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.

Avatar as Coach

Using avatars in coaching has been a subject that has intrigued me ever since I did my Master’s research in 2014.  At that time, they were used in platforms like Second Life and gaming.  What are the pros and cons and more importantly, the ethical questions that arise of stepping into this world? 

An avatar is an icon that represents who you are (or who you choose to be).  Facebook and WhatsApp have introduced customizable avatars that allow us to express emotion or responses that are more personal – kind of emoticons on steroids.  In the gaming world you are able to enter the world of fantasy and be a princess, a warrior, a Knight or an evil villai4

As a coach the question I ask is this… does an avatar help you escape who you are, or does it give you the option to explore parts of your personality in a safe space in a different way?  Think of a ventriloquist’s dummy – they can get away with saying things that often remain unspoken.  What are some of the things you would love to say, but don’t have the courage to speak out aloud?  Could it be a tool to help coachees find their voice?

A belief that drove my personal development was that I was not good enough and that if I did just a little but more I would be.  I wonder if using an avatar could have helped me have this conversation?

But what are the ethical considerations of using avatars?  As much as avatars can be used to speak out, they can also be used to hide behind and not deal with reality or be accountable for the words we speak.  If used for deepening awareness of self and others this can be a powerful conversation.  If used to avoid uncomfortable issues could it hold the client back from dealing with critical issues in their development.

The question that tickles at the edge of my mind is can a coach authentically coach through an avatar?  To coach effectively requires a high level of presence and self-awareness.  What are the characteristics you would build into your coaching avatar… and what would you leave out?  I suspect that coaches’ initial reaction would be that this would lack authenticity.  What if I was to pose the question, if you were creating an online coaching process that is completely automated “Second Life” environment – how would you choose to show up?  What would concern you?  What could go magnificently right? And what could go horribly wrong?

http://youtube.com/watch?v=URr904HWXq0

In the work I do in the events world we have started using Brand Avatars to promote story telling and engagement in the virtual world.  I have been working with strategic partners Uzi Media and Unique Speaker Bureau to use avatars to not only bring an additional level of sizzle and engagement to online conversations but to give a voice to corporate and personal brand stories.   

 

The video will give you an example of the energy that an avatar can bring, especially when you combine an avatar and a real person. I will soon be launching my own personal brand avatar to be that provocative voice inside my head.  I will keep you posted to see what emerges.  

I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and consider these questions with an open heart and mind – could a little play bring unexpected depth to the coaching conversation?, ,

Bev is a conversational catalyst who believes that we lead through every conversation.  She presents and facilitates the conversations that matter online and around the world creating high value, data driven conversations using interactive technology that turns your data into gold.  

As a South Africa she believes that we hold a magical and wise truth in the language and practice of UBUNTU – a word that describes our humanity and that I am because we are.  She uses her coaching, strategic facilitator and conversational intelligence skills to transform the way we live and work.  

There has never been a time when leaders need to communicate with both compassion and power.  It is Bev’s transformative purpose to bring these skills to the world.

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 bev@kamva.net or Michael Jackson on michael@theothermichaeljackson.com.

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 bev@kamva.net or Michael Jackson on michael@theothermichaeljackson.com.