A dialogue on holistic approach in shifting to Synergist stage in vertical development.(2022-02-26)
Hello, welcome to another episode of Talkw1, a leadership podcast. Today we have a guest who is a Master Certified Coach. She is the creator of the framework to expedite quantum shifts in vertical development for your CXO, strategic leaders and organisation. She is the creator of StageSHIFT framework to help you to realise more purposeful sustainable systemic outcomes in conscious emergence. Please welcome the guest for this episode, Antoinette Braks. Welcome, Antoinette !
Thank you very much, Wan. It’s a real pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
Could you share a thing about yourself that we may not know?
Oh, okay, so well, I think one of the things probably people are not so much aware of and something that you raised a minute ago, as I’m a bit of a traveller. So while my business is now based in Ireland, here in the heart of Europe, I enjoy travelling to different countries, always consistently every year. I’m probably living in two or 3 different countries and my current commitment is to go to where the clients are, where the new client project is, so that I can be there in their context and get things off the ground. So enjoy the opportunity to continue to travel in my life.
Mm. I also see that beyond travelling, you also have us to shift our mindsets, our consciousness.
Yes, yes, that’s my passion or purpose in terms of my own life is to have elevated my own consciousness and also to see that opportunity for other people. So we can live more harmonious lives here on Earth. It’s a very long evolutionary curve in terms of civilizations, and right now we’re in a very important pivot point with the new digital age and the problems that we need to sort out from the old industrial age. We’ve really exploited the earth and taken it too far. So we’ve got a lot of those wicked type problems to solve and the pandemic and the grassroots movements in terms of the polarisation of politics. All these things are creating not just complexity, but I think a level of chaos in the world that needs a more conscious leadership to transcend, resolve and move past, to recreate our foundation for society.
Thanks for sharing the need for us to transform. And when we talk about consciousness and complexity, we usually associate it with vertical development. So I am curious, what is vertical development for you?
Yeah, and I love the way you said what is vertical development for you? Because everyone does interpret it a little bit differently. If we start with the difference between personality and perspective, personality is our style, our way of operating, who we are and in terms of how we operate. But perspective is the mindset we’re coming from, and our perspective goes up vertically into terms of levels. While our personality is more the horizontal way of shaping ourselves, the way of our being in the world. And the more conscious we become, of our full purpose, (audio disruption ) … the broader perspective against both broader and deeper. From a different altitude, we can be on the top of the mountain. You can see more than when you are in the valley. So the level of perspective that we have affects what we can see and how much we can see affects our decision making. So we become much more effective as leaders if we have a broader and deeper perspective because we can receive much more. And if we also have a personal awareness of how this is flowing through us in terms of how conscious energy is moving things and working with us, then we’re able to be more effective in the world, in terms of not reacting but more proactively responding to events and in fact, realising how those events come about to help us to evolve.
I think you brought a very important point. It is through the lens or the perspective, we see the world and that actually influences the way we react or behave. And also the way we make meaning through the events. And from the material that you share on Linkedin and social media, I see that you are very passionate about shifting the leaders to the stage of Synergist. Maybe share with us what is behind that passion?
Yeah, sure. Thank you, Wan. Synergist is the first level of leadership. It’s more, it’s an elevated perspective where we have inner validation. So we’re self validating. We’re not relying on other people to give us permission or to say that’s okay, or even if that’s good. We’re simply self validating and therefore can transcend chaos and transform it up to that level. We simply navigate the system. We can be directive. We can, we can, we can even be what’s called a transformational leader, which is someone who leads with vision and see us, get on the bus or get off the bus. But if you’re on, this is where we’re going. But that’s quite different from being a synergist leader where synergy is about everyone altogether coming on board with each other because we learn to understand each other. In a caring, respectful way so that everyone can move forward together. So a Synergist can do that because they’ve integrated their own self. Once you’ve integrated all these disparate parts of yourself which includes shadow. Then you develop the passion to hold the disparate parts of everyone else and that holding that psychological safe space is what a synergist does naturally, does organically because that is the person they’ve become. So in developing what’s called that 4th perspective, it’s becoming who we are and then we shift into being a 5th person perspective. In the third, the way most of the world is, we’re just doing. We’re human doings. Then we become a human becoming, and then we ultimately land up as a human being. And when things go through us.
Yes, as you share that, there is one word that attracts my attention. That’s the word of navigating. You talk about the challenges we are facing from the digital advancements. And also currently, we’re having this conversation on 26th of February and these last two days we have a crisis in Ukraine. And I’m just wondering what would a synergist see in this crisis?
Yeah, well, on the one hand, we have Russia invading Ukraine. Russia wishes to take that territory to return it and believes it, it’s theirs. And they want to return that territory that lands to Russia and avoid Ukraine joining, for instance, NATO or the Western European community. So it’s a proactive move to consolidate Russia’s position in the world. It is also, well, I’m just describing the event now from my perspective. It also took… I am seeing it from a geopolitical lens. It also took place a day after the end of the Olympic Games in China. That would suggest that China and Russia were also talking with each other and that Russia was respecting China by the end of the Olympic Games. In fact, by delaying its move until afterwards, and then you’ve got the responses of the different countries which are from in terms of, so political responses relate to whether or not we’re going to be friends right in the world. I try to bring it down to like a neighbourhood on a street. You’ve got different houses on the street and those different houses are different countries and different sized houses. So the idea is to have a neighbour, a neighbourhood where everybody is taking care of each other. Really, you know what the neighbourhood cares for. So one house has taken over the people in another house. And said no, you’re part of our country now. We’re going to hold you together, but not all the people there want to be part of Russia. Some of the people there do and some of them want to be part of Europe. So if I was a synergist on the street, you know, or in a later state, I would open my door for the people who wanted to be part of Europe. When I was in Europe to join us, that would be a humanitarian angle. As opposed to simply a political move, it would be, I think, let’s give people choices on where they wish to be. Now the synergist wouldn’t take over. It’s an opportunist action logic to actually take over another country. So it’s being done for self interest, not for people’s wellbeing. A synergist only operates for everyone’s shared wellbeing now and in the future, so people come first, not territory, not profits, not organisations, not even business. It’s how we enable everyone here to thrive and flourish.
Wow! You offer a wide range of, a wide perspective. I see that the synergist sees beyond personal interests. And they see the multiple systems in the example, right? That is the European system and maybe the global system. And one thing you offer that synergists are concerned about people. And that itself is a very noble truth or noble aspiration. And at the same time if I brought this perspective in the business and that became, I felt that there’s tension. On one hand, there is a larger system. So I’m shifting from the Ukraine crisis to the situation in corporations. So the leader who may aspire to be a synergist and they’re in an environment where there may be different priorities. Like, like, maybe the most common one would be either profit or growth. And so how would you share your perspective when the leaders share this challenge with you?
So I suppose one of the things that I talk with to to leaders and organisations is the need for synergists at the top, at the top 100, top 200, top 10% of an organisation really need to be at synergist, if the organisation is even to thrive and flourish because its so much complexity and growing chaos in the world that unless we’ve got that level of leadership at the top that is attempting to synergize rather than separate, attempting to create flourishing community over the longer term, including all stakeholders, so all community interest, not just shareholders, then together we can move forward. I mean the problems in the world today, even in something like housing affordability. It’s becoming impossible for young people, even when they’re fully employed in a developed economy to buy a house because it is simply out of the, out of the range. Now that’s not a good element within society if we can’t even buy homes for ourselves, when we’re fully employed. So that’s … I am sorry. I’m going to go into the socioeconomic thing now. That’s like a big issue. Now if you’re a business and you’ve got something to do with housing like your bank or a builder or whatever, we need to find ways of enabling more people to be in houses. So if you’re in the business, that way, you would create a business model that facilitates more flourishing for everyone, does it make sense? It is a bit like Ikea. Ikea is a huge global business, right? And its purpose is, I think, to make furnishings affordable for everyone.
Yes, yes, and also sustainable.
Yes, it’s also very sustainable. So as soon as you have those sorts of noble purposes built into the fabric of your business in terms of why you’re there, that shifts everything around you.
And I would also suggest that if you have a purpose that’s noble, your profits will come automatically, if there’s an intelligent business model. Don’t need to focus on how we make more profits. We just need to make enough profit, so it’s sustainable and sufficient for reinvestment. It’s not about just making more money. It’s actually about being economically sustainable in major ways.
Yeah, I think you point out a very important theme for the century is sustainability. Yes, and from there, I’m actually quite conscious about leadership development. I think we know what works and what may not work. From your perspective, what will you suggest to develop leaders in a sustainable manner?
Okay, and I’d like to take your question one step further, not even including how to, how to sustainably develop leaders, but how to develop leaders to shift them to synergists? So most of the majority of leaders in today’s world are at a level called achiever, which is about high performance. That’s called the third perspective. And when you move to the 4th perspective, it’s about everyone thriving and flourishing. So it’s about development and wellbeing, as well as performance. But development and well being are just as important as performance. Everything goes together for leadership development to work effectively at 4th perspective, which is quite different from developing leaders at third perspective. We need to do 3 things. We need to do shadow resolution, which is normally not part of most leadership programs. We need to include, integrate into great leadership development with the development of the organisation because we can’t add an extra layer of leaders, synergist level of leadership capacity without putting another floor on the building, if you like that has that elevated perspective. They need to have the space to see much more broadly into their human systems, that they are part of. And thirdly as a coach, we need to offer transformative, the next generation of coaching, not just developmental coaching, because if you are a coach with a later level of consciousness, you need to be able to bring access to those insights, those deeper insights into your coaching conversations. So to both inspire and transform and invite people with different ways of seeing that stretches their minds, that enables them to see more and therefore to develop the synergistic leadership capacity.
Yeah, from just what you share, right, I see that the perspective that you are taking or you are offering. First is not about individual work or individual development in silo. It is integrating the strengths, and I think you say shadow and also the individuals in the wider system, systems of systems and you also talk about transformational coaching. So maybe share with our listeners and also the audience, what’s the relationship between shadow work and transformational coaching?
Okay, um, so shadow work is one aspect of transformative coaching.
Transformative coaching means that the transformation comes from the inside out of the person you are coaching. So transformation is more of doing something to someone. We’re going to transform you, but transformative arise from within. So the coach is transformative because it’s arising from within the coachee and one of the things that we look at is shadow because shadow is what… So this is a different way of looking at emotions, actually. So this is emotional intelligence and more, it’s a synergist level. Whatever, a more advanced level where an emotional trigger is when we get emotionally triggered, so we were reacting to something that’s designed for us to heal. It’s designed for us to better understand ourselves. In terms of what caused that emotional reaction. So for instance, let’s say someone criticises me and I get emotionally reactive. I think, well, why are they saying that about me then I might look at criticism and say, well what is it in that criticism that has affected me and then I can heal that part of myself. Which is a shadow, so that I’m no longer disrupted by other people’s criticism. And that’s what in turn makes me self validating because I’m not concerned about other people’s opinions. I’m actually concerned about understanding them and enabling them to understand each other because I’ve integrated myself because I understand myself and I’m no longer triggered. So when you arrive at Synergist, it’s called calm. It’s from flow to calm, so you have a clear open calm mind because you’ve healed most of your personal shadow, so you’ve healed the trigger, so you really get triggered. We don’t understand that as human beings in leadership development so much, but that’s the case.
Wow! I want to share what I take away from what you share. In shadow work, we not only look within ourselves, we also see how we react with the triggers. Like you said, and it’s like a dance between self and the external environment. How does the trigger affect me? How would I respond or work on myself? And then put up a response at the level where I am. And I think we talk about the synergist, right. How would I respond when I’m being challenged on being under stress and exhibiting behaviour that is demonstrating the synergist?
Yeah, yeah, and you see, yeah, once we’ve healed our own shadow. For instance, a shadow that’s very common to a lot of people. It’s universal. It is not good enough shadow, I’m not good enough to do this. I’m not good enough here, but most of us actually just inherit that shadow through our education system and the way we are raised in our society. So we can flick off that shadow, once we can understand. That’s just not good enough. Of course I’m okay and just flick off that shadow, but another shadow, deep deep within us embedded within us. So therefore we actually have to look at that and integrate that shadow back within us. Why am I saying all these? When you have healed, those elements of yourself that were hurt in the past, hurt as children and as children, we don’t have the cognitive processing to be able to process the pain. We are on the receiving end of. So therefore we just suppress it. We hide it. For example, rejection. Rejection happens to everyone. You know, friends might reject us. We go to a group of schools and people say no. You can’t join us so we get rejected and that causes us pain, causes us to feel wounded, so we suppress that pain. In the 4th person perspective, We need to look at that pain and heal it. Forgive it. Let it go. Change it. Transform it. And then we’re no longer at risk of rejection or feeling hurt by rejection because it’s healed. So you can’t be triggered by something you’ve already healed, and that’s where the mind becomes clear because all those voices otherwise are trying to get our attention. Sorry, I’m probably saying far too much in a short space of time, but …
Thank you, I think you offer a very rich perspective. I hear this word healing or heal a few times. I’m just wondering how we relate healing with leadership? Seems to be … like well. It’s a bit, like quite a bit of tension.
Yeah, it is interesting because healing is not a word that is commonly used with leadership development, and yet as human beings becoming whole, all of ourselves that requires some healing process. Um, to become whole, and the word healing are both drawn from the same original Latin terms and in fact to hold a psychologically safe space. Not just to be not afraid of repercussions or consequences, which is sort of how you look at it from a third perspective, but to feel psychologically held in terms of safe space. So you can be vulnerable in sharing a part of yourself that helps a community to bond together and creates what I call inner team coherence. You have outer strategic alignment. And then you have inner team coherence. So that requires us to hold space and then you put the word hold again, which is part of being whole, which is part of healing. So all these terms, even though they don’t appear to be connected, they’re all part of the same substance that it enables as a human being us to collaborate together, to innovate together, to move into flow, to work synergistically because we have an inner sense of alignment, just like a flock of birds flying through the sky, you know that they adjust to their immediate neighbours, 7 or so neighbours , biologically, organically, naturally, automated. Automatically, we, as human beings, can do that too! That most of us don’t realise we can because we see ourselves all as separate, as opposed to coherent and as part of an energy field that we’re working together on and teams is the beginning of that right. Because they are a team on the sports field, they are a really strong team and I’m a New Zealander, so I am all black, big fan of the all blacks and I love netball, but you can see the teams when they really get to know each other. They understand how to work together to realise an end goal. That’s what we need systemically inside organisations, not just teams, but whole communities and teams work really well at third perspective, but at 4th perspective it’s the whole community so the teams no longer compete with each other. The teams collaborate with each other in order to realise that large or bigger picture across society. If you’re going to the fifth perspective, then we’re looking at our socioeconomic reality within which we work as well.
Wow, that’s a rich example. I want to share with you a common challenge I hear from other leaders. I think most of the leaders understand what you share is the aspiration to be for the common good. I also hear many leaders, they cognitively understand. The behaviour, or maybe the heart seems like they want to safeguard or keep what they already have, or what they are good at. Seems like, my interpretation is some leaders hold what they have very tightly and and not willing to venture a bit, like what is shadow work, what is healing.
Yeah, yeah, they need help. They definitely need help. So if you’re a leader of a large organisation, there’s a high career risk, right, CEOs, only last 3 to 5 years, mostly. So a CEO or anyone in strategic leadership doesn’t want to take a risk, personal risk or career risk to do anything too different. Because then you know anything could happen. They could lose their job et cetera, lose their status, lose their income. So what I found for these leaders is they need to have a proven way to enable them to shift the system and themselves to Synergist. So my research is all about how do people actually shift from the Achiever to Synergist with zero, with zero risk? Knowing exactly how to do it for their organisation systemically and for themselves as a system, as a human system. Shadow is really just part of our human system. So is the mind, the heart, the will when you put all these things together in an integrated way and become congruent. In a congruence, then you know you end up at Synergist. So we’ve got a stage shift proven approach. So there’s zero risk. And we’ve got the latest stage capacity amongst all our coaches so that people are held to enable the development, and when I say help, I mean psychologically.
Yeah, yes, I think you mentioned that to help a leader who may hold something too tightly is to offer something proven. I think that word itself is very powerful. Because it speaks in their language, possibly and offers them a space where they can explore, that has been explored, experimented, tried with other people. And I think it creates some space of safety. Without diverging the whole thing, what is one thing about this proven way that can help leaders to shift?
Well, I think one of the critical things and I’m realising this more and more is that you can have a synergist awareness. But unless you put it into action, it doesn’t make sense … it doesn’t change anything. So we actually help leaders transform their organisation system systemically because that enables them to become synergists and to hold that organisation in place. So for instance, there is no point in having a synergist perspective in a business that’s a third perspective that just wants to make profits. A purposeful organisation is at 4th. This is a big shift in the world. Today is going from third to 4th, but we want to include third and what we’re really doing is replacing the second. I know this is now complex, but we’re replacing the second collective, which is institutional power, with the 4th collective, which is community wellbeing. Yes, we are shifting the collective, bracing the achievers and shifting the collective.
So it is a very huge, at least in my perspective, a huge undertaking. Not only the leaders need to develop themselves. They also need to bring their organisations along. And just to relate to what you shared earlier, the CEO careers, maybe two or 3 years, maybe 5 years, and that creates a kind of dilemma, right. While I’m very aspired to bring my organisation along and when you share that, one thought comes to me. What if I fail?
Yes, so with state shift you won’t. Yeah, we take out the risk. We take away the risk because we’ve done it many times and one thing you would like to encourage senior executive leaders to do is to realise that whatever their purpose statement is, that’s the ceiling on all possibilities. So if you’re the CEO, senior executive team and your purpose is simply to, you know, make more profits next year or build the best motor vehicle that you can, even if it is a self drive that limits your possibility. So what I’d like all organisations to do is create really what you said earlier on noble, noble purpose, somehow benefits all of society, benefits everyone and life on the planet, and then the possibilities are endless. And the opportunities become more numerous because we’re simply aspiring to do more to realise and more.
Yes, I think from what you share, I can see that you are practising a systemic, systematic approach, not only the leaders, also on the organisation level and it is a proven method that you have tried and maybe your colleagues have tried. So to move forward,I would like to explore a bit. Let’s say the leader is interested to develop further, what could the leader do to prepare himself or herself? I mean to engage in this conversation. I mean beyond joining the program that you have.
Yeah, look, to be honest, I think it takes courage and purpose. So as a leader, Um, and in terms of as people, in terms of leading lives on earth here, like we all have a lifetime. If we want to go beyond earning a living and instead want to make the world a better place. Resolving the issues that we have today, like climate change, like pandemic, like shifting, shifting things like the 4 day workweek is fantastic, but it’s come out because of the pandemic, but we’re actually more productive on 4 days of work week rather than 5. So we have to shift a lot of perspectives from human resources to talent to human beings and enable everyone to evolve. So I think that it takes courage to lead a more purposeful life. If leaders leading organisations wish to ensure that their business didn’t just meet shareholders needs, that actually met the needs for current and future generations. It shifts everything, the courage to be purposeful.
I felt that the phrase is very powerful. Courage to be purposeful. I think that’s what, I think, I hope many people will embrace the phrase. And we have talked quite a bit, close to 35 minutes. We started with vertical development and your perspective. We hear a bit of your interpretation of the Ukraine crisis from a synergist perspective. And then we moved towards, from politics to the business, leadership development, e.g. how you propose to develop leaders into the synergist level. So I felt that there is a lot of rich sharing and dialogue. I’m actually quite curious… I would like to ask a question for you. What is in it for you? Personally, in all these endeavours, helping leaders to shift, e.g in their mindsets, in their development.
Yeah, look, I think it’s for a soul purpose. Really. I set up my first company when I was about 30 years old and I called it Realise, and it was about realising our potential. So for me, my whole lifetime has been about what is our potential as human beings, really coming back to Maslow, so that we all are actualized. So for me if I wanted to, you know the courage to be purposeful to evolve, evolved is the outcome. If all of us evolved, especially strategic leaders and especially national leaders, as well as systemically, we’re just voting isn’t really creating democracy anymore. We need voices in the system and we need different candidates leading our countries. So for me, the key is evolution, which is really a scientific concept. And while I look at it spiritually as well because I’m a big fan of mind body spirit, cultivating the self, you know is as Aristotle all these philosophers of the past, we need to cultivate our conscious self. So instead of being self conscious when thinking about the conscious self, so we actually embody all of ourselves. For me, that’s what my life’s all about, helping people to evolve. And I’ve invested a lot in my evolution and travels and now have a great coaching community who are also in the process of their own evolution and evolving their client organisations. And now we’ve put together a leadership program that helps an organisation over a period of 3 years to lift entirely, so the whole organisation will lift as well, all the levels of leaders to their own potential, so that there’s no more container. I find organisations are too containing and too conventional, too traditional, so we need to, you know we need to lift off. We need to move to more of what I would say, like an aircraft system where there’s lots of networks, lots of different alliances, flight alliances to enable the whole world to lift off as opposed to being stuck as cars and vehicles and trucks on highways and byways, staying on the land. So that’s the 3rd perspective, driving, driving and driving and making things happen. Whereas when you go to the 4th perspective, you have lifted off because you have more of an aircraft type transport analogy where everybody lives off together to realise our potential, unlimited possibilities of life. It’s all possible. It’s actually not even that hard because we’ve practised it and proven it and done it a few times. But that’s what we do with organisations today.
Wow, thanks for sharing your purpose, evolving ourselves.
And there’s one word that you brought in this sharing. I think you talk about spirituality, mind body work. Maybe share a bit about what a leader needs to consider about this mind body work?
Okay, well, I think one of the key things and that this is part of the stage shift approach to vertical development is the heart, at the middle of all these. So it is mind, body spirit. But let’s say we’ve got the ego and the will and the heart, intuition, spirit, mind, mind after intuition, mind, and then spirit and all further up. The idea is that all of that is incongruence that it’s all aligned. So if we have inner alignment like that, we feel like we’ve got it together basically because we have it together inside. So what we do in part of our leadership development is what I call holistic leadership development, which is bringing that congruence together and for a lot of people from third to 4th it’s actually opening the heart to others and also for self. And then from the heart we move into flow, which is where intuition starts to become really important. And then we have an open, clear mind, and when we have ended up with an open, clear mind, we can become more spiritually attuned. So it’s not spirituality per se, but it’s in congruence so that we’ve got it together. Basically, we’ve got our lives together on the inside out, as well as the outside in, so the more work we do on the inside out, the more the outside work comes together. So life experience changes, we get more and more integrated, we move from struggling to striving. So at third, we’re struggling to strive. Now there’s a lot of effort and struggling, striving, right. That’s not what most people’s life experiences when you’re at third, at achiever. And when you move to 4th, you’re thriving and flourishing, so you can see that’s much more effortless. So life becomes much easier as we’re thriving and flourishing because we’re more noble in our purpose and our capacity. We’re not reactive anymore. We’re much more responsive to each other and other people, and also the problems we face. So life becomes more peaceful, easier and more effortless. And yet we get so much more done because life is happening through us, not just by us. So life happens to us at second. Life happens by us at third. Life happens through us at forth. So life changes when we evolve, which I would like to see what people do.
Wow! So what I sense is if I, myself is whole and integrated both inside and outside, I can see the flow. I think that is the message that you would like to share with us. Before we end our dialogue today, do you have a message for our listeners and the audience?
I do. I mean, I put something together a little while ago that I thought if I was going to advise, what would I suggest to anyone? And just in a few words, I would say it’s to be true to self. I’ve got 3 little phrases. So that’s the first one, but be true to itself as it is like if you feel that you need to be doing something and you’re feeling called to do something or you see someone trip and you want to sort of help them. You know, be true to yourself if you’re on a path and you think I’m not enjoying my life as it is, experiment, you find other things to be true to self. Don’t just simply be content with what is if you’re feeling niggles. If you’re feeling a need to do something else, be true to yourself, your own impulses. It’s really an evolutionary impulse that I think needs to be true. So be true to self, be kind to all. So I think kindness at all times to all life is something that ensures you have a very peaceful ripple effect in life, which I think is very important. So be true to self, be kind to all and be all you can be which is really the message of evolution. Be all you can be.
Wow! So what I hear is being congruent inside and outside. And I would say, treat others with compassion and kindness. I think this is what you say and the third one is very important that I felt that be the best you can be.
Yeah, be all you can be
Be all you can be.
Which means it’s evolution there. Become, becoming all we can do.
Wow, becoming all we can be in today’s message and in this environment, I felt like energizing. Energised by the message, the possibilities, even though over the horizon, there are dark clouds, more than one dark cloud. And I felt that I can see possibilities with the message, the approach that you have shared with us. Is this a good time for us to pause this conversation?
Yeah, lovely. And thank you so much, Wan, for your beautiful questions and your interpretation each time as well, too is really lovely. So thank you.
Thank you. Thank you for your time.
You’re very welcome.
You’re very welcome.