Bev 6.0 A journey of growth and grace

Bev 6.0 A journey of growth and grace

2024 is the start of my sixth decade and I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the extraordinary journey that has brought me here. I love the changing of the decades for so many reasons. It has been my experience that each has its own wisdom and energy, and I look forward to what this new adventure will bring. 

 Over the years, many people have asked me when I will share my story and I have often threatened to write a book called “Strong Woman Syndrome” amongst others. If I could be given a gift, it would be for a year’s sabbatical to write and reflect. Life, however, has other ideas, so I thought I would use this year for those who would like to come with me to share some of the lessons I have learned on this journey called life. For those of you who know me you will recognise this quote:

 “To live will be an awfully big adventure.” 

 These words, spoken by J.M. Barrie in Peter Pan, encapsulate the essence of my 50s—a decade of exploration, exponential growth, and boundless possibility.  It was the decade where I crystalised my leadership focus, graduated with my second masters, started and then intentionally gave up my PhD. I had my proudest moments as a mom with my boys who have loved, lost, won and learned and who have been my greatest teachers. stepped on to the global stage, established my second home in the UK and painted my first artwork.  I remember sharing at a conference that one of my keys to success has been putting myself in rooms I don’t belong – and then belonging.  It was the decade that I finally recognised that I am enough!

From the feature picture, you will see two themes that have been part of my story. The first is my MG sports car, Marylin who symbolises freedom, adventure, and the delicate balance between work and life. She reminds me that every moment is precious, and life is meant to be lived to the fullest. She is waiting for me in South Africa and preparing for our next road trip.

For me, butterflies are symbols of freedom, transcendence, agility and the infinite beauty and spirituality found in nature. The butterfly effect speaks of an impact that is felt on the other side of the world. Like the butterfly, I have undergone profound transformations, shedding limiting beliefs and embracing new possibilities. I have transcended from being a shy, awkward child to a single mom with no experience or qualifications to living my best life, with all of its ups and downs, on a global stage. Whilst this may sound romantic – growth is often painful and challenging. We learn who we are in the struggle and find joy in the times between basking in the sunlight. I have learned that I am both light and shadow, gloriously flawed, scarred and a little battered around the edges. That is OK, I have lived.

 In her own inimitable way, my friend Janice B Gordon role-modelled entry into this decade as not 60 but 6.0. And I love the idea of the next venture being an upgrade. And as the developer, I get to decide what gets included and left out of this version. It was also Janice who encouraged me to finally launch my new African Keynote. So, I will include the elephant matriarch as part of this story as I am learning so much from her about leading with strength and compassion, and leaving a legacy.

What Is A Conversation?

What Is A Conversation?

Conscious Conversation – The Building Blocks of Conversational Leadership

We thought a lack of information was the cause of our communication problems

– well, it is not that!

Despite a very noisy, omnichannel communication environment, we have a communication crisis. When I poll employees in organisations, their big ask is for more communication. Yet, paradoxically, when you look at the volume of information that is being shared, we have a communication overload.  Communication is often top-down and one-way, focusing on telling, where we talk AT rather than TO each other. When we transform formal communication into Conversational Leadership, our communication takes on a dynamic quality that builds connection and trust.  This article explores the architecture of a conversation and how it can be applied in every leadership conversation.

What is a conversation?

At its simplest, a conversation is an interactive exchange between two people or between two entities as we move deeper into the digital age.   At its best, it is a mutual exchange of ideas, sentiments, information, observations, and opinions. It seeks to create shared meaning in a continuous loop of speaking, listening and feedback. Conversations can be surface or casual interactions that could be described as chit-chat, gossip, more intimate tete-a-tete, more substantial dialogues or consultations. Conversation can include individual, group (team), community, and global dialogue.

The digital world has extended the concept of conversation, where we can have a conversation with a person, an entity or a machine. Conversations can occur along the full reality-virtual spectrum, including face-to-face or technology-mediated conversations, including video, voice and text. We can have these conversations in real time, which allows for a richer interaction and immediate feedback. We can have asynchronous conversations that we come to when we are ready to respond. As we move into the metaverse, we will be having conversations through an avatar which, in a sense, is almost a third-party conversation. AI seeks to mimic our conversations through the use of deep language processing. Whether we use it as a tool to build or destroy is a vital ethical conversation that requires that we raise the level of consciousness in our conversations?

“What we know is that Words Create Worlds. We do not describe the world we see – we see the world we can describe.”

Language is the Golden thread that structures our human interaction. It is the vehicle we use to create shared meaning in a conversation. The spoken language and our choice of words are the building blocks of our reality. The spoken word is either supported or contradicted by our non-verbal language and tone, which leads to a message that is congruent or not.

On a deeper level, it is a multi-sensory experience that uses all our senses to absorb and process the message. The emotional content of the conversation is often unspoken and can be supported by symbols, artefacts, and theatrics.   In Elon Musk’s takeover bid for Twitter, he refers to Twitter as the “Town Square”, a place to connect and make sense of the world. Love it or hate it, these platforms guide our global, national, community, and organisational narratives.

 These conversations:

  • builds an ongoing narrative that shapes our current and future reality
  • builds social capital and influence
  • are a catalyst of incremental and change
  • have the creative power to speak a new future into existence
  • builds or breaks down trust and relationship

Good conversations are an essential skill for a fulfilled life. They help make sense of our world, our relationships and our own inner world.

 The value of conversation in organisational leadership

Imagine if companies invested as much in improving the frequency and substance of good conversation as they did in advancing technologies

Anthropologists and sociologists use conversation to make sense of life and relationships. The core of conversational leadership is to make these conversations real and mine each conversation’s value.

One of my favourite metaphors for a conversation is that of the drone. Think of an Amazon drone delivering your message all neatly packaged. One way of communication would be when the drone drops the parcel on your porch and then goes back to base. Drones, however, are so much more than that. They have the facility to gather intelligence visually, audibly and contextually. Instead of returning to the base empty, you can learn something from each conversation. When you extend this to the digital conversation, the opportunity to gather valuable data and turn it into gold is vast.

What makes a great conversation

Great conversations hardwire us to connect, engage and navigate towards collaboration and partnership. Every conversation has the potential to connect us as people to build trust and rapport. When we interact with others, we can broaden our perspectives and build on the collective wisdom of each contributor. The goal of a conversation is to create shared meaning that leads to action. It shifts our language and perspective to incorporate what is important to you and me. When striving for collaboration, it holds both the “I” and the “We”, which results in more effective collaboration and impact.

What does this do in the organisation

Mastering dialogue sits at the heart of leadership and is often overlooked as a pathway to success. Done well conversations are transformational. They create a deeper understanding of each other’s stories and build shared meaning. Over time they are a discovery process that allows us to see the world differently and to make sense of that. In a world where an agile response is needed, our ability to communicate effectively is a critical leadership skill.

Poorly done results in a breakdown of trust, creates inefficiencies, raises barriers to collaboration results, and is inconsistent and a negative experience for employees and customers.

Build trust – the currency of Leadership 

Trust is the currency of Conversational Leadership.  Conscious business has shifted from short-term shareholder value to a more holistic and sustainable stakeholder value, with loyalty and retention replacing short-term gains as the primary goal. Trust is the currency of leadership that builds stakeholder value and competitive advantage. According to the 2022 Edelman Trust monitor, Failure of Leadership has made distrust the default in society, primarily driven by political and media discourse. To restore this trust, the business has a crucial role in restoring belief in society’s ability to build a better future.

“Trustworthy, consistent and fact-based information is critical to breaking the cycle of distrust.” Edelman Trust Barometer

We have passed the point where scripted PR promises, symbolic Social Media posts or graphics that strive for optics rather than authenticity are no longer enough. Trust builds when we provide trustworthy information congruent with action and delivery – leaders who walk the talk.

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw

 Conversational leadership happens when we see every communication touch point as an opportunity for conversation with our stakeholders. How do we build trust – one conversation, one relationship at a time.

Make the Shift from Transactional to Relational

Loyalty and retention are built on quality relationships. Conversations are the building blocks of relationships. They allow us to listen to the voices of our stakeholders and raise the level of personal responsibility. A key secret to the success of my business has been word of mouth and referral, which results in repeat business and journey work. With personalisation being one of the critical pillars of the exceptional customer and employee experience, conversations allow you to listen to their voice and respond appropriately.  Conversational Leadership separates you from the crowd and elevates above a CV, a proposal or marketing collateral. It allow you to make the other person feel that are the only person that matters in this moment.  In a noisy world, this is a competitive strategy that is hard to duplicate.  With the rise of AI, we can automate some of these conversational responses through deep language processing.  Through clever use of automation your can amplify both consistency and connection.

Shape the Narrative

Conversations with stakeholders allow you to shape your organisational narrative in an Omnichannel environment. We have seen some spectacularly bad examples from the airline industry recently. When British Airways, operated by Comair in South Africa, was suspended earlier in 2022, the organisation responded by shutting down all communication. Airline counters were boarded up, emails went unanswered and social media channels were ignored after an initial announcement. The debacle with Ryan Air’s South African passport Afrikaans questionnaire was a classic example and reminds me of Maya Angelou’s advice. When you know better, do better. On the other hand, an airline that does it brilliantly is Safair.  Not only do you get SMS communication every step of the way. Every flight ends with a recorded message from Kirby Gordon (you see, I remember his name), who invites feedback, good or bad. And then you still get an email afterwards giving you the opportunity for feedback. When I had a luggage problem on the weekend, there was a representative who responded to a Facebook message on the weekend.  This is conversational leadership.

  1. CEOs ramp up your visibility and give regular updates – even if not much has changed. People want to know you are working on it.
  2. Be seen to be dealing with queries from your customer base. I have noticed that large companies like Absa and Tiger Brands regularly respond to job seekers on LinkedIn with an invitation to apply. (If you really want an A+, let applicants know when they haven’t been successful).
  3. Share your purpose and values and demonstrate how you are living these values.

Reframe your communication strategy from one-way to two-way. Provide constructive channels for communication that allow you to respond rather than react.

Treat Every Conversation as an Experiment

Conversations are one of the most agile ways to fail forward. We can shape thinking, response, agreement, and commitment when we see every conversation as an experiment. If things don’t go well, we can breathe, reflect and do better next time. Japanese art is a powerful metaphor for turning broken pieces into something beautiful. In conversation, we share our stories, expand our awareness and uncover our blind spots and biases. This awareness is the gold that allows us to return and co-create a new narrative.

Master conversational leaders use the contracting conversation to establish psychological safety where robust dialogue and positive conflict thrive.  Each conversation is a container that allows its participants to explore different perspectives and test thinking out loud.  This is particularly powerful when having a coaching conversation.


Speak the Future into Being


Words create worlds. Peter Drucker said – I look out the window and see a future that is not yet here. Otto Scharmer wrote Emerging from the Emerging Future.  We use the vision, strategy, culture and the values that support it speak the future of your organisation into existence. If it works at a macro level, then why not extend it into our everyday conversation. What if we answered this question:

What if every conversation creates a new and better version of your future.

A big part of the work that I do and the success I have achieved centres around the science and magic of Conversational Intelligence.  

Whether these conversations are with world leaders at forums like the G7, the UN, BRICS, the WEF or your three-year-old toddler, our words shape our current and future reality. When we speak, our brains are listening and will scan the environment for threats or opportunities based on what it hears. What are they hearing?

So my invitation to you is to take the next few weeks to listen to the conversations you are having with yourself and others. Notice what impact each conversation you have on your relationship with your key stakeholders. Reflect on whether your conversations are opening up the possibility or shutting it down. Standing in front of you are conversational bricks – what you build with them is up to you.

Bev is a conversational catalyst who believes that we build our future success one conversation at a time.   She believes that we hold a magical and wise truth in the language and practice of UBUNTU – an African philosophy that means “I am because we are”. As an interactive speaker, event facilitator and engagement specialist, Bev energises the delegate experience by drawing their voice and expertise into the conversation. With master’s degrees in business and executive coaching, Bev works with your teams to elevate their conversational leadership to build trust, psychological safety, engagement and results into their leadership dialogue. There has never been a time for leaders to communicate with compassion and power. It is Bev’s transformative purpose to bring these skills to the world.
If you would like to ignite a new conversation at your conference, in the boardroom or in your online channels, speak to Bev can upskill your leadership team and help you shape your next strategic, learning or leadership dialogue.  You can reach her on:
SA Mobile:  083-276 5475

UK Mobile:  0744 297 5951






Fortune favours the Brave (if you can survive the ride)

Fortune favours the Brave (if you can survive the ride)

A couple of years ago I jumped off a bridge.  I am not an adrenalin junkie. I wanted to understand how to process fear under extreme pressure and the leadership lessons we could learn from that.  (You can read the article and watch the video HERE).  As I faced a number of the realities of setting up in a new country, I have been putting these lessons into practice.

The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. You know that moment you reach the top of the track and feel that moment of brain-freezing fear that stops your heart in its tracks. I am eternally grateful to my Orpington family, who have made me feel so welcome and provided a safe haven to get established.

The first major shock came when I strode confidently down the high street to visit estate agents to find a place to stay. I had already done some research, so I was ready for the cost of accommodation in the UK, which is the one thing that does not translate well to a 20:1 exchange rate. I found the agent that does the most rentals in Orpington, and they said no problem, as long as I could pay a year’s rental up front! For context, this is about R250K for my South African friends.   I thought that my excellent credit record and financial history from SA would count, especially in this day and age of the internet, where global credit records are easily accessible. But no, you start with a blank canvas and must rebuild your credit record from scratch.

To process this “oh SH#T moment,” I retreated to my new coffee shop to actively practice some mindfulness breathing and to remind myself that every obstacle has a path to the other side.   It reminded me of the lessons learned from my Bungy jump off the Bloukrans bridge. I did a quick gratitude audit to calm down the amygdala hijack that had put my brain into freeze mode. I have been extremely fortunate to have built a strong capital base; as harsh as the news was, I had options. I then reminded myself that the word impossible is not in my vocabulary and that I would have to put my influence and negotiation skills to good use. 

Back in front of my PC, I searched for potential properties and found a fantastic agent willing to work with me. I set up a couple of viewings and found a property that ticks all the right boxes for my son Richard and me to get settled with my hubby to join us later. My requirements were simple:  close to the train to London, the high street for shopping and near enough to family to be part of a community. Orpington is just the perfect area to get started. It is suburban enough not to have to be on trains and subways every day, close enough to London to get there in 30 minutes and close enough to family to have a support base and access to community.

With that in process, I turned my attention to work and have made a substantial start with the help of my friend and colleague Michael Jackson and the contact base I have built over the past few years. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of those I have spoken to who have been willing to open doors and provide valuable advice. My dear friend and colleague, Janice B Gordon, invited me to a meeting at the houses of parliament. (Two days before Boris’s house of cards came tumbling down). It was fascinating to walk into the hallowed halls of government where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet. (Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos inside).

After meeting with one of the Members of Parliament on issues relating to women in business, Janice had booked for us to see my first London Live show, which was fabulous. Richard introduced me to Cole Porter’s “Delovely” as music director at the Savoy in Port Elizabeth. It was beautiful to watch the entire show.


My absolute highlight of this week is my visit to Scotland to meet up with my other son Michael and daughter-in-law Juanitha and my unofficial son, Bron and his young family who are over to watch the golf at St Andrews.  Instead of flying I jumped on the train so that I could enjoy the scenery on a beautiful summer day and as a digital nomad I simply set up office on the train. 

Soft landings and the Brain Science of Adventure

Soft landings and the Brain Science of Adventure

The Adventure Begins

My global adventure began not with a bang but with a soft landing which made my brain happy. It reminded me that you must pack more than your clothes for the trip. The most critical item in your luggage is your support network. The week leading up to my leaving my home and my husband for 3 months (the longest we have been apart) was emotional. Leaving always creates a sense of loss even when the adventure awaits.

Because it was the first time travelling on a dual passport, I was waiting for some customs official or airline official to tell me I had screwed something up and “sorry, we won’t let you in”. I am happy to report that the process was seamless. One thing I know from all the travel I have done is that the experience starts the moment you close your suitcase. Little things like a shower in the Bidvest Lounge before you leave and choosing the best seat on the plane are vital. On both legs to Dublin, I was in the front row with lots of legroom and space to stretch and, thankfully, sleep.

Cross the Emotional Bridge of Change

Any journey of change means moving away from what you know, and there is a mental and emotional bridge you need to cross. Having a gentle landing to catch my breath and allow the emotion of leaving to dissipate is the perfect start to this adventure. It got me thinking about the value of my support network on life’s journey, especially in a world where change is constant.

Instead of jumping straight into business, I met up with my life-long friend Kerry to spend a few days in rural Ireland simply catching my breath, drinking copious cups of tea and getting valuable advice for the journey ahead. You cannot put a price on a friendship that spans a lifetime. We decided not to do the touristy thing. This week has been about friendship, great conversation, and just allowing the anticipation to build. 

As I cross this bridge, I notice the impact on my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual state. Your inner critic and cognitive dissonance is strong. I am reminding myself to stay in the moment and make each one count, to allow my inner critic to be a motivating force and to break things down into bite-size pieces to make the crossing more manageable.

London Calling

Moving to London, with no issues at Gatwick,  I was welcomed by my dear Uncle John (who has to be the most technically savvy nonagenarian I know. He has been my “home-away-from-home” on my travels to the UK, and I am grateful for another soft landing to establish myself. As a remote worker, I only need a roof over my head, a shower, a bed to sleep in, a coffee machine, access to a transport network and fast wi-fi. Everything else is negotiable. I have already had an online mastermind and several meetings as I was at my desk at 7 am for a South African client.

And then, there is my global LinkedIn network which I have been building consciously for the last five years. It has been so good to connect and reach out to my network. So far, I have already set up five meetings. These meetings are about taking online connections to the next level, not hard sales. It is about understanding the business environment I am stepping into and where the low-hanging fruit lies to start activating work in the region.

These support networks have allowed my brain to process change as gain rather than loss, and it has kicked into high gear and is happy to support the new phase of our lives. Today I started with the basics – bank account open and setting up my local mobile and data access tomorrow. I can then get my NHI number sorted, assisted by Sable International, who have walked this journey with me and whose support has been invaluable. The adventure continues.

Leadership through Communication Part 2

Leadership through Communication Part 2

LEADERSHIP and COMMUNICATION through the Change Curve can make the difference between teams who barely survive and those who thrive.  Walking the Talk is fundamental to the success of leadership through communication.  We sometimes forget that leaders are people too and are experiencing all the same fears and struggles as everyone else.  Being authentic, honest and at times vulnerable builds trust and connection.  Great leaders face the brutal facts with compassion and take the lead courageously in times of crisis.  Lead by example and your teams will follow you into the fire.


Identify Opportunities emerging from the Change

Churchill said, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’.  Opportunity lies within every challenge. As dialogue begins and continues, we will jointly discover new avenues to explore the opportunities that emerge within your team and your marketplace. Dialogue breeds natural engagement and valuable interaction far better thn monologue does – explainng why our purpose-designed feedback loops become critical.

Focus on What you do Well

We work with you to review and pivot your thinking around the business model to respond to the needs of your people, suppliers and customers offering you the ability to explore a business transition into a more digital space as people come to understand and embrace remote work with online interaction.

Be Relentlessly Relevant

In the midst of any crisis, standing out professionally from the crowd is critical.  This is an ideal time to speak to your customers to find out not just what they need, but what they need most.  We can assist you into honing into thieir explicit pain points and aspirations and help determine where will you will best be able to help them through their next few months.  

Shape your new Story

Now is not the time for a hard sell of your business and its objectives but to rather connect humanely with people through your story, conversation and networking.  Now you need to focus with us on adding meaning and value, ensuring your story is making a positive contribution to those who are also facing the challenge of the change. 

Showcase the Future

We move towards ultimately to shaping the overall picture.  Your story should showcase a future that could be, rising from the chaotic scenarios which currently exist.  Properly developed words have the power to
speak such a future into existence.  Through interactive communication we look to create a magnetic and compelling picture that has a strong emotional connection and allow this picture to rewire the human
brain and creates the ‘new normal’.

Bev Hancock is a conversational catalyst, strategic facilitator and global speaker who focuses on Leading through Conversation.  As a conversational intelligence and leadership practitioner, she helps shape the conversations you need to create. Together with colleague Michael Jackson, a presentation and change specialist, they create team thinking experiences and consult on developing agile communications strategies and content.  To start a conversation with them, contact Bev at or Michael Jackson on

Leadership through Communication Part 2

Leadership through Communication Part 1

We are staring into the abyss.  Despite the over 1 billion recent media reports comprising both real and fake news, we honestly don’t know what the next few weeks or months will bring.

What we know is that the more things change…. the faster they change!    

The minute we enter the change curve we climb onto an emotional roller-coaster that hurtles us through fear, anger and surprise until we choose to either remain in the darkness or embrace the new normal.   Change is instinctively felt as loss and the current opportunity is to reframe such loss into gain.

The two keys to navigating through and flattening the curve are LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATION.

As the Corona pandemic has taken hold society as we know it, there is now a prevailing sense of fear and helplessness with many unanswered (and unanswerable) questions, triggering a flight, fight or freeze response.  The typical response to change, in the face of the unknown and in the absence of credible solutions, is to create a vacuum of silence.  Inevitably this vacuum becomes filled by self-created, internal dialogue fueled by fears and uncertainty.

Leading through Conversation is necessary and vital. It’s about providing clear, ongoing, transparent, two-way communication.  We have developed a 10-point plan to take you and your teams through the change curve.  Here are the first five…

Still the Fear

When the brain has what is known as an “amygdala hijack”, the brain is flooded with cortisol which causes the flight, fight or freeze response and this causes the rational thinking brain to shut down.  This is why rational, factual communication has limited impact.  Leaders who provide a safe space for individuals and teams to express their fears and respond with transparent empathy and compassion will still the fear response and open the conversation to see the way forward.  Using the science and magic of conversational intelligence you can re-engineer the brain for positivity.

he fastest way to engage your people is to connect, listen and give them a sense of purpose.  During times of crisis, a strong WHY is a comforting north star that helps navigate a storm.  Draw on their emotions, expertise and encourage them to be part of the solution – and most importantly, show them that you care.  A solid leadership response is a human one.  In the shadow of the crisis facing you as a business sit people with fears for their families, their security, their futures.  Promote a message of #StrongerTogether.

Set up agile Communication Channels

In times of change, heavy, time consuming, top-down communication is counter-productive.  The key word here is “Connection”.  Bulk emails and newsletters, whilst informative at a different level, lack the personal connection required here.  Use every day, simple technology to reach people with the familiar visual, responsive and personalized messages they use themselves, in the form of videos, and simple messages.  SMS’s, WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype are ordinary every day, familiar collaborative platforms which are superb to both communicate and connect.   A quickly executed campaign which speaks effectively and clearly to everyone in the organization with feedback loops to listen and respond, will go a long way to quickly quieten fears and motivate action.  

Get into the Driver’s seat of your Business

When people no longer feel that they’re in the driver’s seat of their own lives it is natural for the paralysis of fear to set in.  Much of the anger, frustration and fear in the everyday change curve becomes focused on the things outside of personal control.   In your circle of control, you need to focus on the present and channel people’s energy into that which you, and they, can control in order to make the most of these moments.   

1.      Reframe your own Story

Every change curve is caused by a story of immediate or drastic change.  We develop, with you, and then clearly articulate, your current story.  As people come to feel part of this story, and see themselves in it, they become part of it.  Your story must reframe your own narrative and in doing so open the space for the future to emerge.  This new narrative can either be a short-term strategy to weather the storm or a pivot to a new way of doing business in the long term.

It was Churchill who said, ‘don’t let a good crisis go to waste’.  We have reached the middle of the curve.  By now you will have got to the Accept/Dismiss decision point.  You can choose to remain with what you know or you can choose to move forward and embrace the change.  In the second part of this article we will show you how to do that.  

Bev Hancock is a conversational catalyst, strategic facilitator and global speaker who focuses on Leading through Conversation.  As a conversational intelligence and leadership practitioner, she helps you to shape the conversations you need to have through the change curve.  Together with colleague Michael Jackson, a presentation and change specialist, they create team thinking experiences and consult on developing agile communications strategies and content.  To start a conversation with them, contact Bev at or Michael Jackson on