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Florian Klaass on the magic of teams

By | Change management, Food for thought, Leadership, Learning and development, Storytelling, Team, What's new?

SVP / VP / Head of Marketing – Brand expert | Leadership Mentor | Business Advisor – FMCG, Entertainment, Culture, Social Responsibility – ex RED BULL… some of Florian’s credentials. Earlier this year we chatted with him about teams. Building them, nurturing them and helping them in times of crisis. He also told us why your luggage might go missing if you travel through Munich airport…

What’s the magic formula for a winning team?

The very short answer is: be authentic, don’t be an a$$hole!

There’s a couple of things I feel strongly about. First of all, we’re social beings so if everyone understands that when a group works or plays together, then certain rules must be adhered to. Humans mimic emotions. We synchronise, we’re dependent on each other. So, realise and acknowledge that. Respect and empathy are a great start to a winning team. Also, the team needs a joint purpose. Be 100% clear about why the group exists and what its goal is or else the team won’t work. Think about how many hours we spend at work, as part of a team, compared to time with loved ones… So, be very clear about why you’re spending so much time there at work! Have clear direction and vision. 

At Red Bull, it was clear: Red Bull gives you wings. My job was to find talent, foster ideas, bring them to life and give people an experience. Another example of such clarity that I love is Apple. Their purpose and their why is very clear. In 2001, the first iPod launched at the same time as another company’s MP3 player. The latter was, in some ways, better, but the big difference was the creative – the PR – claim. One sold itself as a 5GB MP3 player. Meanwhile Apple said 1,000 songs in your pocket. You have to be very engaged and motivated as a team to use that statement rather than the techy sell. But when you have a clear vision and formulate in a way that everyone understands it, people embrace it and live up to expectations.

In times of crisis, clarity is paramount. Organisational restructure, whether it’s shutting down or reforming, puts people under stress. Some people will lose their jobs and things will change. So, give clarity. Cut the BS. Tell the truth. Tell everyone and get them involved. Uncertainty and anxiety are toxic. Celebrate the successes, acknowledge them. That can happen many ways – champagne, a party or a team offsite. Even internal comms work, put the team on a pedestal and say a simple thank you. 

Create a safe psychological space where people can be themselves. You know when you sit in meetings and don’t dare ask something for fear of seeming stupid? You worry more about how you’re perceived than you do about solving an issue. A few years back, Google researched the parameters of great teams. Aside from goals and clarity, a safe space was the other major requirement. Let your team feel safe enough to say what they want to say. Allow them to let their guard down, be who they are, be true, be raw. When you’re a newcomer, you try to impress and demonstrate why you deserve your place there. The hardest work I’ve done in the past couple of years has been making people comfortable and letting them be who they are to get the best out of them. 

In moments of crisis, is it harder than usual to build a team?

I recommend the same rules as on any other day! I adhere to these 3 principles:

  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Vulnerability

Trust is self explanatory. Enable trusting relationships. It’s the same for work as in life generally. There’s an interesting study by Harvard where they looked at asking for help. If you’re in a situation where you hit a wall and need help, who do you ask? It turns out that people don’t ask the most competent or the most accessible person, they ask the most trustworthy person because… “I won’t be laughed at”. It’s safe to ask that person. So, provide and receive trust.

Honesty: this can be difficult. Sometimes you have to talk about uncomfortable things, admit you’re wrong or tell someone else they’re wrong. Either way, people in a team need to know where they’re at.

Vulnerability. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Gone are the days when managers had to be tough all the time. It’s fine to show emotions. That’s widely accepted. But it’s also important to admit when you’re wrong or emotionally affected by something. Admit weakness! Many struggle with this. It’s the ego at play; it tells you what to do and how to represent yourself in work. I’ve learned that it’s not about impressing others, showing how great and impeccable you are. It’s about authenticity and dealing with your mistakes. Then you have a team that is empowered – an independent team conscious of their responsibilities. They don’t need direction, they know where they’re going.

What’s your secret to working with global teams, diverse teams?

I’ve worked with so many different people, from different countries, different ethnicities and genders, etc. There is so much diversity and variety in the world. What worked well for me was listening, learning then leveraging what was gained. Observe. Look at the world around you, see how people interact and operate. The main lesson I’ve learned in the past couple of years is to be humble, not take myself too seriously. Regardless of job title, salary etc, stay receptive, curious and eager to learn. Another thing is never, EVER, assume that your perspective or your way of thinking applies to everyone else! It doesn’t. Remind yourself of this. A sign of appreciation in one place can be an offence in another. A joke in one, discriminating in another. A simple example from German culture – you can point your finger at someone and it’s fine. But do the same in Japan and it’s highly offensive! Your behaviour is the same, but the perception and reaction is different. So, be thoughtful about your behaviour. 

What magical moments have you had in the past few years?

  1. At RedBull, we did a festival in NY for our global music programme. It was an amazing show with Solange, at the Guggenheim museum. There were around 40-50 black women in her choir. What a celebratory event for women and black culture in music. That felt magical, it gave me goosebumps.
  2. I work with international teams – great and different people. We did a workshop in Reykjavik. And Iceland is magical anyway, it’s a different world. Combine a magical landscape with a crew of 20, from 15 different countries, solving a problem together over 3 days… Bright minds using their brain power – that’s a most magical experience. You get their intelligence, their wiring, their experiences, their upbringing, their everything!

What’s your superpower?

Probably listening. I’m really good at shutting up and listening! Sometimes that’s all you need to do. People tell you things and very often they have the solution themselves, they just need the canvas to paint on.

Tell us a secret…

When I was at school in Munich, I worked at the local airport driving the small luggage lorries. If you’ve ever wondered why you didn’t get your baggage, it was me! I mixed the terminals up… Now I travel extensively and every time I see those guys, I really respect them because it’s quite a tough job. And I NEVER check bags – cabin bags only!!

If you had a magic wand, what would you change?

I’d erase social media! The whole thing, including its great sides, has failed. It highlights negatives in humanity. And sometimes you have to break things to make them great again. So I’d shut it down and come up with something new.

Favourite song?

Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want 😉

Do you need to spark magic in your team?

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Arup’s Jen Emery on making change magical

By | Change management, Food for thought, Leadership, Learning and development, Storytelling, Team, What's new?

Jen Emery brings magic to the world in many ways. She’s a leader, a thinker, a writer, a speaker and Global People Leader at Arup. Jen’s professional passion is unlocking the potential of people to help them flourish. 

This is a conversation we had with Jen in November 2020. Naturally we spoke via Zoom as much of the UK was back in lockdown again.

As with all of our conversations, we ask the audience a question before we start chatting with our guest. Given the nature of the conversation he was about to have with Jen, Rubens asked: How do you feel in a space of change and transformation? 

Back came the typed responses: challenged, inspired, frightened, out of control, anxious, worried… Most people were certainly not positive about the concept of change. 

Then we started chatting with Jen:

Where does the passion for working with change come from and how do you link what you do with magic?

The answer to that is in the response of the audience to your question… There’s such tension in the concept of change; there’s fear, negativity and resistance. But there’s also great potential, the scope to unlock something positive and magical. I found that, in every aspect of what I was doing professionally and personally, I was dealing with change. And I actually find change hard, I’m hopeless at endings. I almost cry if someone leaves the room, never mind emigrates or leaves my life in some way! I’m also someone who worries about every possible permutation of what could go wrong. I grieve in advance for stuff that might never happen. Yet I am also someone who loves unlocking potential, moving people and organisations. 

How do we grapple with the complexities, tensions and dilemmas inherent in change? How do we ensure we have a relationship with change that is productive and positive? Where’s the magic in that?? Well, magic is about changing things from one state to another – visible to invisible, black to red, square to round. And in the same way that magic needs spells, rituals and stories, change needs stories, patterns and rituals to work.

What’s the secret to making change magical?

The first thing to acknowledge is that change is scary. Your brain makes no distinction between the uncertainty that comes from a change in social status or what’s expected of you professionally, and a tiger chasing you down the street. In your brain, it’s all real and it’s all scary. The neuroscientist, David Rock, has an acronym that I find useful – SCARF. It’s a reminder of what happens to us when we’re uncertain or afraid:

S = status changing
C = certainty
A = agency
R = relationships
F = fairness

(You’ll find the TED talk at the bottom of this blog 👇)

Before you can get to the magic of change, you first have to put those things on better footing. If something uncertain is happening, how can I give people the status and standing they need? How can we create even a little certainty and give people agency? How can we keep people in good relationships with one another and make sure what we’re doing is fair, and that people understand it? You can play away the fear and then supercharge some of that. Then you can make relationships central, give people confidence and agency. To do that there are three things you need to give people. And we need to talk about this over and over again…

  • Great leadership: authentic, wholehearted, sleeves up leadership
  • A clear sense of purpose: knowing where you’re going and why – individually and collectively
  • Storytelling: make it magical of course!

What’s the power of storytelling in change?

I love words. Like you, I used to be a lawyer. Lawyers use words for precision and to make things happen, you write detailed words on a page and stuff happens in real life. Now, I write poetry and the use of words there is different. It is about precision, but it’s also about beauty. I keep a list of words that I want to use because they sound beautiful. Nimbus, subterranean, polarities. I’m going to try and get all those words into poetry soon!

But in business, we do the opposite. We so often use bland, abstract language – process, systems, programmes, talent management, governance. At best it’s uninspiring. At worst, I don’t think it’s benign because it keeps us unquestioning and compliant. Storytelling cuts through all that. It gets rid of all the jargon, the nonsense, the obfuscation and hiding. Stories move us beyond the surface, beyond the rational part of the brain that we want when working on change at work. Stories actually move us pre and post rational because they ignite the animal part of ourselves – our passions and fears. They also ignite the spiritual part of our brain – what are we here for, what inspires us, what’s our purpose. Stories engage at a different level. They need you not to be a dispassionate observer. What stories make happen in the brain is quite complicated. There’s plot, different perspectives, empathy, cause and effect, implications. All that triggers cascades of perceptions and motivation that enable change to happen in a way that legal rationale doesn’t. And that’s the power of storytelling.

What blocks change from happening?

Not very much, but the blockers are disguised. Sometimes they look like process, governance, resources or money. But really, the two big blockers are fear and greed. We’re scared to change, which makes neurological sense. We understand and weigh up the potential losses and downsides of something. It’s much harder to imagine what the future upsides are, the gains we haven’t seen yet.

As for greed and power – if the current way serves you well, you want to preserve that. There are always winners and losers, in transactional terms anyway. So, to enable change means seeing what people are afraid of and addressing that. If they stand to lose something, address that too. Then things like due process, governance, etc, tend to fall into place.

How do you align process and belonging, and why?

Every organisation is its people. It’s more obvious in professional services – law, consulting or engineering. There we sell time and expertise. However great your tech or your brand is, you only have your people. Purpose is why we’re all here and we get out of bed in the morning. Meaningful work, feeling that what we do matters, being able to put our shoulder to the wheel in service of something. That’s what ignites us. I keep talking about the brain don’t I, as well as the heart! When you trigger those pathways, it enables people to make discretionary efforts. And that’s what will help us, our businesses, and the world flourish. So you need to talk about purpose for people.

But purpose isn’t one single thing – it’s like a Russian doll. There’s a big, broad corporate purpose. There’s the purpose in relation to the particular change you’re trying to effect or the project you’re working on. Then there’s my purpose or your purpose, which will have some relation to the wider purpose. But it’s also for me. What’s in it for me, what am I learning, where am I growing, what are the relationships I’m in that matter, what’s my sense of reward from this? Purpose matters in all those ways and that’s intrinsically linked to motivation.

Belonging is slightly different. There are many longitudinal studies, which show that belonging – far more than weight, age or general health – is a predictor of longevity and health. We’re made to be in relationships with each other. In a corporate business context we forget that. We undervalue the importance of making people feel that they have an identity vetted in the corporation, that they have relationships at work that matter to them and that they’re part of a tribe. These things help your people and your business flourish. But it’s also how you build loyalty. It’s how people accept accountability, take risks on your behalf, make decisions and effort. It’s not about aligning everybody like droids or robots, all preaching the same thing, with the corporate purpose planted into their brains! It’s about harnessing all the motivation that comes from people when they belong and have a purpose.

Arup's leadership team

Arup’s leadership team

What’s your approach to change and how has the pandemic affected that, what still works and what doesn’t?

At times, particularly at the start of the pandemic, I felt that it was like launching a fast horse the year the steam train came out! To have written a book about how to ‘do’ change before the pandemic… unfortunate to say the least. But, if I can get my own ego out of the way, it’s been the richest learning experience ever. Looking at what I believed, studied and held onto, and what I thought held water… then working out whether it does now. The changes I talk about in the book were largely self-initiated, so somewhat in my control. Take something like a big merger. Every person in the company might not control it, but it is a human-initiated change. But it’s certainly not on the scale of a pandemic.

The central thesis of the book is that change can be good. Not because it takes you from a bad place to a better place. But because the change period itself can be rich, productive, full of growth, learning, added value, and so on. I talk about all the ways that can manifest. Building greater belonging and confidence. Creating energy. Enabling things to be done more simply and people to be more agile. But it depends on those three conditions I mentioned earlier. Great leadership. A clear purpose. And great stories. So, that’s the premise of the book.

I do think those three basics work though, they’re still 100% right in the pandemic world. What we’ve desperately needed, in business and in life, has been great leadership. A north star, a unifying sense of direction and purpose. And sense making – understanding what the heck is going on and what will the future look like. We need the opportunity to evolve and simplify.

What did I underestimate in the book? I used the word energy rather than resilience. I wanted it to feel positive, that change can be a generative experience. You get to grow and spark ideas off each other. But the pandemic has taught us that protracted change of this scale – with this amount of uncertainty and lack of control – is so draining and so hard for people. Thinking preventatively, how do you build resilience and wellbeing to enable any change? A second edition of the book would reflect that – I’d put in more about wellbeing and resilience.

How do you create space in the change process where magic can happen and people can flourish?

What should leaders do? It’s been hard. Over the past few months I’ve been working closely with our senior leaders at Arup. They feel overwhelmed, there are so many things they have to do. Leaders aren’t just leaders at the moment. They’re parents, doctors, teachers, counsellors and coaches too. We’ve been distilling it down to what they really need to do to create this magic space. So, what does being a great leader in this moment mean? It’s about creating a context for your people where they can make sense of what’s going on, for them. It’s about giving people a vision – help them tell their story, elicit what their purpose is and explain the corporate purpose to them. It’s also about creating a place where action can happen – where people feel they can act and are trusted to act. There are three great gifts leaders can give to people.

  • Attention: show up for people; be there, be present
  • Permission: tell people it’s ok to take a break and role model that by looking after yourself
  • Trust: empower people to act and make decisions; show you believe in them to act in the best interest of the organisation

How do we change the nature of leadership given so many operate in a top-down manner?

One of the things the book has a go at tackling, and that I’m constantly thinking about, is advocating a shift in the leadership paradigm. A shift from top-down, paternalistic, shouting loudly and resisting change. Instead, embrace uncertainty and show a degree of vulnerability. That shows courage because you’re prepared to admit you don’t know everything. Co-create solutions and listen to other people. That’s a big shift in paradigm.

But how do you do that? With time, development and support. And to some extent a change in the actual people. Role model to show people that better results do happen if you step into things. Listen and create with people from the periphery of your organisation who have the knowledge you need. Cut through the BS and the façade to what people are afraid of. Show up as a real human. Address everyone’s status, their relationships, what they need to protect. And highlight where they have agency and choice.

We always finish our conversations with three magical questions…

What’s your superpower? 

An encyclopaedic knowledge of random pop lyrics, mostly from the 80s and 90s. And the ability to inject them into any conversation! More seriously though, I have the ability to synthesise. I see patterns and make complex things simple. I can tell a story back to people. I love to do that.

Tell us a secret…

I have four kids and we had mugs made with their initials on them. Only two mugs are left, one with an F and the other with an E. In my head that means friend and enemy. When I make cups of tea for people, I give them the mug I’m in the mood for. So, if they’re annoying me I give them the E mug, for enemy. It’s so unbelievably petty!!

If you had a magic wand, what would you change?

I’d enable us to have better conversations with one another. Remember the Tower of Babel story from the Bible, where people talk different languages? I’d reverse that so we can all connect and truly understand each other across every border that exists. It could be so beautiful if we took the time, insight and capacity to understand each other better.

💖 Thank you so much to Jen for taking the time to talk to us. We’re sure you’ll agree there’s a lot of food for thought here and well managed, there certainly can be magic in change! This conversation is also available as a podcast

Want to bring magic and storytelling to a change process at your company?

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The World Needs Magic: wonder-full conversations

By | Belief, Curiosity, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magicians, What's new?, Wonder

No longer a spacey futuristic vision of life on the moon, video calling has become normal. Very normal. Captain Kirk would be impressed at how normal. Personally, we still prefer meeting face-to-face, but video calling is much much better than nothing and it has its own charm… (do let us know 😉)

Like many, Abracademy has adjusted to the new way of being. We’ve changed a lot about how we work and communicate. One way we’ve evolved our practice is to start a weekly webinar. It’s something we had talked about doing for a while. And in March this year, the moment presented itself and we got on with finally doing it. Of course we had to learn a few technical things and we made mistakes along the way, but we got there.

Each week we invite someone whose ideas and work we admire. They either have something to do with the world of magic, psychology and science, or learning and development. Or all three! 

It’s selfish… The webinar gives us the opportunity to talk to someone interesting about things that interest us. We enjoy learning from our guests and hearing about their personal and professional lives – how they feel about the pandemic, how it’s affected them, and so on.

Our guest in April, Nathalie Trutman, observed: “… Our automatic reaction is to replicate patterns that worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, they aren’t necessarily going to get us through this time”. On a previous pause from work, she learned to sail. ”Have a wild dream that you think is impossible. Then break it down like a puzzle and take the first step”. It doesn’t matter what your wild dream is or even if you succeed. Just dare to dream. We like that sentiment.

Sarah Gregersen talked about a circular economy and how nature can inspire us. A love of nature came early to Sarah, as a kid she thought “we’re breaking the earth!”. She suggested that we “think about our surroundings [suppliers etc] as part of our ecosystem. Develop new practices, new ways of operating”. When you’re annoyed in a traffic jam, remember that you are the traffic!

Doctor of Wonder, magician and scientist, Dr Matt Pritchard answered the question: what kills wonder? with “Busyness… work, home, technology. Learn to stop, pause, reflect, adjust. Make space to notice things, discover things. See the extraordinary in the ordinary. The magical in the mundane”. He quoted a study of 135k people on wellbeing. The #1 aid for wellbeing was having people around who care about you. But #2 was learning something – discovering new things helps your wellbeing. So perhaps we can use some of this time to pause and learn?

Another magician and psychologist, Goldsmith’s Dr Gustav Kuhn warned us that “if 3 small kids appear, I didn’t just magic them up!😄 We never did see them so they must have stayed in the hat… Gustav said of the positive emotions of magic: “use them in education to enhance learning experiences and wellbeing”. We couldn’t agree more!

There’s a sense of embracing the unknown throughout these conversations. We can’t ignore that for many this has been a very difficult time. However there can also be benefits – extra time in the day, more time with friends and family, more conversations around wellbeing in the workplace, more meetups on Zoom without leaving your house! Accepting that things have changed enormously and proceeding with the positives as best you can. And, always be learning!

Have a look at forthcoming webinars here.

Links

I have an idea for your next webinar guest 💡

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Magic for the Many

By | Belief, Curiosity, Magical Moments, Priya, What's new?, Wonder

How Magilitation can help teams and companies cast a spell

By Priya Ghai

If you’ve ever felt the need to:

  • Create wonder
  • Inspire through storytelling 
  • Control attention
  • Shift group energy
  • Listen compassionately
  • Speak powerfully 
  • Work with emergence
  • And dance in the moment…

… then think about hiring a Magilitator. You won’t regret it. Allow me to explain why.

Abracademy is interested in the overlaps between magic and other spheres like business, education, mental health and personal development. We know magic can mean so much more than coins, cards and rabbits in hats. For the past few years we’ve been developing ways to apply the basic elements of magic (wonder, awe, intrigue and stories) where they’re rarely used. What we call Magilitation is the result of those experiments.

Magilitation is the beautiful merging of magic and facilitation. It was born out of an idea I had on a skills-swap seminar. Magicians are incredible presenters and facilitators are masters of group dynamics. How about we develop each others’ abilities and make a hybrid, an entirely new skill. A skill that creates wonderful experiences, helping participants on journeys of self-discovery and experiential learning. Hello Magilitation! These days we deploy our magicians to train facilitators and we work with facilitators to train magicians. They develop their superpowers together.

It’s pure magic. The kind of magic the world needs today: inclusive and democratic.

No-one arrives an expert to our Magilitation workshops. The playing field is level, everyone learns together. Whatever feelings and emotions people experience are welcome. There’s no right and wrong in this learning space. And, because it’s very visual, magic is a universal language that everyone can understand.

Magic has the power to change the way people see themselves and others. We see the change in participants the instant they learn their first magic trick. Suddenly they’re doing something they thought impossible five minutes before. Indeed, the mindset shift can be lightning-fast as participants step out of their comfort zones and open up to learning. That’s one part of the power of Magilitation.

When the world is changing at an exponential rate, systems and structures shift as soon as we get used to them. This rate of transformation means we’re often working at an unsustainable pace. An unfortunate side effect is that all too often we forget to connect: talk, share, laugh, cry and forgive. Sometimes the speed of progress comes at a cost to our humanity. Workplaces become fraught with stress, low confidence, fear and uncertainty. But our Magilitators can help to restore belief at work and spark wonder again. We help companies slow down and invest in their people. Such workshops improve the quality and depth of their relationships with each other.

Of course Abracademy has to work by these beliefs and values too. And we know it takes effort. We also know we help companies raise team spirits by unlocking belief and sparking wonder. We work in a space where many learning and development programmes have yet to go. And while the outcomes may be harder to measure, we also believe that this is a space where real change happens. It’s a human approach that works with what makes us human: emotion.

It might sound bold, but Magilitation could assist any company concerned with the creativity and wellbeing of its employees. However, we’ve noticed some commonalities among the companies we’ve worked with.

First, they dare to dream that there is a more powerful, magical way for professional development. One where people feel valued, where their thoughts, experiences and emotions are welcome.

Secondly, they are companies looking for a fresh approach to learning. A special magic creating lasting memories for participants and movement within the company.

Lastly, they’re curious about the power of group dynamics and have a deep understanding of the creative process. Employees are the lifeblood of any company. Our Magilitators instil new energy and unlock employee potential. This is vital to the health and progress of any organisation these days.

Magilitation is a unique mix of presence and performance. Our Magilitators help people of all ages and all abilities find their inner magic. We’ve boosted the self-esteem and confidence of young people. And created a space where individuals can share their struggles, joys, ups and downs through storytelling. An important tool when mental health is increasingly part of the social conversation.

Magic was once a closed shop, the preserve of a few practitioners, performers and experts. But today, when the world is full of sorrow, anxiety, violence and loneliness, magic needs to be for the many – for all of us.

Everyone deserves to find their inner magic. We all have superpowers. The most powerful spell cast by Magilitation is to imbue the belief that the impossible is possible.

Hope arrives when we see new possibilities materialise in front of us. Each of us can be a part of making that happen. When people learn to share their magic with others, hope becomes contagious and magic spreads. It’s the most wonderful feeling. 😊

Priya Ghai
Head of Learning

aka The Mind Master 😵

Do you want to add magic to your L&D?

Hubble bubble...

What makes a good learning organisation?

By | Belief, Curiosity, Education, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, What's new?, Wonder

In the second of our webinar series, The World Needs Magic, Rubens talked about learning with Nathalie Trutmann. What makes a good learning organisation and how do we harness a learning mindset?

Nathalie has spent over 20 years in the learning space, the majority of her working life. She’s a former CEO of Hyper Island, now focused on innovation, transformation and education. She’s author of two books; we especially love Handbook for Young Dreamers 🦄 (because we advocate dreaming big!).

 

It’s very important, both for individuals and organisations, to observe how our automatic reaction to this moment, where there are many unknowns, is to replicate patterns that worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, they aren’t necessarily going to get us through this time…

Our first question to Nathalie was: Where is your attention at this moment in time?

Nathalie

I’m focusing very strongly on finding a new passion. One where I can put all my energy and learn lots during this sacred time that we’re all having.

Rubens

Fantastic! We are indeed in this moment where we can learn, unlearn and relearn. Many organisations are having to look in, what I call, the true mirror. They’re looking in it trying to realise who they are as organisations and who they plan to be… I read something you said about using this moment to reprogram our minds, to have a beginner’s mindset. Can you share what you mean by that and why it’s important right now?

Nathalie

This moment is very special and very challenging because it took us all by surprise. There was no time to prepare. It caught us off guard and has provided us with this true mirror moment – both for organisations and for individuals. It shows us what we do and don’t have, what we’ve done and what’s yet to be done. It’s very important, both for individuals and organisations, to observe how our automatic reaction in this moment, where there are many unknowns, is to replicate patterns that worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, they aren’t necessarily going to get us through this time.

Good learning organisations are those that have already allowed their executives to learn and experiment. Ultimately, organisations don’t sell products or services… they are places where people make decisions. And the quality of those decisions correlates directly to the balance between arrogance and humbleness. While some organisations have focused on saving the world and being better people, other organisations have focused more on the reality that real people have both arrogance and humbleness, that we are both altruistic and selfish. Those organisations have created systems for people to show themselves as they truly are.

Right now, we all have the opportunity to show ourselves as we really are. We’re all in our homes so there’s more of that reality already, work facades have dropped. But the organisations that already had systems and practices in place – allowing people to bring that real self to work and helping them grow within the company – are better prepared for the moment we’re facing. In such organisations it’s more acceptable, or they’re more used to, sharing worries and fears, supporting each other. Other organisations are having to catch up.

The balance between arrogance and humbleness in the decisions we make is an important one. When you are very self confident, you have a high degree of arrogance and if you are very humble you probably have a high degree of insecurity. So, how do you balance those two and how do you promote the healthy attitude of a learner? In the mind of a beginner, there are infinite possibilities. In the expert’s mind, the possibilities are limited. I sense, and observe, that a lot of people want to have the right formula to navigate this moment. But instead, let’s create the right conditions to explore different formulas and see what may or may not work.

Many still rush to conclusions, instead of exploring different paths. But the conclusion might not be as simple as you think and it might not be a duplicate of what’s worked in the past. 

Rubens

I think there’s lots of resistance to implementing something like that. So, how can we build this beginner’s mind, how do we start to build this mindset into a company?

Nathalie

It’s especially difficult for individuals to adopt such a mindset. We always want to see the end, to know the outcome of something. We tend to allocate time on productive endeavours – what kind of course can I enrol in, what qualification will I get? But what if we allowed ourselves to experiment with scenarios where we don’t know what the outcome will be? With the beginner’s mind, you have to allow yourself to do things that are seemingly unproductive. 

Many years ago, a company I worked for was bought out. The leaders of the company told us everything would be resolved in one or two months. From that moment, we were all paralysed. We had to live from month to month and there was no money to spend – we were on hold waiting for decisions to be made. But the decisions took a whole year, not one or two months. I remember that many people spent a lot of time wondering and talking about it, speculating and hypothesising. At that time though, I thought, I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to do – sailing.

So, I convinced two friends to get a sailboat with me. We bought a really cheap one that we thought just needed some paint and some curtains, and it would work ok. But none of us had ever sailed in our lives, ever! And it was fantastic… We spent the whole year reading about sailing, fixing the boat and learning how to sail. It wouldn’t take us around the world, but it took us around a little bay. The energy of this beginner’s mindset however, stepping into a completely new world, hanging out with sailors, listening to their stories and reading about people who had sailed round the world – the energy that this generated, was priceless. And it brought a better person back to the company. I wasn’t one of those who’d spent time worrying about what was and wasn’t going to happen. I had spent a year being really energised and enthusiastic, and infecting others with that. So, where can we begin right now?

For those of us who are working and have heavy workloads, it’s hard because we are doing the home load plus the work load. But if you can, have a wild dream of something that you think is impossible. It doesn’t matter what it is. Break it down like a puzzle and take the first step. And for those of us who aren’t working – also start something that really excites you, no matter how small. Just start it. It doesn’t matter what happens at the end of 6 months or a year, the important thing is to get into that enthusiastic, happy, childlike state where you’re not counting the days. And don’t hang onto the news every single day to see what happens. When restrictions finally lift you’ll have learned something new and time will have flown by. When I went back to work, I was a happy enthusiastic person, able to contribute to my teams, my family and my workplace with a different kind of energy. 

Rubens

I sell magic: magic that transforms organisations. One of the big challenges is showing the difference between how you make money and how you work, and showing the importance of how you work. And how much how you work can benefit how you make money. But it’s a war to make such simple magic come true. How did you experience that while you were leading Hyper Island and other organisations?

Nathalie

It’s a huge challenge… When I was at HI, and before that, I tried to overcome scepticism with numbers and concepts. People needed these first. If I came in with creative ideas, they were disregarded very easily. But then I changed things. First I presented something very technical, very businesslike, very number-driven, so that I could show the impact on the business. Then with that scepticism out of the way, I had creative freedom! 

Learning organisations already know that it’s important to invest in the growth of their people because it will directly impact their sales and business positively. 

One classic example is shoe company, Zappos and their success at delivering happiness. What does happiness have to do with the shoe business?? It’s simple – the happier your employees are, the more committed and engaged they are. Zappos decided that they weren’t just selling shoes, they were making human connections. It didn’t matter what a customer was calling about, the task of whoever answered the phone was to make that moment magical for the customer. There’s a lot of stories of people calling and asking for movie theatre schedules or help with wedding arrangements! Because the Zappos team was so well trained to help with whatever that person needed and because what they wanted was an unforgettable moment for the customer – it made their company very special. People working for Zappos felt excited because they were allowed to go off script and create magic. As magicians already know, when you create magic for someone else, you’re also creating magic for yourself! I imagine, Rubens, that when you do tricks and you see somebody smiling, it brings a smile to your face too. This nurtures us. This keeps us going. 

Rubens

Yes that’s true. And living in this time when the world is totally upside down can definitely open the minds of many people that were resistant to this approach before. But we also talked about new times creating a need for new habits – what habits do you think companies could incorporate now to build a learning-minded workplace? 

Nathalie

It’s very important to review all the To Do lists that companies have. And what on those lists makes a difference to the experience of both the customers and the workforce. So many To Do’s… do we need so many?? Do we need to work extensive hours or could we lower the load a bit, do less and create space to listen to the sounds of the future? Everybody is wondering what’s going to happen next and how it’s going to happen, what is the new winning formula? Having endless tasks and To Do lists leaves people exhausted and stressed – it’s not enabling the mindset, creativity or imagination that we need. Somebody said that the first thing we lose in a crisis is imagination because it’s considered expensive and it’s not a time for creativity. Everybody’s in crisis mode and cutting costs. But how can we create thriving environments and good moments for people at work so that they’re still excited and enthusiastic?

Rubens

What comes to mind when thinking about things that stop or hinder companies from achieving a beginner’s mindset? You’ve worked with some great companies, from Oracle to Red Bull to Unilever – what gets in the way?

Nathalie

Abundance of financial resources get in the way! This is in Clayton Christensen’s great book – How Will You Measure Your Life. He said focus on smart money. This is when you have very few resources and you still make something happen. In big companies, the difficulty is that they’re used to creating big initiatives. They’re not comfortable with small initiatives because they compare them to the existing ways of doing business. Why is this important if we can only bill X, when we’re already billing much more with another scheme? Once again this highlights the fact that many companies only measure numbers. They’re not measuring the rate of learning that the initiative might have, or the increased rate of cohesion and collaboration in a team. If you allow more of these smaller experiments, you may not get the big bucks, but you will get a much higher rate of learning, bonding and collaboration between your team members. So I think an abundance of resources and always thinking in big terms can be an obstacle to a learning mindset.

The other thing that gets in the way is that we are very attached to having detailed road maps of where an experiment is going to take us. But look, nobody planned for this pandemic right? We forgot to plan for this! No plans that were set in place at the beginning of 2020 contemplated something like this. We should test initiatives and ideas without knowing where they’re going to take us, without judging them or throwing them out just because they don’t necessarily bring big money in. But what else can they bring, what can we learn? Can we learn something new about our employees, about our market, about our consumers? I think this is very important. So you can see how abundance of resources and attachment to knowing the outcome of an initiative can get in the way of learning?

Rubens

You’ve spent your life redefining learning… Let’s say you have a magic wand, how would you redefine learning again now?

Nathalie

More real-life project based learning? Learn something like how to build a boat or how to do science experiments. Remove the up front evaluation of right and wrong and think of initiatives where you measure learning by excitement, smiles and the sparkles in peoples’ eyes. When you lose those things, you lose the most precious things we have. So, if we can conjure learning like that, that would be great!

A big thank you to Nathalie for her time and thoughts on this subject. We hope you enjoyed reading our conversation as much as we enjoyed having it! 👌

Let’s close with a question we put to the webinar audience: What’s one thing you’ve learned, relearned or unlearned since social isolation started?

  • I’m re-learning to write code
  • I learned how to peel an orange properly!
  • I’m unlearning to structure my days
  • I am learning how important it is to exercise
  • I am unlearning to endlessly distract myself with random stuff

“Thank you so much for this fresh air!” 🌈

If you’d like to listen to the webinar, press play below 👇

If you’d like to join future webinars, click here for up to date information.
They’re every Tuesday afternoon, usually at 2pm (right around tea or coffee time ) and they last half an hour. Bite sized conversations for easy digestion!

Interested in an online Magical Moment for you or your team?
Click here for information about our online workshops, Unleash Imagination and Raising Resilience.

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A magic potion for embracing change

By | Belief, Curiosity, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Uncategorized, What's new?, Wonder

Don’t be afraid to pivot

This is one of Abracademy’s core values.

The world as we know it is changing and we’re all in this together. If ever there’s been a time when everyone – people and companies alike – has had to pivot, it’s now.

And sticking to what we know best – we want to offer support through our online learning and development workshops. They’re guaranteed to be 100% magical 🦄

The world of magic is familiar with the unknown. We like to sit in the (wonder-full) space between curiosity and knowledge. But of course this outbreak brings so many unknowns and fears. And it calls into question what it means to be present. We don’t know what’s around the corner so we can only focus on what we know right now..

Physically, we find ourselves at home – with children, pets or partners. Mentally, there’s uncertainty, distractions, anxiety and confusion. How can we juggle all the demands and continue to feel present at home and at work, online, and offline?

For one, we need to cultivate space online that allows us to be connected, joyful, vulnerable and curious. Through the magic of the internet, this is exactly what people can do. What people are doing! We truly believe in people, in their resilience and power to survive this adversity. Maybe we can even thrive…?

A learning mindset is possibly the most important skill you can develop right now. Abracademy ignites this mindset by exploring wonder and shifting limiting beliefs. This allows people to connect – both to themselves and to others. Also to gain profound insights to embed back at work, as well as in life generally. We create spaces and experiences that – thanks to the use of magic as a tool – spark wonder in the brain. When we spark that wonder, people are more open, curious and, crucially, able to see their world from new perspectives. Ta-da! 

Abracademy is adapting to the current situation. We want to support our community the best way we know how with magic, connection, playfulness and collaboration. We’ve developed two virtual workshops for you. Read more about them here ⚡!

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Alex Pittas: what’s your story?

By | Belief, Education, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Team, What's new?

Now and then we like to shine the spotlight on one member of the Abracademy team. Today, it’s Alex Pittas’ turn to shine. We like to call him Magic Al, because he is.

Alex is very modest, but you should see him come to life in workshops. To say that he’s an amazing connector with people is an understatement! He’s brought the shyest people out of their shells and boosted the confidence of literally hundreds of people.

Hello Alex – obviously we know who you are, but for those that don’t, explain who you are and what you do at Abracademy…

I’m the Head Magician and a lead Magilitator (magician-facilitator). One of my main roles here is to innovate and research new magic for everything we do. I’m also one of the lead Magilitatiors. So, I deliver both client workshops and the personal development, Open Workshop, series.

I’m naturally a people person. This has helped me enormously as a magician and a Magilitator. I’ve been told that I have ‘people power’ by other magicians who have watched me perform. I have often been in a situation with an important client where I don’t actually know who they are! There is no fear and I find it easy to connect, strike up a conversation and perform a magic trick. This always breaks the ice and helps them understand the power of what we do by experiencing it.

As it’s at the heart of what Abracademy does, can you talk about what Experiential Learning means to you?

To me, it means a hands-on approach to learning – where participants learn by doing. We get everyone up and out of their seats, encouraging them to be involved and engaged. It’s such a fun, dynamic and interesting way of learning.

Experiential Learning with Abracademy means games and mental exercises. Groups work together to solve problems and face challenges. And, of course, as a Magilitator I help the group grow as well as learn, and perform, cool magic. 

I love sharing magic because I genuinely want others to experience the amazement I had the first time. And I love teaching magic – sharing practical knowledge, tips and wisdom gained over the years.

Do you have examples from workshops demonstrating the power of Experiential Learning?

We ran our Inner Belief workshop with a group of year 3 children (ages 7-8). Afterwards, they were asked how learning with Abracademy helped with other subjects at school. One girl said: “I was always nervous and shy in English lessons. Sometimes I’d have to tell a story or read a poem out loud for the class. But now I’m not shy at all! I learnt how to be confident and use my voice”.

That happened with a combination of exercises over several sessions. For example, the storytelling exercise – participants sit in a circle and everyone tells part of a story. You go around the circle creating a beginning, a middle and an end to the story. People learn to communicate with their whole body and improve their voice projection. We also did magic performances, individually and groups. This pushes people a little out of their comfort zone, but boosts confidence because of the sense of achievement

Can you recall someone having a WOW moment during a session, seeing how what they were doing in the workshop could impact them positively in the real world?

At the end of one Raising Resilience workshop, one person said that they were surprised and delighted at how easy it was to face their fears. That just by changing the way they looked at a situation empowered them to try new things. She said she could see how to apply the approach at work and to not be afraid of failure. It’s worth trying this even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.

What’s your favourite Abracademy Magical Moment workshop and why?

Hmmm, that’s a tough question! Not sure if I have an absolute favourite. But I do enjoy Unlock Your Mind. That workshop really tackles the common misconception many people have of themselves – ‘I’m not creative’. Through fun exercises and tasks, participants gradually unlock their creative potential. They always leave feeling inspired. Plus they learn a cool mind-reading effect that they can add their own creative angle to. A great way to spread magic because – the world needs more magic!

What’s an example of magic working really well to demonstrate a concept being explored in a workshop?

It has to be the Magic Lights. We use this trick in the Belief series of workshops because it’s all about believing in the Magic Lights! We chose it for several reasons…

  • It’s a very easy trick to learn – a great place to start and to boost confidence
  • The lights create a beautiful visual effect!
  • We use them to represent our inner magical energy
  • It’s fantastic for groups because everyone learns and plays together; this helps people believe in themselves and in one another
  • It’s a flexible trick – you’re only limited by your imagination!

Some magic-related questions to finish: do you have any advice for budding magicians?

Try to learn a bit of everything. It will help you in the future if you eventually focus on one area of magic. But if you choose one area to start, for example coin or card magic, then learn the basics first. It’s what I call the scaffolding! But do make sure that you have other interests, apart from magic. The knowledge and experience that comes from other areas of life helps strengthen you as a magician and enriches your routines.  

What do you find magical in the world today?

Apart from all the new magic that keeps improving month by month, I find technology, movies, people and places magical. 

How did you discover magic?

My grandmother got me into magic! When I was around 7 or 8 she would tell me a magical story using a pack of cards, over a toastie and a hot cocoa after school. There would be the “queens that were in a castle and the evil jacks had locked them up”. “The kings would battle with the jacks and save the queens”! There was always magic in her stories. 

How did you arrive at Abracademy?

I first met Rubens – co-founder and Director of Spells at Abracademy – in 2014. We shared a love of magic.

Over a coffee one afternoon he asked me – “If you could do anything with magic, what would you do?”
I
answered – “I would open a real Hogwarts!”
His reply? – “OK great, let’s do it!”

And that’s how we started Abracademy 🦄

Alex Pittas
Head Magician

Interested in Experiential Learning with added magic? 🌟

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Why is the art of collaboration important?

By | Belief, Curiosity, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Team, What's new?, Wonder

How to unleash the magic of your team

Organisations today face complex challenges. Ones that necessitate collaboration between employees (Creating Effective Teams, Susan Wheelan). So, the ability to manage teams and projects is an invaluable asset.

However, the art of collaboration is itself complex. It involves multidisciplinary teams with different structures, skills, backgrounds and ways of working. Understanding people management comes first because managing teams means dealing with individuals.

7 core skills that ignite the magic of a team

 

Emotional and social intelligence are key for success when you work in a team. According to the TESI model (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence) there are seven essential soft skills – identity, motivation, emotional awareness, communication, stress tolerance, conflict resolution and positive mood. These all contribute to the effectiveness, productivity, emotional and social wellbeing of a team.

1. Identity

A team with a strong identity demonstrates the sense of belonging. They have a desire to work together and there is clarity around each member’s role. Groups with strong team identity have high degrees of loyalty.

2. Motivation

A high level of motivation corresponds to the energy and responsibility levels in a team. Whether competition is working for or against the team also affects motivation. Having a motivated team requires knowing, and meeting, desires. For example, setting stretch goals, reinforcing success and being persistent.

3. Emotional awareness

Noticing, understanding and respecting colleagues’ feelings indicates a team’s emotional awareness. It is a critical factor in motivation, productivity and collaboration. And it’s central to the success of every team.

4. Communication

We know that good communication is essential for a group of people working together. It provides guidance on how well each of the team member acts. Particularly when discussing sensitive topics, encouraging listening and participation.

5. Stress tolerance

A team with good stress tolerance knows how well it’s doing in managing pressures. These include workload, time constraints and a good work-life balance.

6. Conflict resolution

A team’s ability to deal with conflict means examining how they process disagreement. Is the team able to deal with adversity and enhance its functioning? Or does it get caught up in the conflict? Good conflict resolution is essential for productivity and creativity.

7. Positive mood

A team with a positive mood is built on foundations of encouragement and humour, as well as expectations of success. Positive mood is a major factor in a team’s flexibility and resilience, and it’s the heart of a can-do attitude. It influences how energised the team’s attitude is.

Team work makes the dream work

The Magic of Teams is one of Abracademy’s most popular workshops. Why? Because as an old sport saying goes:  a champion team will defeat a team of champions.

Modern business culture places more value on a single talented individual than on a team with no standout star. As much as we value the ideals of teamwork, the notion of the prima donna remains popular – the team member who stands out and succeeds without help from anyone.

However, research in various sectors indicates that a collaborative team will always outperform solo stars.

  • Tired crews who have flown together in the past make fewer errors than fresh crews who have never flown together” (NASA)
  • The performance of heart specialists improved with practice and experience, but only at the hospitals where they did most of their work. When the same surgeons worked at different hospitals, their success rates returned to baseline” (Huckman and Pisano, Harvard Business School)
  • “Team familiarity was a better predictor of project success and on-time delivery than the total experience of individual team members” (Huckman, Staats & Upton)

In the first two examples in particular, it’s clear that the best choice would be the strong team! Otherwise you better hope for some magic…

The academic field of Positive Psychology has always emphasised the personal benefits of good social relationships. Individuals grow and develop over time. As does a team. So, how much business sense do good connections mean? For a start, they have the potential to improve organisational performance at the highest levels.

How teams develop

When a new team comes together, you can’t expect it to perform well immediately. It takes time and members will go through various stages. They need to shift from being a collection of strangers to a united team with common goals.

Let’s look at Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model. It describes the necessary stages for a team to grow. Only once these have been successfully completed, can the team face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work and deliver results successfully. Together.

Forming

In this first stage, energy and enthusiasm are generally high. Team members play nice and avoid conflict. But a common challenge in this phase is information gathering. This happens as the team strives to understand its objectives, roles and responsibilities.

Storming

As the team settles, individuals begin to test the boundaries of the group. As a result, a period of heightened intragroup conflict emerges, which can lead to a decline in effectiveness. This can be due to personalities, working styles, lack of agreement or understanding of goals.

Norming

Once teams can deal with conflict in a healthy way, norms emerge. This facilitates openness between members, as well as a shared set of standards and expectations. The plan solidifies as team members agree to timelines and responsibilities. As trust develops, team members embrace one anothers’ strengths and ask for help. 

Performing

Once the shared standards and norms are established, a team can turn their attention to the tasks at hand. This happens through constructive action that allows creative solutions to flourish. Clear goals mean the team can perform with minimal supervision. Conflict becomes a productive tool enabling different perspectives to emerge. In short, the foundation is set for a high performing team to grow.

To summarise, a team is only as powerful as its members. And the quality of the relationships and soft skills in the team is especially important. Stars shine brighter with the support of colleagues because, as we’ve explained here, working as a cohesive team harnesses the unique talents of each team member.

It’s time to develop these skills to make your team a high performance one!  

Julie Bogaerts
Abracademy Magilitator

Discover the magic of your team

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Culture and purpose, not ping-pong and beer 🍻

By | Education, Learning and development, What's new?

Matilda Sundåker wears many hats. She is the founder of The Culture Shift – an Amsterdam-based company working with other companies on culture and purpose. She is also a freelance strategy director, a community builder and a learning designer. We spoke to Matilda in her capacity as Hyper Island‘s alumni community lead. We talked about the new generation entering the workforce and what their future workplace hopes, dreams, and expectations, are.

What do you enjoy about the Hyper Island community role?

I think it’s incredible how the methodology of Hyper Island is impacting so many people through transformation and change. What I like the most is how our community has these values and a common ground to lead change – regardless of where in the world we are. That’s mega cool and really sets a foundation for solving problems that matter!

What do you feel are the best things about the current workplace for those entering the workforce in 2020?

Companies need to be more humble to their own existence than they have been historically. There’s so much great talent out there, who aren’t settling. They want to work for a higher purpose. They want more than money and recognition. Since we’re living in a world of constant change, workplaces need to keep up and transform themselves accordingly.

And, conversely, what do you think are the biggest hurdles for employees looking at where to work?

The potential. There’s so many things going on today and, in my experience, young talent feel they need to go straight into the perfect place. Great if you can! But if you don’t, it’s part of the learning journey. Give something unexpected a try. Fail. Reflect on why it failed. Do something different and then try again.

What do companies need to do to engage the best people in this *generation?

Stay relevant in today’s society. Focus as much on how you do something (company culture) as what you do (product, et al). Offer benefits that go beyond salary. Look at the individual – provide space for personal and professional growth.

*Gen Z / Millennials

Are many doing this, or are many missing a trick? 😉

It seems to me that a lot of companies think they know exactly how to do this. But a ping-pong table and beers as benefits feels a bit outdated. They should focus instead on co-creating purpose and culture where I, as an employee, can thrive and grow. No one said it better than Simon Sinek: “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you did it.”

What does learn for life mean to you and the graduates you work with? How should employers take this info, and act on it?

Life is one long learning journey! As I mentioned before, we grow as we learn. At Hyper Island, this is amongst the first things you learn. So when you graduate it’s important for us – and you – that we facilitate constant learning opportunities.

You mention wanting to help HI graduates ‘lead the change’: what changes are needed?

Today, a lot of the Hyper Island programs are designed with UN development goals in mind.
Every program, course or class is built on experience-based learning. This means you do and you create. We try to empower students to solve problems that matter and be the change they want to see in this world. As a result, a lot of our students start their own businesses or join companies with the purpose of making the world a better place.

Finally, what would be your one piece of advice to employers in 2020 – what do they most need to hear from their future workforce?

Don’t fear change. Instead listen to the next generation of talent – they will teach you a lot. Promise!

A big magical 💥 thank you 💥 to Matilda for taking the time to chat with us and share her thoughts. You can find Matilda in various digital places…

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The Code of Trust

By | Abracademy Labs, Food for thought, What's new?

The Code of Trust by Robin Dreeke – book review by Steve Bagienski.

I’ve been a fan of Robin Dreeke ever since Penn Jillette Tweeted about him, which led to finding Dreeke’s first book, It’s Not All about me. His work intrigued me because building rapport is crucial for good close-up magic and it was an area I wanted to improve in.

So, who is Robin Dreeke? He’s a counterintelligence expert and the retired head of the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Program. His career required him to build trust with suspected criminals in the most challenging of environments, often to protect America from international threats. If you haven’t heard of him… well, that’s probably because a major theme of this book is suspending your ego and making it not all about yourself!

The Code of Trust takes his earlier book multiple steps further. In it, Robin breaks down the code, which he learned from years of experience in the field and offers practical advice on how you too can learn it to gain the trust of others. The code is simple to learn, but more challenging to implement in practice due to how our evolutionary brain is wired to protect our ego.

Here’s the code and my thoughts on it:

Suspend your ego – by our very nature, we all focus on our own life: our own needs, goals, desires, and so on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because without it, we wouldn’t get anywhere in life. But to gain the trust of others, we must suspend this natural focus on ourselves and redirect this to what matters most: them. Forget your own agenda. No need to give your advice. Remember, it’s all about them. Humility is powerful for building trust.

Be non judgemental – respect other peoples’ thoughts, ideas, morals, and perspectives… no matter how much they conflict with your own. No one trusts people who don’t understand them. No need to judge, whether it’s favourably or not.

Validate others – seek to understand the other person. No matter what you think about the other person, everyone has some common decency that can be appreciated. We all have the right to our own thoughts and ideas, even when they’re socially unacceptable. Respect others’ rights to have their unique perspective and seek to understand it.

Honour reason – give people a logical, honest reason to trust you. No need to manipulate. Just stick to the facts and rationality. People respond to reason.

Be generous – no one likes one-sided relationships. You must give something of value to the other person. Being generous comes in many forms: It can be a thoughtful gift related to their interests, the gift of your time or attention, or the most precious of all: your trust.

So there it is. As I said earlier, putting all this into practice can be challenging. You might be worthy of another person’s trust, but unless you convey this trustworthiness clearly, people still won’t give you theirs. In the second half of the book Robin walks you through four steps of doing so:

  • Align your goals – this will help both sides benefit, gain something of value, and end with a win-win situation.
  • Apply the power of context – never argue context. People trust others who understand them: their beliefs, goals, personality, and so on.
  • Craft your encounters – learn how to create the best environment for success.
  • Connect – connect with the other person by speaking their language, focusing on them and meeting their needs.

Within each of these steps, Robin shares real-life spy stories as examples and gives Jedi-like techniques to achieve your goal of earning trust. He covers everything from how leaders inspire trust within an organisation and trust in the digital age to tips on avoiding common pitfalls. He also teaches his system of reading personalities (personally I needed to read it a few times before I understood it). Nevertheless, the tips on crafting your encounters is well worth the price of the book, as it covers some of the most reliable ways to craft that first encounter.

It’ll take some practice, but after reading this book, you’ll have a better grasp on how to earn other people’s trust and how to harness your own trustworthiness to make both your own dreams, and those of others, come true.

Find out how to build trust in your team

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