Bernadette Wesley’s work is all about bridging the world of inner development with the world of being in an organisation together. We talk about Deliberately Developmental Organisations (DDOs); self-organisation and why changing structures is not enough; the Inner Development Goals (IDGs); and three practices that Bernadette has found particularly powerful: Peer Learning Spaces, Immunity to Change Maps, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping.
Bernadette is an Associate Partner with Fraendi, and is the Coordinator for the Inner Development Goals (IDG) Hub in Porto, Portugal, centering on Adult Development in SDG oriented organisations.
Lisa Gill: Bernadette, welcome, and thank you for being on the podcast with me. I thought we could start by talking about something that I'm really excited to discuss with you. Because I know that you're interested in it as much as I am. Which is this kind of inner work, the part that happens within us if we're moving from, let's say, traditional organisations to another way of working and being together.
So what for you has been and is a way in when you're working with organizations? How do you help people have a self-interest for doing the inner work? What's the sell?
Bernadette Wesley: That's a great question. Because that has been my challenge over the many years. I started out with really focusing on the inner work and being a mind-body practitioner, a therapist and then moved into the organisational work. And I began compartmentalising them - no one wants to talk about they're inner world in that environment, so let's just keep that outside the door. And, you know, we'll slide it in when appropriate.
What I'm finding now is that the world is much more ready to talk about the bridging of the inner development work with the work of being in an organisation and of creating something together. So that's a relief to me.
And it's very exciting what's happening pretty rapidly with the movement of the inner development goals, and bridging that with sustainable development goals. So that IDG is bridging with the SDGs, and that the internally external cannot be separated anymore. And we're starting to see that as a collective, which is really lovely to see. So I'm opening my voice more and coming out of the closet, so to speak, and bringing in some of these ways of thinking and being that really felt like it would be sort of a success killer or career killer if you talked about those things before. So, so here we are. It's time to bring these things out.
We have no choice in a way - we're all hands on deck. We have to bring everything forward that we can that will help us move through these times.
Topics in this question
Lisa Gill: Yes. I wonder if you could say something about IDGs and how you are seeing the IDGs as a way of starting conversations or helping people make some of this more tangible. Because it can seem, to some people, a bit fluffy or a bit abstract.
Bernadette Wesley: Well, I do lean on the increasing visibility of the organisation. Just its presence gives some credibility to the movement. So sometimes the first thing I do is send the link to innerdevelopmentgoals.org. And I've done that with some non-profits in the U.S.A working around food systems. And it really helps land it.
Of course, they work around the SDGs. And I prefer to work with organisations who are obviously moving in a direction of doing generative practices. So the SDG mindset and framework is there. And many of these organisations were not aware of the IDGs - it is fairly new. So the entrance point is just bringing it into the room. And I'm finding people super receptive, like, 'oh, really, that's out there. There's a framework now, I didn't even know that'. It's really just awareness. And I'm not finding it difficult. It's opening doors, it's opening conversations. Suddenly, almost anyone I speak to is interested in bringing in the inner development conversation into the room. So it feels really alive and really fresh in this moment. In recent months I'm feeling something shifting around this.
So this is a fresh kind of conversation. It's not like everyone knows what IDGs are, or that they exis in this framework. So I think you're going to start seeing it become much more prevalent in dialogues, and more and more in conversations.
Lisa Gill: Yes. I wonder if you could give an example of one of the IDGs. Or how you've used them as a jumping off point to start exploring and putting them into practice?
Bernadette Wesley: Yes, a lot of people can relate to the waters that we're swimming in. You know, VUCA - volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Everyone can relate to how stressful it is right now. And the rate of change just seems to be palpable, and increasing the speed.
So there's this tension. And if we start there, what are the tensions? What are the challenges? I'm hearing even really progressive companies saying, 'our people are saying that this is becoming a burnout factory'. Especially in tech and in software development.
And that just breaks my heart - that wow, we're still there. So, really, the beginning of a conversation is what's not working? Where are these pain points? Where are things breaking? Even in those with the best of intentions. I'm not even saying in traditional organisations who haven't even begun to address it. I'm saying in those who have said we want a flourishing environment for humans in our organization but it's still really sticky.
So I think that conversation around the context, the rate of exponential change externally, and that internally as human beings, the call is not just to keep up - I have to develop, I have to grow. But it's more about integrating the learning mindset in everything that we do so that we can have an unpredicted outcome. In other words, that's what exponential kind of offers us - this nonlinear curve. Because I think there's this fear that 'now you're putting all the responsibility on us, we have to grow to develop to save the planet'. And it's like, actually, no - we have to shift our consciousness. We don't know how this works. We don't even understand exponential change and what that means, our minds can't grasp it.
The people who are attracted to this work are beginning to sense that if we can embed these practices - in meetings, in our family conversations, in everything that we do - then we have a chance. We don't even know what that could look like. There's this hope that it has this ripple effect - it has a chance to get us to where we need to be to come up with innovative solutions, to do things differently, to shift our consciousness that it's not so daunting. So it's more about the context.
Does that answer your question? I can go more into the IDG framework, but am not sure where you want to go from here, or what that might have sparked for you?
Lisa Gill: Yes, I'm just thinking about people listening who maybe haven't heard of the IDG framework yet. Or have heard of it but don't really know what to make of it. And to get a bit of a picture of how I might, as someone in an organisation, engage with them or use that as a point to start exploring something different.
Bernadette Wesley: Yes, great. Basically in the framework there's five different areas. The first area is called 'being' - it's your relationship to self, your self- awareness. The second one is 'thinking' or cognitive skills - how we think through complexity. And that's a big attractor, because people say, 'oh, great, I don't want to the self-awareness part. But I'll do the cognitive part, help me think through complexity', because it really appeals to the intellectual. It's a really key part of it - how we do sensemaking, how we move through contradictory perspectives.
The third area is relating how we 'care' for others and for the world - connection, empathy, compassion, those kinds of things. The fourth is 'collaborating' - our social skills. So you could say some of the emotional intelligence movement falls in there. But it's also about mobilising something together. So it's not all inner work - it's bridging the inner with the outer. How do we build trust in teams? Those kinds of things.
And then the fifth is that bridge to the outer with 'acting'. How do we drive change? That sense of courage, creativity, optimism and perseverance that might be needed to get behind what it is you're here to do, and where you want to contribute, what you want to steward in your sphere of influence. These don't have to be big acts. It's small, everyday acts that add up and make a difference. So those are the five areas.
Lisa Gill: Yes. I'm thinking now about developmental organizations and DDOs, and how the IDGs fit with that, and what a developmental organization means to you? Because that movement has been evolving over the last few years. And I interviewed Bryan Unguard some years ago. But I'm curious how you see that developing and how those things interplay.
Bernadette Wesley: The DDO - deliberately developmental organisation movement - and the book An Everyone Culture by Robert Keegan and Lisa Lahey, really caught my attention. Because, for me, it felt like a bridge to the tension I had been holding - between the inner work and the organisational work. So, a big sigh of relief. And whenever you say Harvard research is behind something, all of a sudden everybody pays attention. So it was sort of what some of us in the shadows were waiting for. You know, okay, we need this spearhead - that's how the world works. And that's okay. So now we have it, so let's use it.
For me, it gave a really good landing place, with the research to back it up, around developmental practices that can be embedded into an organisation. And that it's not separated from the business.
It used to be that you would go to offsite retreats, you would do coaching outside of the organisation. And it always felt like it was done in the shadows. 'When we're out of the office we'll do those things, but don't bring them back'. Even if the goal was to bring it back, you bring it back and the problem is this business as usual mindset, this program of industrialised work is so strong, that even with the best of intentions, we're going to fall back into those patterns - they're deeply ingrained in our subconscious mind.
We've been programmed and trained since birth, to show up a certain way in society and even in our families - to belong, to be okay. Nobody wants to be rejected or be an outsider. So we're really good at it. And then in organisations, especially when your livelihood depends on it, you have a boss. And even in progressive organisations or where you do have a purpose aligned business, which is a group that I work with, I found it was even harder to some extent - which really caught me by surprise. Because it meant so much more to me. When I worked for a corporation I could compartmentalise and it made sense. It was like, that's survival. You're going to show up as your best self, you want to go for the promotion. It sounds terrible but you would go for the promotion, make more money and that was the mindset and it still is today in many places.
But now that I'm in a purpose-aligned workplace it brings up all of the things like this that are so important to me. And so then you don't want to jeopardise that by bringing your whole self. So that's part of the model for a DDO is to get out of this business as usual mindset of preserving and enhancing our standing. And covering up our weaknesses. That's the theme. In An Everyone Culture they say that everyone's doing a second job for which no one gets paid, right? So we're using a lot of energy and creative resources to keep ourselves looking good. And it's costing us, and the cost is great. And there's just no time for that anymore. It's like, let's get on with it. Even though it's easier said than done.
Even my father, he was my work success hero. And he worked for Sears and Roebuck. We moved every two years growing up. He worked his way up from the paint department without a college degree. Which, at that time, you don't tell anyone that. And he went all the way up to the home office in Chicago. And he always said, never mix your personal life and your work life - it was a mantra.
So I think I'm in this work because it's still really a challenge for me, honestly. I want to show up looking good. It's just in my DNA. It's in my family of origin's value system of success. It's still my learning edge, honestly. Even though, in other settings - no problem. But at work, it's still really, really a challenge for me.
Lisa Gill: I wonder if this is a good bridge to talking about self organised developmental organisations or SDOs. Because that was something that excited me about you and your work is bridging those two worlds. The developmental organisation and the self- managing, self organising approach.
And listening to you talk about being surprised by how challenging it is in a purpose-aligned organisation to let go of, or be mindful of, this need to look good. You know, it becomes high stakes. I really resonate with that. And I speak to lots of people in self managing organisations who are really surprised to discover that, 'oh, I don't have a boss anymore. And I'm still on the edge of burning out, or I'm still really stressed or find it hard to have honest and open conversations with my colleagues because I really don't want to let them down or because I don't want to let the organisation down'. So it's kind of a cruel joke in a way that even when you get rid of that oppressive, sometimes bureaucratic, traditional hierarchy, new challenges emerge - where it's still a human challenge of how to be together in another way. Even if you're doing meaningful work together, and even if you've changed the structures.
Bernadette Wesley: Exactly. And it lives within us. It doesn't change when you change the structure. I always say my fear is it's same prison, different walls. We change the packaging, we change the structure, and we think that's going to fix everything. And it does do a lot. I mean, yes, when you do a round where every voice matters, and every voice is heard. Already, yes, you're setting the conditions. And I am not underestimating that has huge impact. But it's not the end of the story. It doesn't stop there. Because, 'Oh, now you want to hear my voice. Okay, so what voice am I going to share with you? And what comes up for me when now I suddenly have the floor and people will listen to me'. And I mean, that's for the quieter people who, like myself, maybe stayed more on the sidelines. There's challenges and then there's challenges for those who would always take the spotlight as well. I mean, I really lean on Otto Scharmer.
When you asked 'how do I introduce the IDGs', I was going to say I also really lean on Otto Sharmer and his work. Because he just says it so beautifully - our inner perceptions, how we think, what we believe about ourselves and the world is what will influence the world that we co-create. They're inextricable, we cannot separate them. So how I show up in a meeting is going to affect how the meeting goes, how good I feel about it, what we're able to produce together. So in the IDGs that first piece of self-awareness, that's where I focus a lot. Because that's where I spent most of my developmental journey is around self-awareness.
Otto even says this is our greatest point of leverage - our inner perception and the inner work. It's really the only thing that we can control. And I find that really reassuring, because that's what I've always felt intuitively and through my spiritual practice - that's what I believe. But to have it grounded and spoken that actually, yeah, and science can back it up now with, you know, studies around quantum physics and how thoughts influence physical matter. So these are the times we're living in - where this self awareness, it just feels paramount to me. So that's where I spend a lot of time as well - focusing on that, so that I can co-create the world that I want to see. That's where my power lies.
When we talk about power with structures like sociocracy, they really will only work to the extent that someone can feel power within themselves and the world that they're creating. If they even do have that understanding that they have influence over the world that they're creating. That would be a first step - how much is that even part of your worldview. And if not, why not? So those kinds of questions arise. The question of empowerment is a really deep one, I find, and complex.
Lisa Gill: There is so much that I want to unpack in what you've just said. But I'm going to go with what's current, which is this nature of power. Many people don't like the word empower or empowerment, because it seems to imply that someone can choose to give it and they can choose to take it back. So the language is a whole other topic that we could talk about, of course. But I remember when I saw you speaking at the sociocracy conference that was one of the things I wrote down when you said you cannot have power with without power within. I wonder if you could unpack that for us a little bit more because I find that this relationship to power and self and others is so, so tricky, and deep and challenging, and I feel like it is a real learning edge for me.
Bernadette Wesley: That is a big question. I don't know if I can unpack that - let's see. The work that I've done, I always use myself as a lab, a living laboratory. It must start with me. I never ask anyone to go to any place that I haven't ventured. So in my experience with my own living lab, and with my clients, the place to begin I feel is just these places where we feel powerless. The patterns that we keep bumping into over and over again.
For example, we learn we read books, we wake up, we keep working on things. But at some core level we don't feel like we're making traction in that area. It could be in our most intimate relationships where these really embedded patterns get seated, because they often reflect a family of origin and early childhood patterns.
I've been starting to call this early patterning, just trying to find an accessible phrase. Because it really all does go back to the early programming and where we formed our core beliefs about ourselves in the world. And so even though we don't want to go there, the dark shadows may be important.
The word trauma has been stigmatised to avoid in work settings. So I'm very careful not to go there, although it's becoming more acceptable. And people are realising that we actually can't keep that out of the room either. Because we are, from my perspective, the walking wounded. No one has escaped being hurt in some way. Because it's not what externally happened. And you can't compare what might seem like a very small thing to a large trauma. There's a whole range within there that affects everyone differently.
It's really taking a much more compassionate stance toward what my life experience has been. Compassionate toward ourselves first and what really formed me, and then how am I still bringing that into the room? How am I still bringing that into a meeting? How is that still holding me back from really taking a stand for what is mine to steward and connecting it with purpose? That, for me is where our power lies. It's the two steps of clearing the things that are blocking us and holding us back in really effective ways.
Not just affirmations, or trying to think our way through it. We also have to bring in thematics, we have to bring in the trauma work at whatever level. It can be a very simple level - it doesn't have to be deep and scary. It's highly liberating, I have found. And then bridging that with what we personally feel called to do. And that doesn't have to mean some huge mission that you're going to go off and start your own company. But just that in every moment, what do I value? What do I value in this conversation right now with you? Am I aligned with what I value?
Even how we took a few minutes to check in before we came on this recording was valuing what we needed as human beings - which was talking about being nervous and showing up even though it's scary, and the fears that come with that. And that we show up anyway. Just sharing that out loud does something to our nervous system. It connects us to each other and hopefully does something to the field between us now and to whoever will be listening. Those micro-moments make a difference. And that, to me, is purpose-aligned. So it used to intimidate me when people talked about purpose aligned. I was like, 'I don't know, stop asking me what's your purpose'. Because my purpose would be always huge and abstract. And then I couldn't get it down to 'assist in the global awakening', or one of these grandiose things. And I realized it comes down to these micro-moments, and they do matter.
Lisa Gill: It feels very alive for me at the moment because I'm exploring in my personal and professional life this theme, of being almost disempowered within myself. Just in the last few days come to think of it, it's like telling the truth. That I've been conditioned or conditioned myself to pretend very well that I'm calm and I've got it all together. And that I'm competent and reliable. And even with a group of colleagues, for example - where we have lots of practices where we come together and talk openly about things that we're learning and that we're struggling with - it's taken so long for me to let down that pretense of having it all together. And it's amazing.
It really makes me empathise with people that I speak to in self- managing organizations as well, who say 'we've given everyone permission to self-manage, so why aren't they doing that?' And for me, I think, 'it takes so much more than permission to really live it'. And I've experienced that myself over a number of years with amazingly supportive people and all of the kinds of supportive co- leadership structures. And still it's takes so much courage and practice from me. And I'm only just touching the very beginnings of what it's like to really be honest and authentic and truthful and show up as a work in progress or as a bit of a mess. And it's so interesting how much time and commitment and energy it takes for us individually and collectively - to explore that, I think.
Bernadette Wesley: It does. And I think people's fear is that it will take so much time to do this developmental work inside a work environment, and we have all these other things to do. And when you were just sharing about how much energy it takes to start moving in these directions of not hiding - I am aware of it. I can't even quantify it. I've lived it over 59 years. And keeping these limiting beliefs in place - like that I have to show up a certain way in order to be successful or to belong. - takes a lot of time and energy now to sift through because it's new, it's different.
It's almost like, 'wait, you're not supposed to do that here'. And so we're bumbling around with it. It's a little awkward. But I have a feeling that if we keep moving in this direction, what else might be possible? A question that I love to ask is 'what else is possible that we're not even seeing yet?' Because we don't know. Because we haven't lived it into it.
But we do know that the other way has cost us tremendously. It hurts my heart to even think about it - and to actually let that in the cost of hiding these beautiful beings that we are. For the sake of, perhaps, this fear of being rejected. We'll go into some of the practices, but one of them is working with these core assumptions and beliefs. And I've sort of narrowed it down to around five that we all share. I'll share them in a moment. But the pain that I'm feeling in my heart right now is just that cost of thinking 'I'm not enough?' Or 'here, I can show them'. And everyone has their own version of it. And of course, it relates to our worth or value of contributing, self doubt and so on which all fall into that. What's the cost of that staying in place? And this is not conscious.
Some people will gravitate more towards one of these core five. And they're below the surface. One of my heroes is Bruce Lipton. He's a biologist who wrote The Biology of Belief. And he works with epigenetics, saying that the internal and external environment can determine what genes turn on and off. In The Biology of Belief, he talks about this power of thought and how that influences what we're creating. And what is the cost?
He says that 95% of our actions and behaviors are dictated by the subconscious mind. And that is daunting, because, well, how do I even know? But it starts through transparency. Every time we share a limiting thought or belief with someone else. And it doesn't have to take up a huge part of the meeting. It could just be like, you're trying to create something together, something comes up for you. Of course, that's that self-awareness piece - you feel something in your body usually, your heart is racing a little bit or you feel constricted, or you just want to move away. You know, our body will tell us first. That's the language of trauma, so they say. So, you'll feel it first when you name it. This is not taking up more time in the meeting, which is our fear. It actually unlocks something. So I name it and then someone else says, 'Oh, I have that too, on some level'. And it's sort of like turning on the light in the room so that collectively as we each do this and take that risk in that micro-moment, we don't know the impact that that will have. By just naming it, it changes the neural pathways in our brains and it opens up a field between us. It opens up another possibility that didn't exist before. This is the playground that we need to play in with the challenges that we're dealing with.
Lisa Gill: It's powerful stuff. And it makes me reflect on what I was describing in terms of the energy and the time that it takes. It's probably more accurate to say that it's the energy that it takes to resist what's natural and what has been conditioned. Or what has been that protective shield that's been developed. So it's kind of a wrestling with that in the beginning, I think. At least in my case. And then it is such a relief and so freeing when you let that down, and when you do dare to say something that's in that other realm. And you're so right, I've experienced that many times when someone else can just name something. And it changes the energy in the room. And yes, totally different conversations are possible because of that.
Bernadette Wesley: It gives me hope. It's worth taking the risk. Because none of us really want to. We have a sort of a natural Immunity to Change to use that word from Robert Kegan. There's a book on that if you're curious to learn more about it. But I find it a really powerful framework to talk about this. Because there's a risk involved, and there's a part of us that will fight tooth and nail to say we're not doing that. And that's just how we're wired. And to know that that's natural, and that it has a purpose - it has protected us, it has served something, it's just that now, do we want to make a choice to serve something else? And it's increasing our choice over that. And to know that the resistance is 100% understandable, and we all have it. And that there are steps you can take to walk alongside yourself compassionately. Rather than making yourself wrong, which is really the trap as well - and this is one of the five - that there's something wrong with me. And everyone has a version of that.
Fortunately these things are becoming more transparent and acceptable, and are being taken out of the therapy sessions and into manageable ways to do this together. Because that's also where I have found the greatest momentum - when I do work with organisations, I have experienced the greatest gains in relationships. I can go and do something I do a lot on my own. And that's actually in my comfort zone. No problem. I'll go and do my work. But it's in relationship with others. And that's where there is potential for some exponential change to happen - when we're doing this in relationships, because that's where the real healing comes. I mean, that's where the wounds were formed. And that's where they'll be more quickly healed and reestablished - through relationship.
Lisa Gill: You gave a sneak preview of some practices. So what can we do? I mean, I'm also sitting here thinking, gosh, if so much of this stuff is in my subconscious, how do you know what you don't know?
Bernadette Wesley: Well, there's three I'd like to cover. The first one which is peer learning spaces. The second one is the immunity to change process and parts of ourselves. And the third one would be somatic, easy and highly effective interventions like EFT Emotional Freedom Technique, tapping. So those are the three that really stood out to me as the most effective that I have found in my work.
Lisa Gill: I'd love to hear more
Bernadette Wesley: Where would you like to go first?
Lisa Gill: The one on relationships was that the first one that you named
Bernadette Wesley: First one. Ok. So, in our organisation one of the groups I work with is Fraendi. And so we've developed this practice, called peer learning spaces. That's the language we use with clients, but internally, we actually call them developmental pods or dev pods for short. One of the colleagues joked around and said we've got to stop calling it dev pods because it sounds like death pods. But this is kind of a death. This is the death of the ego. But let's not go there!
So peer learning spaces is an easier way to take it in. It's where we learn together. So it's a place within the organization where - from the everyone culture book - there's like these places home, groove and edge - and you're working on your learning edges, but you need a home base place to work on those. Yes, you want them embedded in meetings and practices and everything that you do throughout the day, these micro-moments that I talked about. But it's also really helpful to have this home and accrue.
So this is a place where you can take a deep breath, and digest and everyone uses them in a different way. And just to name that. There's no right way, it's all an experiment. This is all a co-creation. So when creating your peer learning space, if it's within an organisation - and we also do them with senior leaders who have something in common, like all CTOs or something like that - that's one premise, that you have a center of gravity together.
It's different to a self-help group. It can be really light development - it doesn't have to be heavy and serious. It can even be playful. So the first thing is that when you're creating these inside your organization, you just find a smaller home base of four to eight people. You could break that into two groups. And you just come together to start playing around: What are your developmental edges right now? Where are your learning edges? What's challenging for you?
We do keep it personal and keep that center of gravity of why we're in this room together. It's around Fraendi, or it's around, this project. So we do provide a context, there's always a touch point. So if someone does go into something that feels unrelated it's ok, it's welcome. But then the group can help bring them back - 'how does that relate to how you're showing up with us, or here in your work?' So we come back to that center of gravity, and that keeps it grounded, it keeps the container. And if there's something else that's needed outside of that, of course, that's encouraged, and we would help find resources for that. The first thing is that you have that center of gravity, and you're co-creating it together. And it's an experiment , and those are the sort of ground rules that we have found. And then we engage in questions together. I mean, I'll pause there, because maybe that's enough. You know, I can give more detail about it. But I'm wondering how that's landing for you.
Lisa Gill: I'm curious to know more because it sounds really rich.
Bernadette Wesley: Well, I can give some examples of questions that we hold in the group. And that might be helpful, because it's like, where do I start? And people don't know. One of the questions we hold, and that we started the group with, is what is development to you. So really getting all voices in the room from the beginning of the co creation. And we don't come in with assumptions, we do encourage having two co-hosts that have some experience with holding these kinds of spaces. So there is still container holding, even though those two people can also participate as members. But it keeps the integrity especially in the beginning.
What we've experimented with is doing eight sessions with the co- hosts present. And then the group goes on by itself after that. And we have found that to work pretty well. So what is development? We started setting up some agreements. What are some things that helped you develop? What are some things that would help us develop? And again, you're just sort of making these laundry lists, so it's great if someone can take notes, so that there is some structure. In the beginning, especially.
It's so important to set the container in the environment. And we go into breakouts, like what are some of the best ways that we can help each other? And all we do is then breakout and maybe have a listening exchange. Just share a challenge you've been having and try that out. The other person is going to listen or do whatever they feel compelled to do. When we come back, we share. What worked well for you? What did they do? What felt good to you? Don't just start with the basics.
You're creating the group culture from the group. There's no pre- imposed rules on how we're supposed to do this, because that can be so intimidating. So starting with simple things like that, and then listing - here's what worked well, here's what I could use more of. Now you're creating your agreements by just trying it out together, and then giving feedback on that. And we just continue to hold questions around it. Well, what's our responsibility here if something comes up that's between two people in the room together? And often we say if your learning edge is asking for that space, for that person to have that feedback conversation, that's difficult. And that's what you're going to do. That's what you're going to do that will be your learning edge - to ask that person for that conversation outside of here, or to ask for support if you need a third person there.
In other words, we don't have to do it all in that space. It just is too much. And if we see systemic patterns in the organisation showing up through us, we're all fractals. So we often see what patterns are we seeing that have similar challenges between us, and in the system that we're a part of. And what's our responsibility there? And we don't answer that if we don't know. It's an in the moment ongoing question that we live into. It depends. So those are just some of the things we've been playing with.
Lisa Gill: I really liked that it feels like such a useful and practical example of a space and a practice that complements some of the external structures and work that people tend to do when they're experimenting with new ways of working. And people tend to look at how we make decisions, and how resources are distributed or how we do salaries, or whatever. And then there's always this kind of bucket leftover of relational stuff and how we want to be together that feels trickier. I guess it's visible but less tangible. And this feels like a really rich way to create a space where you can start to bring in some of those themes, where the purpose is development. I really liked that.
Bernadette Wesley: That's a good way to put it. Yes, it does make the space for that. Because the micro-moments do matter. And this place where you can immerse yourself into that intention in a specified time and space feels really good. And really makes a difference. We meet around every six weeks or so and we found that was good. So it doesn't have to be super time intensive. It does a lot, even just that amount of time. And we do swim in the waters for a little bit. It's not a quick thing. But, again, you make it up for what works for you.
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Lisa Gill: I like that. So what next. There was immunity to change....
Bernadette Wesley: So on this, the first step is to come up with an improvement goal, which sounds so like, 'oh, please, not another improvement goal'. But we're trying to get to something that would really make a difference. Out of a scale of one to five, it would be a number four. That would really make a difference for you in making your life better. Making your work life, your personal life better. They usually overlap. And you can get help with that if you have someone walking you through the process to get to what would be a good change goal to put down.
We don't do the Immunity to Change work in our peer learning space, because it requires another space for a small group and is usually facilitated. Or you can get the book and you can walk yourself through the table if you want to do that. But it's nice if you have that language because you come up with what your growth edges are, and what they call assumptions are. And for me, what the assumptions are really are those limiting beliefs like, 'if I do this, then something bad will happen'. Like, 'if I put myself out there I will be rejected'.
When you go through the table with some deep reflection and the presence of someone walking alongside you, it really helps you see those blind spots and that unconscious part. Because if you just do it with your left brain and say, 'I've done these exercises before', you don't really get to, to these these subtler, hidden places. So even though the table looks very simple - you write down your improvement goal, and the counter commitments. In other words, it's like having one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake at the same time. And that's why you're not making progress - part of me really wants this, but then , for example with me, the risk is too great to do this podcast because I might make a fool of myself or somebody will judge me or something like that.
That's why it takes compassion and slow pace, to get to some of these deeper places that we really don't want anyone to know about. But the table walks you through it, the worry box, and then your assumptions. And then you test small experiments, small and safe, that you can do in the next week, to test your assumptions. Like, if I do this LinkedIn post, will I get some weird comments back and be judged. And that was my first on my Immunity to Change developmental sprint. And I just remember with my group, I said, 'I'm gonna make a LinkedIn post'. It sounds so silly. But that was the small experiment. And it was a way to test my assumptions. Do I get rejected? Do people fail? No, none of that happened. But you need to kind of it reprograms your brain? It seems so simple, but it really does have a powerful effect. And then you start getting maybe other feedback. 'Oh, like you told me the other day, I really liked your LinkedIn posts', or 'Oh, okay, you're like a scientist, you're just testing those assumptions with small experiments'. And it does start to rewire your brain. And in small, doable ways, it allows you to move through that subconscious resistance.
Lisa Gill: Thank you for that. I've sort of dabbled with Immunity to Change maps now and then. But there's something very clear about the way you just walked it through. Actually, that reminds me how valuable it is. It makes me want to go and update my map and choosing to do some experiments.
Bernadette Wesley: Let's do it. We could do it together if you want.
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Lisa Gill: There we go. Yes. And then, finally, the third practice - which is more of a kind of somatic practice - something about that.
Bernadette Wesley: Right. I think we talked about it, or you had heard about it. A lot of people have heard about it. It's been around for oh, my gosh, forty years, but it's been kept really on the sidelines. It's called Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping. I'm finding more and more people have heard of it. But 10-15 years ago, people would say, what is that? It seems really strange. Again, I was compartmentalising and keeping them apart. And now I'm synthesising it into my, my, my consulting practice. And it feels really good and getting good results. Because it's highly efficient. And so it's fast and effective - it actually works.
What we're doing is tapping on the endpoints of meridians, on certain places on your face and upper body. To clear where a somatic response might be living as well as it soothes the nervous system. It helps your brain switch from fight, flight, freeze or fawn into higher functioning, bringing the blood flow back to your prefrontal cortex. So all this is to say that it can take three to five minutes to tap on these points while focusing on something that stresses you. And you want to do it on something that really brings a heart racing or really a somatic response - go for that, because it's only going to last a few minutes. You can do it.
It's being used for refugees to reduce their trauma response - a simplified version. So I think it really might be becoming more acceptable. Because you can't just be like in a meeting and start tapping on these points. So I wanted to talk about how we can integrate this into organisations and into more mainstream settings for people who are not ready to integrate the body that much.
It's hard to integrate any kind of movement in an organisational setting. Even like, let's all stand up and stretch and put our arms up in the air and look up - which actually has a huge impact on the nervous system and the brain. There's ways you can just get your right and left brain back online easily, when there's sort of system overload, and you're doing brainstorming. So I'm hoping that these can become more acceptable and we can make them less taboo.
One of my practitioners gave me some of these tips that I'll share with you that you can do in a meeting. And no one will know you're doing it. One of them is that there are acupuncture, acupressure points on the inner side of your nail bed on each of your fingers. So you can just take your thumb and just hold or press that inner nail bed. So if you notice, you're feeling triggered by something that somebody says when you feel yourself reacting. And it's usually pretty visceral, and we feel it in our bodies.
I work with breath a lot - check your breath, no one can really see that you're doing that. And then you can hold these points on your hand with with your thumb, or you can just take your other hand and just hold each of the ends of your fingers. And it will send a message to your nervous system - it interrupts the fight, flight or freeze signal that's happening in your body. So it's a really easy one to do. I do that in highly charged situations where I know I can't do some of the other interventions. Like I really need to stay there.
Other interventions are like walking away or naming it but if you can't even name it, because that's just going to send this person off, I just tend to my nervous system so that I can stay present. While you're holding these points, then you can slow things down, which always works for me as well. Just slow things down.
Start with the basics of repeating back what you thought to someone. Ok, hang on, let me just make sure I heard you. What I think you said is this. It buys you time. Because what we need is time when we're in that reactive state - to not just escalate and perpetuate a fight or flight conversation, or worse. We don't want that. It's not about always calming. There are places for being messy and for erupting - it's not about using these things to control
It's a both / and you. There are times when you just name it and you just let it come out messy. But these are interventions when you really even can't do that, right. Another one is pressing down your big toe, on your feet. You can try it now. Just do one and then the other. I've done that during meetings as well. And it can just buy you some time to say what do I want to name here, instead of just blah. Consider, I'm going to take this risk, I am going to be transparent, but I just need a minute.
Then, for people who are a little more introverted or more sensitive - and I'm one of them - I just need a moment, and I don't want to stop the whole room to give me that moment. So I can do these somatic interventions that buy me that time that I need.
Another one you can do is just really tap on your heart center. You can try that right now. In a lot of these circles, we talk about shifting from head to heart. But we don't need to take a moment of pause, which is beautiful, and I love doing that. But we can't always do that. So even right now, you can't see it on the camera, but I can tap on my heart and just send my body the signal, 'hey, let's drop in, let's drop into the heart'. And what would happen then. If nothing else to create that field of safety in my own body, bring me back to my power so that where I have choice to be in my power, I prefer that. I want to create a world in which that's real. And that's happening more and more. So I want to use this for myself as much as possible so that I'm not perpetuating old patterns. That's me. We can all choose whether we even want to do that or not.
Lisa Gill: I love those. Thank you. I'm gonna lock those away. That's really helpful.
Bernadette Wesley: I use the full tapping sequence every day for what I call emotional hygiene. Just, as we brush our teeth every day, but we don't take care of our emotional body which is connected to our energy system as well. So you can use them to just tap through. You can even look or I can share a resource afterwards of the tapping points. And you can just do simple tapping where you tap through the points once a day. And why not keep up with it instead of letting it all backlog? And then it gets to a huge event, you know? So, I'm an advocate for that as well. Emotional hygiene.
All these little hacks - I think we need to bring everything online now. It's like, all hands on deck, whatever works, and it's going to be different things that different people gravitate to. So just putting it out there, different possibilities, so that however your brain works, or your body works, you can find the things that work for you. Because there's really no one right way. I use the things that work best for me, and then let others bring in the things that work best for them. Keep sharing the resources.
Lisa Gill: Yes. Well, in starting to wrap up our conversation, when you think about people listening to this, who are they intended to be? People who are on a journey of some kind, towards new ways of working and being together? What kind of words of wisdom or four things would you like to say to them that perhaps you haven't said yet, or you would feel sad if you didn't get a chance to say?
Bernadette Wesley: I think, the biggest learning for me in the last year - and I didn't mention it so I'll mention it here - has been diving deep into something called internal family systems. And it's been life changing. For me, even with all the 20 years of other tools, this one, there's just something different about it. It integrates in a different way. So it's that inner compassion and understanding that we all have parts, and I hadn't put it in that language before. And now this language is being accepted in adult development research circles, which I'm a part of. So this is something this is very exciting to me.
We all have parts, really - it's not a diagnosis, it's not that there's something's wrong with me. These are parts of ourselves that we have had to manage. And different parts of us will take over at different times - for survival or protection to function really, so they all serve a good purpose. But now it seems to me the work is to sort of bring that self with a capital S, even more strongly online to compassionately work with those parts and help them find a new job. This is part of the shift that I'm seeing and part of the work to be done, and that comes back to our power.
When we understand our own internal system, our own internal complexity, I call it VUCA squared. We are a VUCA system - ourselves as a human being inside, and in a VUCA world. So the more we can touch that point of leverage that Otto talks about is key. For me, relating to the parts and understanding who those parts of me are and what their purpose was, and reassigning tasks in a loving, compassionate way, and doing the somatic work to integrate why they were doing it (not just brushing over it), helping them feel safe and secure and stable in this new world that I want to live in. Well, then my self with a capital S can be in charge of the whole system, and then I'm in my co-creative power. And that's where I want to be.