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May 2015

Great Conversations start with Listening. Listen to understand.

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We believe that you can improve your conversations with some simple ideas. Simple, not easy. We’ll talk about “frame of reference” and listening skills.

How many conversations have you had that deteriorated to (a version of) “Yes, it is!” “No, it isn’t!”? Even with people in our own team – you all have the same goals and you all have the same targets and ought to see the world in the same way. Not true.

Some wants to reduce cost, some wants to build more business. Some thinks the team-building weekend is great, some think it’s a waste of time. Some believe that the ball is blue, some claim it is red.

How is it that we look at exactly the same, and we see completely different realities?

We are all different. Reality is not what IT is, reality is what YOU are. It is subjective.

We all have a different “Frame Of Reference”. All I know is that my frame of reference (FoR) is different from yours. I have a different set of beliefs, values, needs, education and culture (family, company or national culture) than you have. I have different MBTI or OPQ profile, different religion and different experiences. You can continue this list.

Everything that fits in my frame of reference is good. It feels comfortable and I see the benefit and it feels right. Anything that’s outside my FoR is not good, it’s bad or alien or scary or not easy to understand and it feels wrong. Or I don’t even see it at all!

So how can we work together? Collaborate and co-create? When my world is different from yours?

We need to find overlaps in our frames of reference. In every conversation I have an opportunity to understand what goes on in your FoR. Not to convince or win but to understand. Be interested before interesting.

Unless I understand what goes on in your frame of reference and WHY you have the opinion that you have, it’s going to be very hard to collaborate with you.

Idea 1: Listen to understand.

Ok, so you are dedicated to be more curious about the other person’s frame of reference, and you walk into the conversation with the best of intentions.

…and you find yourself in a conversation where you KNOW that the other person is NOT listening? She is just waiting for you to finish your sentence so that she can counter with her arguments. Doing what we call “reloading the gun”? And starts her next sentence with “Yes, but…”

…so YOU find it hard to listen! And start your next sentence with: “Yes, BUT…”?

We’ve all been there.

When you walk into a conversation you are carrying a box in front of you. In this box is your frame of reference, your point of view and all the arguments you have planned. The other person is carrying her box. Both of these boxes bump into each other and they get in the way of the conversation. You only want to explain what is in your box and the other person is doing the same, what happens? Nobody listens.

You can only change yourself. So don’t even start to think: “if only the other would listen better, this conversation would be more fruitful”. Just don’t. You can change this.

Imagine a pedestal, a small table beside you. It has a nice tablecloth, it is solid and it is a nice place for boxes to be placed FOR A WHILE. Put your box there for a while. It will not disappear. It will not loose power and it will not change (unless it does 🙂

Now you are ready to be interested in the others person and what’s in her box. Explore. Ask questions. You want to understand. Will your box try to jump back into the conversation? Of course it will, and you notice it when you catch yourself saying “yes, but…” When this happens – turn your attention back to her and listen to what she is saying. Ask more questions.

I hear you ask: “So what happened to my arguments – I have a job to do to influence this person. When is she going to listen to what’s in my box?” Simple. When you are interested in what’s in her box. When you show that you want to understand WHY she’s having her opinion, then she will be more interested in listening to what’s in your box. But only then.

Idea 2: Put your box aside.

NeuroBusiness 2015

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neurobusiness 2015We in shooksvensen are very proud to sponsor NeuroBusiness 2015 in Manchester, June 24-25, 2015.

NeuroBusiness 2015 is aimed at business leaders, HR professionals, researchers and line managers looking to gain new insights, skills and approaches which can be easily applied in the work place to help to tap into the latent potential in their workforce. This will help to maximise the value they generate through the way they lead and engage with their people and the cultures they create.

Lori Shook’s talk at TEDx

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Lori spoke at TEDx Square Mile 2013.

The title of her talk was: “Re-discovering our adult mind”. She talks about how our mind consist of the limbic system (she calls it the teenage or adolescent brain) and the pre-frontal cortex (the adult brain). The two systems we can train – to make better decisions about our behavior and to get along better. All important if we want to have humane workplaces with innovation, collaboration and great results.

Watch the talk here:

Emotional Addictions, part 3 – How to Kick Them!

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So are you ready to overcome an addiction? What will it be – guilt? worry? anger? or thinking of yourself as worthless? Fantastic! So you know you’ll need to overcome your neurophysiology (I’m assuming you’ve read the previous two blogs) and you know that making a change will be uncomfortable because it throws the body out of its accustomed chemical balance.

But it’s just discomfort, that’s all. And it just comes from your internal chemistry trying to control you. You don’t have to listen to it. It IS possible to change a habit: those hungry receptors that demand you feed the habit? They will give up and die if they’re not fed. You just need to starve them. A little will power goes a long way. And celebrating every success helps. I met a guy recently who celebrated his conquering a chocolate habit like this: Hah! Another chocolate that I passed up, YES! So it can be like that. Hah! Another guilt opportunity that I didn’t drag myself into! YES! Another anger explosion bypassed. And so on.

Let’s get on with how to kick these habits! This post is about the steps.

  1. Get clear about the habitual behavior you want to change (telling yourself you’re not good enough, for example).
  2. Notice the sensation, “craving” or event that happens before the habitual behavior begins. Notice when it happens, be ready for it before it happens. It might be an internal feeling (a little panic or something) or it might be a typical event, like spilling your coffee that then sends you into a fit of self-abuse.
  3. Then, very simply, don’t allow the habitual behavior to happen. The key is to not allow the behavior or emotion to begin. You don’t want to create those chemicals in your body. It’s very much like smokers going cold-turkey. You can make a game of it. Imagine it’s a competition and your job is to outwit the body sensations. Don’t let them win.
  4. It will probably be easier to find a different behavior so you can practice that. This builds new receptors and a new chemical balance that becomes the new status quo. So if you get angry when your partner arrives home late. Be prepared for the next time it might happen. You could instead commit to be grateful he/she made it home safely. It’s a practice and a choice.
  5. Be disciplined. You may have to be a bit tough on yourself to outlast those hungry receptors of your unwanted behavior. But you can.
  6. Celebrate and be proud of yourself every time you choose something different. Let yourself feel righteous about how you beat the old receptors again!

Some tips:

  • Remember that whatever emotion, habit or behavior you’re working to overcome at one time served you well. You can appreciate its usefulness in getting you to this place in your life. So thank it or appreciate it and imagine yourself letting it go.
  • Expect yourself to be successful. Know that you can kick your habit.
  • Treat this as rehab. You do not want to relapse as you really need to starve those receptors.
  • Get used to discomfort. It won’t hurt you; it’s just part of the change process. In fact, it’s essential.
  • Make a plan, get support.
  • Find discipline within yourself and build it up. Imagine it’s a muscle you’re working and enjoy your workouts.
  • Celebrate every win.
  • Know the environments where your unwanted behaviors are likely to show up. Smokers know to stay away from certain people, places and events when they are trying to quit. Or at least prepare yourself when you have to enter that environment and strengthen your resolve to use your new behavior.
  • Know that you are the master of your body and your mind can overcome your body’s cravings.
  • It takes the body some time to shed its receptors and build new ones, give it the time it needs.
  • Don’t give up.
  • It might be useful to start with a small change and develop your capacity to change and then move to larger changes.
  • Read more about how this works in Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza

Please let me know how it goes! I invite comments, would love to hear success stories and even stories about failed attempts. I want to know how these steps are working for people!
And look for future related posts here as well. The interesting thing for me is that I’ve never been a fan of behavioral modification. And that’s essentially what these steps are, just changing the behavior, but in a very disciplined way. There are often beliefs and thoughts that occur before or with a behavior and in the work I’ve been doing for years, I usually approach change by addressing beliefs first. But that hasn’t always been enough; this addiction piece has been a great addition. So I think both may be necessary.
I will be writing about the belief side of things soon. If the above steps do not work for you, there’s likely some discovery work to do to find out what beliefs or thoughts are prompting the behavior or habitual emotions and maybe it’s the belief itself that’s the addiction! So, more to come…

Emotional Addictions, part 2 – The Neuroscience

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Yesterday was a brief overview of neurophysiology and today I’ll get into a little bit more detail about how emotional addictions work.

Of course, I can’t possibly do justice to the whole body of neurophysiology work in this post but I find the subject very interesting and think this light touch will help you be a little more aware of what goes on in your body especially when you attempt to make a change. So I hope you find this interesting and useful.

It all began in the 1970s when Candace Pert (Molecules of Emotion) discovered the opiate receptor in the brain. When you take a codeine tablet for pain, for example, codeine enters the bloodstream then circulates until it finds the opiate receptor where it then “plugs in” to the brain and does its work to reduce pain. Well known opiates include morphine, codeine and heroin. When the heroin user shoots up, the heroin enters the bloodstream, finds and plugs in to the receptors just like codeine but it has a little different impact on the body.
In addition to opiates that can be introduced from outside the body (orally, by injection, smoking, etc.), there are some well-known opiates created internally by the human body called endorphins and these also connect to the brain through opiate receptors. Endorphins are the chemicals known for creating the “runner’s high”: When you go out for a long run and come back and feel exhilarated you are under the influence of your internally produced opiates, aka endorphins.

It was known fairly early on that externally introduced chemicals and body-manufactured chemicals were treated in much the same way by the brain. In fact the brain doesn’t know the difference between the two.

Candace Pert also found that each human emotion creates a specific chemical in the body and these chemicals, like endorphins, also connect to receptors in our brain and produce an effect on the body. This is what’s going on when we feel our body change even as we think about something we are passionate about or angry about. We know what fear, anger, guilt, shame, excitement, love and hate feel like in our body. Each emotion creates a unique “chemical cocktail” which goes through our brain and then affects the body. It is happening all the time.
More recent discoveries in neurophysiology (see Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza, D.C.) show that not only are the emotional chemicals unique but the receptors in our brains are specialized for each chemical cocktail! There are receptors for the chemical cocktail created by anger and receptors for the drama chemicals and the same for guilt, shame, pride, power, etc. And of course there are specialized receptors for nicotine and other drugs.

Then an interesting thing happens. If you bathe the body in a particular chemical, it will build more receptors to handle the load. So the number of specialized receptor cells increases in response to the presence of the chemicals. So the more you smoke, the more receptors you create. The more you allow yourself to indulge in that drama fit, the more drama receptors you will have. More guilt, more guilt receptors.

Now our difficulties begin when these receptors get hungry. ( And some seem to be more demanding about being fed than others). But they’re only interested in their special chemicals. This creates what we know of as cravings. We’re used to thinking of cravings in terms of food and drugs (nicotine, caffeine, chocolate, etc) but it’s happening with emotions too and those are harder to notice. If we succumb to bouts of guilt or shame, it’s quite possibly because we’ve got these receptors egging us on; they need that emotion. And then we feed them with an attack of guilt and perhaps we grow even more receptors to manage the guilt chemicals. It’s a self reinforcing system. And it’s what makes an addiction.
So in our daily lives we go about our business of living. And meanwhile our body is full of these receptors demanding various things. If we have nicotine receptors we smoke, if we have endorphin receptors we go for a run, if we have drama receptors we create a drama, the people pleaser receptors encourage us to say “yes, of course I’ll do that for you”, the domineering receptors has us overpower someone, and the anger addict gets angry.

Dispenza describes the body as being in charge at this point. If there’s a hunger for guilt, anger, drama, domination, the body will nudge the person towards that behavior and if we’re not conscious about it and we don’t do anything to stop it, then we’ll make it happen. Before we know it, we’re throwing another of our favorite fits.

Now maybe this really wouldn’t be a problem, except that many people want to change. Imagine a child growing up having to please others all the time in order to stay safe. The child’s body becomes chemically adapted to the “people pleasing” state and builds many receptors for the chemical cocktail created when being nice or sacrificing himself for someone else. This is now the chemical status quo. The body will demand this chemical and anything different will feel uncomfortable or “not right”. And in fact, it isn’t “right” for that body at that time; it’s something different and foreign. It’s not what the body wants or is used to. So when the adult tries to learn to say no and stand up for himself, it’s extremely uncomfortable and the body fights it and will try to force the more comfortable state of saying “yes of course”. If the person doesn’t know this is going on, he will feel that saying no doesn’t work, people pleasing is just “who he is”, he will likely even quit trying to change and will resign himself to be a people pleaser forever. Fortunately, it isn’t true. It isn’t an identity, it can be changed. Unfortunately, giving up happens way too often with anger, abuse, being a victim, guilt, shame, self-doubt, self-criticism, the list goes on and on and on.

We need to know that we can overcome our emotional and behavioral addictions. We just need to find the discipline, commitment and of course a reason to bother.

I’ll talk more about that in my next blog entry!

Emotional Addictions, part 1

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Do you know anyone who regularly acts like a drama queen? Or habitually is angry, guilty or pessimistic or someone who is always too nice and never says no? Imagine that behavior is an addiction — because it probably is.

Most of us have behaviors we wish we didn’t have, or we have behaviors that don’t serve us well and many times we think that “this is just who I am and I cannot change it.” Unfortunately, it’s that belief that’s the problem! Because, in fact, these behaviors can be changed. But it takes awareness, focus and discipline.

Let me explain with a little peak into the world of neuroscience so we can understand how behaviors and habits are established in our bodies and minds.

In short: Emotions and behaviors create chemicals in the body, the body gets used to having those chemicals around, then becomes dependent on the chemicals and then starts demanding more of them, just like a smoker’s body demands nicotine. We become the servant of a hungry beast but we are not aware of it, we just know that we have a habitual way of acting or reacting and we think it’s our identity. But really it’s just our bodies trying to keep a stable chemical balance.

This means when we try to change a behavior, our body works against us. If we understand this then maybe the next time we want to change something it will be easier.
So the first thing to know is that this is going on, then we need to create a plan like a rehab program to eliminate the behavior and the body’s demand for those chemicals associated with the behavior or emotion.

In my next post I’ll go into more detail about the neurophysiology of emotional addictions and the following post will be some suggested steps on how to alter habitual behaviors, habits and emotions.


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How do you know if personal development (or leadership development or team development) actually works? And what do we mean when we say “it works”?

I believe there are two different categories of answers, first “we get what we measure” and secondly “things takes time”:

We get what we measure:

If you are going to run a change program in your organisation, look at what you want to achieve, how you will know if you succeed and how you measure progress towards the goal. It is not trivial to figure this out, and it may take some effort to agree about the criteria for success and even the goal of the program. But isn’t it better to spend some time up front deciding what you want to achieve and how you will know if you succeeded instead of wasting money on a program where you don’t know the ROI?

Things take time:

If you are going to run a change program in your organisation, accept that changes takes time. The human mind is a wonderful thing, and the more we understand about how it works and how our minds work together, the more we understand about how change happens in organisations.

Real change needs to be systemic and embedded.

Systemic: you want to work with the whole organisation, the whole team, business unit or department.

Embedded: you want to make sure that the change – and the ability to change – has been embedded. When the consultants have left the building, the tools, theories and practises have been transferred to your organisation. You don’t want “magicians” coming in, doing their stuff and leaving your organisation in awe and wonder.

Imagine a tub full of cold water.  If you want to change the temperature by adding hot water, you wouldn’t add just a small cup at a time. Yet this is how a lot of leadership and organisational development happens. Training individual leaders separate from their teams is like trying to heat up a cold bath by adding small cups of hot water. An effective modern approach is to work systemically – introducing whole buckets of hot water to warm up the tub.

Re-humanising the workplace is about unleashing the collective intelligence of people at all levels of the organisation, enabling them to have Great Conversations together and fulfil their leadership potential.  Great Conversations are at the core of great leadership that creates great results.