The True Self. Known by many names - the Organic Self, Wise Self, Deep Self. It's the person we know ourselves to be at the deepest, truest level, beneath any strategies or adaptations we took on to be successful or to be loved in this world.
The True Self: Now What?
In the two decades I spent working with individuals in the Hoffman Process, I had the privilege of witnessing the moment of coming to meet and know the True Self in hundreds, even thousands of people. I witnessed the beauty of individuals experiencing, sometimes for the first time, that we are so much more than the self we consciously and unconsciously designed to survive our childhoods and this world. We are deep, pure, alive, radiant, loving and also flawed, imperfect and human. I had the privilege of midwifing all types of people - from CEO’s to delivery drivers, superstar actors, first responders, stay at home parents, and leaders from around the world.
What I know in my bones is that we are all longing for the same things: to love and be loved, to know ourselves deeply, to be in connection with others, and to express who we are, in ways that make a difference. Beyond that we also have individual dreams - to bring something to life in this world - as parents, entrepreneurs, leaders, artists, teachers and creators.
Aurum was created to meet leaders and creators in that moment. The “now what?” moment. As a leader, how do I adjust the way I work? How do I shift the way I lead? How do I reconcile the knowing of my True Self with the way I do business or participate in my community or organization? What does it mean to be an Awakened Leader?
The Integration of Being + Doing
I’ve spent my life with one foot in each place - the world of being and the world of doing. Through doing I’ve accomplished, created, led, and fully lived in the world of organizations, teams, leadership and business. The being parts of my life have been lived through my spiritual path and practice, meditation, my healing journey, and through nature. Both of these are essential to who I am in this world - and both enrich and inform the other. Aurum was born to assist people living and leading in a way that honors and integrates both.
The Aurum Agenda
So, yes, we have an agenda.
And that agenda is bringing individuals and organizations into greater alignment with the deeper versions of themselves. To awaken to the full capacity of their leadership and presence in this world, from a grounded place of the True Self.
How do we run organizations in a way that honors human beings, the planet and a greater good, alongside being profitable and sustainable? As members of these organizations, how do we participate with integrity, creativity, truth and care for others? How do we accomplish truly amazing things?
At Aurum we know in our bones, and our experience, that turning to the more whole versions of ourselves yields fruitful and sustainable solutions.
The new dawn is here - ushered by the human movement toward transformation, healing and awakening to our True Selves. Whether this experience comes through psychedelics, or a personal growth process such as Hoffman, or the innumerable paths that lead to the True Self, we want to know….”now what?” How will you lead? How will you impact this world? What will you create, connected to your True Self? And how does your organization need to shift, to make space for a more enlightened way of working together? What do teams look like, when they embody integrity, courage and compassion?
We’ve spent seven years answering these questions through our coaching and educational programs - from Courageous Communication to the Aurum Management Training, Inner Leadership, Team Vitality Days, Organizational Citizenship programs, and of course our 1:1 coaching. If you’ve been in our programs you know we have always been up to something different. We’ve always been about finding the being in the midst of our doing. We’ve always been about the True Self. It’s the reason we do what we do.
We know your True Self is calling you to live, lead and work in new ways. Not only at work, but in your relationships, community and how you lead. We are here to meet you there. We have expertise in transformational learning, team building, organizational development
Our experience shows us that by honoring our deeper versions, we can create dynamic, profitable, alive and innovative organizations. We can forge genuine connections, and bring about meaningful change in the world.
We are committed to guiding individuals, leaders, and teams toward a more enlightened and purpose-driven existence. Together, let us step into a future where the True Self becomes the compass that leads us to a brighter and more compassionate, alive, equitable and sane world. We call that Awakened Leadership.
In the coming months, we’ll highlight all the domains of the expression of the True Self and what it means to be an Awakened Leader. We’ll expand more fully on what we know about navigating by the compass of our deepest being - at work and in life.
Devi Cavitt Razo
June 28, 2023
Essentials of Self: Breakthrough Training for Leaders
To experience the potency of the True Self Model, join us at Essentials of Self (EOS), a 4-day intensive for growing as a leader, a creator, and as a human being. We offer this program only twice a year - once in the US, and once in Europe - as a public program. This is a rare opportunity to reconnect with your full capacities, and embody Awakened Leadership in your life.
This is the second installment of the Communication Series on the Aurum Blog.
Part 1 is focused on creating greater connection on a team
In the previous post, we discussed the significance of creating authentic human relationships on a team. The way we create genuine connection and understanding between people is by being fully present and available for the interaction. Communication is a back and forth flow of verbal and non-verbal cues between people, with listening being half, (or more), of that transaction.
The term "Levels of Listening" was coined by the Co-Active Coaching Institute, and has become a well-loved and used model to improve the quality of our listening. In this post, we elaborate the model to include the 3 Levels of Speaking, in addition to the Levels of Listening.
The Three Levels
Much of what happens in conversations and relationships hinges on the quality of our presence with and attention on others. In leadership, being aware of who we are being and/or how we are communicating is an important skill in relationship building and landing our message. How we speak and how well we listen have a powerful effect on the field, the room, and our relationships with one another.
The principle of the Three Levels applies to both listening and speaking and can be described simply this way:
The Three Levels of Listening
Especially in leadership roles, we often focus on communicating and expressing, and forget about the power of genuine listening. Listening does more than help us take in information and gain valuable insight into what is happening in different aspects of a company, team, or project. The very act of listening (or not listening) significantly impacts the relationship(s) within any group endeavor. The way people are listened to impacts what they share, how much they disclose, their ability to come up with creative solutions, and their sense of value and importance.
In this model, there are three different levels of listening, each one with a different impact on both the person speaking and the listener. Which of the following 3 levels do you do most often?
This is the first of our Communication Series on the Aurum Blog.
In each post, we will introduce one or two keys to effective interpersonal communication, especially in the context of leadership, collaborative teamwork and organizational culture.
The Foundation of Effective Communication is Human Connection
When we work with other people on a team, communication becomes central to our success. But without genuine connection between people, poor communication often misses the mark, gets overly complicated or even causes breakdown in relationships or teams. At Aurum we have identified three important principles that foster connection, and more satisfying communication.
Apply these principles to your professional and personal life to improve your communication skills and build stronger relationships.
Principle #1: Relational Bank Accounts
Every relationship has a “bank account”—stored experiences and interactions between the individuals in the relationship. Every exchange you have with another individual contributes to or detracts from this Relational Bank Account. Trust-building and positive interactions deposit value into that account. Trust-diminishing or negative interactions are withdrawals from the account.
Research shows that the strongest relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative ones. Simply put, if you want strong relationships, they need to have more deposits than withdrawals.
Positive interactions include friendly conversations, attentive listening, expressions of curiosity or interest in the other person, expressing respect, acknowledgment or kindness, sharing a laugh, and casual conversations about everyday life—hobbies, interests, etc.
It really comes down to treating the other person with respect and caring for their humanness. When the Relational Bank Account has a positive balance, people trust more, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and go out of their way to help each other. When a conflict or difficult conversation happens, a positive bank account provides a “shock absorbing” effect; difficulties are faced with greater ease, trust, and resilience; challenging conversations such as negative feedback, disagreement, and corrective measures are received in the context of a supportive relationship.
When there is nothing in that Relational Bank Account, the opposite is true. If a good number of your interactions with a given person are corrective, impersonal, or negative, the Relational Bank Account is empty—or worse, it has a negative balance. When you ask them to do something for you, it's likely they will do it grudgingly, partially, or won’t do it at all. When the Relational Bank Account has a negative balance and it’s time for a difficult conversation, things can sour quickly. These interactions are met with distrust, resentment, and negative interpretation. When the account is in the red, people tend to blame, gossip, criticize, and doubt each other.
While this principle applies to all relationships, it is particularly significant when you are in a leadership role. When you’re the leader or manager, a perceived negative interaction on the backdrop of an empty account carries a lot of weight, and has nothing to counterbalance it.
As a manager and leader, attending to your relationships and making regular deposits in those “relational bank accounts” is crucial. If you want a team that’s loyal, honest, forthcoming, and hardworking, you have to see them and treat them as whole people. Say good morning. Thank them for their work. Ask how their day is going. Listen. Appreciate their unique qualities. Reward positive results.
Principle #2: Internal and External Processing
It is a very common mistake to assume other people process, understand, and communicate information the same way we do.
In fact, there are significant differences in how people process information, come up with solutions, and communicate their thoughts. There are two basic and opposite styles that are simple to observe and adjust to: Internal and External Processing. Understanding which type you are, and recognizing the type in others, can dramatically improve your flow of communication with others.
Internal Processors need time to think. They hold discussions inside their head, need to think things through, often stepping away from an interaction to get clear. Once they have worked it out inside themselves, they are ready to share their insights or ideas.
External Processors think by talking. They process information as they hear themselves say it. Sometimes they are just saying words to feel out if something is right—they may not even fully agree with what they are saying—they are working it out as they speak it aloud.
Communication problems arise when we don’t understand or recognize these differences, or expect others to be like us, when in fact they are very different.
For instance, a group of External Processors will have fun with a chaotic, loud brainstorming session, while an Internal Processor will get lost in the shuffle. It would be easy to label that person as not participating, when in fact this medium just doesn’t play to their strengths.
Internal Processors need time to think, and if given that, they will produce well-thought-out solutions. They need a heads-up, and time to prepare. The more spontaneous External type can thrive in “throwing ideas around,” but may be challenged by the need to think things through more fully, and may miss out on the unique insights of their quieter peers.
Internal Processors need time and space to THINK alone
Tips for Working with INTERNAL Processors
External Processors need opportunity to TALK it through
Tips for Working with EXTERNAL Processors
Understanding these two very different modes of processing information will allow you to make the most out of all your conversations and meetings, while supporting each person individually to offer their best contributions.
The Magic of Connected Communication
When you learn to engage these principles in your relationships with others--Relational Bank Accounts and External and Internal Processing—you’ll find your communications are more streamlined, effective, and satisfying at every level. You will develop skill in noticing the quality of connection or lack of it in any situation, learning how to attune to where connection can be made, and being able to cultivate or restore it where needed. Not only will strengthening your communication skills in this way deepen your relationships, your deeper relationships will allow your communications to have exponentially profound effects on your life and work.
MORE in the Communication Series #2 about the 3 Levels of Listening AND Speaking
Creating a Team that Everyone Wants to Be On
When we think about what creates a sense of aliveness and safety on a team, it is common to think we need to solve or get rid of conflict. The truth is that conflict and disagreement are a natural part of how any team or relationship functions.
They are simply signals that change and growth are trying to happen. If we avoid conflict, we only end up stifling or ignoring that change and growth, disempowering ourselves and others. If team members are never pushing one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during discussions, then it is likely that they're not making the best decisions for the organization.
The secret of a Vital Team is to shift how you and your team relate to conflict. A thriving team has plenty of disagreement and conflict! It is how we handle it that creates safety and trust among members of a team. An environment of healthy debate, in which diverse views are able to be shared freely, has energy and dynamism - fostering personal, professional, and organizational creativity and growth. That’s a team that everyone wants to be on.
Changing team culture around conflict requires two areas of effort: firstly, each individual member needs to gain insight and take responsibility for their own personal style around conflict; secondly, the team needs to develop practices that actively invite healthy debate.
Individual Styles of Conflict
There are many approaches to identifying individual conflict styles, but at the simplest level, we either SEEK conflict or AVOID conflict. Besides having a baseline tendency, our tendencies might change depending on the situation - you might be a conflict avoider with your boss and a conflict seeker with your partner, etc. In order to consciously choose which style is most appropriate for the moment, we have to be aware of the pros and cons of each.
Conflict seekers tend to value directness and honesty – they are willing to ruffle a few feathers to express what they see as true. On the other hand they can sacrifice relationship and the objectives of the team for the sake of being right, and can be oblivious to any harm they might cause.
Conflict avoiders tend to value harmony, relationships, team cohesion, and getting along. But this can lead to losing their own sense of direction, neglecting their own needs, or sacrificing their own or organizational growth. Avoiding conflict also creates other types of problems that must be dealt with later.
We want to become aware of our default self-protective tendency, and be intentional about making choices that actually serve the team and the situation we’re in. These are some useful questions to ask yourself around your engagement with conflict:
Questions to ask ourselves around our default conflict style:
When you and your team understand and own your default conflict styles, you can begin to make more intentional choices and develop your capacity for staying with the creative tension of conflict, rather than pushing too hard or shutting it down.
I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway.”
― Patrick Lencioni
Team Conflict Style
Once you understand your individual default styles, you can take a look at the whole team’s relationship to conflict. Patrick Lencioni’s Conflict Continuum is a tool to help understand how conflict manifests in a team. On the one end, there is artificial harmony with no conflict at all, and on the other, there are mean-spirited personal attacks. In the middle of that continuum, there is a line where conflict goes from constructive to destructive or vice versa. The sweet spot is this point where a team is having every bit of constructive conflict possible, without slipping over the line into destructive territory.
The majority of teams we encounter live close to the artificial harmony end of the scale. Because we are afraid of the end of the spectrum of mean-spirited personal attacks or utter mayhem, we maintain artificial harmony, avoiding any direct disagreement, conflict, or speaking our minds. In fact, avoiding all disagreement tends to backfire and create simmering resentment that eventually causes unconscious or indirect destructive behavior.
Consider where you feel your team lies on the conflict continuum. What is the benefit of it being this way? What is the cost? How do you personally contribute to the way it is? What do you want to do differently?
The cost of fear of conflict
The benefits of healthy conflict on a team
Transforming Conflict into Healthy Debate
So how do we shift our team’s relationship to conflict so we can harvest the creative fuel it provides?
1. Turn Towards It
When disagreement or conflict occur, turn towards it with curiosity. Something is trying to be seen, heard, or understood. Make use of it, rather than controlling, avoiding, or shying away from it.
The truth is that all voices present a valuable perspective and sometimes even essential information. If everyone is in agreement at the start, it’s likely that something is missing.
Additionally, when voices are withheld or excluded, people work against the solutions - consciously or unconsciously. Allow, welcome, and even invite voices that disagree. Without dissenting voices, your team and your ideas can’t evolve. The goal is to learn to disagree and still commit to a direction.
2. Make It Safe
Creativity requires risk and vulnerability. Shying away from conflict or dominating conflict are both forms of self-protection that prevent access to the creative spark that is IN the conflict. Playing “nice” reduces creativity as much as criticism and force can shut it down. As your team’s leader, your goal is to model and invite healthy debate. It is essential to value the best solutions over being right.
Take off your own armor, own your own part, show curiosity about other people’s points of view, and open up to creative solutions. Be willing to be wrong and step aside. Consider how your presence or attitude might be a part of the problem. This takes a lot of courage.
When leaders model this kind of vulnerability, it provides space for others to do so. It creates a foundation of trust and psychological safety, makes room for dynamic disagreement, and maximizes your team’s effectiveness.
3. Upscale Your Team's Communication Skills
Effective communication begins with understanding yourself and the other, seeing your shared humanity, honoring yourself and the other as whole and valuable. From that foundation we can develop skill in how we communicate both verbally and non-verbally, paying attention to cues in the other and in the environment, and learning to listen with our full attention, to truly understand.
For a team to be able to sustain healthy debate, some communication agreements need to be put in place–brought forward by everyone on the team and put into writing. We recommend creating a Designed Team Alliance to set intentions, guardrails, and agreements before engaging in any high-stakes debate.
(Contact us to learn more about our Team Vitality Day, a great way to uplevel these skills.)
4. Put the Problem Out In Front
A simple, yet effective shift of perspective is to externalize the problem and turn to face it as a team. Bring everyone together on the same side, looking at the problem, not each other. It’s an issue or problem that needs your attention, together.
Choose something to represent the problem – a chair, a post-it-note, any type of physical object – and relate to it as a thing. Get clear on what the actual issue is. Is it about data, strategy? Pace and timing? Or perhaps it’s about personality differences or relationships?
This helps transform the problem from an internal or interpersonal issue to an external challenge you can collaboratively address. Disagreement becomes less personal and more a matter of thoroughly looking at the problem from all points of view.
5. Invite All Points of View
Before seeking alignment between different voices, give them room to be expressed and clarified. Invite all points of view to be articulated and allow the dynamic tension between them to be there. Rushing to take sides cancels out the creativity inherent in that tension.
Look for and pull out each perspective, then try them on, getting clear on what they are. Learn as much as you can about each one. Nay-sayers are not always saying "this is a terrible idea!" – they might just be articulating a different implication of the solution, or pointing out a potential pitfall that needs to be accounted for. Let all views live in the room at the same time.
Instead of just one person carrying an idea forward or objecting, take each perspective on as a whole team before coming up with a solution together. Separating the "Yes" from the "But what about..." voices and exploring them builds trust, connection, and often laughter.
Most of All... Stay Curious, Engaged, and Present
A thriving team sees conflict as a powerful source of creativity and innovation. They stay with it, remaining in conversation with one another, curious and engaged rather than separating into camps that stand in opposition to one another.
The goal for leaders is not to get rid of conflict on their teams, but rather to create a psychologically safe space with clear processes and structures in which conflict can be explored and mined for its value. In an environment of courage, vulnerability, safety, and trust, diverse views fuel dynamic growth-creating a team that generates amazing results, AND that everyone wants to be on.
Authors: Deepika Sheleff & Devi Cavitt Razo
Devi and Deepika are co-founders of Aurum Leadership. With years of experience coaching leaders and facilitating transformative experiences, they brings deep insight, down-to-earth skills and humor to the task of learning how to be human.
What if we told you that there is one secret ingredient that would dramatically improve your team’s performance, would eliminate hours of wasted time, and significantly reduce the energy spent on politics and drama? What if that ONE element required no advanced degrees or training, and could be added with simple steps that fit into your existing workflow. Would you do it?
As we read through the expanding body of research about high-performance teams, and participate in the collective conversation about the new world of work, we see that at the heart of keeping a team working well is CONNECTION.
When we work online, there tends to be a focus on efficiency and getting things done. Nobody wants to linger on Zoom longer than necessary, and the medium itself limits our capacities to connect. It’s harder to feel one another, our bodies and minds numb out from being static for so long, and spontaneous social chit-chat is clumsy.
Now, while remote work has its challenges, no doubt, we also risk over-romanticizing life in the office. While there are more opportunities for organic moments of contact and 'creative collisions' when physically inhabiting the same office space, it does not mean people are actually feeling connected.
What we mean by connection is a warmth and sense of shared humanity. It engenders fundamental goodwill and a sense of mutual reliance with the other person. Creating this kind of genuine, human-to-human connection requires attention and a safe space that invites vulnerability, honesty, creativity and laughter. At the end of our retreats, invariably someone says something to the effect of, “I thought we were doing OK, but now I feel so much more connected to you guys!”
We often hear that the concept of connection is relegated to the "soft skills" department, but the truth is that the sense of connection is vitally important for effective communication, learning, and producing results. As Adam Smiley Poswolsky describes in the Harvard Business Review, the challenge of employees feeling disconnected at work has enormous cost: "In the wake of the pandemic and the vast shift to flexible work from anywhere policies, 65% of workers say they feel less connected to their coworkers. Employee disconnection is one of the main drivers of voluntary turnover, with lonely employees costing U.S. companies up to $406 billion a year. Research by Cigna shows that lonely employees have a higher risk of turnover, lower productivity, more missed days at work, and lower quality of work."
Let’s talk about love.
About the creative flow, intelligence, and joy that comes out of people when they feel loved and welcomed as they are.
Let’s talk about love… about the loyalty, hard work, and devotion people put into projects and teams they love.
Let’s talk about love… about the soul-crushing suffering and hollowness we feel when it is absent from our lives.
Let’s talk about how love is so much more than a stable marriage or finding one’s soulmate. How love, care, friendship, respect, kindness, honesty and support can infuse all our relationships with life.
Let’s talk about love at work. Love as the currency that builds healthy, honest relationships. Love is the foundation of resilient cultures.
At Aurum, we get to see what happens when the flow of love is restored on teams and organizations.
It is breathtaking.
What they don't tell you when you get that promotion...
We often think of leadership as something that is given to us – as a job, a position, a role that gives us permission to lead others. In reality, merely getting the new office or job title rarely provides the secret sauce that creates instant authority and respect. When someone gets promoted or hired into a leadership role, they often focus on their areas of responsibility and the task at hand. But over time, they begin to wonder whether or not they are actually being effective as leaders.
Think of yourself at work, especially when you are new to the role. Do people listen to you? Are your suggestions being respected and followed? Do you get bogged down in itty bitty details? What is your level of stress? Are you always right? Are your team members honest with you about their mistakes and learning?
The answers to these questions aren’t found in your job description. It has nothing to do with being in technology, construction, education or finance, or even your title, but it does have something to do with YOU. What people respond to the most is the quality of your Inner Leadership.
Role-based vs. Inner Leadership
Role-based leadership is the job title and institutional authority that are granted to someone when they are introduced as a leader with a specific scope of responsibility. This leadership role can be given or taken away, and is generally defined by the organization's needs. The role may require certain abilities, but there is no guarantee that you have them.
Inner Leadership, on the other hand, is the domain of who you are as a human being and how you are showing up. It illustrates how you engage with others, and the level of inner authority and authenticity you bring to work. It’s about how much you trust yourself and others, your willingness to learn, find solutions and move forward. These are inner qualities that arise from within you which cannot be given or taken away. However, inner leadership can be actively cultivated and supported - or squashed.
Often we expect or hope the role will magically give us the leadership qualities we know we need. “If I had the title/role/degree I would feel confident” or “If I was the manager, people would listen to me!” While the role may provide a certain institutional authority, it rarely creates inner leadership. For that, we need to do inner work and develop internal, relational skills.
Over many years of leading, training, and coaching, we have distilled a list of the 8 most important elements of Inner Leadership. Focusing your attention on developing any of these areas will dramatically increase your effectiveness, regardless of your role or position.
The Essential Elements of Inner Leadership
1. Know Yourself
Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Own both.
Being transparent about both invites others to do the same, increases team cohesion and safety, enhances creativity and invites others to show up fully.
Understand the inside/outside principle and that people will react to your behavior, not your intention.
What we don’t see and own ends up negatively impacting others, our relationships, and our trustworthiness. What we don’t own and talk about, others will - especially in leadership.
2. Embody Authenticity & Integrity
Being authentic and real is compelling. Being in integrity is empowering. Focus on being trustworthy rather than evaluating others.
Do what you say you will do and take responsibility when you don’t.
Say yes, and follow through - or say no, with respect. Honor your agreements, honor other people, and honor your word.
Devi Cavitt Razo and Deepika Sheleff are co-founders of Aurum Leadership. They are also close friends who have dedicated their lives to creating powerful, honest, resilient relationships.