Your Brain Remotely

I recently had the chance to speak with Emma El-Karout, the founder One Circle, a community of virtual HR consultants, about the challenges to the brain when working remotely and/or leading remote teams. Here are some ideas that came out of that conversation.

shutterstock_1517180492

What’s exciting about remote work in terms of the brain?

Aside from the fact that more remote work does seem to be the wave of the future, there are definitely at least a couple of advantages from a brain perspective. One, the vast creativity of being able to draw on a global pool and the varied perspectives and talents that come with that. And two, the reduction of stress from team members being able to have more control over their work environment (and lack of commute). For example, some of us find noisy co-workers distracting and even stressful, and the ability to work in the quiet of our own homes is a blessed relief. Being able to get more sleep and have more time with family because you have gained hours in your day also tends to reduce stress.

What’s challenging about remote work in terms of the brain?

I think there are some general challenges, communication challenges, and productivity/focus challenges. In this blog, I am going to look at the general challenges with some ideas about what to do–in a later blog I’ll address communication and productivity (in the meantime, I’ll share a link to my blog on why video chat is not the same as real life). Here are a few general issues that seem to be particularly challenging:

1) Lack of informal social time — this relates to connection as well as the “meeting after the meeting.” For remote teams, team time tends to be focused on efficiency and productivity. And this makes sense because when we are not being fed in terms of social connections, we tend to want to be done with things and get off the call or video conference.

This of course happens IRL (In Real Life) as well, but in-person, we generally have even a minute or two to say hi, or “sheesh, what a day,” or ask someone how their weekend was, or provide or get a quick clarification on a memo. We walk down the hallway or ride in an elevator together–and often ideas and information are shared as well as what we might think of as the normal “social grease” of how are you and hey what’s up? And IRL, for most people it doesn’t feel like extra time–I think this may be largely in part because we are often doing something else “productive” while we are connecting. We’re getting coffee, moving from one place to another, making copies, even just waiting for everyone to arrive at the meeting and shuffle their papers. Chatting and being human together doesn’t then feel like an extra task.

ADVICE for LEADERS:

  • Take some of the money you’re saving by having folks work remotely and invest in creating and supporting strategies for informal connection (company parenting groups, game tournaments, etc.) This will not only provide avenues for human connection, it also shows that the company understands this is important, even–and perhaps especially–in a virtual environment.
  • Start all meetings with a check-in that is about the human being, not the human doing. For example, what sort of weather are you today? What is one thing you did this weekend that filled your cup? What’s one non-work thing that is on your mind today? It’s important to know that if you are the leader, you don’t have to fix or change anything–it’s enough that people just get a chance to be there as their full selves.

2) Feeling isolated (this is of course stronger if remote is not the norm in company). We are social, tribal beings by nature. According to anthropologist Jared Diamond, for about 95% of human history we moved and worked in small kin groups. Being so separate is relatively new to us as humans, and much of who were are at our core is modulated by our core need to belong. Loneliness is not just an emotional state, it is actually processed more like hunger–as a biological drive. And while working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean we feel lonely, being physically together can provide some natural protection from it.

ADVICE for LEADERS:

  • Stay tuned in to how your team is doing emotionally. Again, as mentioned above, you need to check in with the human being, not just the human doing. If this is not your skillset, have your company bring in training on coaching skills for managers so you can learn how to do this easily (it’s really not so hard).
  • One way to make personal connection easier with individual team members is to suggest (if possible) that you each go for a walk during a regular touch-base. Being in motion (especially outside) relaxes the brain and it can be easier to both ask and be asked the “how are you really doing?” questions.
  • AND/OR–take some of the money you are saving and make sure your team has coaches. There are so many benefits to coaching in terms of creativity, contribution, etc., and it can also help the person recognize and be proactive about their own needs and emotional state.

3) We’re simply less creative and efficient when we are on our own. Our brains want to conserve energy as much as possible (a biological principle called economy of action). Being with others in person makes our brains process more efficiently. We regulate our own emotions better, get more creative ideas, and generally feel calmer when we are with others (unless, of course, the others are the source of your stress).

ADVICE for LEADERS:

  • Do make time/budget for real-life gatherings. One of my colleagues said that when she worked with remote teams at IBM years ago, they found that one IRL meeting gave them 3-6 months of productive remote work.
  • Since brains process less efficiently, understand that people may have less bandwidth, so keep meetings shorter and encourage personal “reset time.” Emma El-Karout shared with me that her team has a norm of working 90 minutes and then taking 20 off to do something non-work related.
  • Be even more intentional about using “out of the box” creative strategies. For example, ask people to use metaphor, to draw a doodle, to close their eyes, breathe, and say the first image that comes to them. What can happen naturally when we are together may need a bit of priming in the virtual space.

Thanks again to Emma at One Circle for inspiring these thoughts. To see our interview, please check back after June 18.

Top Ten Reasons You (and Your Organization) Need Coaching More Than Ever Right Now

shutterstock_771151831

By Ann Betz and William Arruda

My friend, business genius William Arruda and I sat down recently to talk about why coaching matters so much–even, perhaps MORE–during this Covid-19 crisis. Here are the top ten reasons we came up with:

  1. Many tools and techniques of professional coaching are scientifically proven to reduce stress. When we are stressed, it is much more difficult to have empathy, think creatively, control impulses, and make effective plans. When stress is reduced through coaching, people have more access to creativity, empathy, and resilience, all of which are critical right now.
  2. Coaching helps people process what is going on. This is an unprecedented time—the very fact that we have little to compare it to makes it exceptionally difficult to process and make sense of. Without processing during the time we are in the experience, we run a high probability of either crashing when it is over, or sublimating our worry, fear and stress into health issues, low energy, and other negative impacts. When we notice and allow our true feelings and concerns, we move the energy through and stay steadier and more able to cope both during and after. Many people need the support of coaching in order to do this effectively.
  3. Coaching helps people find their own resilience and capacity, even when we can’t change the external landscape. Any coach worth their salt knows to focus on the client, not the issue. When people are what we might call, “returned to themselves” through coaching, they see more possibility and find more internal resilience. This restores some sense of control in what feels like an uncontrollable world.
  4. The small amount invested in coaching during a crisis will pay off in terms of larger gains. The companies and individuals that will get through this time are those that maintain a fair amount of calm center, limit the toxic impact of stress, are flexible and agile, and truly “think outside the box.” Given the impact of the circumstances we find ourselves in, it is highly unlikely that people will find their way there without the kind of support coaching provides.
  5. Giving managers and leaders coaching provides a noticeable ripple effect. Research shows that leaders have a potent impact on the “weather” of their organization. When they are calm, emotionally regulated, thoughtful, and patient, those around them feel more able to respond more thoughtfully as well. (Same is true for parents and children.)
  6. This will most likely lead to permanent changes for individuals and orgs. We know coaching is one of the most effective ways to help people navigate change. We’re not going back to “business as usual” after this. Coaching helps us know and express our own needs, desires and boundaries as things change so we can be active “co-creators” in what is to come.
  7. It is more critical than ever to retain and develop top talent. We’re going to need extraordinary thinking and performance to help any enterprise—whether it is a business, a school, or even a family—get through this. As things are pointing to different structures in how we do business, all enterprises are going to need to rely more on multiple layers of leadership. Coaching helps develop people’s leadership strengths and confidence, and is also a proven retention strategy.
  8. Coaches help people get unstuck and move out of fixed patterns or mindsets. Surviving and thriving in this time requires an adaptable brain that can respond with flexibility and creativity, while still being thoughtful and applying logic. Coaching helps people identify limiting beliefs and move into more open and responsive mindsets.
  9. People are thinking about purpose and meaning as a result of this crisis. Without support in terms of surfacing and focusing on questions of meaning, life purpose, and important values, all too often the things we learn in crisis are lost. Coaching can help us powerfully reflect on what we are learning about ourselves.
  10. People will be using this opportunity to make major life and work changes and will need a coach to help navigate this change. Our old patterns and habits are well-wired into our brains. Making real change is disruptive to the system, and we need support to make major changes. Coaching is all about the reflection-action-reflection cycle of learning. A coach helps us identify what we want, try some things to put it into action, reflect on what we learned, and then continue this positive cycle as we move into new ways of being and therefore new results in our lives.

 

Ann Betz consults on the science of coaching for the ICF education department, and served as provocateur for the online learning ICF Advance in 2018 and will again in 2020. She is the author of This Is Your Brain on Coaching, the science of the ICF competencies, and has been a professional coach since 2001. She is the co-founder of BEabove Leadership, offering advanced coach training on neuroscience for the experienced and curious coach. She is a sought-after international speaker on the intersection of neuroscience, coaching, and human development, and works with many global brands and coaching organizations.

William Arruda is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and the world’s leading authority on the topic of personal branding. He’s the bestselling author of the definitive books on the topic: Career Distinction and Ditch. Dare. Do! His latest book, Digital YOU helps readers translate their real-world brands for the virtual world. William is the CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of Reach Personal Branding and the co-founder of CareerBlast.TV – a personal and digital branding video learning platform for innovative organizations. His products have been used by over a million people across the globe. William is honored to work with many of the world’s most revered brands, including 20% of the Fortune 100. He regularly shares his thoughts on workplace trends and branding in his Forbes column. In 2015, he was awarded the ICF Chair’s Award for his contributions to the field of coaching.

 

 

Non-Coaching Ways to Help Yourself and Others Manage Stress


erase stress

Whether or not you are a professional coach, we all need ways sometimes to manage our own stress, whether it is because we need to feel what I call “regulated” in order to support others, or simply because we can’t focus or move forward due to feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, many of us support other people (friends, family, team members etc.) in roles other than as coaches. And even if we are coaches, there are also times and relationships where we want and need to show up less formally but still be helpful.

Here are some scientifically validated ways to help manage stress in ourselves and others while not wearing an official “coach” hat. In order of effectiveness, we have:

1. Suppression (not effective)

Although tempting, suppressing emotions is not an effective strategy. It has been linked to depression, and most experts agree that suppressed emotions find ways to “leak out” when not acknowledged and addressed in some way. We also tend to think that we can hide our emotions from others, but research shows that sitting next to someone who is upset and suppressing will raise your blood pressure (and the suppressor’s as well).

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF

  • Spend some time in reflection—journaling, on a walk, etc. Ask yourself if you are suppressing anything (sometimes a natural response to “getting through the day”).

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR ANOTHER

  • Notice if they are consistently saying “it’s all good,” and/or deflecting their natural feelings. If you can find a quiet, private time to check in, try one or more of the strategies below.

2. Naming the emotion

Research shows that simply naming an emotion reduces activity in the limbic regions. This is certainly the simplest and easiest way to manage our stress, although some people may need to build this muscle by expanding their emotional vocabulary and practicing either talking about how they really feel or at a minimum writing it down. (NOTE: as you are expressing how you feel, be sure that you don’t “amp it up.” Keep the venting to a minimum and move on to another strategy.)

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF

  • Identify and name how you really feel—it often helps to write it down.
  • Find someone to talk to who is nonjudgmental and won’t collude with you.
  • Short venting (1 to 3 minutes) to self or another.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR ANOTHER

  • Ask how they really feel, then listen and ask a couple of additional questions, such as:
    • What’s the impact of that?
    • What’s hard right now?
  • Let them really vent (1 to 3 minutes) – make it a game, tell them you are setting a timer and you want them to go for it.
  • Resist the natural human urge to want to offer solutions, even though you may feel uncomfortable with not being able to fix it for them.

3. Controlling the Environment

This is probably the most effective strategy – nothing is better than actually removing the source of stress – however, it ranks low on the list because it is only effective in those cases where it is possible to do so. We can’t control everyone and everything in our lives, and attempting to will only create a net increase in stress. Still, where possible, this works.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF

  • Ask yourself what you can change or control about the situation.
  • If you have a friend or family member who is a good listener, brainstorm with them, and be open to changes you haven’t thought of or think are impossible.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR ANOTHER

  • Ask them what they can change or control about the situation.
  • Offer to brainstorm solutions with them (and stay unattached to what they do or don’t do).

4. Values and Life Purpose

Research shows that reflecting on meaningful values and life purpose serves as a buffer to stress. This strategy engages the pre-frontal cortex and gives us a broader context for our lives, a container for decision-making and a map for future direction.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF

  • Reflect on which of your values are being stepped on or need to be honored more fully. What can you do in this situation that honors one or more values?
  • Ask yourself what the bigger purpose is and/or how this might fit into your whole life and goals.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR ANOTHER

  • Ask them which of their values are being stepped on or need to be honored more fully. You can also reflect any values you might be hearing (such as if they say “I just feel so disrespected” they may have a value of respect). Ask what they could do in this situation that honors one or more of their values?
  • Ask them what the bigger purpose is and/or how this might fit into their whole life and goals.

5. Reframing

The act of reframing (also known as taking a new perspective or reappraisal) also activates the pre-frontal cortex, calming down our stress responses. Reappraisal has been touted by some neuroscientists as one of the most important skills a human being can develop for their mental health and life success.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF

  • Ask yourself what might be a different perspective on the issue or situation? What is another way of seeing it that feels more empowering?
  • If someone else is involved, try to stand in the other person’s shoes and look at things from there.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR ANOTHER

  • Ask them what might be a different perspective on the issue or situation? What is another way of seeing it that feels more empowering? Listen for little hints of what might be a more empowering perspective and reflect them back to the person. “It sounds like there is a bit of a silver lining that you are noticing….”

6. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is often an effective solution to any neuroscience challenge, from stress, to creativity, to improving memory, and even being more emotionally intelligent. Even just an attuned conversation with a close friend or relative (that is, one where you feel listened to and deeply heard) tends to bring people present into the moment and makes them pay attention to what is going on. Being present right now, rather than putting our attention on regrets from the past or worries about the future is a key stress management strategy. Additionally, developing a practice of meditation tends to build the skill and habit of being more present, and thus is a longer-term strategy for day-to-day stress management.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF

  • Notice your internal state without trying to change it.
  • Breathe in to the count of 6 and out to the count of 7. (This tends reset the brain to recovery mode.)
  • Develop a practice of meditation, even if it is only for only 5 minutes a day.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR ANOTHER

  • Without being patronizing, encourage them to slow down and just breathe.

The Saboteur, the Inner Leader, and the Brain

Gargoyle

There is a classic tool in coaching that goes by various names: the Saboteur, the Gremlin, the Disempowering Voice, etc. It’s the idea that we have any number of negative voices in our head that can limit us by whispering (or shouting in some cases) that we aren’t good enough or some other other discouraging and habitual message. Many coaches are trained to help the client a) identify and even personify these voices; b) understand this is not “you,” it is a common human experience that is separate from who you really are; and c) limit their impact, either by sending the “saboteur” away or (for more aware and advanced coaches) learn what it is trying to say and work to integrate the wisdom. In addition, one very useful tool is to identify a powerful “inner leader” that is the contrasting voice to the saboteur and can speak from a calmer, wiser place when the saboteur gets activated.

Over the years, many students have asked us where the saboteur and inner leader are in the brain. In the old (but now debunked — see The Orchestra of Your Brain) model of the so-called “triune brain,” we might have said that the lower, less developed, more emotional brain is the source of negative self talk, while the higher, smarter, more evolved prefrontal cortex is the wise inner leader. A nice, easy handy explanation.

But the brain doesn’t actually work like that. There aren’t specific places in the brain that run positive or negative conversations, and the idea that the lower part of our brain takes over and runs roughshod over the higher part is far too simplistic. It’s more about systems and integration–or the lack thereof.

The brain is a whole bunch of systems, and all of the systems play a role in where we are operating from at that moment and what inner monologue is running. For example, the Default Mode Network (DMN) which is active in both dreaming and rumination, can activate in  a helpful mode (Wow, what could my life be?) as well as the “saboteur” mode (Oh my god, what if I can’t make enough money this year? What if I am a fraud? etc.). Basically, it is taking us to the past and the future, versus another network (Task Positive Network or TPN) that operates in the present. The TPN also can have its helpful and unhelpful aspects–sometimes our minds need to wander to access creativity and possibility, and holding absolute focus will not allow that. Helpful mode of the TPN has us getting things done and being present, unhelpful mode reduces all answers to that which can be seen and calculated and causes our creativity and motivation to simply dry up. And these are only two systems of a very complex brain.

At BEabove Leadership, we love the work of Dr. Dan Siegel for many reasons. For this topic, there are two significant ways we want to share. One, his view that integration is key to all aspects of health and effectiveness. Dr. Siegel defines integration as “the linkage of differentiated elements.” So–in my one (limited) example above of the DMN and TPN we a) learn to differentiate the two networks and b) learn to link the one that brings us presence (TPN) and the one that travels to the past and future (DMN). Then we can use both networks in a helpful way. If we venture too far into Default Mode where we start to worry about the future or regret the past, we can activate Task Positive by looking to see what can be done right now and getting right down to it. If we get too far into Task Positive, looking at just what is in front of us right now, thereby losing the heart and meaning of our lives, we can activate our Default Mode and reconnect to our dreams, values, and meaning.

Saboteurs, we believe, don’t live in one area of the brain, but become activated when one aspect of our human system becomes less integrated and is not well linked with its counterpart. This could be a TPN/DMN imbalance as illustrated above, or a skew in the partnership between our right and left hemisphere, a disconnect from messages from our body, as well as many other aspects of our human system.

We believe that what we sometimes call the “inner leader” also doesn’t live in one area of the brain, but is our observer ability to recognize and work with all our systems, creating more balance and integration. The second way we look to Dr. Siegel is his definition of the mind, which is more than the brain. Dr. Siegel defines the mind as “An embodied and relational process regulating the flow of energy and information.” That is, it includes the brain, but can’t be found in (or limited to) any one part of the brain, because it is — and we are — so much more. So–the strong inner leader, which I would call the mind, is regulating our flow, observing where we are, and adjusting as needed for greater effectiveness.

We think that the ideas of saboteurs and inner leaders (or whatever you might call them), can be very helpful for everyone, but would just want to highlight the following:

  • They don’t live in specific areas of the brain, but are the function of systems;
  • Saboteurs are NOT something to be gotten rid of, banished or destroyed, but balanced and integrated. We need to not think of them as wrong, per se, but an overbalancing of some natural human system; and
  • Through awareness and practice, we can strengthen both our connections between systems, as well our ability to recognize and regulate the flow of “energy and information.”

What Are You Predicting?

tarot-1191485-1919x1685In which I attempt to describe the complex process of the prediction cycle in the brain, and why the traditional language of emotional response is failing me….. 

Like most of us, as part of both my personal and leadership path of development, I learned early on that we humans need to work on our tendency to react. That many things trigger us into “amygdala hijacks” and activate our lower, emotion-driven mammalian or even reptilian brains. And to be honest, I found this useful information. It’s good to know when I may have been taken over by an unreliable part of my brain, not clearly thinking, and simply acting in a manner dictated by a fight-flight-freeze reaction to something I perceive as a threat.

Except sorry, it’s not really how it works. First of all, we don’t have a so-called “triune brain” that evolved like a layer cake with each new (better) processor stacked on top of the ones that came before. (See my post The Orchestra of Your Brain for a more detailed exploration of this widely-believed fallacy.) In terms of our conversation here, that means that we don’t actually have an older, reactive brain that literally takes over during times of stress.

Rather, we have a highly complex, ever-evolving system. In fact, these days the way I like to describe the brain is as a system of systems, many of which actually involve the entire brain in some way. And most of which are far more complex than we even now have any idea. For example, researcher Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge has identified at least nine areas of the brain involved in the process of empathy. No one area can be said to be the location of empathy–rather, aspects of the system work together to bring us greater or lesser empathy. And, like every system, aspects can be missing, underdeveloped, or not activated under certain circumstances. (For more on this, see his fascinating book The Science of Evil.) At BEabove Leadership, we ourselves have identified at least nine areas of the brain and body involved in intuition–again, it is a system!

But I digress. The systems regulate processes, and the key process we’re going to explore here is what the brilliant researcher Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett calls the Prediction Cycle. (For a deep deep dive, see her book How Emotions are Made.) Here’s the thing that blew my mind–Dr. Barrett makes a very convincing argument that our emotions are not as we have probably been told:

  • Reactions;
  • Classic, true across all cultures (and identifiable to emotionally intelligent people through the eyes); and
  • A result of our “emotional” brain getting triggered.

Rather they are unique, individual, contextual, predictive constructions based on our personal history, language culture, and more.

Wait, what?

Emotions are not a reaction to what just happened. They are a prediction of what we think will happen (based on our context–which includes culture, language, and past experience) so that we’re ready for it when and if it does. This prediction can (and often does) happen so fast that it feels like a reaction. It’s just not.

You see, the prime directive of our brain is to keep us alive. And it has a limited “body budget” it uses to do so. So for our brain, emotional prediction is kind of like planning your bills–what am I going to need, what can I juggle around so that I am not overdrawn? And if there is a big-ticket expenditure, man, we better be ready for it. So we anticipate, the event happens, it lines up with our calculations (or doesn’t), and we readjust. For example, I recently had to take my car in for its 10,000 mile service and had budgeted a couple of hundred dollars because, since it was a new car, I had no idea what to expect. Turns out the car company covers the first 30,000 and my cost was zero (yay!). Now for the 20,000 mile service I won’t budget for it and can plan to use that money elsewhere.

Prediction Cycle

So how does this apply to emotions? In order to understand that, here’s a diagram of how the Prediction Process works in terms of the emotional systems in your brain. We predict, and that prediction has us simulate feelings associated with the prediction and interpret those feelings using emotion concepts (the richness of the emotion concepts will vary depending on language and our own ability to be “granular” with our feelings). Then what we are anticipating happens, and we compare what happened to our prediction. If it was right on, we go forward with more evidence for the accuracy of our predictions, if not we have to resolve any errors. Let me give you a concrete example to illustrate.

1) Predict: Your brain automatically predicts what will happen based on past experiences, and your current goal. This is a very complex process involving various parts of the brain and body, not just what we have been told are the “emotional areas” (therefore the whole brain and body can be thought of as emotional).

I have to talk to my boss about a raise (goal) and (based on a lot of past experience) I know she will be difficult and unreasonable.

2) Simulate: This prediction leads to an internal simulation before anything actually happens. We’re getting our body budget ready for what we think we will need.

I simulate sensations of unease, heart beating faster, and butterflies in my stomach. (I am getting prepared for what I am expecting and the energy I might need.) I interpret these feelings as my emotion concepts of anxiety and dread.

3) Compare: The simulation is compared to what actually occurs.

I meet with her and she tells me she is working on her overly abrupt management style with a coach, listens to me more thoughtfully than usual, is reasonable, and we negotiate a fair raise.

4) Resolve Errors: If simulation is in alignment with what happened, simulation is validated and will be used for further predictions. If it is not, the brain has to resolve the errors.

4) Error message! I internally resolve the dichotomy and use it for further prediction. In this case, I realize that she actually has become somewhat easier to deal with lately and perhaps I have been mis-predicting. I predict more positive outcomes in the future, simulate differently, etc. 

Key points (and this probably isn’t all of them!):

  • Prediction can happen well in advance of something–like a performance review three months away–or so quickly it doesn’t even feel like a prediction (like getting cut off in traffic);
  • The Prediction Process is neutral in nature, as are all components within it. You could just as easily predict your boss is going to reasonable based on past experience, simulate a calm nervous system, interpret that as confidence, and have her be awful. Then you have to figure out how to resolve that error;
  • Coaching can occur (and by the way, already does) at any point of the cycle. As my friend master coach Rick Tamlyn likes to say “It’s All Made Up!” Asking a client what they are making up about a situation is a way of asking what they are predicting. Asking how they feel about something is a way of asking what they are simulating and interpreting. Asking “what happened and is it what you expected?” is a way of opening the conversation for comparison. Asking “what do you make of that?” is helping them to resolve any errors. In other words, if you’re a coach, you’re already doing aspects of this cycle.

So why does this matter? I think the thing that struck me the most as a coach, is that if it is about prediction, there is a place for intervention. I can poke into whether or not my client’s prediction is fair and reasonable, and if there is current evidence for this prediction. And many times there is not–they are predicting based on old stories and saboteurs. We can look to see what competing evidence and context they have a prediction that is more life-affirming.

If my client is simply “triggered” or “reacting,” it’s too late and the best they can hope for is to do better next time. But an understanding of this prediction cycle and the fact that we are predicting can lead to more personal responsibility — our whole brains are constructing our emotional experience, we have not been taken over by some lower, animalistic part that needs to be controlled, suppressed or punished.

And so I have been stymied by language at times. Everyone knows what I mean when I say “sorry, I reacted,” or “oops, I got triggered.” But when you look someone in the eye and say “I seem to be having a negative prediction” they tend to think you’re a bit odd. (Wait, maybe I need a new prediction around that!)

Entering Softly

arms-wide-open-1457804The Right Hemisphere and Coaching

Ah, the two hemispheres of the brain, something we are endlessly fascinated with here at Your Coaching Brain. While it is true that, on a day to day basis, we use both hemispheres for most of what we do (yes, even music, math, art and logic), it is equally true that each hemisphere pays attention to the world in a very different way. The right focuses on the big picture, the relationship between things, and meaning. The left gives us the ability to understand and attend to pieces and parts. It is concerned with both the details and process.

The right hemisphere is also attuned to that which is novel, unique and heretofore unexplored, and as such, all new information comes to us through our right hemisphere. Conversely, the left deals with what it already knows, the representations (re-presentations) of things already noticed and brought into awareness by the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere’s role is as an interpreter of reality, not an experiencer. They each have their uses—and their limitations.

One limitation we need to think about has huge implications for coaching. In order for the client to shift to somewhere truly new, to have an experience of transformation, we must get them into their right hemisphere. All learning starts here—with what we don’t know, haven’t noticed, and are yet to experience. However, we also want to be sure the session is practical and useful for the client, and is, of course, what they want, all of which are more left hemisphere concerns.

And thus a conundrum. On the one hand, traditionally as the session begins we ask the client what they want from today’s work and how they will know they have gotten that. We may ask them to think about the measures and markers that they have, indeed, had a useful session, thus activating their practical left hemisphere and asking it to sort through what it already knows.

On the other hand, current understanding of the brain shows us that often what needs to occur is in the realm of what the client “doesn’t know what they don’t know.” The right hemisphere is where we will find that amazing “aha” that can turn the coaching in a whole new—often much more powerful—direction. This is the part of brain that pays attention to the “still small voice” of what is unknown and undiscovered.

And so, I have come to enter coaching sessions softly. I do ask, what do you want to focus on today, but I generally refrain from getting too “granular” with specific outcomes,* because (usually) I intentionally want to activate the open, learning part of the client’s brain. I want them to enter into today’s coaching from a place they do not know, instead of moving around the pieces and parts they have looked at before. Once we have looked and explored in a wide, open way, there is a time to narrow things down, make plans and look to measures. This focusing in is also an important part of coaching–it’s just not always the best place to begin.

Perhaps it feels a bit more in control if you have a clear, specific, measurable goal for every coaching session, which makes the left hemisphere happy (and yes, as noted in my footnote, there are times when this makes sense). The right hemisphere, however, doesn’t care that things be linear, predictable and measurable, because its focus is a greater integration of the whole. And ultimately, I would argue, this is what really matters in coaching.

*a notable exception is if the client has already, perhaps in other sessions, done enough exploration and they really at this point just need to make a plan.

 

Thank you to Iain McGilchrist for his amazing book The Master and His Emissary, and the new documentary, The Divided Brain. McGilchrist spent over 20 years synthesizing wisdom from philosophy, history, art and neuroscience to help us understand the real difference – and challenge – of the two hemispheres of the brain.

What to Do With the I Don’t Know

shutterstock_1072714010In one of my coaching classes we started the weekend by exploring the “thing we can’t be with.” In terms of coaching, I have to say, it’s probably that client who just keeps saying “I don’t know,”  or otherwise goes flat or blank, even with the best, most provocative powerful question. Argh!! What the heck I am I supposed to do with THAT? I’m not the magic reveal your life purpose fairy, nor am I the sherpa who will carry you up the hill.

But I am the curious brain examiner, so maybe it will help if we go there. Let’s start by looking at a few reasons why a client might get stuck in the I don’t knows, and what you could try if you think that’s what’s happening.

1. They are over-activated in the left hemisphere of their brain. This is often my working hypothesis when the “I don’t know” feels energetically more flat or rigid (the left hemisphere when very over-calibrated takes us to rigidity), and when it is in response to questions like “What do you want?” “What values are important to you?” “What if anything was possible?” etc. And here’s why–those questions are a bit more right hemisphere friendly (for more on the two hemispheres of the brain see Come On Over to The Right Side and Right Brain – Left Brain–Is It All A Myth?), and if the client is currently (or habitually) stuck in their left hemisphere, they simply may not have any access in this moment. 

What to do: You have a couple of options here. One is to ask some questions that are more left-hemisphere friendly, and luckily this actually isn’t hard. The left hemisphere LOVES to judge and evaluate and criticize. So ask the client to do this. Questions like “what are some of the things that don’t work in your current situation?” or even, “what drives you crazy?” can easily be flipped to mine for the client’s values. For example, if the client says “I can’t stand the way my boss micro-manages me, it’s so insulting!” you can probe to see if the value is autonomy, respect, trust, etc. Ok, now we know at least one thing the client may want to shift or change. (Even before I knew about the brain, it was always so interesting to me, and I am sure to most of you as well, how often it was quicker and easier for a client to answer “what don’t you want?” than “what do you want?”)

The second option is to bring them into the right hemisphere, and the best way to do this is NOT through verbal language (which may actually keep them more stuck in the left). Instead, use images, metaphors, and connection to the body as your doorway in. It may help to say to a reluctant client something along the lines of: “In order to help you discover more of who you are and what you really want, we need to activate a part of your brain that is less strategic and linear. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to strategy and steps for implementation. But first we need to get you connected to something deeper, and this is the best way I know.”

2. They are over-activated in the right hemisphere of the brain. While the left hemisphere over-calibrated becomes rigid, the right becomes chaotic. So if I have a client who is all over the place in their not-knowing, and/or feels like any direction they take will cut off some other wonderful idea or possibility, this is my hypothesis. It can feel a lot like a car starting and stopping or a tornado swirling, and I find it exhausting to coach. The client will start down a path that feels resonant, only to turn and double back again. Ack!

What to do: Again, there are a couple of options. Take them into it, or take them out of it. In the first, I often go with the swirl, first making it even a bit bigger (“Yes! and you could also do this, and this and this!”) and then having the client view what their life is like down the road if they stay in this confusion and continue to keep all their options open. What does life look like? Is that what they really want? 

In the second, I like to lean into the left hemisphere a bit by having the client get very linear about each option. Get it out of their head and onto paper. Bullet point it. Make a spreadsheet or matrix. I actually love to help them with this (and sometimes I really need to if they are massively all over the place). You might say something like “Let’s look at each thing, what it would take and how you would feel about it. And don’t worry, you don’t have to commit right now to any of it. Let’s just get it all out of your head and onto the table where you can really look at it.” And of course, as we as coaches already know, once the client can actually look at all of it, they often start seeing patterns and realizing where the energy is. 

3. They are overwhelmed or underwhelmed by stress. When we have either too much or too little stimulation going on in our lives, it can make it hard to think and focus. (See The Goldilocks of the Brain for more on this.) Our prefrontal cortex is needed for this function, and it likes to be in balance. I like to say stimulated, but not stressed is my happy, most productive place. If you have a client who is very bored, not being well-used in their work or life, or a client who is barely managing to keep all the plates spinning, you may run into the “I don’t knows.” Their brain is simply not in the right biochemical state to know!

What do do: this may be obvious, but the first thing is to help get their lovely brains back to the state where focus and direction and some aspect of clarity is possible. If they are under-stimulated (this can happen when they are re-entering the workforce, too long in the same job, under-utilized at work, disconnected from their purpose and passions, etc.), they simply need to get stimulated. Adding some challenge and stress and interesting pursuits will spike the chemical balance in a positive direction.

And if (as many clients are) they are overwhelmed, over-scheduled and over-worked, take a look at this list for some research-based ideas for diminishing the chemical overload. (And as a bonus, here is a short video of me using this idea as a coaching tool.)

There may, of course, be other brain-related reasons a person gives you the “I don’t knows,” but honestly, mostly what I have encountered as a coach is some combination of the above.  I hope this helps!

You Don’t NEED Neuroscience

In which I explain whatever possessed me (an artist and poet) to take myself off to neuroscience school….. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I got my training as a coach almost 17 years ago, I was working as a consultant in the non-profit world. My background was theater, poetry, art, and philosophy and I think I’d perhaps taken one or two science classes in my life. I came into coaching full-on and full-hearted; its power and magic blew me away in my very first class.

I certainly didn’t need neuroscience to prove that coaching is effective. I could see it. The evidence from stories and examples was overwhelming—who needed numbers and graphs? In my coach training, I was completely fine with the instructors saying “trust us, it works,” then trying it myself, failing, refining, and eventually WHOA, a moment of true transformation for my client. WOW. Who cares HOW this works? It DOES!

But when I first became a coach I was married to a lawyer with a science background. He had a tendency in those days to dismiss and diminish coaching as fluffy, ungrounded, woo-woo and self-indulgent. Little did I know at the time what a blessing this would be, adding machinepainful as it was. Again and again, I found myself completely tongue-tied and inarticulate when he would cross-examine me about how coaching works. And falling back on my defense of “trust me, it does!” was not particularly satisfying to either one of us. While I hated being cross-examined, I did long to know what the heck was going on. Why did coaching work so well when people just gave it a shot? How could I explain this magical, amazing world of personal growth and transformation in a more compelling way? Was there a bridge to be built between the trusting mystics and the doubting linear thinkers?

Fast forward a few years. I’m divorced (I could only take so much cross-examination, after all), teaching a model of consciousness with my dear business partner Ursula, and a newly-minted faculty member for the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). Three things happen: one, I am watching our students challenged by the same confidence and communication issues I had as a new coach; two, we were struggling to get people involved in our work on consciousness; and three, I kept seeing little tastes of neuroscience in the news. This was eight years ago, and while it was NOTHING like today, with thousands of articles and books, and a new finding about the brain almost daily, there were some intriguing bread crumbs in terms of both coaching and consciousness.

Do you ever get that question that won’t leave you alone? The one that wakes you up and pokes you? The one you think, “now THAT’S a good question?” Well, proving what we were really up to in the business of human development/transformation, that was my question. How does this all work? Is it simply mystical and unknowable, or are there portions we can know? And so, to the amusement of my family (Neuroscience? I didn’t think you had any interest in science) and the bafflement of my partner Ursula (You go ahead, dear, I will NOT be joining you in neuroscience school!) off I went.

The impact was almost immediate. I was amazed. While at the time there wasn’t any direct neuroscience research on coaching (or consciousness, for that matter, but that’s another blog post), almost everything we studied was correlative, applicable, and ultimately expansive. For example, when we went through the research on how to manage stress, it mapped elegantly with the three core principles I was teaching at CTI. Learning about the right and left hemispheres of the brain helped me understand the different ways we tune our listening: to level two (more left hemisphere) or level three (more right hemisphere). And so much more. After every class I’d call Ursula and say “Guess what I learned?!” and we’d debrief and look to see how we could take this learning to a new level. And six years ago this May, our flagship program, Neuroscience, Consciousness, and Transformational Coaching, was born. This stuff was just way too cool not to share!

As we developed and trained this amazing information, Ursula, a prosperity guide, Akashic Records reader, and author of a book on blessings, became a huge neuroscience fan and expert as well. She likes to say “If I can learn this, anyone can!”

And for both of us, it hasn’t killed the mystery at all. It’s created innumerable new mysteries that have us exploring the edges of quantum physics, the heart’s resonant field, hyper-communication, the power of vibration, and much more. We have come to see that consciousness is ultimately about integration of the highly complex system of being human, and coaching is one of the best things we can do to create lasting integration. Therefor, we argue, coaching literally raises consciousness. That’s all. Just that. No big deal.

Recently I saw a post on Facebook from some blogger calling life coaching a fraud, and I was thrust back to the dinner table of 15 years past. remembering spluttering and stammering as I tried to defend a profession I hold very much in my heart. Except this time, I calmly and serenely thought, “Oh, you have NO idea what we are really doing to people’s brains and world. No idea at all.”

For a comprehensive overview of the neuroscience of the ICF competencies, see This is Your Brain on Coaching. For more brain states at different levels of consciousness, see the Seven Levels of Effectiveness ebook. 

 

The AHA Moment in Coaching

HPIM0164.JPG

As coaches, we are ultimately concerned with what we (perhaps somewhat arrogantly) call transformation. I have seen newer coaches struggling to create that “aha” moment of truth and realization for their clients on every single call (and feeling they have somehow failed if it doesn’t happen). In other words, that perfect question or interaction which produces transformation, after which the client will never be the same. (Okay coach, transform this client: GO.)

Oh if it were only all so easy. But human development is a rich, complex, and—most importantly—in coaching, a co-creative process. And it’s impossible to say how many sessions that will take. Sorry HR, I can’t promise any sort of tangible results ever, much less in the six half-hour sessions you are willing to pay for.

And so I want to tell you two fairly typical stories of coaching.

The Two Million Dollar “Aha” Moment

I once had a client who worked as a commodities trader. For a variety of reasons, he came into coaching feeling disconnected from his job and colleagues. He was a high producer, but something was missing in terms of his engagement. After two or three sessions, he had a true “aha” that he was being somewhat adolescent in his response to being passed over for what he thought was an in-the-bag promotion. And, more importantly, that this was by no means the way to move ahead. So he swallowed his pride, went to his boss and asked what it would take to get the promotion with (in his words) “calm curiosity.” Turns out that this question was the missing piece – he had been perceived as not taking his own development seriously. More importantly, he realized he didn’t want to be a bratty teenager at work, so he dug in, found things to be interested in again, and within a few months got the promotion.

He told me three interesting things on our final call – one, that by the time he got the promotion, it mattered less than he had assumed it would, and two, that he was proud of himself again. Then I asked him about what he thought the return on investment of coaching had been for him. He estimated his increased engagement meant probably half a cent more profit on a bushel of the commodity he was trading. For this company, that added up to at least two million dollars a year.

The Long Slow Process of Becoming

I had another client, much earlier in my coaching career (in fact, I think I was still getting my certification). Honestly, most of the time I felt I was stumbling around in the dark. We had wonderful conversations about purpose and values, and there perhaps were mini “ahas” but not the big life-changing payoff my coaching ego was desperately hoping for. After about 10 sessions, the coaching sort of drifted to a halt. I always thought I had failed.

However, we stayed in touch via friends, the occasional lunch, and later, Facebook, and after a while I saw she had enrolled in law school. She became even more active in her community than she was previously and there was tremendous leadership and wisdom displayed in her Facebook posts about community issues. It was clear she was up to something. A year or two ago, she was elected to City Council in her large city.

I honestly have NO idea whether the coaching played a role or not – she was always someone who was going to make a huge difference in the world. I think I was probably a small part of her process, which needed time to unfold.

The Role of Co-Creation

I’ve been a coach for 17 years now, and I can promise you that most experienced coaches have versions of both stories. Of course we love to tell the first one, and in my case, to be honest, I was a more experienced coach at that time. I am sure there was a boldness to my coaching that was not yet acquired with my earlier client, which definitely had an impact. But even today, I notice some clients fly with very little from me, having big “ahas!” on almost every call, and using these to move into productive action in their lives.

But some clients seem to be on a slower path of self-discovery. For the second group, they may have an “aha!” and then lose it the minute we hang up, going back to old habits. Even though there are ways to use structures and support for this group, it is often a much more gradual process. But generally, what I have seen here is that at some point it clicks. We’ve been around that mulberry bush enough times that something happens—from a brain standpoint, I think it is neuroplasticity. There are now enough neural connections on the new path (from talking about it, trying baby steps, failing, feeling the pain of the old way that is not serving, etc.) that it (finally) becomes a viable choice for the client.

What does this take? It vastly depends. In the first case, my client had been in a process of self-exploration even before coaching. I came in to a field that was tilled and ready for planting. In the second case, my client was just beginning to explore some feelings of wanting to have a bigger impact in the world. I was part of tilling that field, but it needed more before it was ready to plant.

Wherever we meet people on their path, and whatever impact we have as coaches, healers, etc., I hold it all as aspects of transformation, whether it seems so at the time or not. And this is a messy, unpredictable, unquantifiable and ultimately gloriously human process.

Four Ways to Parent Above the Line

In honor of the start of the 2017-2018 school year, yourcoachingbrain is taking a break from coaching to focus on the challenges of parenting. 

teenagers1Maybe it’s the start of another school year or the fact that my son at age 21 is now “officially” an adult, but I have been thinking a lot about parenting lately. Particularly in terms of how we both survived – and even thrived – during his teenage years.

And we didn’t have the easiest time at first, to be honest. At age 13 he went through an international move and his parent’s divorce. One day we’re living on 50 acres overlooking the Pacific ocean in Costa Rica and he’s going to a six-student supervised home school, and the next we’re back in Minnesota and he’s starting eighth grade at a huge junior high and splitting his time between two suburban houses with parents trying to figure out the next chapter of their own lives. Whew.

It wasn’t, shall we say, smooth sailing. My son and I bickered and yelled at each other, we hurt each other’s feelings, and we all too often missed the point of what the other really needed and was asking for. Understandable in a young teen, but I wanted to do better as an adult. And yet, it seemed no one could trigger me quite like he could, and I would lose my cool again and again. I was NOT being the mom I wanted to be and I wasn’t proud of myself. Nor did I find I was enjoying parenting—my son and I had always been incredibly close, and now I couldn’t figure out how to connect. A likable, easy-going kid had turned unpredictable and often volatile. Luckily, about this time, I started studying neuroscience, understanding the brain, and slowly (very slowly, to be honest) seeing a way forward. Here are few things I learned.

1) Don’t Expect Teenagers to Be Rational. Except When They Are. During the teenage and young adult years the highest brain, the prefrontal cortex, is finishing its development. Neural connections are being strengthened, and pathways deemed less important or unnecessary are pruned so that signal strength is stronger in others. (Hormonal surges play a role in this, not only in the development of secondary sex characteristics.)

I think of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as the executive director of the brain. It doesn’t run everything, but it manages and/or connects to many of our most critical functions. For example, a fully “online” PFC is capable of thinking things through, delaying gratification, remembering things, holding abstractions, and understanding how others think and feel.

For a teenager and young adult with a developing PFC, two things happen. One, some of these things may not yet be really operational, and in my own experience (note, this is anecdotal, I haven’t researched it), it goes in rough categories. On the one hand, some kids tend to get the empathy side of things while the logical planning and thinking things through eludes them longer. This was my own experience. I had difficulty making and following plans or focusing on long-term goals until my mid to late 20s. But I could understand others from a much younger age and was the go-to “counselor” with family and friends even before I hit my teen years. On the other hand, some have real focus and ability to work towards long term goals early on, while connection to feelings (their own and others) may be less developed. This was my son, who decided in eighth grade he would be valedictorian and never wavered from that academic path (and so he was, by the way). But when I asked him at 14 how he felt about moving from Costa Rica, he literally responded, “What are these feelings of which you speak?” However, later in his teen years he began have a deeper understanding of his friends, and now we regularly talk about how he feels.

The second thing that happens is that the process of developing these aspects is erratic. One day they may exhibit great concern for and interest in you, the next be totally and completely self-focused. One day they may rationally and logically plan for their future and the next do a completely stupid and self-destructive thing.

And so one of the things that really helped me as a parent is not to expect my son to be at a different place developmentally than where he was – and to have a great deal of patience with the up and down nature of this. In other words, frame my expectations for who he was being in the moment, with the understanding that it was like a spring weather system in Minnesota, highly changeable. So take an umbrella just in case.

Visit here for more on the prefrontal cortex. 

2) If You Honor Their Brilliance it’s Easier to Share Your Wisdom. The paradoxical thing about our wonderful prefrontal cortices is that at the same time they in the late stages of development, they are also at their best. The neural connections are fresh and there are more of them. Thinking in new ways is natural, because the pathways we establish with repetition and reward are not as well-worn as they are in later years. And so, it is natural that powerfully creative and innovative thinking comes from young people. This deserves to be nurtured, celebrated, expected and rewarded.

I think of the countless deep conversations I had with my son during his high school years. One of the parenting blessings of being trained as a coach was the ability to listen with curiosity and ask questions that helped him understand his own thinking, rather than jumping in with my solution. There were times I could almost literally see the neurons firing and connecting in his brain as he pondered some important issue out loud and I managed to restrain myself and really listen. As I realized more and more his capacity for subtle thinking, I even brought him challenges I was encountering in my neuroscience studies and was astounded by his ability to help me make sense of things. His neurons were often simply quicker and more creative than mine!

At the same time, there is an important role for the wisdom we accumulate through experience. We learn, for example, that much of life isn’t black and white, that emotions tend to rule logic, and that humans are endlessly complex. I found that the more I honored and respected my son’s brilliance, the more open he was to my wisdom. One of the ways I know we got through the teenage years ok is that he now calls me from college to get my perspective and advice. Yay!

Visit here for more on neuroplasticity.

3) Design Your Relationship (When You Are Both Calm). My son and I had a really bad dynamic when he was about 14 and 15. He’d get upset and angry about something and I would react. We’d both go to a state that Dan Goleman (of emotional intelligence fame) dubs an “amygdala hijack.” In other words, both of our PFCs would be very much offline, and all that was available to either of us was fight, flight, or freeze. It didn’t matter at that point whether his upset was rational, we were just two reactions bumping against each other. My son tends to be a fighter by nature, while I am more of a fleer. This sometimes meant him following me around the house trying his best to engage me in an argument while I just wanted to get the heck away. It was, to be honest, awful.

Because of my neuroscience studies, at some point I realized what was actually happening and that I could do nothing productive in the middle of the hijack. So one day when we were at dinner and all was calm and connected, I said, “You know, hon, sometimes it seems like we get into a bad dynamic and I get triggered and reactive. When this happens, my natural response is to want to get away, and I sense this is frustrating for you because you want to talk to me about something. But if you can give me ten minutes or so to calm down, I think I can talk about whatever it is you want to discuss. Could we try this?” (My idea was, of course, that in the time I was on my own calming down, he would be as well, but this framing of the issue as mine would be easier for him to take than me pointing a finger at his reactive state.)

This changed everything for us. Not right away, and not perfectly, because we would still both get triggered, but it gave us a tiny handhold on the mountain to pull ourselves up to a higher state. I’d remind him of our agreement as calmly as I could (not at all calmly in the beginning) and he’d persist a bit, but over time he started to let go more and more quickly. It sometimes helped when I reiterated that I WOULD discuss whatever he was upset about, I just needed a few minutes.

Funny thing is, I actually don’t remember ever actually talking about the issue, because I guess by the time we both got our PFCs back online, there really wasn’t one.

Visit here for more on having an amygdala hijack. 

4) Be the Person You Want Face in the Mirror. Your young person’s brain is wiring in patterns for life, and part of creating this wiring is how the people around them respond. If you can work (and work and work) at remaining reasonably calm in the midst of stress and their age-appropriate irrationality, lack of preparation, self-focus and poor decisions, you help their brains wire for emotional intelligence.

To me, this is a thoughtful balance of speaking up, letting go, and trust. When my son was unkind I did my best to say “it’s not ok to talk to me like that,” or some version thereof, and then let it go, trusting that this was part of his development. Same with other developmental areas, such as thinking ahead. When he got stuck his sophomore year without a summer job, I did my best to first help him find some sort of solution, then worked with him around what would have been a better strategy so that he had more conscious awareness for the next year, let it go and helped him financially that summer, and trusted he would develop this skill. The next year I just checked in a couple of times and when it was clear he had really learned from the past year, told him I was proud of him and let it go.

The speaking up honors my own values and keeps me active in the game. It also serves as a reminder of where we want the neural patterning to develop. The letting go honors where the young person is and what they are capable of right now, and the trust honors that what is happening is a developmental process.

One caveat to all of this parenting is that not all brains are what we would call “neurotypical.” Humans come with a wide array of challenges and gifts, and parenting some kids is honestly harder than others. But they all have things to help us discover in our own development as well. I often would refer to my son as my Zen master, especially during those early high school years. People would think I meant he was very calm and wise. “No,” I’d say, “he’s more like one of those Zen masters who hit you over the head with a 2×4 and see how you respond. He is master of teaching me patience, perspective and love.”

He’s also one of my most favorite human beings in the world, and I am ever grateful for what I’ve learned with, from and because of him.

 

BEabove Leadership offers a two-day communication workshop, the Seven Levels Human Relationships Program, focused on increasing connection and decreasing stress in all relationships. We offer practical tools for all relationships (business, romantic and family and friends) based on neuroscience and the Seven Levels of Effectiveness. Join us in the San Francisco December 9 and 10, 2017, and Ottowa Canada spring 2018. http://www.beaboveleadership.com/seven-levels-human-relationships-program/