Rebel Diaries

Ceri Newton-Sargunar - Your Brain's Responses to Work and Colleagues - is it a friend or foe?

June 20, 2022 Ceri Newton-Sargunar Episode 10
Rebel Diaries
Ceri Newton-Sargunar - Your Brain's Responses to Work and Colleagues - is it a friend or foe?
Show Notes Transcript

Ceri is an Agile Behavioural Coach, an ex-teacher, and a neuroscientist-in-training, with almost a decade of hands-on agile experience. She has worked in the public and private sectors, with large organisations, SMEs, and start-ups, and now coaches and trains agile teams and agile professionals looking to improve their ways of working.

Well-versed in Agile ways of thinking, being, and doing, Ceri works with individuals and teams to focus on helping brilliant people to work more effectively with each other, deliver value to organisations and help them thrive.

Ceri works at all levels of organisations to stop information from falling through gaps by improving interactions and helps use team dynamics to turn unhealthy conflict around, increase understanding and shape culture with better top-down and bottom-up communications.

What we discuss with Ceri Netwon-Sargunar:

  • How fear sits behind a lot of the issues around communication
  • How much you are willing to learn is how much you are afraid of the outcome
  • Why a lot of leaders avoid giving feedback
  • Why the idea of "this is just who I am" is hugely flawed
  • How we are constantly able to adapt and learn new behaviours right up until the day we die
  • Why do employees hide the truth from the people in power 
  • Why psychometric tests should only be taken as a snapshot in time and how they can wildly differ for you over time
  • How rare it is for a company to drive solely towards outcomes instead of outputs
  • How you can measure your outcomes with one simple measure
  • What causes people to be really defensive in conversations
  • Why there is a limit on what you can achieve only by addressing a team's behaviour and what you need to do to break that cap
  • Why it's easy to form a bond within peer groups but much harder between the team and the leader
  • How people take a lot of identity from the success of their ideas
  • Why it's not the mistake that generally people are responding to when they judge you. It's your reaction to that mistake

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Intro teaser

[00:00:28] Ceri: Leaders will avoid giving feedback, save for the dreaded annual appraisal that's why you see things disguised with the feedback sandwich we still have to deliver the uncomfortable feedback, but we're desperately trying to soothe the way. So that's a social nicety hugely ineffective. Doesn't really work at all.

[00:00:45] Ceri: It's harder to form that bond between a leader and the team, but significantly more powerful because then the whole team has that protective sphere around it.

[00:00:54] Ceri: It's a lot less threatening to say "this is just who I am", because that means that then I don't have to change. You have to do all of the work to change and I can sit back safe and secure in my this is just who I am ness.

[00:01:09] Scott: Ceri shares some fascinating insights into our brains at work in this episode, including why employees hide the truth from people in power. Why, how much you are willing to learn, depends on how much you are afraid of the outcome and much more.

Main show

[00:01:23] Scott: Ceri, welcome to the Rebel Diaries podcast. 

[00:01:27] Ceri: Hey, Scott. 

[00:01:27] Scott: Would you mind just introducing yourself a bit about what you've done in the past and what you do now to help people.

[00:01:34] Ceri: My name is Ceri hello. And I'm an agile behavioral coach. I haven't always worked in agile. I began actually in law and quickly pivoted into teaching English teaching. 

[00:01:46] Ceri: I taught for about six years in total in England and in Spain as well. So I taught at a university in La Coruña and also spent some time in Barcelona and Madrid. And nearly went to Japan, but there was a bit of a nuclear meltdown and a tsunami.

[00:02:04] Ceri: So I just decided against going!

[00:02:06] Scott: And what resulted in the career change then from teaching?

[00:02:09] Ceri: Unfortunately I contracted viral meningitis. So I couldn't stand up and I couldn't remember anything. I had to find a job where I could sit down and didn't need to remember all of the details of everything all the time.

[00:02:21] Ceri: So I started in project management not intended as a dis at project managers at all. It's just the only thing I could actually do. And I found Scrum and Agile. My husband actually recommended that I have a look at Scrum and Agile. My children were at a Montessori school at the time.

[00:02:37] Ceri: And what he was reading about Agile seemed to tie in he said quite closely with everything that I was saying about the kid's Montessori school. And what I discovered is that Montessori is Agile, but for kids and Agile is like Montessori, but for grownups. So here I am today. Agile behavioral coach. Neuroscientist in training.

[00:02:55] Ceri: So I'm studying neuroscience as well. It's a pretty intense hobby. It's really interesting. And it sometimes has relevance and connects with my work as well. So that's really handy. 

[00:03:05] Scott: What's a day in the life like are you working with teams, individuals like board level? Cuz that's an interesting mixture the behavioral science stuff mixed in with the coaching side, that must be quite a unique string to your bow? 

[00:03:16] Ceri: Yeah, it's pretty varied. I think anytime you are looking at behavioral issues, whatever they may be because I get brought in sometimes to help really high-performing teams that want to improve and elevate and grow their performance even further. And they need someone to help to iron out the niggles and work and help them tweak how they're interacting with each other.

[00:03:38] Ceri: But more commonly I'm brought in to help with either underperforming teams or teams that are not working as well together as they could be. Maybe they've got lots of really talented individuals on that team, but for some reason, they're not able to work effectively together. And what I tend to find, what I've noticed is that even at a team level, even when you start to address those behavioral concerns, if you're not looking at the situation from a more systemic level taking a systemic view. You are not really able to work out what it is that's triggering those behaviors, what it is that's impacting on the team and causing them to respond in that way. I work with the team as a whole, as a unit. I also work with individuals within that team. One-on-one coaching with them.

[00:04:24] Ceri: I usually or almost always in fact work also with the leaders within the team that sit above the team. And a lot of the time that sit a level or two above them as well, again, to address some of those systemic concerns that are driving the behaviors, whether that's how the work is designed, how the value is explained to the team how they're rewarded, how they're punished how that that comes across, how they're spoken to all of these things have an impact on the performance of the team.

[00:04:57] Ceri: And they're usually a lot more subtle than the really noticeable, obvious stuff. So it takes a finer touch to go in there and start helping people to tweak those. Once they've worked out what they are.

[00:05:07] Scott: You hear that people being happy and productive at work, it's not just about the money. And obviously, that plays a part, people generally don't wanna work for free, but some do. 

[00:05:18] Scott: So how much of that tolerance do you think people have in dysfunctional teams? If I maybe just use that term as an extreme. Versus teams that are okay, but people just don't like working there, but it's a job you must see those different levels.

[00:05:35] Ceri: Yeah. So I think the point about pay is quite an important one. So there's been a fair amount of research done that shows once we meet fundamental needs, fundamental financial needs pay becomes significantly less of a motivating factor. Now that's not to say that you don't need to worry about how much you pay people, because of course you do.

[00:05:57] Ceri: You've still got to meet that baseline of allowing people to pay their bills on a very basic level, but once those basic needs have been met more money, doesn't equal more motivation. And certainly, it doesn't mean that you can turn an underperforming team or a dysfunctional team into suddenly a high performing or a super team.

[00:06:17] Ceri: When you address things like autonomy and purpose, and the reasons behind motivation, that's the point where you start to really shift people towards the high performing once those basic needs have been met and not paying attention to those essentially means that you are not doing the minimum, that needs to be done to help the team address those behavioral issues. 

[00:06:41] Ceri: And a lot of those issues do stem from frustration, from lack of direction that then leads to people feeling like they're not delivering value. That then leads to people feeling like their work isn't worthwhile.

[00:06:55] Ceri: When we feel like what we're doing, isn't worthwhile. That's when we then tend to fall into some of those more damaging behaviors. It's not the only reason by any stretch, but certainly that's one of the things that contributes.

[00:07:06] Scott: Yeah. And I've heard, it's increasingly difficult for people based on what job they're doing to see the outcomes of their work and the value they deliver. Whereas you go back to industrial age times, you saw the finished product, you saw the car produced, whereas it's quite abstract these days in, in a lot of jobs.

[00:07:25] Scott: So that must be quite a challenge. How do you advise or get around that? 

[00:07:29] Ceri: Absolutely. So this is a really interesting point. So one of the things that I spend quite a lot of time doing is helping teams, helping individuals, helping leaders look at failure or how they perceive failure and mistakes. Not just within agile teams, but this is something that comes up a lot within agile teams.

[00:07:50] Ceri: This idea of iterating and coming up with first versions of things and how we respond to that changes how we're able to perceive value, how we're able to identify value. So when we can identify that there's an outcome that we are working towards when the first version of what we are creating doesn't meet that we are more able to see it as a rubbish first version or a rubbish first step towards that endpoint of value towards that outcome. When we are focused more on outputs, it becomes a lot easier for people to beat themselves up over not delivering that specific output.

[00:08:30] Ceri: And there's no guarantee that output delivers the value that the organization or the enterprise is looking to deliver anyway. 

[00:08:38] Ceri: Helping people to assess how they're then responding to failure is one of the roots into looking at how they're interacting with the people around them, but also helping them to see whether they're focusing on the right things in terms of what the team is creating, what the team is building and helps them often to identify that they're not focusing on value.

[00:08:58] Ceri: They are focusing on those outputs. And it's a counterproductive goal. unless you are literally just in a group of people trying to manufacture a vehicle that is pre-planned and pre-prepared, if all of the steps are laid out in front of you, then you can focus on the output, but for everything else, wherever humans are involved, we need to be focusing on outcomes.

[00:09:19] Ceri: And thinking about how we're responding to our failures when we're not achieving those outcomes, or when we're on the journey to achieving those outcomes.

[00:09:25] Scott: And do you think management and leadership is still in the output thinking where it's all about the amount of time you are in front of your computer, the amount of stuff you produce is there still people stuck in that place a lot?

[00:09:40] Ceri: Very much so I think it's a very unusual company that is able to drive solely towards the outcomes. I suppose we, we quite like having things to show. So a lot of a lot of the behavioral issues I see are driven by reward systems that are in place. And when we can demonstrate something, tangible a thing, we feel much more like we are going to be rewarded for that.

[00:10:10] Ceri: It's much easier to say, well done, you've built this thing, regardless of whether or not that thing meets the needs that it was designed for, whether it serves the purpose. That's the thing that comes later. There's less I guess less accolades, less kudos given to that, less reward given to that because it's not quite as tangible.

[00:10:32] Ceri: It's really hard to measure how happy people are with the thing. And if somebody is saying, "yeah, it's great". Or "yeah, it's brilliant." it's not a measurable, noticeable difference in how I feel about you saying that about my product. It's much harder for me to feel good about that reward.

[00:10:48] Ceri: Whereas if I can see that I've built a website, regardless of whether you say it's good or great or fine, I still can see that tangible thing that still gives me that little kick, that little lift that I've delivered a thing. And therefore I can base my response, my reward system around that.

[00:11:04] Ceri: So it's much easier to feel motivated by that. And to ignore the fact that underlying everything we have a need for connections. So actually there's quite a lot of value in that, that reward that, when you deliver something to somebody and they respond with a giant smile.

[00:11:18] Ceri: And so that's brilliant. That's exactly what I wanted. I think people forget that's actually a pretty decent outcome as well.

[00:11:25] Scott: So I guess that presents that challenge in terms of this output focus versus the outcome. You have to find a way to measure the outcome and link that back to your work, cuz otherwise you'll just fall back into that trap of output because some of those outcomes may be really hard to measure. 

[00:11:44] Ceri: Yes. 

[00:11:45] Scott: And how do you get around that?

[00:11:46] Scott: What is there a way around that? What kind of advice do you give people? 

[00:11:50] Ceri: So a really good way of measuring those outcomes is something like the net promoter score which some or NPS you might hear it referred to as, so would you recommend this product to other people? And I think the net promoter score is one of those things that you can apply to a huge number of things.

[00:12:08] Ceri: So you can use it, not just to assess whether your product is meeting customer needs. You can apply it to your team. Would you recommend this team to your peers or to your best friend to come and work in? Would you recommend this manager, this leader to your friend to come and work for?

[00:12:23] Ceri: Would you recommend this organization? Would you recommend what we are working towards, to people that you know, and how much people are willing to recommend because word of mouth is a pretty crucial way of both building reputation for things. But also for getting that feedback from so the marks that you get on your net promoter score is a pretty good indication of how much your product is meeting that need.

[00:12:47] Scott: When you're helping these teams, I'd imagine one of the things that can cause real difficulty between team members and from the leadership is communication or lack of it, or style of communication?

[00:12:59] Ceri: Yeah. So I see quite a lot of that. And I think what sits behind a lot of the issues around communication is a lot of fear. So a lot of things aren't communicated because either we, we are worried that we're gonna get questions that we won't be able to answer. In which case, if we avoid telling people, then we think we avoid answering those questions.

[00:13:24] Ceri: But also when we fear that people aren't going to like what we're telling them and. Both don't want to deal with potential conflict, but also underpinning almost all human behavior is the desire to feel connected, to feel included, and wanted. And this happens on a deeply subconscious level.

[00:13:46] Ceri: You're not on a day-to-day basis. We're not largely aware of that. That need to be connected. And accepted, but it does drive a lot of the behaviors that we then see when people don't communicate, especially when people don't communicate difficult information or information that they think people might have issue with, and you see this, particularly around feedback. So a lot of leaders will avoid giving feedback, save for the dreaded annual one-to-one or appraisal at which point that's the time where they then have to say all of the things that they've been avoiding saying for all of this time, for fear of how that individual is going to respond, but also for fear that again, they won't be liked most people want to be liked. Most leaders want to be on a certain level, want to be liked and valued and appreciated. They want people to do work for them and with them because they like too much more than having to crack the whip. So when you then get into those situations and people have to, leaders have to give feedback that's uncomfortable and awkward.

[00:14:49] Ceri: That's why you see things disguised with the feedback sandwich which is where we're trying to smooth the way. We still have to deliver the uncomfortable feedback, but we're desperately trying to soothe the way. So that's a social nicety hugely ineffective. Doesn't really work at all.

[00:15:03] Scott: You've got the polite version. I've called it the shit sandwich. 

[00:15:06] Ceri: I'm not swearing cuz yeah, I'm on your podcast, Scott, but yeah, I call it the shit sandwich too. 

[00:15:10] Scott: I need to put a disclaimer now this contains swearing, damnit. It was family-friendly up until now.

[00:15:15] Ceri: But yeah, so I see people avoiding those kinds of communication and even down to, know, very day-to-day issues of feedback. 

[00:15:23] Ceri: " So when you spoke to me in that meeting, I felt really uncomfortable". That's not something that you often hear said: "when you spoke over John when he was giving that idea, I felt really uncomfortable both on behalf of John, but also I felt more worried about sharing my own ideas, and that could be a problem for you and this team because it means that we are then gonna be missing out on really good ideas that this team of experts is really well qualified to give." 

[00:15:49] Ceri: People don't give that kind of feedback because they're really worried about how it's gonna be received.

[00:15:54] Ceri: Even on a day-to-day basis. And yet these microaggressions have a pretty big collective impact.

[00:16:01] Scott: And if they're left un-dealt with and potentially come up with an annual review that just is gonna fester and grow and make things much worse than they potentially need to be. So how do you break that down? It's psychological safety. Isn't, it's a safe place to, to say "actually, boss, I don't agree with that."

[00:16:21] Scott: How do you help teams break down those barriers?

[00:16:24] Ceri: So it's a long and slow process. It's definitely not a fast fix. I think one of the things that we need to do to begin with is to address how people are feeling when they're approaching those conversations, are they approaching those conversations with trepidation and fear? And where does that come from?

[00:16:44] Ceri: What is it that they're afraid of? So this is where we begin having coaching conversations on an individual level. And we talk about. What it is, that's stopping them from addressing those concerns with that. With that leader, for example, what is it that they're worried about? What is it that they're scared about?

[00:17:01] Ceri: And a lot of the time it comes down to things like much more practical, tangible things. So we were talking about money at the start of the conversation and how that changes things for people. If people fear that by saying something to their boss, they're then at risk of either, not getting a bonus not getting a promotion, or worse, potentially being put on a performance improvement plan or even getting fired. They're much less likely to feel safe to address those concerns. Now, a lot of the time that's not going to happen, but if people don't know that's not going to happen, if they don't know that's not a risk, they're not going to put their neck on the line to run that risk. And so then what I would usually be doing in tandem is working with the leader and speaking to them about how they think they're being perceived, how they intend to come across what they really want from their team, what they're really expecting to be able to influence and be able to change and whether or not the ways that they're currently using are effectively achieving that, whether they're able to get those results with the things that they're currently doing. 

[00:18:15] Ceri: And invariably, the answer is "no, the things that I'm doing and saying, and the ways that I'm doing and saying them are not getting me the results that I'm looking for. In fact, they're getting me quite the opposite or what I'm seeing is really unhelpful behaviors or people refusing to take accountability or people hiding their work or people overinflating estimates."

[00:18:36] Ceri: All of these sorts of things that come from people trying to hide the truth from the people in power, the people with the authority to change their financial circumstances. So it's a slow and steady process. Because those are really uncomfortable conversations to have for the individual to, to see that in their own behavior.

[00:18:56] Ceri: That's not something that I would leap in there and talk about in the first session together. Invariably, what needs to happen is the individual needs to build a picture of the system that they're operating within so that they can see that a large part of what they're doing comes back to the circumstances that they find themselves in.

[00:19:13] Ceri: So we get really defensive in conversations. When we think that we are going to then be blamed for what we are doing, we're going to be blamed for the outcomes we're going to be blamed for what we are seeing in the ways that other people are behaving or we're gonna be blamed for what we haven't delivered.

[00:19:29] Ceri: So when we can start to shift people away from that and see that a large part of what they're doing and how they're doing it is arising because of a system that they find themselves in, perhaps because they themselves feel that they're going to be blamed or at risk themselves, we can then start to address those things more slowly and carefully in a way that doesn't make people feel defensive and like they have to defend themselves. We're quite keenly tuned into any sort of blaming or shaming behaviors, because blame and shame are two of the messages that say, I'm not worthy.

[00:20:03] Ceri: I'm not worthy of connection. I'm not worthy of acceptance. I'm not worthy of inclusion. I'm not. And that's very. Basic subconscious level on a more performative level. I'm not worthy of promotion. I'm not worthy of rewarding. I'm not worthy of giving thanks to or appreciating the work that I've been done.

[00:20:19] Ceri: And when we can start to move people away from seeing themselves as blamable or being shamed in that situation, that's when we can then start to address those behaviors. When we take away the idea that you are flawed rather than something that you did, wasn't the best way of doing it. That's when we can start to make that progress.

[00:20:37] Scott: I know the answer, but I'm just gonna ask anyway. How big an impact does the leaders' behavior have on the teams that you are seeing? How much is it holding that team back and how much is it of a leader's insecurity or maybe the behavior they get from their leaders cascades down and then the team are treated the same way.

[00:20:57] Ceri: Yeah, absolutely. This is why I work at the systemic level, Scott, because if you are only addressing how that team is seeing themselves, there is a cap, there's a ceiling, there's a limit to how much. Change you can realistically make when you are then working with the leader of that team as well.

[00:21:15] Ceri: That opens up the amount of change that you can see within the team. Suddenly the team feel more enabled, more empowered to highlight issues to that leader, they feel more empowered to say, "if we keep doing things in this way, we're going to break the product. We're going to break the company" being able to speak that truth to power, having those concerns listened to and much more importantly potentially acted on or at least taken into consideration. And if they can't be acted on having that fed back to the team to say, "these are the constraints that we face that mean that we can't act on this. However, these are the things that we can do" that again, is hugely empowering, hugely motivating to the team when we are within a team it's very easy within peer groups to have this idea or much easier, I suppose I should say to have this idea that you've got my back and I've got yours and that's really easy for us to begin to form that bond on a team level. It's harder to form that bond between a leader and the team, but significantly more powerful because then the whole team has that protective sphere around it. That sort of, that valence of capacity and empowerment, that means that they are then able to make the mistakes.

[00:22:26] Ceri: They're able to get the learning and the growth and the development. They're able to find the things that are wrong and fix them. They're able to find the things that are right and grow them. And the more layers you add to that the more, that ability to speak that truth to power to come up with the ideas that are gonna grow, to put a lid on the ideas that are gonna stall and fail things or that are gonna sink the ship, the more that grows and develops with the team.

[00:22:50] Ceri: When you have that at a leadership level, this is one of the things that was instrumental in the growth of companies like Pixar. I think Steve Jobs was one of the instigators of this really open candid culture. This is what led to the book which I've promptly forgotten the name of which I knew was gonna happen Radical Candor by Kim Scott.

[00:23:10] Ceri: She also worked at Pixar. And it's this idea that I'm safe to tell you when I think your idea is potentially going to sink the company or is potentially going to offend people or is potentially going to be I dunno, damaging in some way, if I have the confidence and the ability and the safety to say that to you, knowing that I won't get fired, knowing that it won't harm my prospects for promotion, knowing that it won't lead to me not getting a pay raise.

[00:23:37] Ceri: And actually when that's encouraged, you get a lot more openness, a lot more candor, and candor doesn't have to be cruel. It doesn't have to be unkind. You don't have to use ad hominem attacks. " Scott, that idea was stupid and it was stupid because you are stupid". We don't have to go down that route. We can just say that idea is flawed in this way, and it doesn't have to imply that you are flawed in that way.

[00:24:01] Ceri: And I think that's one of the difficulties that we face. That's one of the difficulties that I see where people. Take a lot of their identity from the success of their ideas. And so when those flaws are picked up they take a lot of the criticism on for themselves as if somehow that means that they themselves are flawed and that's the difference that you see with a leader that is willing to accept that feedback and willing to allow that feedback within their system. They're not seeing themselves as flawed when they receive that feedback. They're seeing the thing that they're doing as flawed. They're seeing the way that they're operating as flawed.

[00:24:38] Ceri: They're seeing the idea as flawed, not seeing themselves as flawed. And that makes a huge difference to how receptive they are to that feedback. And then the ability of the team to feel psychologically safe enough to continue with that growth themselves.

[00:24:52] Scott: Yeah, that's powerful. And that's linked to how the leader sees themselves. I went through a embarrassed to say started off as what I saw was a manager and thought I had to have all the answers versus when I became a leader as I saw it and hopefully the results spoke for themselves with the team, that actually, I said, quite openly "these people are smarter than me. It's not my job to tell them how to do what they do. I've gotta create that environment for them to be successful". And yeah. "Tell me if my idea was stupid" and certainly in negotiation, separating the person from the problem. It's actually it's not a personal thing. "This is the problem it's here. It's outside of us. Let's work together to fix the problem". And it's hard to separate that. You're right about that. Taking it personally.

[00:25:33] Ceri: Yeah, absolutely. And the point that you make there about not knowing it's a hugely powerful thing, to be able to admit to a room full of people that you don't know the answer. And I think that leaders. It's very easy to forget that even though maybe you once worked within that team at that level of experts, when you then become a leader, you are not in that position because of your expertise in the work you are in that position because of your understanding, but your ability to shape and hold and allow those people to be experts in that space. 

[00:26:06] Ceri: And that's where the most powerful leadership comes from the leader that's safe to say, "I don't know. But what I can do is translate the needs of the business in a way that I know that you can understand because I come from that background I speak your language, but I don't know how to know the answer to the problem that I'm posing you. All I have to do is give you the perspective of the organization, tell you the constraints, tell you where we can help you as an organization, and then let you make the decision given that information that you now have because I've translated it so well because I speak your language."

[00:26:36] Ceri: What are you gonna do about that? And letting people do that, feeling safe to stand back and let the experts in the room, be the experts in the room because that's what you're paying them to do. That's why you've got those people in that room. Yeah.

[00:26:48] Scott: We were talking about the being afraid to speak up and challenge I'd heard can't remember it was probably in a few books, but you hear of the horror stories where for example, during surgery, a nurse. 

[00:26:59] Ceri: Yeah. 

[00:27:00] Scott: Thinks actually the surgeon's got that wrong, but they don't feel there's a term.

[00:27:05] Scott: And I can't remember what it's called, but it's this authority figure that "well, they must be right. So it's not for me to challenge", even though they know they're wrong and there's been, botched surgeries because of that culture and that mindset that, "oh, the leader must know.

[00:27:19] Scott: So I'm wrong to challenge it".

[00:27:20] Ceri: Absolutely. It's a real shame when it occurs and it's I think it's a form of arrogance really to assume that you always know and that, everything it's a huge mark of humility and growth and a lot more power from a personal level. If you are able to hear those things and not react badly, it's not the mistake that generally people are responding to when they judge you. It's your reaction to that mistake. 

[00:27:50] Ceri: If you have a positive affirmative response to that mistake and you decide, or you state how you're going to fix it, what you're gonna do take affirmative action. People have a lot more respect for you than if you turn around and scream at them for daring to question your authority.

[00:28:05] Ceri: And I think that's not something that a lot of people are aware of. I don't think, they understand that personal power isn't about volume or knowing even it's. It can be about being willing to hear a lot of the time. And those tend to be the people that we respect and hold as more authoritative.

[00:28:22] Ceri: Anyway, those are the people who walk into the room and instantly command the room. You would feel safe to speak to them. You feel calm in their presence, but you still know that they have enough knowledge and authority to do what they're doing. But that doesn't mean that they're not willing to hear when things have gone wrong.

[00:28:36] Scott: And I forget what they're called. There's a few of them where you can do a behavioral type" I'm a red colour and I'm a..", you've probably come across that. How much of that is set in stone in terms of some people potentially are always going to be bad in a team or never should never have been made a leader!

[00:28:54] Scott: Can that be influenced? Can that be changed? 

[00:28:56] Ceri: Definitely. Yeah. So you, I think you're talking about psychometric tests and I think any psychometric test should only ever be taken as a snapshot in time. All it's doing is measuring where you were on the day that you took the test. Now it may be the case. That you are in that position a lot.

[00:29:18] Ceri: Maybe you face those circumstances a lot. Maybe that's how you feel at work a lot. Maybe those are the particular circumstances and events that you experienced during the day. A lot, maybe that weather and that journey to work is pretty consistent. Maybe the atmosphere at home that leads to the way you feel when you arrive at work is also pretty consistent. And so for people who have, those tests, the results can be pretty consistent. 

[00:29:44] Ceri: For people who don't face consistent circumstances in their life the tests tend to vary a bit more and the more wildly your circumstances change and fluctuate, the more those tests will change and fluctuate.

[00:29:56] Ceri: So in that respect, those results are not setting the stone and are changeable. Not only that. But you or we all, not just you, Scott we all remain neuroplastic until the day we die. So what that means is we grow neurons. We might grow them at a slower rate. The rate decreases hugely as we get older, but we grow neurons and our neurons form connections, right up until the brain stops functioning. 

[00:30:27] Ceri: So what that means is that we are constantly able to adapt and learn new behaviors. We're constantly able to learn new ways of being, and the idea that "this is just who I am" is hugely flawed. It's it's a pretty comforting way to see yourself.

[00:30:47] Ceri: It's a lot less threatening to say "this is just who I am", because that means that then I don't have to change. You have to do all of the work to change and I can sit back safe and secure in my this is just who I amness. The thing about you can't teach an old dog, new tricks, utter baloney, dogs, people, whoever you can learn tricks all the way through you can learn new behaviors, new ways of being.

[00:31:10] Ceri: How much you are willing to learn will influence that. And that again comes down to how much you are afraid of the outcome. 

[00:31:20] Scott: Great. So there's a book that's well known and I've read it and I'm sure you have, and many others called the, I think it's called the Chimp. I said it's well known. I can't remember the name. Exactly. It's called the Chimp 

[00:31:29] Ceri: Yes. 

[00:31:30] Scott: I know you've got some thoughts on that.

[00:31:32] Ceri: Yeah. So when I do a lot of my work with teams so it's not necessarily about the Chimp Paradox itself. It's more about the metaphor that is quite commonly used. Um, And it's about our response to any of the situations that, that we've been speaking about today. So there's there's a model that's called the triune brain that I think the the Chimp Paradox takes some of its some of its leaning from, so this is the idea that there are three layers of your brain.

[00:32:01] Ceri: Now the brain is it does have sections. It does have parts. But to say that one part is the prehistoric section. The next part is the bit that developed when we were when we were apes. And then the last bit is the bit that developed when we suddenly became human beings.

[00:32:18] Ceri: It's a bit of a fallacy it's not terribly helpful. Especially because a lot of the context is then linked to in this situation, you are using your monkey brain. And in this situation you're using your lizard brain, actually, a lot of the. A lot of the functions of the brain are interlinked.

[00:32:34] Ceri: They are dependent on each other. They don't originate just in one part of the brain. One particular area of the brain might be largely responsible. It might hold a large part of the neurons that elecit that particular behavior, but it doesn't contribute to all of it.

[00:32:48] Ceri: Everything that we do is as a result of our brain picking up context. So taking our historical experiences, putting them in the context of where we are now. Taking into account how we feel, our physiological state in that moment. Am I hot? Am I cold? Am I wet? Am I dry? All of these sensations that our body picks up.

[00:33:12] Ceri: Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? And then from all of that information, your brain decides on the context decides on the outcome. And that's a purpose. That's, an outcome that draws information from all of the different levels of your brain. 

[00:33:26] Ceri: Not only that. But also, if you look at some of the most ancient creatures that that existed so there's an ancient creature called the Amphioxus that is still around today.

[00:33:39] Ceri: It was around millions of years ago. It's tiny little wormlike creature, and it plants itself in river beds and it has no eyes, it doesn't even have a brain. It's got a collection of nerves that could only really be described as a I don't know, a control center and it picks up light and dark and it sits there with its mouth open and waits for food to drift into its mouth.

[00:33:59] Ceri: But what's interesting about that control structure, that control center is it has exactly the same brain structure that you and I have. It's just less complex. It's just not as advanced it's I suppose the difference between a sapling and a full grown tree, you've still got a stem. You've still got leaves.

[00:34:15] Ceri: You've still got bits that stick out. You've got all of those bits. It's just that ours is significantly more complex than that, of the, Amphioxi . So to say that we've got a reptile brain when we have exactly the same brain structure as this ancient creature that was around millions of years ago, just ours is more complex.

[00:34:31] Ceri: It's a bit of an unhelpful metaphor. I prefer a simpler model that so it's called the hand brain model and it was created by Dr. Dan Siegel, who, unfortunately, in his YouTube videos also still refers to the triune brain model, which we forgive him for, because maybe he didn't know back when he made the videos.

[00:34:49] Ceri: It's fine. But so his model is superb though. So if you take your thumb and you lay it across your Palm with your fingers sticking up in the air and then you lay your fingers over the top of your thumb to create a fist with your thumb inside your fingers and your fingers on the outside. So your fingers form your cortex, your.

[00:35:11] Ceri: Your, the middle two are your prefrontal cortex. So that's the bit of your brain that is responsible for your executive function. Your problem solving your creativity. Now when your fingers are laid down over your thumb, this is you in a calm state. But we don't always stay in the calm state and we can be triggered into not a calm state by all sorts of things.

[00:35:32] Ceri: So feeling hungry, being too hot being late, having someone shout at you, having someone cut you up in traffic, missing your train stubbing your toe having your spouse let you know that they've found someone else and they're leaving you and they're getting a divorce, getting fired your business folding, all of these things trigger the same response, which is the feeling that you for some reason are now not safe.

[00:36:01] Ceri: So those fingers that are crossed that are down over your thumb, if you then lift those up, so you've still got your thumb across your palm, your fingers are now sticking up. This is what Dan Siegel calls you in a flipped lid state. 

[00:36:13] Ceri: So those fingers that represent your cortex, your critical thinking, your problem solving your creative thought are now no longer connected to the palm and the thumb.

[00:36:24] Ceri: And this is the bit of your brain that generally speaking it houses your amygdala. That's your thumb knuckle on the very edge of your hand there that's the bit of your brain that picks up how safe you are how likely you are to be in danger, how connected you are. 

[00:36:38] Ceri: So that then gets more blood flow than the rest of your brain, the fingers that are sticking up the outer cortex. So this is the state that is commonly referred to, as your monkey brain. And your lizard brain is the palm of your hand and the brain stem is your wrist. So the difference is you are either in that calm state with your fingers down with blood flow, going to your creative thought, your problem solving your logical thought processes, or you are in that flip lid state, which means that your amygdala, which then triggers your fight flight or freeze response. That's the bit that gets more blood flow. 

[00:37:13] Ceri: So you've still got access to this critical thought part of your brain is just a lot harder to think rationally. It's a lot harder to think logically. And so those are the two states of being really there's either the calm state with your fingers down, or there's the flip lid state with your fingers up. 

[00:37:30] Ceri: What I really like about that much more than the Trium brain is that you can be in a meeting you can be in a team setting, you can be on a zoom call with someone. They can say something that triggers you. Now without them understanding what's going on, you might then respond in a really aggressive way or in a really passive way, in a way that you might not normally respond. That just is your normal threat or stress response to a situation.

[00:37:58] Ceri: They might not be aware of that. You might not necessarily be aware of it, but you will get a sensation, a feeling within you that provokes that, that unusual response in you. If you are able, just to lift up your hand and just flip your fingers up, they can see that you are not necessarily in the calm state that you would want to be in, to respond appropriately.

[00:38:18] Ceri: They can then choose to give you a moment to reassess, to breathe, to calm down, to think about how you want to respond, rather than you just carrying on. In that flip lid state and aggressively or passive-aggressively or passively responding to whatever has come up. So it's a really useful visual indicator of where you are at any given moment that then the people in the team around you can choose to respond to.

[00:38:43] Ceri: And what's really interesting is I've been on team calls where one person will flip their lid using their fingers sticking up, and then two or three other people will as. And that's really useful, important feedback for the person who's speaking or who has just said something. And what's really interesting is when the person who's then speaking also puts their fingers up to say, okay I was also in a flip lid state because I was also realizing that I'm under threat.

[00:39:08] Ceri: So if we acknowledge that we're all in that flip lid state, suddenly it's not just on you for having that unhelpful response to the situation. Now it's a shared conversation "okay what was it that contributed to that? What is it that made Steve say that in that particular way, that then led us all? To lift our fingers up in that circumstance. What is it that's driving Steve to that position. Steve, what's going on for you? Like where's this pressure coming on for you?"

[00:39:33] Ceri: It's such a useful conversation to be able to open up and because you're not relying on your ability to form a coherent calmly worded sentence for people you're just sticking your fingers up.

[00:39:45] Ceri: It's a much easier visual trigger for people to get a hold of and understand.

[00:39:49] Scott: Sounds great. Yeah, really powerful. Otherwise that again, someone will just make a snide comment or a snarky response that then someone else takes the wrong way and festers for weeks again, whereas you can nip it in the bud fingers up -for the people listening. It's not fingers up as you might think it is.

[00:40:04] Scott: It's the open palm as Ceri's described. That's really powerful. 

[00:40:09] Scott: Thank you. 

[00:40:10] Scott: So one of the questions I ask all my guests is if you had one book that you could take with you to a desert island, I'm guessing it's not gonna be the Chimp Paradox based on our conversation just now. What would it be? 

[00:40:21] Ceri: Oh, one book to take. So the really smart answer is one about raft building, right?

[00:40:28] Scott: Very practical one that will keep you entertained, you're stuck there for life there's no escape!! 

[00:40:32] Ceri: There's no escape. So stuck on an endless sea with no means of escape. 

[00:40:36] Ceri: One of my favorites is How Emotions Are Made and it's by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She's a neuroscientist and it's a glorious explanation of how the brain responds to our circumstances.

[00:40:51] Ceri: It's a fascinating read. I'm not sure it would do me much good on a desert island, but certainly, it would it would amply pass the days until I inevitably starved to death.

[00:41:00] Scott: Thank you Ceri that's brilliant. It's been great to have you on the show. 

[00:41:04] Ceri: Thanks very much for having me. It's been fun.

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