Leading Humans

Information and Resources for Participants

Welcome to the CHSS – Conversations of Substance 2018 program – we are delighted to have you on board!

The goal of this program is to support you to:

  • Use a brain-based (evidence-based) approach to conversations so that you can ‘Keep your people moving!’
  • Apply coaching techniques to improve the impact of EVERY conversation, including performance-related conversations
  • Improve the quality of thinking – yours and others – in your workplace
  • Have the confidence, courage and skill to have the conversations you need to have
  • Save time and energy with better outcomes – that is, double your impact in half the time

This page is a centralised space for information associated with the program, and for additional resources that you may wish to explore.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to make contact at support@michelleloch.com.

Program details…

Program Dates and Times

Conversations of Substance is a 2.5-day program.  The dates of the program are:

2-3 March & 10 March 2018

Arrive as soon as possible after 3:00 pm for a 3:15 pm start, Friday 2 March.  Finish around 7.30pm.

Arrive at 7:45 am for a 8:00 am start, Saturday 3 & 10 March.  Finish at 3.00pm.

Program Schedule

Friday 2 March

03:00 pm  –  Delegates arrive
03:15 pm  –  Program commences

05:15 pm    Dinner (caterered)
05:45 pm –   Program recommences

07:30 pm  –  Program ends

Saturday 3 & 10 March

07:45 am  –  Delegates arrive
08:00 am  –  Program commences

10:00 am    Morning Tea/Coffee Break
10:15 am –   Program recommences

12:15 pm –   Lunch

01:00 pm –    Program recommences
03:00 pm –    Program ends

Venue and Catering Details

The program will be held at CHSS Staff Room


Friday 2 March: Dinner will be provided during the program.

Saturday 3 & 10 March: Meals are BYO. Tea/coffee will be available.

Before the program starts…

What you need to do BEFORE the program starts…

Read this article…

You can’t be a good manager if you aren’t a coach!

Think about this…

How you show up, and what you mentally bring to the workshop will determine what you take away. Here are some things to think about…

  • What is working well for you in leading your team and working with colleagues? How do you know?
  • What is challenging for you in leading your team and working with colleagues? How do you know?
  • What would you like to get from this program?
  • What will it take for you to get the most from the workshop?

Here is a rundown on the program content…


Module 1 – HUMANS

(this will be a quick recap of what you learned in the one day workshop you have already done!  It would be great if you could have a quick look over your notes from the workshop that will be of great benefit for your learning)

Conversations are about people…humans…and we have learned more about the human brain in the last 25 years than in all of history before. This new science is changing the way we think about how we communicate. We begin on Day 1 with a deep dive into the neuroscience of human motivation…how humans are wired.

Module 2 – HABITS

You will start to build your coaching and conversation skills.

  • Types of conversations
  • BETTER Conversation Habits model – 6 conversation habits you will need to develop to have powerful conversations


Module 3 – SKILLS

Time to develop your 6 Super Skills for Conversations of Substance.

  • Speaking
  • Language
  • Listening
  • Bottom Lining
  • Powerful Questioning
  • Acknowledgement

Module 4 – STRUCTURE

In this module we will pull everything together in two key conversational structures that will provide you with the roadmap for powerful conversations.

  • Conversation Cycle
  • A.W.E.S.O.M.E Conversations



This day will focus on Q&A, opportunities to practice and deepen your new skills, and make the connections to help you to apply your new conversation skills.

  • Review and practice of the AWESOME Conversation process
  • ‘Get out of Jail Free’ – strategies for difficult conversations
  • Other powerful strategies as the group decides

Once the program begins…



  • Complete the TRIFECTA on page 32 of the workbook
  • Read the appendix articles on page 55 (INSPIRES) and 63 (You can’t be a great manager…if you didn’t read it as preparation!)
  • Tell someone about what you learned today and why it is relevant to your role…and life!
  • Come prepared with some things to be coached around

Optional:  Click here to download Michelle’s ‘Rewired Conversations’ white paper


After Day 2:

  • Complete the TRIFECTA on page 49
  • Read appendix page 58 – “Creating momentum…”
  • Read through the AWESOME questions on page 58
  • PRACTICE taking a coaching approach to all conversations and meetings – focus on one thing at a time…better listening, bottom-lining, noticing and following the AWESOME roadmap etc.  Don’t be too hard on yourself, just notice and aim to get better each time. The excuse of ‘I didn’t have time to practice’ is not valid. Every conversation is an opportunity to practice something, or an opportunity to debrief and diagnose what did or did not go well.

Preparation for Day 3

  • Come ready to share insights and learnings
  • Bring along things to be coached around
  • Bring your questions

Click here for a sample coaching session with David Rock

Click here for a video around the power of questions – on the run coaching example


Preparation for Day 3

  • Come ready to share insights and learnings
  • Bring along things to be coached around
  • Bring your questions

Click here for a sample coaching session with David Rock

Click here for a video around the power of questions – on the run coaching example


All the best!

Michelle. 🙂

Additional resources…

Your Brain is Your Business  by Michelle Loch

52 Weeks of Awesome Leadership  by Michelle Loch

The Power of Habit  by Charles Duhigg

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success  by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D.

Your Brain at Work  by David Rock

I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like  by Dr Mardy Grothe

Click here for the sample coaching session with David Rock

Click here for a video around the power of questions – on the run coaching example

TED Talk – Simon Sinek:  Start With Why  (18-minute version)

TED Talk – Simon Sinek:  Start With Why  (5-minute version)

Mind the Bump:  Neuroplasticity and Mindfulness

TED Talk – Matt Lieberman:  The Social Brain

Sentis:  The Sentis Brain Animation Series

TED Talk – Jim Tamm:  Cultivating Collaboration: Don’t Be So Defensive

The Royal Society:  Unconscious Bias

Carol Dweck: The Power of Yet:  Developing a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck:  Effect of Praise on Mindsets

Brene Brown:  The Power of Vulnerability

Brene Brown:  The Anatomy of Trust

Michelle Loch:  Rewired Conversations

Neuroleadership:  Becoming a NeuroLeader

The Key to Goal Success:  Setting Implementation Intentions

How the brain learns:  Learning that lasts through AGES

The Social Brain by Matt Lieberman:  Social

Scientific American:  What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?

Harvard Business Review:  Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain

Marchall Goldsmith:  Leadership is a Contact Sport

Michelle Loch:  50 Shades of Conversational Narcissism

Harvard Business Review:  Outsmart Your Own Biases

Harvard Business Review:  You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach

David Hoffeld:  What Your Brain Does When It Hears A Question 

Powerful Questions:  Socratic Questioning

True Cost of Non-Responsiveness: Blog from Peter Cook

Michelle Loch:  Online training program – My Brain Academy (use code PARTICIPANT to receive a discounted rate)

Michelle Loch:  Mindfulness Chocolate Meditation

Evian Gordon:  My Brain Resource Brain Training

Binaural Beat Technology: Info

ICF Accreditation – International Coach Federation

If you are interested in pursuing an ICF Accreditation, you can explore the requirements for the first level of accreditation – ACC – on the ICF global website.

This Conversations of Substance program will provide you with ICF Accredited hours. If you wish to obtain a certificate and are interested in finding out more about certification with the ICF, please contact us.


ICF Competencies

ICF Ethics

Leaders must replace Empathy with Compassion

Leaders must replace Empathy with Compassion

Recently I worked with a wonderful group of leaders who I was training to become in-house workplace coaches (a voluntary focus alongside their normal leadership and work duties – very cool).


As the skills of this group have been increasing, so has the depth and value and power of the conversations they are having – which inevitably leads to supporting their ‘coachees’ with real and challenging issues, often creating emotional responses in the person being supported.


This is natural, and human and useful if handled well.


One of the challenges though, is that many of the struggles of their colleagues are either shared by the coach, or of a nature that the coach’s natural and wonderful empathetic response causes them to be drawn into the emotion as well – not so useful. When we have experienced the same or similar situations in the past, we start to relive those experiences again through the present conversation.


We have been told that empathy is good, that we should seek to understand the situation of others and put ourselves in their shoes. This is sort of right.


I’d like to challenge the idea that leaders need to be empathetic.


I’d like to suggest that leaders need to focus more on being compassionate with people, rather than empathetic.


When relating to and supporting others, your personal response can take two forms: empathy or compassion. Let me explain the implications of each of these.


During an empathetic response, you emotionally absorb the feelings of others. Empathy is an amazing human capacity, essentially allowing us to literally feel the pain or joy of others. When a loved one is in trouble or pain, we have the capacity to live their lived experience, and for good reason. No empathy would lead to abandonment and loss of caring.


What an empathetic response does, however, is light up the same regions in the brain as those lighting up in the person of interest – usually pain. When others are in pain, you are then in pain, and that response inhibits your capacity to be objective, to think totally logically and to support that person in a useful way. Your capacity to be totally present to others and to the most useful way to support them is diminished whilst you deal with your own feelings, and eventually you can be drawn into the drama of the situation.


Conversely, a compassionate response is a response of kindness through objectivity. Compassion stimulates oxytocin (the trust hormone), dopamine (the reward hormone), and serotonin (anxiety reduction), leading to happiness and optimism. It’s a bit like the concept of ‘tough love’ – in order to help the most, sometimes you have to be the one to hold the line – like denying your child the opportunity to attend a party when they have been naughty – those ‘learning moments’!


Take some time this week to notice your responses to the challenging situations brought to your attention by others. Is your response empathetic (emotionally non-useful) or can you be present to supporting them from a place of useful compassion?


Have a great week.



Green Tea and Dark Chocolate

Green Tea and Dark Chocolate

For the fourth year in a row now I have posted this blog as a kick off to a new year.


Those who know me well know that I cannot live without my green tea; and dark chocolate, whilst attempting to reduce its influence on my life, still holds its own on my Five Essential Foods list. Having said this, I’ve been venturing into the ‘Skinny Cap’ coffee world last year, but Green Tea and Chocolate are still my go to!


I’d love you to share this idea with your network…a great way to begin the year and get focused.




Your brain has access to around 11 millions ‘bits’ of data at any one time, but can only process around 100,000.  Your capacity to focus on more than one thing is quite limited.  So having a theme for the year rather than a long list of goals and new year resolutions has served me well over the past few years.


The RAS (Reticular Activating System) is a useful little part of your brain that decides what data – from outside and inside your body – your brain will pay attention to.


The issue to consider is whether the choices your RAS is making are useful for you!


In the absence of any direction from you, the choices and decisions your RAS makes will be…

  • random, or
  • based on your past instructions or interests or random thoughts, OR
  • in line with a more primitive decision-making set of instructions designed to ensure your survival.


In light of this, taking the time teach year to give my RAS the gift of a solid ‘theme’ for the year has served me well.


For example, my theme back in 2014 was ‘PROFILE’– I wanted to raise the profile of my business and my expertise to attract new clients.


What happened was three-fold:

  1. I started to come across (and pay attention to) more opportunities to raise or contribute to my business and professional profile.
  2. I was proactive in making decisions that supported that particular outcome over other potential outcomes.
  3. I was more likely to act on such opportunities than I would have been in the past.


As a result, I more easily achieved my business objectives than I had anticipated.


In the absence of a well-thought out ‘theme’ I would probably not have paid as much. Or any attention to the opportunities. Or I may have tended to continue to make decisions and choices similar to the previous year (stay in my comfort zone). Or I may have failed to overcome my inertia on acting on the opportunities due to a desire to protect myself from the risk of doing something new and different.


In 2017 my theme was ‘Leading Humans’.  At the time I felt a passion for becoming one (a better version of myself), and for creating them, so they can in turn lead them!  During the year I changed the name of my business to Leading Humans and now have an even clearer focus on where to next for me and my work.


Over the last three years, the specifics I had in mind didn’t necessarily appear precisely as intended, but something else of equal value did. It was the fact that I was on a journey and had a thematic end in mind that counted. The fact that the goal wasn’t so specific also let me off the hook so I didn’t get caught up in ‘failure’.  Your word or theme also serves as decision-making criteria. Does this opportunity or focus align with my theme?


Doing new, great stuff is difficult for the human brain and requires deliberate attention and undesirable effort. So, to make this a little easier, I encourage you to take some time TODAY to start providing some guidance for your RAS this year.


Here is my SEVEN STEP process to get you started…


FIRST…take some time out and head to a café where you can indulge in coffee and cake (or green tea and dark chocolate in my case – there it is – finally the reference to the title), and a notebook or device or small whiteboard depending on your personal process for scribbling and creating!


THEN…just reflect on what you want—big picture 1/3/5 years from now, how last year went, what needs to be different, what will give you the biggest bang for your buck this year, what you don’t want to happen this year, where you want to be in December… Create a vision board of scribbles and key words—WHATEVER takes your reflection fancy. AVOID lists and lengthy prose – use bubbles and key words and pretty pictures. Do this…


SO YOU CAN…land on a series of tangible and intangible goals that excite you! Let your imagination go here…don’t hold back. You need to zoom in to some specifics before you zoom out again to find your theme (note…these goals must EXCITE you).


NOW YOU NEED TO…take a step back and consider the shift or change or ONE THING that is going to make a difference and help you to achieve these goals – what has been the barrier in the past, what has gotten in the way, or what have you failed to do enough of or well enough. Write down a few ideas and order another cupcake or dark chocolate thingy.


AND THEN…forget it all for a while… That’s enough for now. Stop thinking about it and take a few days to let your brain percolate over this. Add to your notes as ideas come. Discuss it over more coffee. Eventually, the WORD or THEME will hit you when you least expect it, and when it does…


PROCLAIM TO THE WORLD…write it, blog about it, draw it, figure out what it looks like everyday, share it with your team and discuss what it means for you and them. Immerse yourself in it, set mindful reminders to make sure it is in front of mind. Do whatever you need to do to clearly instruct your RAS that THIS IS IT FOR 2018…this is our (meaning you and your brain’s) goal, our influencing context, our foundation, our driver. Hardwire it into your RAS – then get on with your year. And finally…


TEST YOURSELF and PIVOT…At the end of a meeting or conversation ask yourself…did I engage with my theme? Set device reminders to make sure you check in and reconnect with it regularly. If things aren’t quite working out, then PIVOT – make a small change in direction or energy to keep you on track. It’s OK to let your theme evolve.


At the end of the day/month etc, diarise a green tea and dark chocolate meeting with yourself and/or your team to reflect on how your theme is going. The BIG TEST is whether the theme is influencing your professional decisions and behaviours. If not, it’s probably not the right theme, or you are not really committed to it – just interested in the idea of it! If this is the case, change it, or get off your butt and commit to it.


My word for 2018 is ‘discipline’.  I’m getting focused on developing the discipline I need to do the things that need to be done to achieve the outcomes I want in both my professional and personal lives.


Good luck. I hope it works for you like it works for me.


Welcome to 2018 – a new year with new opportunities – and I look forward to supporting you on your professional and personal journey!


Go now…

What to do when people just want you to tell them what to do!

What to do when people just want you to tell them what to do!

I am unashamedly passionate about the need for leaders to become master communicators; to learn to have powerful conversations that – one conversation at a time – stimulate quality thinking, hold people accountable to useful effort, create insight and behaviour change, and focus people on ‘useful activity’ rather than ‘interesting distraction’.


Taking a coaching approach to conversations is a powerful skill, but what do you do when the people you are trying to support just want you to tell them what to do?  They don’t want to be asked the hard questions and they actively avoid, and even resent, having to take responsibility and make tough decisions.


Interestingly, the human brain does not like to be told what to do, so why do we find so many employees wanting the quick answer from the boss?


Firstly, consider that essentially, your brain is lazy – and for good reason.  You (and all of us) exist in a socially sophisticated world with a primitive brain and that causes problems. One of the brain’s KPI’s is its capacity to conserve energy and so quality thinking, particularly if not well supported or collaborative in nature, can be effortful.


Secondly, your brain is designed to automate behaviour. Any thinking or behaviour, useful or not, that is repeated is deliberately directed to your ‘automatic brain’ and turned into a habit.  If you are in the ‘habit’ of providing the quick answers to the questions that your people fire at you all day long, and making their decisions for them, then combined with the brains desire to conserve energy, you potentially have team members that will come to expect this and will avoid going outside of their mental comfort zones.  Habits are light on energy, so when you challenge someone to start thinking more deeply for themselves when this is not the norm for them, you are asking their brain to use more energy, which the brain will naturally resist.


The implications of being a boss that ‘tells’ and ‘solves’ are three fold:


  1. People get lazy and expect that the boss will do the heavy mental lifting, and this results in day-long interruptions to your focus and a drain on your mental energy.
  2. The boss (you) ends up doing everybody’s job for them, and that leaves insufficient time (and brain fuel) to do the heavy mental lifting for your own job (ie, ‘I don’t have time for the strategic thinking I should be doing!).  You end up with everybody’s monkey on your back.
  3. And then when it all turns to pooh, whose fault is it – the boss (you again). ‘John told me to do that!’


So back to the issue of the brain not wanting to be told what to do.  Essentially, being told is non-consciously processed as ‘you think I’m dumb’.  Often the asking is more of a checking that their thinking is correct. You would have experienced yourself the situation where you asked someone for advice and their well-intentioned response is peppered with ideas and thinking that you already knew or have tried – and we quickly tune out when that happens.


Leaders must strike a balance between supporting the thinking of others …and providing both technical and relational advice that is useful.


Here is an idea on how you might subtly begin to shift the balance of mental energy consumption, get some monkeys off your back, and motivate your people to engage in some great thinking and self-accountability.


In my brain-based coaching skills program – Conversations of Substance – we investigate what I call Accountability Questions. They look something like this:


So what DO you know about this?

What thinking or research have you already done OR what have you already tried?

What do you THINK you need to do?

What specifically is the missing information or decision you need from me?


It is reasonable to insist that, even in situations where there is a knowledge or technical gap, that a discussion around what people already know and have already tried or researched is key to finding the ‘actual gap’ in knowledge.  You will often discover that they already know the answer, but may not have been confident enough to make a decision or to articulate their view – and this should lead to another conversation about why they didn’t feel they could do that.


Asking a few qualifying questions can save everybody a lot of time. Challenge yourself to get into the habit of asking these types of questions before launching into solution mode and you will find you will lighten your own mental load and support others to do better thinking and to learn and grow.


Be careful what you (don’t) ask for…

Be careful what you (don’t) ask for…

One of my regular exercise spots in Brisbane is high on a hill, overlooking the city, and features an enormous water reservoir.  One lap around is 800 metres, and many families walk there with their children on bikes, and their dogs happily exploring. I love going there.


On Monday, I heard a child ask his mother if people were ‘allowed’ to take the bikes down an off road attached to the main road surrounding the reservoir.  The mother hesitated and then replied, in a supportive and apologetic tone… ‘I don’t think so, mate!’  The disappointed child turned around and continued to cycle on the main road.


My first thought was ‘what road?’ In all the years I’ve been running there, I hadn’t really noticed it – I had stayed focused on my task at hand and not considered any alternative routes.  it took the fresh eyes of a child to bring an unfiltered perspective.


My second thought was…wow, that was an unintentional curbing of that child’s curiosity… along with the assumptions that the parent made allowing for the maintenance of her comfort zone. I’m sure I’ve done this with my kids too.


Perhaps the mother could have asked a couple of questions like…


‘Is there a sign that says you can or can’t?’

‘Do you think it looks safe to go down there?’

‘How steep is the road, and do you think you could handle that slope?’


Or she could have acknowledged the value of the child’s observation.  Something like…


‘Oh, I’ve never noticed that road before!  Good on you for seeing it.  Let’s walk down there together to check it out and then we can decide if it’s safe.’


Leaders can fall into a similar trap.  They have been doing things one way for so long, (and it’s worked for them so why change) that they can fail to notice and appreciate alternative points of view or ways of achieving a specific outcome. This is normal, protective, human behaviour.  The human brain likes to conserve energy and will resist changing an activity or thinking pattern that has been ‘hardwired’ through repetition and past reward.


So, when others get curious and ask for ‘permission’ to explore or experiment, it can be too easy for the leader to simply redirect back to what the leader knows will be safe.


Is your organisation filled with assumed rules and boundaries that perhaps curb curiosity and creativity.  Do your leaders play it safe, and in the process fuel mediocrity and inhibit innovation? Beside depriving the child of the excitement of exploring the unknown, who knows what he might have discovered – perhaps a whole new bike-riding area?  It’s the same for leaders who are pressed to deliver and therefore choose to play it safe.


To shift this, leaders must develop a different mindset, a new set of conversational habits, and a level of self-leadership that embraces natural curiosity, humility and vulnerability, and create an environment where people have open permission to think, to be curious, to challenge the status quo and to bring new perspectives to old challenges.


Three of the most powerful words in any leader’s vocabulary should be – ’what if we…’ and all people in the organisation should be encouraged to use them.  An experimental mindset is critical if organisations are to thrive in this VUCA* world.  Imagine if scientists only ran experiments where the outcome was guaranteed? Discovery, innovation and learning would be sadly missing.


Here are three simple things you can do that will make a big difference…


  1. Any time someone asks you ‘Can I … ‘ or ‘Should I …’ you should respond with ‘what do you think?’
  2. Notice when the answers are coming too quickly from you. That could mean that others are relying on your expertise to much to solve their problems. Even as a leader you don’t need to be doing everybody’s thinking for them. Encourage others to think for themselves a bit more and build their own expertise.
  3. Ask more questions, and then shut up and let people think. The average elapsed time between when we ask a question, then answer it is 7 seconds.

These small changes will help you to get some of the monkeys off your back, encourage a higher quality of thinking, and shift accountability…leaving more time and brain space for you.




*VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous