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Episode 29

Stop being so serious! Playfulness and Coaching

Most of us probably wouldn’t say that we’re feeling threatened that often. But according to Diana Chapman, 95% of us are in a state of threat 95% of the time.

So how do we combat this tendency? In this conversation with leadership advisor Diana Chapman we explore how to shift from a state of threat to trust through play and purpose.

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Being in a State of Threat

Most people spend 95% of their lives in a state of threat. This is a fairly natural response by our nervous systems to the world we live in, but we have choice; we can get better at noticing that we’re in a state of threat, and then choose how to respond to it.

One of the primary learnings for many leaders is to practice noticing in the moment whether they are in a state of threat or a state of trust, and to then explore further and get good at knowing their own threat patterns, i.e., how they tend to respond to feeling threatened.

In any given moment we’re either in state of trust or a state of threat. A helpful concept for noticing threat is the idea of a line, above which you are open and relaxed, below which you are contracted and fearful. This helps get a basic reading on your inner state.

In a state of threat your ego feels threatened, and due to the subsequent contraction, you don’t have access to all your centers of intelligence. Conversely in a state of trust you have access to a much broader scope of intelligence.

Teaching leaders to do this helps them become aware of how they react when they’re below the line, develop compassion for that state, and learn tools to shift to a state of trust.

Shifting to a Trust State

One way of deconstructing the threat response is to identify the persona. Seeing the way we habitually react, we can give that persona a name to help us get really clear about it when it’s coming up.

In a work context, this is something we can share with colleagues and then ask them to give you a sign if you get into it. If that happens you take a breath, recognize that you’re ok and that you don’t need to be in that persona.

It’s not about just writing off the persona. A persona could be great above the line but really unhelpful below the line. Finding out what the underlying fear of that persona is can help to manage the response when it arises in a stress response. 

Playfulness is another thing that really helps – we learn best through play, so bringing fun and play into personal and work lives makes ego drama much less appealing. There are many ways to bring it in (movement, games etc.) and in fact, play and silliness often make people more creative and innovative.

Checking if people are in their zone of genius rather than their zone of excellence is another way of helping them tap into trust. The zone of excellence is usually valued more because the zone of genius feels so easy and fun (that feeling of I’m just being me). Find out how leaders can bring more of that into their work helps them shift from career to calling.

Resources Mentioned:

About Diana

Photo of Diana Chapman
Diana Chapman

Diana Chapman is an advisor to exceptional leaders who has worked with over 1000 organizational leaders and many of their teams and is a founding partner at Conscious Leadership Group. She has created and implemented professional onboarding and ongoing programs, and is co-author of the best-selling book, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success.

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