ET-028: A Neuroscience Peek Into Seven Levels of Effectiveness
ET-028: A Neuroscience Peek Into Seven Levels of Effectiveness
by Wayne Brown on January 3, 2023
by Wayne Brown on January 3, 2023
Episode notes: A conversation with Ms. Ann Betz
Welcome to the first of episode for the New Year 2023. Seasons greeting to all. In our episode today, our destination is Santa Fe, New Mexico, a wonderfully historic location and launching point for many great adventures. I was fortunate enough to go there not long before the lock down towards the end of 2019 and loved the city and surrounding countryside.
Today we are talking about leadership as usual, however with the brain in focus and a special look into a model containing seven levels of personal, group and organizational effectiveness – you’ll find a copy of the model available for free on the website of our guest Ms Ann Betz.
If you have an interest in Neuroscience and the ways our brain functions in a variety of situations then you will really enjoy this episode. Ann and her colleagues have done some great work exploring the topic of consciousness and tying it back to leadership, coaching and a number of other fascinating areas.
Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…
“…I’ve always been really, really interested in since I was a philosophy major as an undergraduate, I have been fascinated by what I would call human development or human consciousness. Really, it’s the answer to the question of, why do some people go through life with a certain amount of ease?”
Today’s Guest: ANN BETZ
Our guest is Ms. Ann Betz, the co-founder of BEabove Leadership, an international speaker and trainer on the intersection of neuroscience, coaching and human transformation.
Ann is a certified professional co-active coach and a master neuro-transformational coach. In 2011, Ann studied neuroscience at the graduate level, and using this fascinating research in 2012, co-developed and is a senior leader for BEabove Leadership’s popular training program for advanced coaches called Neuroscience, Consciousness and Transformational Coaching.
This program has been offered worldwide and is now available in an in-depth virtual format. Ann was a faculty member and served as a neuroscience consultant to the Coaches Training Institute for many years. She provides neuroscience leadership and coaching consulting to many other corporations and non-profits, including the International Coaching Federation.
A certified professional coach for more than 20 years, Ann contributes to Choice Magazine, Coaching at Work, Coaching World, the ICF and the CTI’s blogs and other coaching and HR publications. She is the lead author of Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life, an Exploration of Consciousness, as well as the groundbreaking white paper on neuroscience for the International Coaching Federation, Coaching Competencies.
She is also a published poet, using her understanding of the brain and consciousness to bring to life the wonders of the human soul. Ann speaks internationally on neuroscience, leadership and coaching and occasionally has the opportunity to speak about poetry.
And she excels at making the complexities of the brain come to life with depth, humour and simplicity. Ann focuses on so many areas of my own interest and I’m thrilled to be able to bring her as our guest onto the ET Project podcast. Please ready yourself as we launch into 2023 with this episode titled A Neuroscience Peek into the Seven Levels of Effectiveness.
Final words from Ann Betz:
“I’m working a lot on this whole issue of sister organizations and systems, and if we can… Part of why I get really fascinated by dysfunctional systems is that I think it can help us create more functional ones.
And so we’re doing a webinar this winter called “The Truth About Narcissism at Work,” and really bringing in a lot of the research around, why does it stay so entrenched, and what is the research on the real cost, as I was mentioning, and what are the… Where should we be pointing ourselves in organizations, so that we can have healthier soup?
And that’s got me really excited, I think, ’cause people spend so much of their lives… And there’s that old saying, people don’t leave organizations, they leave bosses. There is way, way too much toxicity tolerated in organizations and I’d like to bring more light there and give people some sort of directions forward to move out of that.”
0:00:02.2 WB: Hello, I’m Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project as well as our first episode for the New Year, 2023. Seasons greeting to all. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. In our episode today, our destination is Santa Fe, New Mexico, a wonderfully historic location and launching point for many great adventures. Our guest is Ms. Ann Betz, the co-founder of BEabove Leadership, an international speaker and trainer on the intersection of neuroscience, coaching and human transformation. Ann is a certified professional co-active coach and a master neuro-transformational coach. In 2011, Ann studied neuroscience at the graduate level, and using this fascinating research in 2012, co-developed and is a senior leader for BEabove Leadership’s popular training program for advanced coaches called Neuroscience, Consciousness and Transformational Coaching. This program has been offered worldwide and is now available in an in-depth virtual format. Ann was a faculty member and served as a neuroscience consultant to the Coaches Training Institute for many years. She provides neuroscience leadership and coaching consulting to many other corporations and non-profits, including the International Coaching Federation.
0:01:39.1 WB: A certified professional coach for more than 20 years, Ann contributes to Choice Magazine, Coaching at Work, Coaching World, the ICF and the CTI’s blogs and other coaching and HR publications. She is the lead author of Integration: The Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life, an Exploration of Consciousness, as well as the groundbreaking white paper on neuroscience for the International Coaching Federation, Coaching Competencies. She is also a published poet, using her understanding of the brain and consciousness to bring to life the wonders of the human soul. Ann speaks internationally on neuroscience, leadership and coaching and occasionally has the opportunity to speak about poetry. And she excels at making the complexities of the brain come to life with depth, humour and simplicity. Ann focuses on so many areas of my own interest and I’m thrilled to be able to bring her as our guest onto the ET Project podcast. Please ready yourself as we launch into 2023 with this episode titled A Neuroscience Peek into the Seven Levels of Effectiveness.
0:03:00.4 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.
0:03:13.1 WB: All right, team ET, well, welcome to another week. And this week, we’re going to an area that we haven’t spoken about up until now on the show. And we’re going to be talking about the brain. And I have a wonderful guest, Ann Betz. Ann is sitting in Santa Fe, I believe, Ann. For me, it’s very early in the morning, but for you, it’s late afternoon. So, welcome to the ET Project, Ann. It’s going to be a fantastic conversation. My biggest challenge in this conversation is to keep us on track because this is such a broad topic. And what we’re going to be talking about in particular is a model around consciousness that Ann and her team have put together some years ago called “The seven levels of effectiveness.” And we’re going to dive into that and look at how this relates to you as a leader, as well as what the connection with this model is to neuroscience, or how we can connect neuroscience to this model might be a better way of putting it. So, Ann, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you here.
0:04:22.7 AB: Yeah, thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s so fun how we get to connect across the world.
0:04:28.7 WB: So I’m sitting in Shanghai at the moment and you’ve been a visitor to China over the years. But things have changed in the last couple of years with the pandemic and our lives are all different. So, would be wonderful to catch up if you ever come back over.
0:04:44.4 AB: I will. For sure, I will definitely if I come back.
0:04:48.3 WB: So maybe as a lead in, Ann, what got you into this whole field? You’re a coach for the last 20 odd years, I guess. And then you moved into neuroscience. What’s the background there?
0:05:02.0 AB: Oh, it’s a great question. So, yeah, I’ve been a coach since 2001. And I’ve taught coaching at every level, from beginning to advanced, worked for coaching school, run my own advanced coaching school now with my partner. But the thing that I’ve always been really, really interested in since I was a philosophy major as an undergraduate, I have been fascinated by what I would call human development or human consciousness. Really, it’s the answer to the question of, why do some people go through life with a certain amount of ease? And I don’t mean the ease of taking advantage of people. I mean, really living their lives in a way that other people around them just naturally want to engage with them and in a healthy way, and why other people struggle so much? Is it just random? Is it just fate? Is it karma? Or is there a way that we could kind of understand this? And so, that’s my bigger project in life, I think, since I was 17 years old and was studying philosophy and going, what is the being… What is being? [chuckle] What is it? Who are we? So neuroscience really originally was something…
0:06:20.1 AB: So, we have developed a model, as you mentioned, called the Seven Levels of Effectiveness, very powerful model, but it was not grounded in science as we developed it. It was developed more intuitively and from our experience working with people and from a lot of people who were writing on the subject. And I like to say, it’s a great model, but we couldn’t get arrested. So either people were like, “Yeah, that’s great.” Or they were like, “Yeah, you have fun with that nice, little model.” And I thought, “No, I need a way to be able to meet the skepticism that actually… ” because our model says, honestly, the way to success, the road to success is through the heart, is through operating with integrity, operating from truth. It is not through manipulation. And I wanted to ground that scientifically. I wanted there to be no argument. I mean, I think one of the cooking show, he’ll talk about, “Okay, this is a jalapeno smackdown.” You know, I wanted a neuroscience smackdown [laughter] like, “This is how it is. This is how we work.” Because if I can give you the science behind it, maybe there’s more motivation and less resistance to being able to do the hard work of becoming that person. That’s a long answer.
0:07:49.9 WB: It’s insightful because one of the things that I find challenging as a coach myself is to use models that are evidence based and that have some grounding particularly in science. And I think the whole popularity of neuroscience over the last 20, 30 years has started to open up this field where there’s a lot of, let’s say, things spoken about that may not be real, or may not be true. And as we learn more, we somehow debunk some of those things. And it’s great that you’ve made that connection between your model and neuroscience.
0:08:32.9 AB: Well, yeah, I mean, I’ve got a million things to say but one of the things I’ll say is that what has happened to me is if somebody says to me, “This is how it is,” you know, 20 years ago, I would have said, “Okay,” and now I’m like, “Yeah, says who? What’s the research on that? Like, really?” The other thing that I’ll tell you, so where coaching comes in is, so I started studying neuroscience about 12, 13 years ago. And by the way, what is interesting is there wasn’t the… It was not in the popular imagination 12 years ago. It seems like it’s been around forever, but it really wasn’t. And if you look at the books published and the research of applying neuroscience to things like leadership, that really started maybe 15 years ago with a man called David Rock, another fellow Australian, founded something called the Neuro Leadership Institute. And it has not really been a conversation in the popular imagination very long.
0:09:39.4 AB: So I went because I wanted to figure out my model. But what immediately happened as I was in neuroscience studies in graduate school, what I started seeing was, this is an argument for coaching and no one, no one was looking at the classic things that we do in coaching and why they worked. And so there were a few of us at the time, a man out of Case Western Reserve University, and Richard Boyatzis is one of my colleagues, another woman named Amanda Blake, a few of us who were all saying, “Wait a minute, we’re doing this thing, it seems to really work for human beings. Why?” And so I’m really thrilled to have been kind of part of that wave, that very early wave of people taking classic coaching techniques and saying, “Can we map these to neuroscience?” So I’m kind of known in the coaching world for doing that, and not everybody knows that it actually came out of originally a fascination with consciousness.
0:10:40.1 WB: Yeah, it’s incredible. You mentioned two people there that I also enjoy following and reading through. When you and I first met, I had a little bit of foot in mouth disease [chuckle] and referred to one of your books that actually came from Amanda, so I…
0:11:04.9 AB: Yeah, [chuckle] I was flattered. I was like, “Give me credit for Mandy’s book,” but I do need to say you’re so excited right now. [chuckle] But no, she’s very impressive. Richard’s very impressive. There’s one of his colleagues as well who is not as well known, but will be. Richard, it will… I don’t know if he’ll ever retire, but he is getting older. And so the other colleague to follow is a man named Tony Jack, Anthony Jack. And Tony’s doing really good research as well and is kind of Richard’s heir in the…
0:11:35.1 WB: Oh really?
0:11:36.0 AB: Yeah, so he’s…
0:11:36.6 WB: I haven’t followed Anthony.
0:11:39.0 AB: He doesn’t… Yeah.
0:11:39.8 WB: I know Melvin Smith does some work with Richard as well. So I think we will touch on some of Richard’s work later…
0:11:49.2 AB: Yes, for sure.
0:11:49.7 WB: In our conversation with PEA and NEA discussion. But yeah, it’s a fascinating world. And as you say, it’s very new. And I know you have a statement that you like to use about qualifying and making sure that you have this, in brackets, this is the current status as we know it.
0:12:10.7 AB: Yeah. Well, one of the things, in fact, I have… I wrote a blog at one point around, how do we even speak about neuroscience? Tips for speaking about neuroscience. And I think this is true of any academic, you will hear this. But I’m always very careful in how I speak about it, because we can’t say absolutes. And in fact, what I say is anybody who is telling you absolutes, this… For example, here’s an absolute; The amygdala is the center of emotion in the brain. Uh-huh, it’s not. It is implicated in emotion. It plays a role in emotion. It is not the center of your emotions in your brain. It doesn’t take over. It’s much more subtle than that. And most things in neuroscience are. And so I believe any of us in speaking about this in order to be credible, we have to say, “often is involved in,” “is implicated in,” “studies seem to indicate,” you know, I’m very careful. And you and I were talking beforehand. One of the things I think it’s helpful for people to know is that neuroscience became the first center of neuroscience. And I think it was University of California, Irvine, was the first… Very first center was 1964.
0:13:27.1 AB: Standalone center of neuroscience where you could go study that. At Harvard was two years later. So, even Harvard in the United States didn’t have a neuroscience center until the late ’60s. So we’re looking at under 60 years that it has really been recognized as kind of a separate discipline. People were doing stuff before that. But as a field, I knew a woman. She was a coach who was at the very first ever gathering of neuroscientists. She was a neuroscientist and a coach. She’s dead now, but only in the last couple of years. So she was young enough to have been involved in that. So, young field. And then what we often talk about is brain scanning studies. There’s a lot of reasons why there’s some issues with that. But even then, we’ve only had the ability to do… They call it functional magnetic resonance imaging, which is a brain scan that’s looking at blood flow in the brain. We’ve only had the ability to do that for about 25 years. So, it’s all very young. What’s exciting about it is we sort of have a new way of looking at it, we’re learning new things every day. It’s a fascinating field if you like a lot of stimulation, ’cause there’ll always be something new. [chuckle]
0:14:54.3 WB: There is, and there’s a lot of old theories that are now being challenged and rewritten. And I know you follow Lisa Feldman Barrett and Lisa has this theory of constructed emotion. We won’t go into that ’cause that could be a whole separate discussion, but…
0:15:15.9 AB: We could do a whole hour just on Lisa’s theory, and actually have been able to work with her on some things with the International Coaching Federation over the years and actually brought her in to speak there. But it’s some of the simplistic ways that we have spoken, and I think you will hear this a lot in the emotional intelligence community and with people who have less of a deep understanding about neuroscience. You’ll hear some real neuro myths, which to some degree, are sort of okay, and to other degree… On the other hand, if we can start understanding things in a more subtle way, we actually get more accurate information and can work with it more effectively. So that’s part of what I love in this field is paying attention to, what are the myths, what’s the truth and how does this help us as we’re trying to develop as human beings?
0:16:16.2 WB: Yeah, well, with that basis, we better move into the model. Otherwise, we’ll run out of time before we even start talking about it. Let’s jump into the seven levels, and maybe if you could unpack the model first before we make the connection.
0:16:34.8 AB: Yeah. And maybe we can link in the show notes there. We have them on our website, translated into, I don’t know, eight or nine different languages, something like that.
0:16:43.5 WB: Absolutely.
0:16:44.0 AB: So, we call it the seven levels of effectiveness because it’s an easier word sometimes for people to get their head around than consciousness or anything like that. But truly, it’s about, how present am I? How aware am I? Am I bringing energy to life? Am I taking energy from life? And it was originally inspired by people who were doing work in the field of human consciousness, levels of consciousness, not sort of consciousness from the state of like, “How awake are we?” But it’s really at what level are we bringing our being to life? It’s a little woo woo way of saying it. So, what we have come up with is… Seven is a fairly easy number to remember, so we have seven that we work with. I like to say it’s a model. It is not the only model. It’s a way of looking at increasing ability to move through life with grace and ease. So, I will talk about what the levels are, but I want to say one of my students only fairly recently said, “Well, what is your definition of effectiveness?” And I thought, “Well, that’s a fair question.” [chuckle] I think I probably should be able to answer that, because I have this model. So, I said, “So my definition of effectiveness is, less effort, more results.” And isn’t that what every leader wants, Wayne? Like, less effort, more results?
0:18:20.2 WB: I would like that, definitely. [chuckle] Yeah, I think that’s fairly safe ground.
0:18:27.0 AB: Less effort, more results. So the model has three levels that we call “below the line.” And they are levels that you can get results, but there’s going to be a tremendous amount of effort. And they may not be long-lasting results. And the whole model, we use words because words are easy to remember, but it is like an increase in light, an increase in energy as we go from one to seven. Now, using words like light and energy, you can see why I wanted to ground this scientifically, because it’s sort of like, “What the heck is even that?” So let me tell you what they are and then we could talk about what the scientific grounding is. So the three that we start… We start with hopelessness, and then fear, and then frustration. The least energy being in hopelessness, slightly more in fear, slightly more in frustration. But these levels, which each have their own biochemical state, are going to mean that life is going to take much more effort for any sort of result. And the result that you get may be very short term. So, you can act out of anger and frustration.
0:19:50.0 AB: Those are some of the energy that goes along with that third level of frustration. And you can threaten people and they’ll do what you say. You threaten people enough with something that’s important to them, they’ll do what you say, but they won’t keep doing it unless you keep saying it. It’s like, you can get anybody to do anything you want them to do with a gun to their head, most part, but they won’t keep doing it when you take the gun away.
0:20:13.1 WB: It’s somewhat of a negative energy that you’re dispelling or pushing out, right?
0:20:18.5 AB: Absolutely. That’s why you have to use more of it. You can have an organization that operates from fear, but it’s going to take a lot of effort and you’re going to spend a lot of effort around protecting yourself. And I have a joke and it may not be that much of a joke, but you can tell the level of effectiveness of an organization by how thick their HR manual is. The thicker the manual, the lower the level of effectiveness. Now, that’s a little counterintuitive. [chuckle] Tell me what you think of that.
0:20:51.2 WB: Oh, I love it. [chuckle] I’m just picturing my company. So I can’t go there, but even the more policies and the more governance that’s in place, the more fingerprint machines to sign into and sign out of work.
0:21:08.7 AB: Totally. Because what it’s showing is how much fear there is and how little trust there is. And so we go through the hopelessness, there’s very little energy there at all. Fear, a little more energy, but you’re trying to protect yourself. And so, the hopelessness is you can’t even see a positive future. You’ve kind of given up. Organizations do not survive who are in hopelessness. That’s like the last thing that happens before they implode. Fear, there’s a little more of that frenetic energy, and the definition of that is you want to protect yourself against loss, attack, disappointment. You’re trying to protect. A little more energy there. Frustration, you’re fighting, you’re fighting and jockeying for position. And it’s all about who gets the bigger piece of the pie and who can get this. That’s why we call it frustration. But there’s a lot more energy there.
0:22:07.3 AB: There’s some… Oh, by the way, I would say there’s a huge percentage of organizations in the world that are operating from frustration, thinking that’s the only way, thinking that’s the way. So then…
0:22:19.7 WB: Could you add in the word “politics” into that? Would that fall into that category as well?
0:22:26.4 AB: Yeah, politics, almost all politics. Yeah, it’s fighting. It’s about fighting against other people. And it’s not like fighting for something positive, which might be more in courage, but it’s against. Everything is “us and them.” And so there’s always a foe. There’s a right and a wrong. And it takes a lot of energy. And obviously, and you and I know this from being in this field, if I’m everybody, I’m losing potential, interesting, helpful perspectives. I’m losing voices that may need to be heard. Everybody is demonized. And you can get people riled up from that, but they’re not sustainable. And so there’s a wonderful quote, Martin Luther King said it. It’s not his and I can’t remember who said it, but it is, “The arc of human history is long, but I do believe it bends toward justice.” And I’m even looking at some of the people who have lived in a very aggressive, controlling way. Harvey Weinstein, for example, comes to mind, all based on threats and control. Well, look what happened to him. It took a while, but that is someone who operated out of frustration, who ultimately paid the price.
0:23:47.9 AB: And I take a very long view. When people say, “Look at someone who’s had this success or that success,” or in our country, “Look at Donald Trump.” And I say, “Yeah, but right now we’re watching Donald Trump implode.” Fingers crossed, I’m just going to go political for a moment. But I watch people like this who operate in very underhanded, devious ways that I would associate with the field of frustration, and I think, “This is not sustainable. Something will happen.” We sometimes have to have patience and fight against it. So should we talk about the above-the-line levels? I know we don’t have endless time.
0:24:27.9 WB: Yeah, sure, let’s do that. I was just going to ask you the question before you move into that. So in psychology, they talk about the dark triad, the toxic leadership. So I can imagine that this fits within this realm of negativity and this whole area you’re talking about. Yeah?
0:24:46.5 AB: Yeah, I have a fascination and an expertise in narcissism and sociopathy and psychopathy as well. I teach a program in that. And I would say yeah. And actually, how we started… One of the ways we started doing that is I was researching what are the correlates with these below-the-line levels? And we know that the key wound of a narcissist, for example, is shame, which is the lowest level. It correlates with our level of hopelessness. And so, yeah, when people are… For whatever reason, sometimes it’s genetically, sometimes it’s early childhood trauma and abuse, but they are unable to operate in an above-the-line way. Much of the time, you could label them narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, Machiavellians, things like that. And that is certainly often the impact that they have. So, yes, for sure.
0:25:45.6 WB: Very good. And so, before you move above the line, do you want to connect the neuroscience to that, or are you going to come back to the neuroscience?
0:25:52.8 AB: Yeah, I can. And they go together. And so, what I would say is, the fundamental thing we have found in our search for, what is the neuroscience of this model? Like, is there a way to validate this? Is this just some spiritual model that doesn’t have anything? The main thing that we found is something that is really proposed by a psychiatrist and researcher named Dr. Dan Siegel, and his… I’m trying to remember his… It’s going to come to me. He’s got so many books. He’s got a brand new one out now. He’s really considered maybe one of the founders of the field that they call Interpersonal Neurobiology. Brilliant man, one of the great minds of our time. And he proposes a definition of integration, that integration is things that are differentiated, separate and linked. And what we started finding in our work is that the… Very simply, sort of very simple and also endlessly complex, is that when you are in these below-the-line states, you are increasingly disintegrated.
0:27:12.8 AB: So, the parts of your being are not able to either connect with each other or monitor and modify each other, like restrict each other. So you may find someone… So, for example, two hemispheres of the brain, they were not really right brained or left brained as most people who have any understanding of neuroscience know. However, they process the world differently. And that can have huge implications for how we deal with people and the situations around us. And so if you have someone who is not as good at being integrated between their right and left brain, what ends up happening is, situationally, one can be over activated. So you may have someone, the left hemisphere is very good at looking at details, looking at what is useful and utilitarian, ’cause it processes the details, right hemisphere processes the big picture. If the left hemisphere gets over activated, people just occur to you as whether they’re useful or not. That is not a recipe for building really good, collaborative relationships. So, that might be an example. But we wouldn’t say that that person may be… It could just be situationally, another situation. It could be that the right hemisphere takes over.
0:28:41.5 AB: But what’s happening is they’re not connected enough that they can lean into each other and kind of keep going in a forward, steady state. So the more we go above the line, what ends up happening is integration increases. We get more connection and we get more ability to, again in Dan Siegel’s words, “Monitor and modify.” By the way, right and left hemisphere is only one example of one area of integration. We need to be integrated between what our body is telling us and what our brain is processing. You know, that’s another area. I need to be able to listen to the messages of my body, but also calm myself down. So there’s a whole bunch of different ways that we need to be integrated. But fundamentally, the more below the line you are, the less integrated you are, the more above the line, the more integrated you are. And we’ve been looking into this for 10 years and I’ve been looking at all the research I can find, and I would say 90% of what takes us to higher states is our level of integration.
0:29:55.0 WB: So if I’m a leader… And I’m just trying to think about this in a practical context now. If I’m a leader and I know that members of my team operate below the line in certain circumstances, how would I address this? Like, what could I do as a leader to try and overcome this situation or help this person?
0:30:20.2 AB: Right. Well, I mean, so there’s… Of course, ’cause as I said before, I’m always very careful how I speak about things. So my first answer to that is, well, it depends. And this is why we train coaches in neuroscience so that if you’re a leader and I’m your executive coach, we may look at maybe… For example, maybe you feel like sometimes you’re operating below the line. Well, we’re going to look at, well, what aspect of you is not as well integrated? What part of you is taking over when it should be working more in harmony with other parts of you? Same is true for direct reports. What part of them might be dominating and other part of them might be underdeveloped? So, one way of looking at this is, are you as a leader in terms of your team, helping them pay equal attention to the being and the doing? And we are… In most of the world, we reward the doing and we ignore the being. And what will really create solid teams, solid results, good customer relations, sort of everything you want, is paying attention to both of those aspects. So as a leader, that is one place that I will often point people, is, are you attending to the being and doing of your team?
0:31:52.5 AB: And is there an area where they might need to grow? But what can you do with your team? It’s like, well, first of all, let’s figure out what it is that’s a mess.
0:32:02.6 WB: Sure. And as I was asking the question, I realized it’s a very broad base that I was coming from. So I study systemic coaching, so in systemic coaching, we talk about systemic thinking, systemic being and systemic doing, or doing and being. So, how do you define being? What do you mean by “focus on the being?”
0:32:29.0 AB: Well, so how I think about it… Maybe it’s better to talk about how I think about it from a neuroscience perspective.
0:32:35.5 WB: Sure.
0:32:35.8 AB: So, one key way that I think about it, we were talking about Richard Boyatzis earlier, and this is a lot of his work, is that one of the things we’re getting out of in neuroscience is this idea of location-specific behavior. “This part of your brain makes you do that,” because more of what we’ve seen is, I like to say the brain is a system of systems. It’s a whole bunch of systems. And there are two systems in the brain, two networks in the brain that operate in opposition to each other. In other words, the more one is activated, the less the other is activated. One of the very much focuses is activated when we’re focused on task, when we’re doing something, when we’re thinking about something, we’re making goal-directed planning, keeps us very much in the present moment, actually gives us that wonderful flow state.
0:33:32.2 AB: And that’s called the Task Positive Network. And it’s really… It’s great, but it has its limitations. And one of its limit… And the limit… So we might think of this as doing and being. So doing, I’m in the task positive network. I’m clicking things off, short term memory, all of that. We might think of the other one more as the being network. Its technical term is the default mode network. And Richard Boyatzis calls it the social network, because one of the things that network gives us is understanding other people. So, if you can ever think about times when you’ve been very focused on a task and somebody wants to disrupt you or connect to you, kind of like… I don’t know if you’re like me, I have gotten in trouble with this, I will be so focused on task, I don’t care about anybody. And I actually care a lot about people, just not in that moment. And so, the being, I think… Other things this network does is helps us focus on meaning, helps us have real inspirational moments. It plays a role in intuition.
0:34:47.6 AB: It is not the only thing that plays a role in intuition, but it does. So it’s kind of a softer focus. It helps us with introspection, “Who am I? What do I care about?” Understanding other people’s motivations. So we can think of this default mode network as the place where we understand others and ourselves and the bigger purpose of what we’re doing. And so that might be one way to think about being. It’s also the place that we get motivated. We don’t get… It motivates us to do the tasks. But if you don’t tap into this default mode and you just want people to do the tasks, they will run out of steam. Think of it as putting gas in the tank. But if you talk to your team about, “Here’s this project, what’s exciting to you about it? What do you want… What could you learn if you did this? What’s the contribution you’d like to make and how will that help you in your career? And how can we work best together as a team as we’re doing this?” You can even have a short conversation about that.
0:35:57.7 AB: You’re going to have gassed-up cars ready to go, versus just like, “Okay, everybody, here’s the task.” Does that make sense, Wayne, how I’m talking about that?
0:36:06.6 AB: Absolutely. So it comes back to this whole social preferences mindset that we’re learning more about, that we are more social animals and our default mode is to be socially connected. So, I fully understand. So I cut you off multiple times now in talking about your model. So far…
0:36:29.4 AB: Oh, I should probably finish the above the line. So basically, we have them in seven buckets. But just think of it as an increase in energy. And you come to a certain point where you come to this line, and the next level… There’s four above and three below. The next level is courage. And that’s when we’re willing to take a stand against previously held or disempowering beliefs and actions and we’re willing to try something. Then we go… And so that’s great. You know, you’re really… You’re ready to go. But it’s not enough energy that it’s totally easy yet. It’s like the doorway. Then we go to this level of engagement, and in engagement, what’s possible becomes more important than what’s not possible, and you’re more willing to kind of live and let live, focus more on what this person can do than what they can’t. It’s kind of about assets and strengths. And it’s a really solid level. And when I do organizational consulting and training, that’s where I want organizations to get to, because I think it is the sustainable level.
0:37:43.5 AB: There’s two more above, but… Let me tell you what they are, and I’ll tell you why they’re hard to impossible to reach, although you can in pockets. And I encourage that. So, the next level is innovation, and in order to be there… Now, we talk a lot about innovation and people would be like, “Oh, like Google.” And I’m like, “I’ve known people who worked at Google…
0:38:05.2 WB: [chuckle] Not so much.
0:38:07.3 AB: Not always felt that great to work there.” So I am not talking about creating the next product, I’m talking about, what does it really take to be in this profoundly creative space? Here is what it takes. You have to be willing to set aside your ego, which means you have to know what your ego is, where it gets involved and be able to consciously park it. The reason why I don’t see organizations reach innovation as much as they’d like to tell you they are is it would require personal work on everyone involved to be able to set their egos aside. That is a rare, rare state. And generally, people get triggered and they want credit and they don’t want this other person to get ahead and they feel like there’s a limit to success. And so, in order to really be there, it takes some deep, personal work. I have seen teams that operate in innovation, and I will tell you, if you’ve ever been on a team like that, there is just no greater heaven on Earth. ‘Cause people say, “That’s a great idea. What about this?” I just had a team meeting with my team and we can sometimes get there and everybody’s like, “Yeah. Okay, well, so tell me why that might not work.” “Oh, that’s great. That’s a great point. Okay.” And we come up with these brilliant ideas and nobody cares whose idea it was.
0:39:29.0 WB: So you’re really operating in this zone of psychological safety and all these areas…
0:39:35.7 AB: Absolutely. And you’re very aware of being able to link all the parts of your being, be very integrated, be able to understand… Watch yourself… You develop a greater capacity to be an observer and go, “Oh… ” like today in my team. And I’m not saying we’re always there and I’m not always there. But today, we did have a really great meeting. And I have an idea about something I think we should do in my business, and the conversation sort of went a different direction. And I’m like, “You know what? That thing, that’s gotten resolved… ” I don’t need to bring that idea up. Doesn’t matter. We’ve moved past it and this is a better resolution. It wasn’t my idea, I don’t care. It’s more important that a good solution be found than that it be mine. Most people aren’t capable of that. And you want to get a team to innovation, help people do the personal work where they care more about the enterprise than they do about their own personal glory.
0:40:38.2 WB: What I find really interesting about that level that you’re talking about is, I talk about 21st century leadership, and this is a level where I believe 21st century leaders need to be able to get to. And for sure, it’s a struggle. As you say, you have to let go of ego, you have to really embrace this wholeness, empathetic approach. And it’s a challenge.
0:41:05.4 AB: And being able to be deeply empathetic, but also move things forward. And the research is pretty good on leaders that kind of do one or the other. Those are not your magical leaders, the leaders that can… I worked for a leader at one point. Lovely man. He was a wonderful friend. But whenever I would bring up… I worked in a nonprofit, an NGO. And every time I would have an innovative idea, he would say, “Oh, that’s sort of interesting, but I think we really need to check in with all the stakeholders.” And by the time we checked in with all the stakeholders, it was way too late to do anything. [chuckle] There was no ability to sort of assess, like, what’s the balance? What’s the integration between being aware of people’s opinions, but also being able to try something? And maybe not everybody’s happy and maybe that’s okay some of the time. So, that’s what I mean by integration there.
0:42:06.0 WB: Sure.
0:42:08.0 Speaker 3: The final level is synchronicity. And I think of this as a profoundly integrated level, someone who’s able to be an amazing observer of themselves and what’s going on. I do not know anyone on the planet who actually lives there. I think we can have moments where it really just feels magical. And I think that’s great. But I think anybody who says to me, “Oh, there’s this new leader and they live in synchronicity,” I think… I don’t know anybody. [laughter] I really don’t. I’ve looked at this a lot. I know some really good people, but anybody who actually came close to that would be the first person to tell you they’re not there. And anybody who would tell you they’re there is probably a narcissist.
0:42:57.6 WB: Very interesting, right.
0:43:02.0 AB: Well, because the self-awareness of saying, “No, I react sometimes and sometimes I don’t let go of my ego.” And by the way, each level includes every other level. So this isn’t like that old seven hats process where you look at things from seven different perspectives. This is an increase in energy. So in synchronicity, I am including everything, including the below-the-line levels. So, I’m including my ability to set aside ego, but even amping it up more and really operating from a profound sense of love and alignment. And I do see that when we can touch on that, that is when life just flows with very little effort. So, it’s aspirational. It’s an aspirational level.
0:43:53.0 WB: We need aspirations to…
0:43:53.6 AB: There you go, yeah.
0:43:58.3 WB: Focus towards. I was just thinking while you were talking there, I’m wondering how much from a neuroscience point of view, we have what we talk about in mirror neurons. And I’m just wondering how much mirror neurons play a role in getting to this higher state within a team context.
0:44:20.3 AB: Right. Well, so mirror neurons, for those who aren’t familiar, are neurons that fire… So many of the neurons in our brain are… The technical term is multimodal. So, it’s not just like… It’s like if I’m drinking from my cup, my neurons are firing, but yours are also firing as you watch me do an intentional action. Or, if I even told you about drinking from my cup, you may get cup-drinking neurons firing. If you’re a piano player and you watch someone play the piano, you can get neural firing of the same neurons. It’s fascinating. It’s one of the ways we learn. So mirror neurons exist in many different areas, including emotional where we’re experiencing someone’s emotions. It is one of the differentiators you were talking about, the dark triad, where probably the number one thing that you can point to with someone who’s highly narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic like that, is that they do not… Their mirror neurons do not… They have cognitive empathy, but not affective empathy, which really comes from feeling each other. So your question was, how do they operate? They operate all along.
0:45:40.2 AB: They’re kind of neutral. So this is why if you’ve got someone, particularly a person who has some degree of positional power, someone come in in a really bad mood or yell… The research says that if I yell at a direct report and others can hear it, it will disrupt everybody for half the day. Because they’ll be tracking it in their brain as if they’ve been yelled at. If you’ve got someone who’s very, very negative, they physiologically have an impact on the rest of the team. And if it’s the leader, that is amplified. So this is why I think if you’ve got someone who’s highly toxic in an organization, to me, my analogy for that is it’s like having spoiled meat in the soup. You can’t make that soup better until you get rid of that person. And largely, if they are highly, highly toxic, they’re probably not capable of being helped. And I hate to tell you that. It’s kind of the bad news in all of this. But organizations that are tolerating highly toxic, narcissistic, psychopathic behavior, you can’t train everybody else to feel good about it.
0:47:00.8 AB: I will tell you my line, and this is a line, I’ve used this before. So, I say a lot of team building training is trying to make the carrots happy when there’s toxic meat in the soup. [laughter]
0:47:09.7 WB: Wow, I’m going to have to use…
0:47:12.1 AB: You just can’t make the carrots happy enough. [chuckle]
0:47:14.5 WB: Can I use that…
0:47:15.3 AB: Sorry.
0:47:18.6 WB: [chuckle] I’m talking with a new client at the moment. I might have to use that. And if I can…
0:47:21.4 AB: I can’t make your carrots happy. You’ve got toxic meat in the soup. Get it out of there.
0:47:26.9 WB: Beautiful, beautiful.
0:47:27.8 AB: And part of it is, we are processing. And even if I’m not the target of being devalued or being insulted or being left out of things or many of the tactics that really toxic leaders can do, even if I’m not the target, I will still feel it from the folks around me. And then you’ll get a… You know this, get a very dysfunctional system of people either colluding or trying to do end runs around leadership or underperforming or presenteeism or literally getting sick. And so I’ve just come to the belief that, move them on, move them out.
0:48:10.6 WB: We tend not to, is the problem.
0:48:13.6 AB: We tend not to. We have a false perception that they are somehow financially beneficial to the organization. I want to say one other thing about mirror neurons in the positive, but I want to just give you one other resource, a resource for everyone. There’s a Stanford business professor by the name of Jeffrey Pfeffer. He’s P-H-E-F-F-E-R, and he has a wonderful book called Dying for a Paycheck. And in this book, he looks at the real cost of toxic organizations, and he makes a compelling argument for, you can’t justify having a toxic organization. As much as you may think the pressure and the stress is actually getting you more, if you really look at the numbers, it will be getting you less. So, it’s good stuff, it’s good stuff.
0:49:06.6 WB: Nice. Please.
0:49:08.8 AB: So, let me just say… So mirror neurons, so as we were talking about, is focusing on the negative. But also, it’s true in the positive, so that when you do have a leader and a team that is self reflective, that is vulnerable, that talks about how they feel about things, all of this spreads. And years ago, and you’re probably familiar with this, Wayne, there was an article called… I think it’s a Harvard Business Review called Leaders Shape the Weather. And you can shape a sunny day or a stormy day by who you are being, has a huge impact on the organization. And people will entrain with your emotional state. The larger percentage will, not everyone. There are people who are sort of impervious to it, but for the most part, people will. And if you model vulnerability, authenticity, care and concern, people feel that as well and will model on that.
0:50:14.0 WB: What’s got you excited or interested at the moment? Are you working on anything new, or what are you doing at the moment?
0:50:21.6 AB: I’m working a lot on this whole issue of sister organizations and systems, and if we can… Part of why I get really fascinated by dysfunctional systems is that I think it can help us create more functional ones. And so we’re doing a webinar this winter called The Truth About Narcissism at Work, and really bringing in a lot of the research around, why does it stay so entrenched, and what is the research on the real cost, as I was mentioning, and what are the… Where should we be pointing ourselves in organizations, so that we can have healthier soup? [chuckle] And that’s got me really excited, I think, ’cause people spend so much of their lives… And there’s that old saying, people don’t leave organizations, they leave bosses. There is way, way too much toxicity tolerated in organizations and I’d like to bring more light there and give people some sort of directions forward to move out of that.
0:51:30.4 WB: When is the webinar?
0:51:32.3 AB: It’s in February, and it’s on my website.
0:51:33.3 WB: February. Oh, great, great. So, that’s a good segue. So, where do people connect with you?
0:51:40.3 AB: www.beabove, B-E, and then the word “above,” like, “be above the line,” beaboveleadership.com. And yeah, we’ve got a webinar coming up and it’s available to anyone in an organization. You don’t need to be a coach at all. And then we also do training for coaches. So, it’s all on my website.
0:52:00.3 WB: Yeah, you have a number of different programs, I see. I was looking into one of them this morning, so you may find me enlisted at some stage. [chuckle] And it’s been a fantastic conversation. We’ve scratched the surface on so much that we could have gone deeper into. We may have to get back together again in a few months and talk more about different things.
0:52:23.5 AB: That’d be great.
0:52:24.2 WB: But it’s been wonderful having you on the show, on the ET Project. Ann Betz, thank you very much for your time and I wish you all the best with your continued research and study into this field. It’s fascinating.
0:52:37.9 AB: Thank you so much and thank you for having me. It’s been a really fun conversation.
0:52:43.9 Speaker 2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, ebooks, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.