about the issue, she accepted ‘what is’, held herself accountable and built on the situation by creating new behaviours. The key difference between self-blame and accountability is that the former keeps you fixed, and the latter invites forward movement.

Next time you catch yourself in what Mark Manson, author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***”, describes as a ‘thought tornado” try to notice when you use words like “ever” “always” “never”. In Sally’s case this might look like “I never get what I deserve” or “No matter what I do, I always end up the loser.” These words are often signs that we are in a cycle of self-blame. Once you become aware of this negative self-talk, you can start to challenge these thoughts. One way of doing this is by using Byron Katie’s 4 questions: 1. Is it true? 2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3. What happens when you believe that thought? 4. (And our favourite!) Who would you be without that thought? Katie encourages students to view this work as “a meditation practice. It’s like diving into yourself. Contemplate the questions, one at a time. Drop down into the depths of yourself, listen, and wait. The answer will meet your question.”

Victim status can be seductive and keeps us from taking responsibility for our own blocks. Often a victim story garners support and care-taking from others. Taking accountability for your part in bringing the situation to life, moves you away from victim status. “This unfairly happened to me, caused me a lot of pain and I’m powerless over it” becomes “what can I learn from this, how can I grow from this, and what can I do going forward to create a situation that better meets my needs.”

 

4. Action

 

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

 

– George Bernard Shaw

What are you going to do? What are your action steps and when are you going to do them by? It doesn’t matter if these are tiny changes or big transformations: this step is about becoming the creator of your own life. However big or small the step forward, letting go of your focus on someone else and focusing on yourself and your own path forward promotes a sense of well-being.

Sally now describes the event as “the making of her” and considers it an unexpected silver lining. By using the 4A’s Sally was able to create a better situation for herself at work by taking responsibility for her part and convincing her boss going forward to put her compensation plan in writing. Interestingly, over time, Sally took even more control of her life and ultimately left that position to start her own business. We are pleased to say she is thriving!

Often when things don’t go our way, it can be an opportunity to make important changes in our lives. We’ve all had that experience in which we realise we never would have become the person we are if the event that seemed so painful at the time hadn’t happened. In your situation, what action steps can you take now that will start you on the path of becoming the creator of your life? 

At 4D we’re passionate about firing up the intentional dimension, what we call the 4th  dimension. In our 4D model, which is the underpinning of all of our work at 4D, we talk about human beings as often operating in 3 dimensions, our physical dimension, emotional dimension and intellectual dimension. When the 4th  dimension comes online, we start to ask “is this actually my intention,” “Is this the impact I want to have” “what do I really want to do?” You start to make choices that drive your 3 dimensions as opposed to your 3 dimensions driving you. After the meeting with her boss, Sally’s three-dimensional autopilot reaction was feeling physically anxious, emotionally angry and disappointed, and thinking that she was a victim who had been treated unfairly and had no power to change it. The 4A’s process we’ve offered you, brings your 4th dimension, that intentional dimension, online so that you can take control back around how you respond to life events. It’s the difference between the world happening to you and you happening to the world. We often use a quote attributed to Viktor Frankl, a Psychiatrist who lived through the Holocaust: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

 

The Freedom to Choose

 

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

 

– Buddha

Next time you feel powerless, stop for a moment and take yourself through the 4A’s of taking back personal power: 1. Become aware of the stories playing out. 2. Ask yourself, is there a reality here I must accept in order to integrate and transcend? 3. Hold yourself accountable for your part in bringing the situation to life. Be conscious of the stories and language you’ve been using so that you can move from victim to creator. 4. Finally, ask what’s possible? What can I do to help the situation? Create an action point for taking back your personal power in any situation. What is in your control? And how can you change it? The choice is yours.

An Easter Ego…

An Easter Ego…

Learning to live, lead and love with a healthy ego

 

Ego gets a bad rap. We are told to transcend the ego, release from ego, fight the ego. And it has been singled out as one of the biggest hurdles in the discovery of the ‘true self.’  Yet, the majority of us don’t live on a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas where it might seem feasible to ‘starve the ego and feed the soul.’ We live in a world that incessantly provokes the ego. An ego that can protect and motivate us. As well as enrage and hijack us.

Developing and nurturing a robust and healthy ego is key to personal development and professional growth as it helps you to: lead from a place of vulnerability and courage; create a culture of openness and honesty; learn from mistakes; embrace failure; accept praise; become a systems thinker. We’re not interested in the size of your ego: this is about the state of your ego and how it can help you to live, lead and love with intentionality.

Ego triggers and traps

I’m in the midst of an ego-fuelled email exchange, and every line- no every punctuation mark- is pushing my buttons. I feel like I’m being baited to fight back, with provoking and petty messages reminiscent of a primary school playground. I’m trying my utmost to ‘consciously communicate my impact’ and yet I can’t seem to get through to this other human being. I’ve tried using all of my 4D tools and tricks to somehow connect and collaborate but every reply I receive back is like a concrete brick wall. Now a few years ago, I would have probably joined in with the same spiteful email exchange, adding even more fuel to the fire. However, thanks to a recent ego ‘health-kick’, I’ve been able to stop myself from ‘cutting off my nose to spite my face’. But what even is a healthy ego? And how can you get one too?

The Healthy Ego

 

Your EGO can be a wonderful thing. It is our developed sense of self in the world. And yes, an unhealthy defensive or fragile ego can be troublesome. It can lead to victim mode, contempt, scorn, defensiveness, undermining others, passive aggression, or straight up aggression. It is often coming from a place of fear. The ego believes others have the power to diminish it so either crumbles, self-punishes before someone else does or try to diminish someone else’s state to protect itself. The goal, however, is to use your intentionality to develop your HEALTHY EGO. A healthy ego isn’t dependent on other people to be whole and safe. It might enjoy praise or winning but it will not be devastated if these things don’t always happen. With a healthy ego you will be strong, resilient, confident in your abilities and honest about your amazing talents – as well as available to growth, happy to receive constructive feedback, curious in the face of conflict and able to acknowledge mistakes with a clear mind and open heart.


Here are 5 ways of developing and nurturing a healthy ego:

 
1. Co-create Conversation

 

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Siegel describes the brain as a ‘relationship organ.’ He’s spent over twenty years researching the profound influence of those around us, or what he calls “the neurobiology of ‘we’” and has discovered that emotions are what fire and wire neural interaction patterns in the brain and enable us to learn. Therefore the core drivers for human beings throughout life are relational and thus inseparably emotional in nature.

But what does this have to do with the ego?

What Siegel’s research shows us is that in order to nurture healthy, happy egos we need to make sure that our ego drives are linked to relationship goals. One simple way of doing this is by actively listening. Take the time to listen to others by being present as opposed to predicting what they are going to say. It’s simple yes, but not easy, particularly when we consider the fast paced, distraction-heavy, instant gratification culture that pervades our lives. Even if we’re not speaking over another person we may find ourselves thinking over them, by planning what we’re going to say next or thinking about how their story relates to us.

Someone with a healthy ego gives others the space to speak. And they don’t need to say what’s already been said. Instead, they build on ideas and co-create conversations as opposed to dictating and directing them. To quote Carlo Rovelli, author of ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ (which is as scientific as it is philosophical and political): “To better understand the world, I think, we shouldn’t reduce it to things. We should reduce it to happenings; and the happenings are always between different systems, always relations, or always like a kiss, which is something that happens between two persons.”

A great place to co-create conversations is during Q&As. In fact, I tend to love this part of a workshop as long as I lean in, stay curious and really listen to what is being said. This simple shift takes away the pressure to know all the answers and transforms questions and answers into collaborative conversations.


2. Accept praise

 

When I was around 12 years old I really struggled with my self-esteem. I’d recently started secondary school and anything that sounded remotely like a compliment had me turning bright red and feeling a deep sense of shame.  During this time, I remember my grandma telling me: “it’s rude to reject a compliment. Accept it properly, let it reach you and then say thank you.” Wise and wonderful advice that continues to help me develop a greater sense of self-worth to this day.

I’m sure many of you have had some experience with the embarrassment that so often surrounds praise. One of the more obvious ways we express this embarrassment is by batting away compliments. Perhaps a colleague praises you on your presentation and you find yourself saying: “oh it was nothing really. I had loads of help!” This is example of what I like to call a ‘compliment cringe’: you’re refusing to take in the praise (and are also unintentionally telling the person they are wrong!) Christopher Littlefield, recognition expert and founder of international consulting firm Acknowledgment Works, has uncovered a scientific explanation to why we find receiving compliments so hard. His research revealed that 88 percent of people associate recognition with a feeling of being valued, yet 70 percent also associate it with embarrassment. As he says in his Ted Talk: “We love recognition, but we suck at it.”

One study showed that people with low self-esteem “have difficulty accepting and capitalising on compliments.” This was primarily due to the fact that they doubted the compliments’ sincerity and believed that they were- on some level- being patronised. Interestingly, when the people were not thinking about a compliment in relation to their relatively negative self-theories or stories of themselves, they were able to accept and capitalise on compliments. In addition, there is now scientific validity showing that people perform better after receiving a compliment.

Learning to accept compliments helps to boost your performance and also helps to build healthy relationships, as it opens up the ground conditions upon which relationships can develop and grow. Lean in, stay curious and see what you can learn from another person’s compliment. Maybe you find it hard to comprehend why someone would like your crazy curls, or your energised hand gestures! But your story of yourself is just one story in 7 billion. One perspective. So why not use the next compliment you receive as an opportunity to explore the other positive narratives of You that are out there.


3. Make friends with failure

 

I’m so thankful for many of my so-called ‘failures’. Like not getting into drama school (three times!) At the time this felt like the biggest failure imaginable, personally, professionally and socially. Personally, because I wanted to prove to myself that I was good enough. Professionally because I was working in the industry and believed training was a right of pass; and socially because so many of my friends, family members and worst of all- fellow actors- knew I was auditioning. However, with hindsight I can see that this ‘failure’ wasn’t an end point, but a wonderful new beginning. It fired up another, totally unexpected adventure. To use the words of monk and author Robin Sharma: “the most successful people on the planet have failed more than the ordinary ones.” So, if you want to be successful you might as well start making friends with failure!

Failure is a big threat to the unhealthy ego. It undermines self-worth and can produce feelings of fear and powerlessness. Research has shown that we are more likely to blame failure on external factors like luck or the difficulty of the task. Yet, someone with a healthy ego sees failure as an inevitable part of life and as a unique opportunity to learn and grow. In his book ‘Black Box Thinking’ Matthew Syed states that: When failure is most threatening to our ego is when we need to learn most of all!” Someone with a healthy ego seizes these moments and sees them not as failure in the traditional sense, but as fuel for a greater fire because “a progressive attitude to failure turns out to be a cornerstone of success for any institution.”

In an interview for the Wall Street Journal, cartoonist Scott Adam’s, shared his wonderfully playful approach to failure: “If I find a cow turd on my front steps, I’m not satisfied knowing that I’ll be mentally prepared to find some future cow turd. I want to shovel that turd onto my garden and hope the cow returns every week so I never have to buy fertiliser again. Failure is a resource that can be managed.” Teacher and writer Jessica Lahey goes further, seeing failure as a gift. In her aptly titled parenting book, ‘The gift of failure’ she writes: “Out of love, and desire to protect our children’s self-esteem, we have bulldozed every uncomfortable bump and obstacle out of their way, clearing the manicured path we hoped would lead to success and happiness. Unfortunately, in doing so we have deprived our children of the important lessons of childhood. The setbacks, the mistakes, miscalculations, and failures we have shoves out of our children’s way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative, and resilient citizens of this world.”

For the healthy ego, failure is a gift, for themselves and others. So, join us in reimagining ‘F.A.I.L.’ as an acronym for: Forever. Acquiring Important Lessons.

 

 4. Embrace vulnerability

 

Stand-up comedy has taught me a lot about the power of vulnerability. On one occasion I tried my hand at musical comedy, attempting to sing, play guitar and be funny… all at the same time! A triple threat that had me feeling much more nervous than usual. So, I decided to own my nerves, by singing all about the things that were wrong with my performance (like the fact that my guitar playing is pretty sub-par in spite of 10 years of lessons!) And I’m proud to say that my openness and honesty- presented in musical form- had the audience in stitches!

The unhealthy ego often self-identifies as a perfectionist. To use the words of Brené Brown Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: if I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimise the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.” Perfectionism acts as a great big wall that stops you from being seen and is in many ways the antithesis of vulnerability. The healthy ego encourages vulnerability and sees it as a strength and a powerful tool for connecting people. Because as some wise person once said: ‘love is giving someone the power to destroy you but trusting them not to.’ In order to create a culture of trust within our families, teams and organisations we must embrace the power of vulnerability.

Research by Paula Niedenthal, which tested the authenticity of a person’s smile, revealed how deeply we resonate with each other. This is why we are able to tell when someone is ‘putting on a show’ because we are able to register their surface level inauthenticity at a much deeper level. This is particularly true for leaders, as research has revealed that we are sensitive to trustworthiness and authenticity in our leaders.

Furthermore, vulnerability also positively affects how we see ourselves. Studies revealed that a state of authenticity “centres on contentment and social ease; or, in the case of inauthenticity, a lack thereof plus anxiety.” Tara Brach talks to this ‘social ease’ that comes with vulnerability in her latest podcast- ‘Releasing Ourselves and Others from Aversive Blame’: “We know that a lot of the humour in our society actually focuses on people’s mistakes because it relieves us when other people make mistakes.” So, reject perfection in favour of connection by embracing your human side- warts and all! It will help you develop a healthier ego, build deep bonds of trust and – as I discovered- might even provide you with some funny material for a stand-up set!


5. Look through a systems lens

 

A system is a group of interdependent entities aligned around a common purpose or identity (CRR Global). And systems are everywhere. There are more obvious systems like families, teams, a cast of actors. And less obvious systems in places such as:

  • The cinema: here we find lots of individual systems until the movie starts. Suddenly everyone stops talking and switches off their phone. It’s an unspoken code of conduct.
  • Up in the air: everyone on a plane is going in the same direction. This is their common purpose. But they are also all interdependent. Everyone has an individual purpose and also a shared

As the 4D model shows, we don’t exist in a vacuum: we are always being affected by cultural and environmental contexts. Another way to put this would be to say that we are always operating within systems. We are simultaneously interdependent and co-dependent. The unhealthy ego celebrates individualism, often at the expense of community and co-dependence. Take for example the air travel example above. As soon as the plane lands, everyone jumps out their seats, pushes to get into the aisle so that they can get their bag and claim their place in the queue to disembark the plane. However, everyone is wanting to disembark the plane. Everyone is heading in the same direction. But unfortunately, the passengers’ heavy focus on their individual goals quite often slows down the system and undermines its shared purpose. 

Someone with a healthy ego thinks about our relationships like a 3-legged stool.  

  • 1st Leg- I, Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • 2nd Leg- YOU, Social Intelligence (SI)
  • 3rd Leg- WE, Relationship Systems Intelligence (RSI)

The stool will lose its stability if one of its legs is wobbly. Or it will become unbalanced if one leg is longer than another. We need to nurture all 3 legs: our relationship with our self, our relationship with others and our relationships with our wider communities. The healthy ego recognises that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and sees themselves as a part of whole network of systems. This is what is known as systems thinking, as it offers us a wider lens and a helicopter view of the ‘systems’ within which we exist. 


Have a healthy happy ego!

 

Ego health is the difference between the world happening to you and you happening to the world.  When we have a healthy ego, we are driving the show. And whilst there are many things out of our control- like other people’s responses on email- we can control our response, if we develop a robust and healthy ego. I can promise you that if you keep stepping in and ‘living in the arena’ (as Brené Brown likes to call it), your ego will be threatened time and time again. However, if you’ve developed a healthy ego, it will withstand these triggers and traps. If you don’t like the game that someone else is playing with your ego then you can change the game. Which is exactly what I did with my angry e-mail exchange. I ‘killed them with kindness’ so to speak, responding with relatively pleasant and proactive emails. And eventually, they started to do the same.

Be a game changer by developing a healthy ego for a happier world. Let’s make a positive impact, by changing the planet…one ego at a time!

Make friends with fear

Make friends with fear

Have you ever watched a horror movie or ridden a rollercoaster in order to recreate the experience of fear?

 

Well believe it or not, but we are doing this all the time. On a daily basis we are often unknowingly creating and living with the experience of fear, particularly in our professional lives. So, this month we shine a light on fear and face up to those unspoken and unconscious worries that might be holding us back. The great news is that fear isn’t fixed: we can change our response to fear by becoming conscious of the mechanisms behind the fear response. Join us as we cross edges, step in and create exciting new possibilities by making friends with fear. To use the wonderful words of Maslow: “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” What would your life look like if you stepped into fear? Well, there’s only one way to find out…

Your fears are my fears

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear”
 

– Nelson Mandela

We may believe that our fears are unique to us, yet in reality your fears are much more commonplace than you might think. Among the top workplace fears are the fear of losing your job, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of being yelled at, the fear of stepping on toes and the fear of being a know-it-all. But topping them all is: the fear of speaking up. Sound familiar? Many of us will recognise some of these workplace fears whilst others might not believe that they are particularly bothered by any of the above. But sometimes our behaviours give away the fact that we are unknowingly being driven by a deep fear. These behaviours are what we like to call the 9 faces of fear and they indicate that our fear has been triggered. You may recognise some of them. They are:

 

1. Not giving 100%

2. Procrastination

3. Anger

4. Crying

5. Rationalising

6. Avoidance

7. Indecision

8. Withdrawal

9. Lack of completion

In isolation these manifestations of fear may be harmless and possibly useful in certain situations. Issues only arise when these states of fear become our day-to-day default modes of operating and perhaps even our only modes of operating. When we are living in a constant state of fear we contribute to a culture of fear, which limits potential for growth, creates unacceptable behaviour, reduces productivity and creativity, demotivates and discourages individuals and teams, leads to poor communication and drives stress.

 

 

So, how can we stop fear from running our lives and negatively affecting our families, teams and wider communities? By understanding what is being triggered. When we become aware of our fear-based behaviours and thought patterns, we awaken the power of conscious choice.

At 4D we use a model called the pyramid of fear to separate the different layers of fear and to illustrate how fear shows up in our body, brain and beliefs. At the very base of that pyramid- the foundation underneath the various levels of fear- lies four simple words “I can’t handle it.” Susan Jeffers, psychologist and author of ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ argues that maybe we can handle quite a lot more than we believe. And what’s the best way of strengthening this belief? By handling things that you didn’t believe you could handle. When you “‘handle it’ self-esteem is raised considerably. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably.” (Susan Jeffers)

Body

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will”
 

– W. Clement Stone

At the very top of our fear pyramid is the body. The tip of the iceberg so to speak as this segment focuses on the surface level signs of fear that show up physically. Can we really change the way our body responds to fear? Yes, and believe it or not – no special equipment or training is required. All you need is your breath.

Fear kicks off our flight or fight response, an automatic and involuntary reaction activated by a deep and ancient part of the brain. When activated, our heart rate goes up, blood pressure increases and the body floods with adrenaline. All of which are incredibly useful if we’re walking alone in the dark and hear footsteps behind us or historically, if we’re being chased by a tiger, as it stops us from thinking and simply gets us ready to defend ourselves or to run away. However, this isn’t so useful if it’s triggered by a stressful meeting at work.

The good news is that our response to fear isn’t fixed: we can train our body to respond to fear differently. One of the easiest ways of reprogramming your internal operating system is by tuning into the breath. You’ve probably heard- and perhaps even said- the following phrase during a stressful situation: take a deep breath. Now this is helpful as long as that deep inhalation is followed by a long and slow exhalation (we want to avoid inhaling and holding the breath because this can lead to overbreathing!) So, counting the breath is a much more useful tool (and mantra) to use during stressful situations as it creates a slow and deep breathing cycle, which sends a signal to our brain that we are safe. As a result, the body returns to a more balanced state. Through working with the breath, we can regulate ourselves and get ourselves back to our optimal zone of functioning – what Psychiatry professor Dr Daniel J. Siegel and trauma therapist Pat Ogden Phd call our ‘Window of Tolerance.’ So, the next time you find yourself in a stressful meeting, “breath in for 4 and out for 4“…and open up your Window of Tolerance. You’ll find it much easier to solve the situation with a clear, calm head.

Brain

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears”

 

– Rudyard Kipling

The second layer of our fear pyramid uncovers the stories we tell ourselves about our fears. When we are in a state of fear the stories running through our minds can hugely distort and exaggerate the threat in front of us. I’m sure many of you have experienced the effect of a ‘runaway thought train’ (credit to our fab clients Ginny and El for this term!) It’s when one small- and seemingly innocent- thought builds into a full-blown disaster narrative. The catastrophizing train of thoughts creates a whole reality in our heads about something that hasn’t happened and probably never will. However, your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined experiences. This is why you may find yourself jumping when watching a horror film, because your brain doesn’t register the difference between your reality (sitting in your living room) and the imagined reality in front of you (a full-blown zombie apocalypse!)

 

Neuroscientist and meditation expert, Dr. Joe Dispenza, believes that these negative thought cycles are stopping us from reaching our full potential and are ultimately making us sick. Whilst all animals can cope with a degree of fear and stress (for example, a deer running away from a fox will experience stress and fear as it tries to escape but once it’s safe, the response will be turned off and the deer will return to a balanced state), no animal can survive in a long-term, constant state of stress and fear. When our fear response is turned on and never turned off we are heading for disease. “So, our thoughts make us sick. But that means our thoughts can make us well” (Joe Dispenza).

If you think about a future event- your body doesn’t know the difference between the conjured idea and reality. So, most people are constantly reaffirming their fears and emotional states from past events in their life.

However, the same is true for future events. If you close your eyes, cultivate present awareness and mentally rehearse an action, your brain won’t know the difference between the imagined future and reality. For example, if you are one of the many people who are fearful of public speaking, you might imagine a different reality for an upcoming presentation, one in which you are feeling confident and self-assured. By doing this you are in a sense installing “new neurological hardware into your brain”, to look like the event has already occurred. Suddenly the brain is no longer just “a record of the past” but “a map to the future” (Joe Dispenza). So, the question is: what do you want your future to look like? What fears are you finally willing to let go of and leave behind?

Beliefs

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change”
 

– Jim Rohn

And so we come to the 3rd layer of fear: our beliefs. This is where we find our deepest and darkest fears. Fundamentally, this is what we believe about ourselves. Therapist and author Marisa Peer, believes that the fear of not being “enough” is “the biggest disease affecting humanity.” If we open this up we find the 4 main fears that sit at the core of our identities:

 

1.             Am I competent?

2.             Am I a good person?

3.             Will I be the best?

4.             Will I be liked?

 

Which one of these is often playing out in your life? The thought of not being liked? Or not being considered a good and worthy person? You may associate with one in particular (mine is usually around being the best!)

If any of these fears are triggered it can feel very frightening and threatening because our sense of self – who we are and what we believe about ourselves- can feel under attack. Guilt, anger and humiliation are signals of this and they can be deeply uncomfortable. Think back to the 9 faces of fear and the behaviours we tend to display. These are simply manifestations of these deep-set fears and they are ways we try to keep ourselves in our comfort zone.

And that is the one of the greatest challenges for us as human beings. We are driven to keep our identity safe and our fears hidden. To stay with what’s known and familiar. But of course, by keeping ourselves safe, we also keep ourselves stuck and this makes it very difficult to step in and start creating new patterns in our lives…

 

I can handle it…

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”
 

– Jack Cornfield

Which brings us to the very base of our fear pyramid: “I can’t handle it!” When we work down through the layers of the fear pyramid, we can flip our response to fear and transform an ‘I can’t’ into ‘I can.’

Remember, even the fear of ‘I can’t handle it’ is simply a narrative you have created. You have no proof that you can’t handle it unless you step in. Whether it’s speaking up at work, asking for a promotion or even one of the big, frightening curveballs that life can throw us – you can handle it. It might not be easy but we can all handle a lot more than we believe.

So, what limiting beliefs are stopping you from stepping in, pushing boundaries and realising your unbounded potential? Can you lean in with a curiosity instead of running away with regret? Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Big Magic’, believes that this is the key for “creative living” because a creative life is “any life that is driven more strongly by creativity that it is by fear.” So, let’s stop fear from ruling our lives by stepping in with curiosity, conscious intentionality and with the knowledge that we can, in fact, handle a lot more than we might think! Who knows what’s possible if we “travel in the direction of our fear” (John Berryman).

Micro Experiences, Macro Effects

Micro Experiences, Macro Effects

A few weeks ago, I was flying to Dubai to talk at a leader’s conference and I managed to sleep through the food service. When I woke up and asked if there was any food, the hostess responded with an abrupt and unhelpful “no.” Now there’s a truth to this: I had missed the ‘official’ meal time. However, in this brief moment the air hostess was creating a micro experience for me. A micro experience that left me hungry and wishing I’d flown with another airline…

Why are micro experiences important?

In this article we’re magnifying our interactions, in order to understand how micro experiences- the small, simple moments you might miss- can have macro effects. All of our interactions, good and bad, are made up of multiple micro-moments. Even one sales call involves numerous micro-moments, and the sum of those experiences will shape the customer’s experience of the company. So, this month we’re asking the following: are you conscious of the micro experiences you are creating in the everyday? And can you appreciate the micro experiences that other people are creating for you? Don’t underestimate their power. These seemingly small and simple moments create a ripple effect that can impact the dynamic of a whole relationship. To echo Google’s micro-moments advertisement campaign, “Life isn’t lived in years, or days, or even hours. It’s lived in moments.” And I believe this is true for all of our experiences, whether they be personal or professional, intimate or global.

 

 

How can we use micro experiences?

Personally and professional we want positive experiences, not just transactional relationships. In a recent key note, Adobe executive Brad Rencher said that: “As consumers, we’ve become quite demanding. And the theme that ties this all together isn’t the things we want, it’s the experiences we demand – the sum total of all of a customer’s interactions with a brand, from awareness to purchase to consumption, are now critical… so at each touch point, consumers feel uniquely understood and important.” For the customer, positive micro experiences are the moments that “delight me at every turn” (Adobe, Experience Index.) They are the bite-sized moments that make customer service and everyday interactions feel present and personal.

Micro sizing customer service

Micro experiences are what differentiate you personally and they are what differentiate organisations commercially. Aside from offering the lowest prices one of the best ways a company can differentiate from their competitors is by providing superior customer service. According to Adobe’s Experience Index, 78% of people agreed with the following statement: “whether in store or online, businesses should provide a personal service.” Which involves putting people before products. Flipping the formula so that it’s not simply a service or a transactional relationship: we want customer service and every day interactions to be personal. WeWork (a shared office space company who started out in 2010) demonstrates the power of putting people before products, as this year, the company became the largest corporate office occupier in central London. Miguel McKelvey co-founder of WeWork stated that: “As a company we really don’t care about numbers, what we care about is delivering an experience. When we have meetings, we don’t discuss square foot objectives. Instead, we ask ‘How can we make sure that the experience is awesome today?’” It’s interesting that McKelvey lands on ‘today’ because great customer service is about meeting customers where they at, in the present moment. People- at both a cellular and consumerist level- are constantly changing. So, consistent customer service is about striking a dynamic balance: a type of balance found in motion and built out of many, many micro experiences.

 

David Eldeman (global co-leader of Digital McKinsey) gives a great example of how companies can harness the power of micro experiences: “a moment when you’re travelling is wanting to get into your hotel room and not have to queue to check-in. With the Starwood app, you can check-in right on the app. As soon as you enter the property, beacons recognise that you’re there. You verify your identity with a fingerprint (if you’re on an iPhone), the app provides your room number and then you simply hold your phone up to the entranceway to the room and in you go. That’s an amazing way for a brand to help you in a moment.” Both of these companies are no longer interested in selling office space or hotel rooms: they are interested in selling their customer’s an experience. And this model of customer service can be applied to almost any organisation: make it about the people, not the products by creating positive interactions through micro experiences. Starting as soon as they pick up the phone…

 

The Power of Personal

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”


 – Winnie the Pooh.

On a personal level how do we create micro experiences every day? According to Wikipedia personal experience is the “moment-to moment experience and sensory awareness of internal and external events or a sum of experiences forming an empirical unity such as a period of life.” So, personal service is made up of multiple, positive micro experiences. A great example comes from my colleague Katie who recently got married. The lady hosting the wedding reception created so many micro experiences in the build-up to the wedding- simple, small gestures like a free drink and a meal whenever they dropped by- that nothing on the big day could have possibly shaken her experience of the host. Even the misdelivered crab for the starters was dismissed with a laugh because ultimately the many, many micro experiences meant so much more than this one potential ‘disaster’.

 

Equally, we can take the shine out of positive experiences if we don’t manage the micro experiences. Another example from Katie involves a property management company who are going to be looking after her flat while she’s living in America. They’ve taken the most amazing photos of her flat and have created a fantastic Airbnb profile. But these great experiences have been undermined by a lack of contact and clarity. The micro-moments, the moments that might not seemingly matter (like taking 5 days to reply to an email) have hugely impacted her relationship with the company. And micro experiences have macro effects because as we all know: every happy customer is a walking, talking endorsement for the company.

 

Make the most of the moment you’re in

“Wealth stays with us a little moment if at all: only our characters are steadfast, not our gold.”


-Euripides

How can you become an expert at creating memorable and impactful micro experiences? As my partner Tom used to say, rather than thinking, “I wonder what will happen today?”ask yourself this: “I wonder what I will create today?” Suddenly, you’ve switched the script: you’ve chosen to consciously create your impact, in each and every (micro) moment.

Whilst the air hostess I mentioned at the start might have not been able to offer me a meal, she missed an opportunity to shape my experience. I wonder whether instead of a “no”, she could have offered me some snacks, fruit or even just a tea. And perhaps my experience would have been very different had I been flying first class simply. However, I believe positive micro experiences aren’t to do with cost because ultimately what makes them magical isn’t the stuff: it’s the present and personal interaction with the person in front of you. It’s a smile, a heartfelt thank you or a “this is what I can do” because it’s just as easy (and free) for someone in economy class to offer us as smile as it is for someone in first to not. So, with this is mind, can we challenge ourselves to give away micro experiences for free? Because if we allow micro experiences to transcend class and cost we can give them away to everybody.

 

Thankfully, there are always opportunities to practice this skill. Even when you’re waiting in line for your coffee. How do you want to interact with the person working on the till? Your interaction might last less than 30 seconds but in those few seconds you are creating an impact whether you choose to take charge of those seconds or not. So, it’s up to you whether you decide to shape the experience…for yourself and for all the other people in the coffee shop. How are they going to feel after you leave the shop…?

“Yet what each one does is by no means of little moment. The grass has to put forth all its energy to draw sustenance from the uttermost tips of its rootlets simply to grow where it is as grass; it does no vainly strive to become a banyan tree; and so the earth gain a lovely carpet of green.”


-Rabindranath Tagore

Of course, consciously creating micro experiences all the time would be exhausting and incredibly difficult. We are human: we have brains, bodies and buzzes in our pockets that are constantly taking us away from the moment. Therefore, we have to choose when we want to show up. We have to decide which moments matter most. This might be as simple as stopping yourself briefly before putting your key in your front door this evening. A short pause that brings your back to the present moment and connects you to the people around you. From here you can ask yourself: what micro experiences do I want to create today? And what positive micro experiences are going to be created for me?

Remember: it’s the simple things in life.

 

Improvisation and organisational change: How to lead with flexibility and possibility in response to rapid change

Improvisation and organisational change: How to lead with flexibility and possibility in response to rapid change

Improvisation has a bad reputation and I’m on a mission to change that. One mention of the word in workshops and people start to shuffle towards the door, fearing that I’m going to force them onto the ‘stage’ to do something embarrassing. Which is incredibly interesting considering that we are all improvising, all of the time. According to Shakespeare “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” So, we are a part of the performance of ‘life’ whether we like it or not. And we don’t have a script, stage directions or a director telling us what to do. In fact, we don’t even get a rehearsal. We are live on stage all of the time, making it up as we go along. 

But we’re not on stage alone. We’re part of many improv teams. And in the workplace, these vary from small divisions within departments, right up to the whole organisation, which in itself is always working with a wider improv team: partners, clients, the market and… the world! The question is what kind of improviser do you want to be? The worst improvisers ‘block’ the scenes, (those people who criticise and focus on the mistakes or problems). Those who are ‘ok’ will passively but agreeably ‘play’ (not really adding or creating anything new). Good improvisers ‘build’ on what you offer. But the great ones know how to build AND make great offers. And of course, the very best improvisers not only fully ‘play in’ but also have their eye on the longer arc of where we can take the story together. Exceptional improvisers don’t just play in when things are going well, they are also willing to jump into a scene that is crumbling to ashes – and are happy to either save you or fail with you! And then there are the rare few who don’t only jump in to help their own team…they cross boundaries and borders to jump into other teams with the sole purpose of creating the best shared experience possible.

…And that’s exactly what we need to call forth from ourselves in leadership. So that we can be fully present and fearless players and collaborators who are building and responding to rapid change, whilst also having an eye on that longer-term arc of possibility.

Improv for Business

Learning the skills of business improvisation and employing them in the market place can help you, as leaders and team members, to navigate through the unexpected and achieve results in uncertain markets.

Business Improvisation is poised to be the next ‘killer app’ for organisational growth and performance. Investing in the performance of the moment, during crisis and when under pressure, is quickly becoming the next frontier for maximising ROI. It is a highly valuable tool designed to enhance the skills and productivity of an organisation’s most valuable asset: its people. Learning the skills of business improvisation and employing them in the market place can help you, as leaders and team members, to navigate through the unexpected and achieve results in uncertain markets.

Working with Teams

The old adage “There’s no I in Team” suggests that being in a team is no place to feel, think and behave like an individual. This is patently untrue as history and experience has shown that successful teams in every field are nearly always made up of talented individuals that have agreed to work together for a common goal. In fact, according to research from Stanford University team performance improves when the people in a team acknowledge and utilise the members’ individual personalities and creativity. And research conducted around teams of mechanical engineers also suggests that “teams do better when they are composed of people with the widest possible range of personalities, even though it may take longer for such psychologically diverse teams to achieve good cooperation. They must first cultivate an openness to opposing opinions and recognise the value of exploring a problem from various angles.” Therefore, while there may be no I in team, there is a ME. At the heart of a successful team is each member’s ability to recognise and understand their own unique creativity and spontaneity as well as communicate effectively, efficiently and with ENERGY on a regular basis. Because global solutions start with individual solutions. In our everyday interactions, in our everyday relationships, in the choices that we make, in the way that we are and in the manner we treat each other… in every single moment. We might have different approaches when it comes to the unpredictable world of business, innovation & leadership but when those different styles come together and we are ‘Ready for Anything’ then almost anything is possible.

Bringing the improviser mindset to work helps us to adapt to change in a fast and fluid way. When we live from this place we practice non-attachment, not only to the self (and with that our pride and ‘needing to be right’) but also to our individual ideas. Because improvisers know that if they have an idea they can make an offer, but if something else comes up and changes the direction, then they can just as easily drop that offer. Something else will arise because it’s a co-creative effort. It’s not just you on your own. The power of improvisation in teams comes from trusting in the team; trusting that the team is inherently creative, collaborative and willing to work as one. This is one of key differences between stand-up comedy and improvisation, which so often get lumped together in the same box. Stand-up comedy is a solo game and is usually tightly scripted. Whereas improv is a team game. Someone’s always got your back. And there’s no script…

Missed opportunity

Think of an offer in your career that you might have missed had you not been open to unexpected opportunity. Perhaps you stumbled across a business opportunity at the bar after work or received a surprise job offer that you decided to pursue. A friend recently received a fairly routine recruiter email and instead of deleting it like usual, he decided to reply “out of curiosity”. 1-month on and he’s working in a completely different industry and doing work that really excites him. His whole working life has changed because of one simple click. Which is why it’s important to remember that you are only ever one decision away from a completely different life. That’s not to say that you necessarily need to make any radical changes: it’s simply about staying open and present to the possibilities that each and every offer brings.

One of the most famous examples of an offer that could have so easily been missed is Viagra. Viagra started out as Sildenafil, a new treatment for angina (a heart condition that constricts the vessels that supply the heart with blood). However, there was an ‘unexpected’ side effect that almost caused the company to completely right off the drug. At the time, the company was going through a lot of organisational change (geographically and internally) which meant that very different departments were sharing the same space. Out of this mix of ranks and roles came Viagra, which was literally discovered because of a ‘water cooler moment’: somebody from a different department was being told in the kitchen about the male patients’ surprisingly ’positive’ effects and they started a conversation. Which turned into an innovation. It was a sudden offer. But it wasn’t an expected offer and in many ways it was an unwanted offer because it didn’t help the clinical trial that was happening at that time. Yet, it actually turned out to be rather lucrative opportunity!

Curious about Change

If we try to predict the future we will invariably be disappointed because our perception of ourselves, our relationships, our life experiences, our careers and our networks are not like pre-written plays. They are more like improvised scenes: there are no lines or stage directions and so we must learn to work with all offers – whatever is arising. So, by replacing control with curiosity we can start to see life’s curve balls as creative challenges.

One of the best ways of leading with curiosity is by being present and open to the bigger picture. Present awareness is key because it’s all too easy to slip into auto-pilot prediction mode. The brain is brilliant at conserving energy and if it believes it’s seen a situation before, it switches off and stops looking for any originality in the scene. Unfortunately, this energy saving tactic stops us from staying present to the changes and complexities of the current world and as leaders it’s vital that we stay awake or else miss great offers simply because of an assumption about how we thought a meeting or presentation was going to play out. The skill of improvisation is an essential tool needed for conscious relationships, great leadership, and global solutions. It’s about re-imagining our intellectual capacity, re-programming our emotional responses, re-booting our physical behaviours and re-wiring our intentional purpose, so that we can consciously create the impact we choose, in all 4 dimensions: physically, emotionally, intellectually and intentionally.

By replacing control with curiosity we can start to see life’s curve balls as creative challenges.

So, the next time you get a strong sense of “been here, done that…” try to stay awake to the differences- however subtle- so that you can respond to offers and play in when needed. Maybe you notice a drop-in morale and decide to organise a team social. It might be a seemingly small and simple offer but with that offer comes a sense of your support and attention, as you were really seeing the team in the present moment. We are not human-doings, we are human beings. And when you live life like an improviser you are operating from this being state. You stay present with where you are, who you are with and how you- and the people around you- are feeling. Instead of planning the future, play in the present moment. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to step into the spotlight. Perhaps you’re not needed on some occasions, which is fine too. Because simply knowing that you’re paying attention will be of huge value your team as you are present to the long-arc of possibility. Your ‘playing in’ power comes from your presence and perspective. You notice when help is needed but you also have the selflessness to step away, allowing others to thrive and shine, centre stage.

Seeing the system

Let’s start seeing and embracing change: living in it, learning from it and leading through it.

As I’m sure many of you have experienced, it’s all too easy to get lost in the ‘scene’ playing out in your office or department and lose sight of the bigger picture. As Frederick Laloux asks in his book ‘Reinventing organisations: “Could we invent a more powerful, more soulful, more meaningful way to work together, if only we change our belief system?” I believe the improviser mindset is key because great improvisers are not only able to be present with the scene presenting itself in front of them but they also are aware of the wider story. And the wider system. Therefore, leading like an improviser is akin to integral thinking and systems work because it enables you to embrace all of the different thinking styles, strengths and talents in your team, department and organisation. You are both a mirror and a mover: reflecting the present, responding in real time and remaining flexible to change. As opposed to fighting it or forcing it through!

As leaders we must meet our teams where they are at, by seeing them as they are, in the present day. From here we can co-create, collaborate and ‘play’ together in the present moment. And who knows, something seemingly disastrous might just turn out to be the best business decision you’ve ever made. When you lead your team from where they are at, instead of running ahead, predicting and planning what you think- or hope- is going to come next, you offer yourself and others a wealth of possibility. Yes, let’s be bold and dream big. But let’s embrace the fact that life is forever changing around us. Nothing is completely secure or certain and when we grasp to the impossible ideal of certainty, we get stuck as we are, paralysed by a fear of change. Yet, even if we aren’t paying attention to it. Even if we are pretending it’s all staying the same. It’s still changing in small and subtle ways. Perhaps you discover that an incredibly quiet and shy member of you team is also a budding stand-up comedian. Can you be flexible and open to this ever changing and- slightly unexpected- identity shift? So that you can encourage and utilise their full, unbounded potential? Leading with an improviser’s mindset is about being mindful of each and every interaction, so that you can offer your colleagues, team and organisation, the gift of fluidity: don’t fix them, free them through flexible and adaptable leadership. Let’s start seeing and embracing change: living in it, learning from it and leading through it.

Yes and…

We don’t know what’s around the corner but we can choose to stay curious and open.

When you switch your mindset from micromanager to improviser you’ll discover endless possibility, unexpected opportunity and the freedom to live a life without limits. The skills needed to improvise can be mapped onto the mastery of living, the art of relationships and the aptitude of leadership. And what’s amazing is that you can do it too. You don’t need to be a professional performer to access the fun, flexible and fearless power of improv in the everyday. I know that many people find the idea of improvisation intimidating, but it’s simply listening to your inner intuition. You are already standing on the stage, so why not let your improvisational instinct drive the show!

I recently had the incredible opportunity of speaking at Tedx Glasgow about the The Improvising Mindset: How each interaction shapes your reality. A huge thank you to Tedx Glasgow and all the volunteers, inspirational speakers, incredible sponsors and the wonderful audience. A truly game-changing global platform… where we can share and connect through our deepest stories. To watch my talk and many others please click here.

Love, Marriage and Mergers…

Love, Marriage and Mergers…


Feel the love at work this Valentine’s Day!

 

Business relationships are very much like our personal relationships. They can be both fulfilling and frustrating and need a lot of tender love and care. Yes love- a word we rarely associate with work because it’s usually reserved exclusively for our personal lives. In this article we’re going to discuss how an attitude of love might help you in the workplace. This isn’t about sending Valentines’ cards to everyone in the office: it’s about bringing your authentic, honest self to the boardroom, so that you can create rewarding relationships built on the basic principles of trust and respect. So much of our working lives revolve around consuming that we’ve forgotten the fundamental art that underpins it all: connection.

In order to investigate this topic fully and fairly we are co-creating this article with our brilliant business partner Biba Binotti, whom I’m sure many of you know. Biba is founder and CEO of Global Warriors, a leadership development company not so dissimilar to 4D Human Being. In order to honour the theme of love we’ve decided to push through with a mix of narrative voices. Maybe it’s a bit messy? But so is love. Life isn’t a neat, linear Linked-in article. It involves lots of people, perspectives and contrasting points of view. So, in a sense this article not only discusses- but demonstrates- the power of love-bound business partnerships.

From meet-up to match made in heaven, how did it happen?

4D Human Being and Global Warriors are competing in similar markets. Yet instead of becoming competitors, we have evolved into collaborators. Ours is a story full of love and creativity and is testament to the power of love at work… in work! But how did it happen? How did we ‘fall’ for each other? How could we be sure that the other wasn’t ‘leading us on’? And how might you find and create love in the workplace?


We stayed open

We first met at an improvisation workshop. It was the last place either of us expected to meet a potential business partner and it would have been all too easy to play the games, say goodbye and never be friends. This is why openness is key because relationships aren’t just born in the boardroom. Some of the most amazing partnerships have arisen out of ‘chance’ meetings. Take for example actress Charlize Theron. She was at a bank on Hollywood Boulevard trying to cash a check from her Mum to help pay for her rent. However, the assistant refused to cash the check and so Theron proceeded to go crazy at the poor guy. Standing in line was a talent agent who handed her his card after witnessing the fit… and as they say, the rest is history: Charlize is now one of the most highly paid actresses on the planet! Yet this life-changing moment could have easily been missed had she- or the talent agent- not been open to unexpected opportunity.

Our relationship was born in an improv workshop, followed by a coffee shop and has blossomed into a partnership bigger and better than either of us could have hoped for! But if one of us had cancelled on that coffee date then the story would have stopped right there. So, stay present and connected with the world around you. Could your next big career break be standing next to you in the supermarket queue? Or at a friend’s engagement party? Don’t think of this as networking, especially if the word has negative connotations for you. Think of it as connecting with the world around you and seeing what it has to offer.

We were also both open to becoming business partners and friends. We can be our whole selves with each other without having to compartmentalise our relationship into distinctive work/life categories because when there is love, the usual boundaries separating work relationships and friendships blend seamlessly together. This mix of roles in our relationship has been hugely beneficial to both of our businesses because it has brought a deeper sense of trust, truth and connection to our work.

“The meaning of love is simply what it means to you. It’s your truth- expressed.”

 

– Biba Binotti


We created our own love

Luck, chance or conscious creation? You could put our chance encounter down to fate but we believe that there was a huge amount of conscious creation involved. In his book ‘The Luck factor’, Robert Wiseman compared 400 self-proclaimed “lucky” or “unlucky” people. What he discovered was that the “lucky” people tended to share similar attitudes and behaviours: they maximise chance opportunities, listen to their intuition and expect to be lucky. In order to demonstrate the power of perception in “luck”, Wiseman set-up a cafe with actors and left a £5 note on the floor outside. Then he sent in an unknowing “lucky” person who discovered the £5 note and then started up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to him with whom he eventually exchanged contact details. The “unlucky” person not only missed the £5 note but also missed the opportunity to connect and communicate with the people around him.

Our relationship may have started with a chance encounter but we were both positive and proactive in making things happen. We exchanged numbers, Biba called to arrange a coffee date and we both turned up with an attitude of “Luck.” To use the words of Wayne Dyer, “If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.” What ‘luck’ and ‘chance’ are you allowing or creating in your business, team and client relationships? What opportunities might already be there if you step into them with love, care and humanity?


We listened to our intuition

One of the “Lucky” characteristics Wiseman uncovered was intuitive intelligence. We both believe our intuition played a significant role in our relationship. When describing the essence of our initial meet up we both said something along the lines of, “I just knew.”What did we know? We knew nothing about each other and yet we both sensed a strong impulse to interact. What we’re talking about is that gut feeling you get that guides you towards a certain decision or path. We quite often refer to these instances as “beyond words” because they exist in the body and not the brain. Unfortunately, once the brain catches up it quite often overrides our intuition because of conditioning and/or past experience. Now we may think that bringing the brain into the equation is helpful because we can then ‘weigh up all the options.’ And this is to a certain extent true for smaller life decisions. But when it comes to the big decisions- for example, love- the mind isn’t capable of weighing up all the possible options because there are simply too many to comprehend. So, in many cases your intuitive intelligence is far more reliable as it’s tuning into the intelligence of your whole body. It takes you away from your internal narration and brings you back to your authentic self.

We’re sure many of you have experienced instances in your life when you’ve had a gut instinct, perhaps about a dodgy salesman, but you end up buying off him anyway because the brain convinces you that you’re being silly. However, after buying you realise you have, in fact, been conned and the body was right all along. The same applies to the positive pulls. Listen to this innate intelligence and trust that you know what is right for you. Stop thinking and start feeling your way into relationships.

We embraced our differences

We were also both open and willing to look beyond the boundaries of our own businesses and our beliefs about what our ‘work’ should look like. Our duo grew out of our differences and so in many ways the cliché rings true for us: opposites do attract. However, quite often in life opposites don’t attract. In her latest book, ‘Braving the Wilderness’, Brené Browndiscusses how we are now, more than ever, being divided by our differences, differences that only distinguish one small part of who we are. “Clearly, selecting like-minded friends and neighbours and separating ourselves as much as possible from people whom we think of as different from us has not delivered that deep sense of belonging that we are hardwired to crave.”  Not only does this limit our personal growth but it also boxes off our thinking. How could another perspective, or a different approach help your business? What individual, team or competitor who currently seems opposed to your view could in fact, offer you new perspectives and opportunities? Flexible thinking led us to an unexpected partnership, which we both believe, is greater than the sum of its parts.

We stayed present

One thing that eats away at relationships is rigid expectations: the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘shouldn’ts’ of the ‘love contract.’ Having fixed expectations about a colleague or business partner and how they should behave will often lead to disappointment and dead-ends. When we met we didn’t know what we were going to do together or where we would end up. There was no end goal or outcome in either of our minds. We simply enjoyed the process of building our relationship. So for us, present awareness is a key skill in developing healthy, happy partnerships. When you stay present with the other person you give them the space to grow and evolve. You stop pre-empting how they are going to react and respond and start seeing them where they are, in that very moment. We are all constantly developing as individuals and the same applies for relationships. If you go in with rigid ideas and pre-empted story lines you will inevitably restrict the relationship and the love that could grow.

“If you allow love, you allow change. If you allow change…anything is possible…”

 

-Philippa Waller


We stayed curious

Compromise in relationships can often be viewed as a negative necessity: “it wasn’t the ideal but it’s what had to happen.” Yet what we’ve realised, from both our personal and professional relationships, is that this isn’t often the case. We know that compromise doesn’t always offer ‘the best of both worlds’ because it’s not always strategically or economically possible. However, when both parties feel heard, compromise can educate both parties, lead to greater growth and strengthen the relationship as a whole, even if it isn’t a 50/50 split. So, we’d like to reframe compromise as surprise! It doesn’t have to be viewed as losing out to someone but rather, gaining something new. By simply shifting your perspective you’ll not only gain more from the compromise itself but you’ll also stay much more open to offers and opportunities down the line. Can you find surprise in your next collaboration? And what could you gain from a collaborative compromise?

Our Conscious Human Being program is a wonderful example of the power of curiosity in collaboration. Together we created a 16-week online development program that is a true co-creation. By weaving together our work we developed a brand-new experience to share with our clients, co-owned, co-created and co-facilitated by a collection of both of our teams and brilliant facilitators. Even the Conscious Human Being logo is a co-creation of both of our logos. Some might call this compromise but for us, it was a truly wonderful surprise!

We had the courage to trust

Whether it be a marriage, partnership or merger, all are bounded by a solid sense of trust. The question is: do you need a ring to know that you can truly trust them? Ultimately wedding rings, contracts and handshakes are all symbols: they symbolise the trust but they are not the trust themselves. A true sense of trust starts with self-trust: can you be your true-self in your relationship? And can you accept them as their true self- for better or for worse?

Above everything we base our relationship on trust. In every moment – from the stunning to the sticky – we can come back to trust. We can trust that the intention is good. Which is vital in relationships because we are all different people with different ways of working, leading and being in the world. But if we can trust that the other’s intention is good, then we can work with passion without worry. Alice Walker, American novelist and activist sums this up beautifully: “Love is big; love can hold anger, love can even hold hatred. It’s about the intention of what you want to do.” Love can hold any amount of push back. It is the silent victor. And as long as the intention is pure then the real essence of love can hold it all.

 

You may be surprised to hear that we don’t have any kind of legal contract in place for our co-created programme, Conscious Human Being. Usually when something commercial is brought to the table, contracts are immediately put in place to ensure that both parties are formally attached to the project. However, we have never considered signing on the dotted line because we both believe our trust is far greater than any legally binding T&Cs. We know that this is quite unique and perhaps edgy for some but it’s an interesting example of the strength of love in work. Many companies who do have these contracts in place still end up disagreeing and perhaps even end up in court. The same applies for marriages, which so often end in long and messy legal battles.

To use the words of Julianne Moore, “Love is giving someone the power to break you…but trusting them not to.” We have no legalities in place and yet in spite of our vulnerability, feel incredibly safe. This is what Brené Brown calls the ‘power of vulnerability’: the courage to show up and let yourself be seen. We feel secure enough to be insecure with the other, comfortable voicing any issues or concerns that arise. After all, we are human and we also have pangs of paranoia, worry and doubt, but because of our trust we can talk about problems and deal with them together.

Ultimately, our love isn’t about the projects: it’s about the people. And we both know that if our relationship were to end we’d both be more heart broken about the loss of the friendship than the finances.

We allowed ourselves to be loved

“To love and be loved in return.” The love lyric made famous by ‘Moulin Rouge.’ We want to expand this further so that it reads: “to love yourself, so that you can love others and be loved in return.” Our revision probably won’t fit the song but it does offer an insight into a love we so often overlook: love for the self. This is perhaps the most important piece of all because if you don’t love you, then how can anyone else’s love touch you? And how can you love another if you don’t know how to love yourself?

When you believe you are worthy of love you will start to see all the love that life is offering you. It might be a colleague who always makes you a morning coffee; a boss who shows concern over a sick loved one; or simply a client asking you how your weekend went. You will find that there is love is in lots of little places, right throughout your day and when you allow this love in, then you will have a lot more to give out. This is why self-love isn’t selfish because when you truly connect with yourself, you can create deeper connections with the people in your life.


…And we continue to work on our love to this very day!

To use the words of Barbara De Angelis, “Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.” Remember that your partnership is an ‘ongoing marriage.’ You never ‘arrive.’ So, our final piece of advice is to never allow yourself to settle. This way you’ll always keep working at the relationship, stay open to learning and will see each other’s development and change.

Wishing you all lots of love this Valentine’s Day…personally and professionally!

For more information about Global Warriors and our co-created programme, Conscious Human Being, please visit: http://www.globalwarriors.co.uk/