In order to become future fit leaders, we need to practice emotional first aid. Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, author, and in-demand keynote speaker whose books have been translated into twenty-four languages. Dr. Winch’s viral TED Talk, Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid, has been viewed more 6 million times and is rated among the top five most inspiring talks of all time on TED.com. On the other hand, Giles Hutchins discusses a new standard for future fit leaders by way of discipline and hard work – not one-off silver bullets. He is the Chairman of The Future Fit Leadership Academy, Lead Partner of The Natural Business Partnership, and co-founder of BCI Biomimicry for Creative Innovation. He served as the Global Sustainability Director for Atos. Giles is the author of The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014) and Future Fit (2016).
We have a great show today. We have Guy Winch and Giles Hutchins. Guy Winch is a very famous TED speaker. He’s a psychologist, an author, and he’s interesting in how he looks at how we ruminate and obsess over things. That’s why he’s been such a popular TED speaker. Giles Hutchins also is a very popular TEDx speaker. He is the Chair at the Future Fit Leadership Academy and Co-Founder of Regenerators.
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Emotional First Aid With Guy Winch
I am here with Dr. Guy Winch who is a licensed psychologist, author, and in-demand keynote speaker whose books have been translated into 24 languages. He’s the author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts and more recently, How to Fix a Broken Heart. He just gave a TED Talk. The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining The Right Way To Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, And Enhance Self-Esteem was republished in 2017. His viral TED Talk, Why We All Need To Practice Emotional First Aid, has been viewed more than 6 million times and is rated among the top five most inspiring talks of all time on TED.com. He also writes a popular blog, Squeaky Wheel Blog, on Psychology Today. I noticed that his most recent TED Talk has nearly two million views and it’s only been a month. That’s amazing, Guy. Congratulations.
Thank you very much.
You are an interesting guy. I’m interested in all of your work. My husband came home one day and he doesn’t listen to TED Talks that often and he goes, “You need to talk to this guy.” Because I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence and he thought that everything you were talking about was right up my alley, and it is. I’ve seen your work before and I agree that you have some amazing work. I wanted to start with how you became successful with that first talk that hit six million views. It’s probably higher since I’ve last checked. Why do you think that resonated so much with people?
That first TED Talk spoke about why we prioritize physical health so much more than we do emotional health. Emotional health is neglected. In other words, we don’t do anything about it. When we experience emotional wounds like rejection, failure, or loneliness, we’re not even aware that these are emotional wounds per se that need to be treated. It’s not just go and numb the pain with substances, ice cream, or computer games. There might be something you need to do to revive your self-esteem or to restore your motivation and confidence. We’re at a very primitive level of emotional health now and our justification and our understanding of it. It was trying to make the point that we need to pay attention to this because this has a big impact in our lives. Why it resonated with people is because everyone has emotions, and everyone was like, “Yes, I have those feelings. Maybe that’s correct that we do need to do something about them.”
My book that talk was based on has been read in 24 languages. To me, that’s a testament to the fact that our experience with emotions is similar across cultures, across ethnicities, across race, across gender, and across age. Our expression of that emotion might differ, but what we experience subjectively is very similar. That’s why it resonates so much because people will listen to it and it makes sense to them.
You had mentioned in your first very successful talk that we spend more time taking care of our teeth than our minds. That’s an interesting way to consider it. I don’t think anybody would have thought to put those two together. What do we need to do to take care of our minds that we’re not doing?
It’s not just taking care of it. We know what certain substances like sugars and certain things that are bad for our teeth, and that if we have a toothache there’s probably something wrong so we have to go to a dentist rather than ignore it. We are more sophisticated in understanding how to maintain dental hygiene than emotional hygiene. We don’t think of it as something that needs to be maintained. We tend to think that we can be on autopilot and that we’ll just fix ourselves over time. Time can help certain pains diminish, but it doesn’t necessarily fix anything. There is a lot of science about in terms of what steps we can take and what can we do to fix things emotionally, minor things and small things, not the kinds of things you have to rush to a therapist for.
Do you have any examples of things that we could be doing that we’re not?
Let’s look at rejection as an example. We all get rejected and these days I’m sure everyone is familiar with this. You can feel rejected in social media, because you went and you liked your friend’s vacation post and then you posted your vacation photos and that friend didn’t like them. You can feel rejected in that small way. You can feel rejected certainly if you’re on the dating circuit, if you’re applying to schools, if your colleagues go to lunch without you, or if your neighbors have a barbecue and you weren’t invited to it. What tends to happen to most people when we feel rejected is we tend to get self-critical. We start to look at all our faults and all our shortcomings in an effort to understand, “Why were we rejected? Maybe because I’m not good for nothing, because I’m not good enough. Maybe because I’m not tall, handsome, rich, blonde or whatever it is.” That’s where our mind goes.
In essence what that does is we are already thinking bad about ourselves because of the rejection. Now we’re going to go and dig up every other aspect we can feel bad about and make it much worse. What we need to be doing is exactly the opposite. We need to be reviving our self-esteem and focusing on all the things we do bring to the table, not what we don’t. Those friends didn’t invite us to lunch or this neighbor didn’t invite us to the barbecue, but in fact I know about myself that I’m a very outgoing person. I’m social, I tend to be a loyal friend, I can be fun in the group. If I remind myself of all the ways I’m a good, social person, a good colleague, a good romantic prospect or a neighbor, that will do much better for me in terms of making me feel better about myself in that moment than if I go and do the opposite, which is the autopilot version of this.
I’m doing some research for my book about curiosity. I know you’ve talked about failure when you gave the example of the toddlers playing with toys, how we trick ourselves and how we react to failure. A lot of social media, we don’t want to look bad in other people’s minds or we probably avoid doing a lot of things that we’d be naturally curious about doing. How do we work on that? How do we change our mind once we’ve convinced ourselves we cannot do something because we’re afraid of failure?
First of all we do have to understand that when we fail at something, there’s an impact. That’s one of those emotional wounds I speak about in the Emotional First Aid book. When we fail, we tend to look at that goal that we had, the same goal that we had, and we perceive it as being further out of reach than it was before we failed. We perceive our abilities as being left up to the task. We have a certain feeling of helplessness that overcomes it. Not all people experience that. Usually around 80% of people experience that, which is a whopping percentage. Those things will then discourage us. Here’s how this works. Our mind evolved to keep us from danger, not to lead us to happiness. Our mind is much better at going, “That’s a dangerous thing. Let’s not get any of that.” If you touch a hot stove when you’re a toddler, you’ll handle a burn and your mind will make sure you remember that stoves are dangerous, they’re painful, stay away from them, don’t do that again.
Our mind responds to failure in the same way. Because we failed, we feel bad, and our mind goes, “That hurts. Let’s not do that again. Let’s remind the person why that felt bad and let’s discourage them from trying to do that again.” That’s our mind’s job, to keep us from “danger.” The goals that we have are not dangerous, that’s what will make us more satisfied and happier. We need to override that instinct and understand that our mind is deceiving us into making us feel that we can’t do something when we probably can, that it’s not going to be worth it even if we succeed when it probably will be. Our mind is operating against us. Unless we know that we have to literally ignore those messages and do the opposite because those are our goals and there’s no reason we can’t assist and figure out how to do things differently next time so we can get there, then we’re going to succumb and we’re not going to be ambitious. We’re not going to try things that we’ve failed at. We’re not going to try dating again because it was disappointing so let’s not date for six months for whatever reason, if there isn’t one. We have to learn to override these natural instincts that, in terms of emotional health, usually take us away from what we need to be doing.
You bring up a lot of rumination and obsession in both of your talks that I was watching recently, the things that we tell ourselves over and over in our head. I liked your stories of how we tend to idealize people in the past when we broke our heart and we only see the good things instead of thinking of the bad. It’s almost the opposite of this. We’re looking at the bad stuff in the past for failure and the good stuff when we’ve lost someone. Why do we go to those places and how do we stop that?
With heartbreak, it seems the opposite but it’s the exact same principle. The principle there is, “This hurts so much, let’s remind you how much this hurts. Let’s bombard you with these idealized memories of the person, the idealized memories of the relationship, the idealized fantasies of what it would’ve been like going forward so that it hurts more, so that you remember not to do this again.” The fact that it’s idealized is fine, but it’s the same purpose of making it hurt so we don’t touch that “hot stove” again. We need to balance those out because a goal in recovering from heartbreak, this is what that third book is about, is to get over someone, we need to diminish their presence in our thoughts. We need to make sure that they appear less and that it hurts less when we do think about them. Taking them from having this starring role in our life to having a very small role, if any at all, eventually.
Our mind though is going to try and do the opposite. It’s going to try and keep them fresh in our mind, have us think about them, remind us of them, and have all these memories of them. It’s up to us to try and balance it out by reminding ourselves of all the times that they were incredibly annoying and all the compromises we made. All the times we thought, “I don’t want to be in this relationship. This is not good. I can do better.” Those are not the thoughts that appear when that person leaves us. Those are the ones that would be useful to remind ourselves of to get a more balanced picture so that it doesn’t hurt as much. We didn’t lose Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. We lost Mr. and Mrs. Flawed and some good stuff, some bad stuff. The more balanced the picture, the easier it will be to move on.
I liked how you used the term methadone of memories. That should be your next book title. I looked at dopamine and different things that associated with curiosity in my research and different things. We do get certain brain chemicals and reactions to what we do. When you were talking about idealizing people and how we look at all the great things, I was thinking about how certain people I knew had died twenty years ago, how I would’ve reacted of how I looked at them versus how I look at them today. You keep this list in your head. Is it harder for people if they’re newer in a relationship than somebody that has been in a relationship for a long time and has seen more bad things that we idealize them more?
We have this period of infatuation when we usually connect with someone romantically. This infatuation period is where it’s truly rose-tinted glasses all the way and we completely ignore every negative thing because we’re smitten. We fill in every gap of information we don’t have with something positive. Obviously when you’ve been with somebody for years and decades, then you know a lot of all the bad stuff. There’s a lot of negative stuff that’s happened as well the good, and so you have much more material to use in terms of doing that. What I did to people is maybe this was a new relationship and they got broken off and you’re heartbroken. You’re still filling out all the stuff you don’t know with very positive shiny attributes. Why not fill out some of that stuff with some negative attributes, because it couldn’t be that perfect all around?
When I speak to people, even in initial relationships, you can see problems. Even when you go back with couples who I see in my practice who’ve been together 20, 30 years, I ask them, “Tell me about your first date.” Even in the first date you can see, “That was the start of a problem there. There was a little bit of a hiccup there.” It didn’t register to them at the time, but in hindsight it turned out to be the first sign of something that indeed was an issue later on. If you look hard enough, you’ll find stuff. What I say to most people that if you’re having a hard time coming up with some of the negative aspects about your ex, think about asking your friends because they’ll probably be really happy to volunteer all the things they’ve been dying to tell you for however long you were seeing that person.
It’s challenging to deal with somebody who’s young and get them past that obsession. When you were talking about obsession, I kept thinking about the research I’m doing on curiosity. How could we use that rumination, the obsession, the things that we do over and over again, towards something positive? I would like to see us if we’re going to be obsessed, be obsessed with learning, curiosity and things. Can we use that to our benefit at all?
To me, curiosity is something that is super important. It’s important if you can fan the flames of curiosity, then you’ll become intellectually engage to end whatever it is that you’re curious about. It’s about exploring it. It’s about getting involved in it. The more you take those energies and you put them on that, then you take them away from the thing you’re trying to not think as much about. I tell people that curiosity is a really important quality. If you failed at something, one of the things you can be curious about is, “What could I have done differently or better,” without self-criticism.
Almost like a detective going through a crime scene without emotion, just noting, “This could have improved. I went out the night before the exams. Maybe I don’t have to do that and I can start studying a little bit before. I wasn’t quite sure about that material, so next time I have to be sure that I’m sure about everything.” There are always improvements we can make. If you become curious about how to improve, self-improvement in every way but most specific things as well, that will always be a better use of energy than ruminating. Ruminating, by definition, is the motion of hamster wheel. We’re going around in a circle. We’re not gaining anything new. We’re not discovering. We’re not curious when we’re ruminating. We’re just going around. There’s no discovery to be done there. If it were exploratory, it wouldn’t be rumination. It would be problem solving.
I knew somebody who told me he went to a psychologist who told him that he was like a bird that flew round and round in circles so fast, he eventually flew up at his backside and he got nowhere. Is that what you mean by rumination?
Yes. It’s a little graphic, but yes. That is what I mean, in terms of you’re unlikely to find something useful in those locations, both your rear end and that spinning that you do when you’re just ruminating over and over about something. No golden nuggets will come from there. You need to look elsewhere for those.
What I thought was also interesting in your work was your story of Kathy in your TED Talk, about how she found it harder to cope with heartbreak than what she had to go through with cancer. How can that be that something so awful as cancer, we can deal with it easier than heartbreak?
I used that story in that second TED Talk and I also have a much more elaborate version of it in the book, How to Fix A Broken Heart. To me, it was remarkable for the young woman who had gone through two cancer treatments with surgeries, reconstructive surgeries, harsh chemo, over four years and was emotionally strong and resilient in getting through that. She was so tough and was so disciplined, then soon after gets heartbroken after six months of relationship and that she can’t weather at all. All those defense mechanisms and coping mechanisms that she marshaled and utilized so effectively for the cancer treatments were just powerless before heartbreak. I use that point to make the point that heartbreak is an extraordinarily powerful experience. It registers in the brain in an extraordinarily powerful way. It creates craving and feelings of withdrawal that are as intense as the withdrawal of heroin addicts and cocaine addicts from heroin and cocaine.
That’s why in the initial throes of heartbreak, those of us who have been through it know that in the initial throes of that, we are desperate. The only thing that’s going to make us feel better is getting that person back, being in touch with them, or trying to understand or trying to recapture them in some way. Nothing else matters. We do things that are entirely out of character. We debase ourselves. We do all kinds of horrible things that we would never otherwise do. The reason is because our brain is having a whopping reaction in our reward circuitry. It’s going through the kind of withdrawal you’ll see with a heroin addict. It’s not surprising that the heroin addict is willing to do horrific things just to get another fix of heroin. Heartbreak can operate at the same intensity except we don’t think of it as such. Therefore we don’t understand what’s going on with us and we think we’re going crazy. We don’t understand why we’re feeling and behaving the way we do. It’s very important for us to understand there’s a good reason we’re feeling and behaving that way. The question is what can we do about it?
I’m trying to think of a time that I can relate. I have a lot of dogs. I love dogs and I’ve lost dogs and I didn’t have as big of heartbreak as the one time when someone stole my dog. I don’t know if it’s guilt or not knowing what happened to her or lack of control, but I understand my reaction was, to me, much more severe than just losing a dog. Is it that we need to control as well? Is there some of that involved?
The book, How to Fix A Broken Heart, focuses on two kinds of outbreak. One is romantic heartbreak and the other is pet loss. What they have in common is they cause extremely severe grief reactions for many people and yet they are dismissed in society. No one’s going to work saying, “I need the week off because my cat died,” but people might sit at their desk and cry for a week when their cat dies. There’s a way in which we don’t consider these things legitimate, even though the reactions that cause are as severe as some people losing a first degree relative. I was interviewed by Maria Shriver a couple of weeks ago. She said this on air so I can repeat it, but she said that in her childhood, we know that was not an easy childhood with JFK being murdered and Robert Kennedy being murdered, she said with everything she mentioned, the most traumatic thing was losing a pet. We know she’d been through a lot.
Pet loss is something that is extraordinarily painful for many people and it makes them feel almost embarrassed and ashamed that they’re reacting strongly to the loss of the “just an animal.” When you think about pets, pets are the most loyal, consistent, and amazing things we have in our lives. They’re much more loyal and consistent than people. There are all types of therapy animals to a degree. I know there’s research now about old age homes that are bringing in chickens for the residents to feed because now the chickens are therapy pets. If it can be chickens, then there are a lot of animals that can qualify and that people feel really attached to. Animals can be with you your entire life, your entire day. They’re the most consistent, amazing things. We consider them family members so losing one can indeed be an extremely powerful experience that we need to take much more seriously than we do.
I had read Mary Tyler Moore’s autobiography years ago. The only thing I can remember from it was I was stunned by how little she seemed to show her remorse over losing her son, but how much she put so much emotion into the animals. It didn’t make any sense to me at the time, but what you’re saying, it’s how we look at certain things. People sometimes look at pets as just a pet, but it can make an impact. Thinking back again on what we said about failure, it’s interesting of how they’ve looked at failure in business as much more of a learning opportunity than they did in the past. I’m wondering how that will impact us in how we deal with relationship failures now that we’re learning these skills at work, not to look at ourselves as failure so much and situations as learning opportunities. Do you think that’s going to carry over?
My hope is that these things do carry over and continue to expand. I work with a lot of companies and there is more openness to accepting failure as a necessary thing. Truly that is a corporate cultural issue that has to flow from the top. Unless the real top level management, the CEOs, the founders, the C-level, the C-suite people can talk openly about their own failures and what they can learn from them, the people below them are going to be reluctant to do it regardless. You can have great workshops and trainings that help people, but if it’s not filtering down from the top, it’s going to be problematic. To really look at failure, it’s not that failure’s okay but the real point about failure is it’s incredibly instructive if you can glean the information within it.
My point on it is that we don’t make a thousand different mistakes. We make three or four kinds of mistakes, but we repeat them in endless variety all the time. Therefore, if we can find out what some of our real blind spots are, these habitual mistakes we’re going to make a similar kind of going forward, and we can correct that, then we’ll be correcting a lot, not just that one error. We all have our typical mistakes or blind spots. Just for an example, people have a time management problem. Why do they still have a time management problem? Why haven’t they fixed it if they know it’s a problem? People have said that they have time management issues, they say it about themselves, “I have time management issues,” how come you can’t fix them if you know so clearly that you do. It seems to those who don’t, isn’t that an easy fix? There are blind spots involved. The blind spots are that they really dismiss the small stuff. They underestimate these things. They rely on outside vendors and think that everything will be done on a timely manner, whatever it is. They keep making the same mistake.
Failure is useful if you can dig into it enough to find your blind spots and where you tend to go wrong. Apply that in a general way and look out for that and put in safeguards for those things going forward, then you can really benefit in a spectacular way. Whole departments, if they look into what went wrong with that launch or what went wrong with that PR moment, it’s not just, “Let’s find someone to blame.” It’s looking at how something happened in a negative way so you can put in whatever systems you need to prevent that from happening again.
That’s great advice and so many people can learn from your work and your recent TED Talk was great. I liked the advice of listing all the bad things in your phone when you’re trying to remember all the good things about somebody that’s making you sad. It’s fascinating to watch your work and read your books. A lot of people would to probably find out more about you. If they haven’t read your books or seen you TED Talk, what’s the best way for them to find out more about you?
The best way to go to my website, GuyWinch.com. They will find links to my books. They will find links to where to get my books in all the languages. They will also find links to my TED Talks and to some of my articles. If they don’t recall my last name, they can go to TED.com and just put in Guy and some of them will come up soon enough there that they’ll be able to find the talks, and from there my website. The website is the best place. People also can reach me through the contact tab and find out more about looking to me there.
Thank you, Guy. This has been great. I enjoyed having you on the show.
It’s been my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Future Fit Leadership Academy With Giles Hutchins
I am here with Giles Hutchins who’s the Chairman of the Future Fit Leadership Academy, Leader Partner of the Natural Business Partnership, and Co-Founder of BCI, Biomimicry for Creative Innovation. He is a prolific writer, speaker, advisor; he does a lot of things. He’s served on the global as Sustainability Director for Atos and previously a Management Consultant with KPMG. He has helped transform a wide range of organizations, corporate third sector, public sector and startup. He regularly guest lectures at leading universities and business schools. You’ve seen him probably on the BBC. He writes articles for many leading networks and he’s author of several books, The Nature Of Business, The Illusion Of Separation, and Future Fit. It’s nice to have you here.
It’s a pleasure, Diane.
I was watching your work and I like your TED Talk a lot. It was fascinating to me to discuss The Illusion of Separation. Do you mind going into that? I’m interested in how you say that there’s an optical delusion. Is that how you put it?
Albert Einstein, very insightful man as well as a great scientist, was essentially a genius. He noticed that a big problem with certainly modern humanity, our consciousness, is that we’ve created this delusion where we think we’re separate from each other, and that creates all sorts of problems for ourselves. What I try to do in The Illusion of Separation is explore the reasons that created that sense of separateness within ourselves, within our psychology, and what problems that’s creating for society, for business in particular, and for leadership.
How do we dispel the illusion of separateness in business then?
First, it’s worth knowing that as we talk about leadership development, we’re at different stages of ego development. Some of them can be related to the country we’re in, to the upbringing we have, to our own life experiences, and to the way we’re showing up in the moment. It’s not a one-off, it’s breathing in and out all the time. We can have certain triggers that pull us back or certain situations that open as out. Essentially it’s our opening, our permeating, our sense of self with others, with life, with nature, and with how the world is. That shifting consciousness or seeing the world more as it truly is is something that is the essence of leadership development and organizational development. Today we treat the organizations as a machine. We want to sweat assets to short term returns. That stifles our human development, and it stifles the opportunity for the organization to unfold our potential as human beings and the organization to realize its great potential.
Does it go beyond just having silos? I don’t know if you’ve read the book, The Silo Effect, but that was popular for a good reason. We’re seeing a lot of silos. How does it go beyond that?
Yes, Gillian’s book on silos and silo busting was great. That’s part of the machine mentality. When we start moving out of the machine mentality, we start challenging the barriers that we’ve put in place. Silos, top down hierarchies, supply chains, all of that we start questioning and realizing that for instance, that there’s value west. There are relationships that are happening with society, with the environment, and with different parts of the silos. There are also relationships happening beyond the organization with all different stakeholder communities. The more that we allow people to work across those silos, the more we get inspiration, we get diversity and perspective, and that enables us to adapt more readily to the increasing volatility and changes happening in the world. Silos, great for machine mentality, great perhaps for a forwardist approach, but not serving us anymore for the fast-moving, disruptive world that we’re now in.
I’ve taught so many business courses, more than a thousand. They all have their different aspects of leadership, HR, and different things I teach. A lot of what comes up is when you try to do cross training or have people away from their jobs learning this, doing that, there gets to be an expense involved. How do you deal with that? How do you prove ROI on a fuzzy thing?
I’ve been on my journey with that because I used to be mainstream. I ran a practice in KPMG with a number of consultants and know very much everything it was about ROI and creating value. I was great with sustainability and gain, that was the business case for sustainability. Since I’ve left corporate life, I’ve gone much deeper and I’m fortunate that I have been working with leaders who are already on the cusp of getting it. Whether for their own state of development or a desire to make change happen in organizations, they’re already looking beyond the pure business case. They know they have to change and that they know they need to change in a fundamentally different way than the business case, even measures. The very situation we’ve created with this mindset, this separateness, is creating the situation that might wake us up out of the separateness.
That could be anything from Trumpism right away through to fragmentation, polarization in politics, and through to in the organization. The organization becoming more and more under pressure to make change happen and to deal with change in a fast moving way, whilst also people in the organization, there are more and more people now who are looking for a deeper sense of purpose, and to be part of something that gives value to themselves, to their children, and to the people that they work with. Therefore, there’s a pulling forward as well as a push that’s forcing us to be more adaptive. There’s a pull that’s encouraging us to search into what does it mean to be human. What is our real purpose as an organization?
Your beautiful accent, you’re obviously not from the United States. How is it different there in England versus United States? Are you seeing any big differences, or is this a worldwide problem?
It is a worldwide problem. Many of the disruptions that we’re seeing are ways of showing what’s going on in the unconscious and the subconscious within us all. Some things that people might find abhorrent or a real challenge are opportunities for aspects to become more visible, whether that be racism or sexism. As they come out, they’re displaying something that needs to be dealt with and that needs to be addressed. We see that happening. The challenge comes when we deal with that with fear where we actually polarize. For instance, we then blame immigration or we blame XYZ, then we get into fear and we’re still in separateness. If we can reach beyond, through empathy and through being able to see the deeper problems that lie beneath, then there’s an opportunity that these challenges happen worldwide for us to start evolving.
What I found in Europe is partly because of our social democratic background over the last fifteen, twenty years, we’re quite fortunate. Especially in Scandinavia, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, and also in Germany, you find there is quite a lot of senior business leaders who know that it’s not just about making the organization more adaptive. It’s about making the organization something that we’re proud to work in, that we want to be a part of, and that in some way creates the conditions that are beneficial for the next generation. That’s a step change. That requires us to then start looking out of our bubble, looking out of the separateness, and start questioning how does this organization relate with society and relate with the environment. That’s beyond sustainability, measuring, monitoring, controlling, and reducing into how do we interrelate. What is our purpose?
When you talk about purpose, millennials are known for wanting to make a difference. Is a lot of this coming from the millennials’ focus or is it coming from something else?
It’s happening across all generations. I do deep nature immersion. I take small groups of leaders out into nature. We create in the environment for them to have profound shifts and to start seeing beyond that illusion of separateness, and then bring that back into practical ways of what does that mean for organization. Many of the people who come on my immersions are 50, 60-year-olds who have gone through changes in their lives and who have gone through the thresholds of growth and development, and who are now thinking, “What can I give back? What can I create for a legacy in my organization and in my environment?”
With that said, I’ve also been doing a learning journey in Sweden with a group of much younger 30-somethings who very much get this. They’re not prepared to deal with the current mindset that you and I have had to deal with over the last 30 years in business. They think, “There must be something better.” When we talk about regenerative leadership and about creating the conditions conducive for life in organizations, they innately get it. I agree with you. It is partly to do with millennials, and yet I also feel the older generations. If you can touch their humanity, if you can create the right environment for them to see it, everybody wants it. Everybody wants to become more human. We want to reach across our fears. We know that we can do better than we’re currently doing.
I was on a panel with a bunch of CEOs. We were talking about having difficult conversations and some of it is the millennial, boomer, gen X, the conflicts of trying to all come up with an end goal that makes everybody happy and communicate in a way that makes everybody happy. I’ve done a lot of research on emotional intelligence for my doctoral dissertation and you mentioned empathy earlier. How do we develop a good sense of empathy? In the 50, 60-year-olds you were talking to, is it too late to get them to do this? How do we do that?
First off, I believe as human beings, we are born innately empathic. It’s a core quality of what it really means to be a human being. We’re social, loving creatures. That’s what enables us to adapt and be creative in the way that we are in social communities. What we’ve done, for much of our lives, are twisted ourselves down certain pathways for various economic and social reasons and actually walk that empathy. Our job in holding leading journeys for people is to start allowing people to open up again through the armor that they’ve started to implement around themselves so they can deal with the world. It’s revealing back to something that’s innate within us.
That’s part of why I use nature, being out in nature without the digital handheld, twenty minutes with some simple embodiment practices, whether that Tai Chi, Qigong, or embodiment where we’re focusing in on ourselves and we’re starting to come aware of our guts, our heart, as well as our head, which we now know are powerful neural centers. We’re starting to change the neurological structures. We’re starting to change how the sympathetic and parasympathetic networks start to relate. We start to open up to more of our natural intelligences within ourselves, our intuitive, our emotional, our somatic intelligence, as well as our rational.
What happens in a short period of time, within half an hour to an hour, of these busy people being in nature with me with some simple activities? They start opening up and then we do some silent walking. By the time we’ve got to sitting around the fire and some basic simple practices about where they’re at in their lives so they start to share as a small group, within an hour sitting around the fire, these guys are opening up and they’re creating a field. I’ve done it now with enough completely different groups, different people from different parts of the world, that all say within about an hour and a half, “How come we are talking about deeply human things? What’s happened? What’s enabled us to do that?” I don’t think it’s anything more than been able to hold a space for people to feel safe to share.
You’re bringing me back to my pharmaceutical training with the parasympathetic, sympathetic discussion. Every day, you can get that sympathetic system slamming in with all the cortisol and all that. It also reminded me of a book I read by James Patterson, Against Medical Advice. It’s a true story of this kid who had Tourette’s and all these horrible medical issues. What they found that helped them was not medicine; it was going out into nature. It’s a great book. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it because this poor guy was going through all this treatment trying to make him feel better and everything just made him worse. Nature did end up helping him.
You brought up a couple other things that are interesting because you talked about creativity being innate and certain things that we have that we have twisted down from our natural state. I’m writing a book about curiosity. We’ve done the same thing with curiosity. We have a natural ability to be creative and curious. How do we get back to our sense of natural curiosity that maybe we have twisted down or somebody twisted down for us? Now we have this fear because we’ve experienced something in a negative way. What do you think about how important curiosity is and how do we improve?
This is essentially a mindset shift. The key part of that mindset shift is opening up and being curious to life, being curious to what the person’s saying, and being curious to why someone is having that particular point of view rather than being in a polarizing. “You’re right, I’m wrong. I’m right, you’re wrong.” The ego, if we want to use that expression, is more heightened. It gives us our sense of self and it wants to protect us. It sometimes then creates too much of a bubble around us, which creates that separateness. What empathy does is enable us to start opening up to start permeating that bubble so we can start interrelate with other people. That mindset is about them being curious, about inviting in, about rather than saying, “No, but,” but, “Yes, and,” which is being generative and building on. It’s about nonviolent communication, deep listening, and really listening to the person rather than, “I have already made some judgments about what you’re going to say and what your views are.”
All of this is very much about emotional development and emotional intelligence. I’d say that then as we open up more, and this is where in deep nature, you can have vision quest, you can have people having silent time for twelve hours, as well as having practical experiences of exploring what’s going on in our organization. What happens is people start opening up and you could argue it’s not just an emotional shift, but there’s also a psycho-spiritual shift that’s happening where the sense of self and a sense of purpose changes. This is where I say it’s different. This is to be dealt with at school, at university, when you’re young millennial, and also the all levels. When you’re older, you have the opportunity to then bring in your wisdom and reflect on different stages of your life.
One of the meditations I take people through is taking through the stages of their life, all the way through to the point of their death, and to sense into who’s going to be there at your funeral. Who are these people gathering at your funeral? What are they saying about you, about your legacy, about how you touched their lives? What would you like them to say about you? You can start sensing into the kind of person that you are and the kind of person that you would like to be. It can be very challenging for people.
I run some sessions on a big leadership program in one of the main stream global business schools and often people cry. This is all part of holding a safe space where people feel it’s okay to cry. These are senior people from different businesses that have never met each other before, but they feel okay to start sharing their emotions. When they do, other people then start opening up as well. Before we know it, everybody is sharing about who they are and about, “I’m noticing how I am with my children. I’m noticing how I am with the people at work. I’m starting to think about how I need to take on a daily practice so I can become more aware and more evolved.” We don’t teach this at school, unfortunately. We teach the opposite which is how to be distracted, how to put your head in a book, how to focus on an exam that you’re never going to use again, and how to break things down into metrics. We’re dealing with the engineering side which is great for the industrial age but it’s not equipping us for who we truly are as social beings in a fast-moving world.
When I would review the MBA program when I was the MBA Program Chair, I made a lot of notes about how we’re teaching a lot of STEM but not enough soft skills. A lot of this falls into the soft skills area. There’s so much focus in business on creating value for shareholders and stakeholders in just one direction. I was interested in your video; you were talking about you’re seeing more B Corp companies going in that direction. Can you share a little bit about what you’re saying in terms of the focus shifting of how we look at profit and success for a company?
There are many models that look at different consciousness within business, but a particularly well-accepted model in businesses is one of Spiral Dynamics. In fact, that came out of America in the ‘70s and ‘80s and then got developed by Don Beck, Christopher Cowan and popularized by Ken Wilber and others. They talk of this Orange meme. That’s your catalystic, very much business first, for profit, maximizing shareholder value. That’s where the organization’s machine, there is innovation, there’s creativity, but only if it’s maximizing profit. There’s been a shift that goes into what Spiral Dynamics calls the Green Meme, where there’s a much more understanding of the organizations as family. We can nurture people within and we can develop emotional intelligence. That helps develop the culture, the values, the stakeholder value. You have people like Michael Porter in the US talking about shared value, about how we create value for society through the solutions that we offer. That’s where sustainability comes in and the triple bottom line. After that is a big step into tier two consciousness which goes into things like teal and turquoise, where you have quite a radical step.
Clare Graves talked about it being a different human being because the brain’s neurological pathways change. Your whole sense of purpose changes, the whole way you see the world changes, which is this reflection on what Albert Einstein referred to. You go beyond this delusion into changing your relationship with reality. What we’re seeing in Europe, North America, and in other parts of the world is more and more people, individuals, departments within organizations and also organizations starting to embrace that tier two consciousness. It doesn’t mean to say that within that organization you still don’t have orange behaviors or you still don’t have mechanistic, purely focused on short term profit maximization, or you don’t have your “culture eats strategy for breakfast” concept as well. You have more. You have more going on. You have a recognition that each of us needs to take responsibility for our own learning journeys.
Each of us needs to be able to show up at work in a more whole way. We need to create environments that encourage us to bring more of ourselves to work and more of who we are. In doing that, we become more curious, we become more creative. We bring all of our natural capacities online. We have a far greater level of energy in the workplace, which is what we need. It’s not just for the workplace, it’s not just for maximizing profits; the very mission of the business changes. This is where B Corps is part of that movement. There’s also a purpose movement, there’s also the whole team evolution movement. Big movements are exponentially rising. What we see is that organizations are going, “I’m not just here to maximize profit. Profit is purely a vehicle for me to be able to invest back in and to pay the people so that we can deliver on this mission that we have.”
What are we as entrepreneurs? What are we as creative business people really getting together for? We’re here to create value in some way and that real value needs to enhance society, environment, and economy. We can’t just be maximizing through ourselves, but creating all sorts of problems. That’s just a bizarre situation to be in. You start tackling. When you get into that level of consciousness, you start questioning everything before and you start realizing that much of business that we’d been brought up in is quite perverse. It is toxic to our human being, our way of attending, and toxic to life itself, and then you start questioning the whole paradigm. It’s quite a big shift.
It is interesting to see the shift and I’ve had a lot of people on my show who’ve talked about how leaders see themselves. People see them in a certain way and they’re afraid that someday they’re going to be exposed for not knowing as much as they seem like they should know. I’m sure you’ve probably run into that a lot. It’s good that you’re opening up this dialogue that there’s other ways to be successful. We have to look at these things, discuss these things, and not have this pretense of what we’re supposed be. Do you agree with that?
Definitely, and it requires courage from the leader. This doesn’t have to be just the CEO. A leader could be anyone in the organization that has the courage to have a courageous conversation with someone. This isn’t just giving feedback. This is creating a space where two people can talk. There’s a client I’ve got here in the UK where they now have in their new offices a couple of different rooms where people can either go to have some quiet time, to go breastfeed or express, or to share with a colleague in an open way. Then there’s a bigger room where people can sit in circle and share with a talking stick and speak and listen from the heart in a small group. In half an hour speaking in that way, you cover far more and you open up all the stuff that’s going on underneath. What happens is the whole organization starts to be able to move more quickly, move in a more flowing and more enlivened way, because you’re not pulling people. You’re not forcing people. People are enlivened. It’s good business as well. There’s a study that’s been produced that came out of some North Americans. They recorded over a twenty-year period companies that embraced this living systems approach, and they consistently outperform their mechanistic counterpart. It’s also good for business. It’s good for shareholder value.
That’s a great place to end because that’s an optimistic outlook and you’re doing some amazing work. I loved your videos and I thought your work is inspiring. A lot of people could learn a lot from watching them and finding out more about you. Can you share your links and how people can find out more?
I can send you my TEDx. I also have a blog which is www.TheNatureOfBusiness.org. You can go on there and there’s a Facebook community as The Nature Of Business and you can find me on LinkedIn. Thank you very much, Diane. Thank you for the opportunity.
You’re welcome. This has been so much fun.
I want to thank Guy and Giles because they were such great guests. If you haven’t checked out their Ted Talks, you need to because they’re both amazing. If you haven’t caught all of our shows, you can catch past episodes at DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.
About Guy Winch
Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, author, and in-demand keynote speaker whose books have been translated into twenty-four languages. He is the author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts and more recently, How to Fix a Broken Heart . He gave a TED Talk on the topic at TED2017. The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem was republished in 2017. Dr. Winch’s viral TED Talk, Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid, has been viewed more 6 million times and is rated among the top five most inspiring talks of all time on TED.com. Dr. Winch’s work is frequently featured in national and international publications and media. He also writes the popular Squeaky Wheel Blog on Psychology Today.com
About Giles Hutchins
Giles Hutchins is the Chairman of The Future Fit Leadership Academy, Lead Partner of The Natural Business Partnership, and co-founder of BCI Biomimicry for Creative Innovation. He is a prolific speaker, writer and adviser. He has served as the Global Sustainability Director for Atos, and previously a management consultant with KPMG, and he has helped transform a wide range of organizations (corporate, third sector, public sector and start-up). He regularly guest lectures at leading Universities and Business Schools as well as delivers keynote speeches at conferences and expert roundtables. He has been interviewed by the BBC, writes articles for many world leading networks, and is author of the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014) and Future Fit (2016).
- Guy Winch
- Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, And Other Everyday Hurts
- How To Fix A Broken Heart
- The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining The Way To Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, And Enhance Self-Esteem
- Why We All Need To Practice Emotional First Aid – Guy Winch’s viral TED Talk
- Squeaky Wheel Blog
- Future Fit Leadership Academy
- Maria Shriver
- Giles Hutchins
- Future Fit Leadership Academy
- Biomimicry for Creative Innovation
- The Nature Of Business
- The Illusion Of Separation
- Future Fit
- The Silo Effect
- Against Medical Advice
- Don Beck
- Christopher Cowan
- Ken Wilber
- Michael Porter
- Clare Graves
- The Nature Of Business – Facebook page
- LinkedIn – Giles Hutchins’ LinkedIn