Reframing Change for World Leaders

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Leading toward a vision YOU create

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the What Kind of World do YOU Want? series

“Most people try to get others to change.”

“Instead, when leading consciously,
you use the power you have to
intentionally choose actions
that can make a profound difference
in your interactions with others –
both personally and professionally.”
Jean Kantambu Latting

Leading Consciously

If you are unfamiliar with Leading Consciously and Jean Latting, allow me to introduce you to your new best friend.

Although those of you who are regular visitors may have noticed her comments and my replies at the end of some of the articles here, I have been unable to decide how to share more of her wisdom until now.

She is not an ADD/EFD resource, after all — and this is an ADD/EFD-focused blog.

I couldn’t figure out the right “hook” that would allow you to understand why I find what she writes about so uplifting and encouraging — and so unbelievably relevant to those of us who often struggle with leading ourselves out the front door in a conscious manner!

Perhaps, unconsciously, I launched the What Kind of World? series to find a place to introduce Jean, and a great many resources like her.

These adopted mentors and inspirational colleagues don’t necessarily work with ADD or ADDers, and they don’t completely understand the ADD experience — but they are open to attempting to understand, and they admire all attempts at conscious co-creation.

Because they understand human beings, they embrace all of humanity.  It feels so refreshingly good to be embraced, doesn’t it? How lovely it is to be encouraged to reach and grow, rather than criticized or made fun of for being unwilling or unable to live inside somebody else’s box.

We share a single vision, albeit glimpsed from individual vantage points:
A world that works for EVERYONE.

Leading Consciously?

Jean and her team define “Leading Consciously” as

“. . . the ability to examine yourself, become conscious of your automatic habits, patterns,
and beliefs, and to choose new behaviors as a result of the expanded awareness.”

Sounds like something you might have read on one of my ADD posts, right?

“In other words,” they go on to say, “instead of doing what you have always done, deliberately step out of autopilot into conscious assessment of what assumptions, emotions, and behaviors got you to where you are and what new assumptions, emotions, and behaviors it will take to get you where you would like to go.”

How very ADD Coach-like of them!

Getting outside our own boxes

We ALL live within the paradigms we create – even those of us who wear our maverick t-shirts proudly. We can’t help it. Our brains conspire against us, designed to encourage us to boundary a territory within which we will be safe.

We have been “wired” through time to identify those who are “like us” as trusted members of our tribe, and those who are not as potentially dangerous strangers.  At base, we are all “bigots” of one sort or another. It’s not logical, it’s NEURO-logical.

Unwittingly and “against our will,” we cooperate with that domineering part of our brain
known as the amygdala.  The amygdala’s prime directive is keeping us alive at all costs.

Familiar equals safe; unfamiliar means Danger, Will Robinson, prepare the human to
run for its life or fight for it – unless, of course, it makes more sense to hide out and freeze; commandeer all resources toward that end.”

Education and upbringing practices might well teach us to recruit the cerebral cortex to override our more deeply seated fear-based impulses — training us to develop the habit of behaving in ways society has agreed are “fair” (meaning “in the best interest of the majority of the populace and enforced equally across all tribes”) — if only to keep ourselves out of jail.

Our laws are set up to enforce societal norms and to punish transgressors. Skipping blithely over the reality that “fair” and “majority” are bubbles under plastic (redefined many times in the history of our young country), I’m fairly certain that we will never see a “world that works for everyone” on the path we have chosen. We have set up procedures that are what I call treadmill tasks.

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are
merely rearranging their prejudices.”

William James (“the father of psychology” – 1842–1910)

New laws can only leave society running in place. They can be changed to require a relocation of the exercise equipment, but they’ll never change the fact that we’re not getting anywhere when we run.

  • Scientific studies of unconscious bias, using functional brain scans, eye-tracking protocols, paired-word-association reaction-time exercises, and other testing protocols, indicate that cognitive approaches do little to alter our underlying programming.  Our relatively slower cerebral cortex processing speed is no match for our lightning-fast subconscious reaction time.
  • The impulse to fear the strange and different is still lurking beneath the surface, just waiting for the right circumstances to encourage us to act on the impulse to stomp all over the dangerous stranger.
  • Pick up practically any paper on practically any day and you’ll find a brand new example of what happens when our cognitive over-ride fails us, for even a moment.
  • Only empathy can get us off the stranger/danger treadmill.

Tribal Gatherings

We identify “tribe” in many ways: appearance, language usage and vocabulary, the kinds of things we contemplate (as well as our conclusions about them), behavior norms — even by things as seemingly inconsequential as what we choose to buy and own, or whether we know which-fork-to-use-when at a formal dinner party.

When the tribe gets together, the mirror neurons party!

As you can read in the Wikipedia article about mirror neurons,

“A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when
the animal observes the same action performed by another.

Thus, the neuron ‘mirrors’ the behavior of the other, as though the observer
were itself acting. “

UCLA neuroscientists Marco Iacoboni and team have argued that the human brain’s mirror neuron systems helps us understand and interpret other people’s actions and intentions, as well as providing the neural basis of empathy.

So at gatherings of “the people like us,” tribes bond.  They intensify, for each other, those elements that signal tribal membership:

  • frat boys and their dates go wild
  • the choir gets religion
  • jazz cats jam
  • old folks in the home play bingo, and
  • computer geeks invent things to sell to the rest of us

— and never the twain shall meet!

Because, truth to tell (which we usually don’t), “they” make “us” a bit uneasy.

Unless there is a previously established relationship that encourages crossover, we tend to be cordial, but not exactly friendly.  Because “they” are foreign, “we” begin to make things up to explain our uneasiness.

  • they don’t have the right values
  • they’re boring
  • they don’t know how to dress
  • they’re not creative
  • they’re not smart.

When, however, a couple of genial frat dads are part of the jazz scene, a few of the dates sing in the choir, and a sibling relationship or two opens the doors to the geeks, overlap’s solvent transforms a boundary into a membrane.  Slowly, “not us”  infiltration shifts our definition of “us.”

Add in some grandparents, fondly regarded from decades of holiday parties, and we wouldn’t be surprised to find them ALL having a wonderful time together on casino night at the old folks home.

Lines are redrawn when mirror neurons work their magic.

He’s a little weird, but he’s cool

As long as somebody influential enough in his or her tribe is willing and able to vouch for us, anybody can be seen as “a good one of those.” With enough time, “anybody” becomes one of “us” — as long as they don’t insist on flashing the colors of a foreign tribe, that is.

Don’t ask, don’t tell – and make sure you look like you
 at least trying to color inside the lines we’ve drawn.

Although we do tend to carry our unconscious tribal prejudices everywhere we go, as long as one is only “a little weird,” most tribes can assimilate new definitions of “us.”

  • With outspoken leadership from forward thinking statesmen**, maverick inclusion is more likely to occur.
  • Without it, we often go the other way, with shameful results — leaving black marks like Nazi Germany and the American McCarthy era on our species history.

As we continue to expose our tribe to non-tribe members, ever so slowly, humanity grows kinder, more tolerant, more inclusive — and paradigms shift.

God bless neuroplasticity!

**”Forward thinking statesmen”
= Leaders who maintain focus on people and humanity, even in the face of pressure to conform to political tribe allegiance;  In America, those who define “created equal”  to mean something beyond the widely-accepted meme, “Born with equal access, so JUST DO IT already!”

EVERYBODY into the pool!

Athough the burden of societal advances is always carried in on the shoulders of the front-runners, we DO change and grow as a species.

After an initial decade or four of bitching and moaning (most visible from the most vocal of the advantaged by birth, usually flying the banner of “reverse discrimination”), they become us through familiarity.

  • Interracial marriage becomes more familiar/less “strange”
  • Women (“even” those of dark-skinned lineage) are, by law, guaranteed a voice in how the country they live in shapes it’s policies
  • Interfaith marriages become more commonplace
  • Children with learning differences and cognitive disabilities (and first languages other than the one spoken by the majority in power), are invited to the Free and Appropriate Education table
  • Neighborhoods integrate, and objections stemming from the impact to property values center on some other issue
Slowly, way–too–slowly “our” assemblage increases it’s number and make-up.  “We” begin to teach our collective children that bullying and derision “hurt the feelings” of a much more diverse population, widening the diameter of the circle of empathetic inclusion.

What if we could pick up the pace?

Every generation, we make friends with diversity in a few more arenas for a few more populations. Still, every generation seems to find new targets for derision and scorn, or new causes to boundary with “reverse discrimination” flags.

Unfortunately, most politicians take the survey numbers and use them as party platforms, rather than a laundry list of items waiting their turn at the “them into us” washeteria.

  • Our world hungers for leadership from statesmen – those willing to remain focused on horizons beyond party politics and campaign contribution allegiances.
  • We seem to lack politicians with empathy as well as conviction.

I would like to suggest that this dynamic will NEVER change until we throw away the lens of morality and fairness and START looking at neuroscience .

We need to STOP fanning the sparks of fear,
reacting with amazement when they burst into flame.

Work-place Reframes

Few places inspire more unconscious, fear-based thinking than the workplace.  What if we began THERE?  If we could refocus the management paradigm, seeding the meme of conscious co-creation as the responsibility of every single employee in the workplace, janitor to CEO, how might the workplace conversation shift?

Could “we,” perhaps, narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots when we, counter-intuitively, STOP arguing the about the distribution of limited slices of corporate pie and START discussing what is good for all of “US?”

I would like to suggest that as long as “the man” divvies up remuneration with an eye upon  “debit to the bottom line,” rather than composite contribution to value [CCV], we will be priming attitudes that will not get us anywhere positive.

I believe if all contributors were respected, acknowledged, and paid fairly, more of those workers would acknowledge that the contribution of those at the very top of the organizational pyramid earned  — gasp — a bigger piece of the pie because they were doing what it takes to step into greater accountabilities.

I would like to suggest that if we stopped rattling the “capitalism is evil” chain like Marley’s Ghost, increasingly more CEO’s and Chairpeople of the Board would be able to include a broader definition “us” in their corporate vision, because we would not be activating their fear-based, knee jerk defensive reactions.

When their “cognitive overrides” come back on board, they may well be able to envision a more realistic division of the fruits of the collective efforts of the labor pool as a whole — seeing a more “us-based” line between hoarding and sharing — without automatically casting any articulation of that point of view into the black/white, capitalism/socialism, them/us black hole.

MEANWHILE, what do we do?

This article has now come full-circle.  What I love so much about Jean Latting and her team is that they have developed a set of management techniques, working on the problem of inclusion in the workplace for some time now.  No, they don’t frame it THAT way, exactly, but that is the bottom line they address with their techniques.

There are six skill sets described in detail in Jean’s book, Reframing Change: How to Deal with Workplace Dynamics, Influence Others, and Bring People Together to Initiate Positive Change, co-authored with V. Jean RamseyPhD

  1. Testing Assumptions
  2. Clearing Emotions
  3. Building Effective Relationships
  4. Bridging Differences
  5. Conscious Use of Self
  6. Initiating Workplace Change

They assert (and I believe) that organizational change can be launched effectively, even without the formal authority to initiate it.

The Reframing Change Bottom Line:

When people act with integrity and learn to develop positive workplace relationships, a ripple effect can engender similar changes in an organization as a whole.

Developing skills in all [six] of these areas leads to what we call Leading Consciously, change that involves intentional choices that go far beyond just trying to get the other person to change. We all have the power to consciously choose actions that will make a profound difference in our professional and personal lives and for our organizations and communities.

Click over to the Leading Consciously website or to
Jean Latting’s blog
for specifics and related content.
And don’t miss MORE Related Content links below.


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What Kind of World Articles & Related Inspiration:

Related articles around the ‘net

For many of the Leading Consciously links, run your mouse over the article above.
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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

3 Responses to Reframing Change for World Leaders

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