Five More Myths About Conversation in Business…BUSTED!

Five More Myths About Conversation in Business…BUSTED!

Although leaders spend as much as 80% of their time in conversation, many underestimate the power of good quality conversation in getting things done and improving performance…and also how very ordinary we are at it.


Following on from my last blog, here are five more myths about business conversations that need to be busted!


Myth 6: Leadership is about strategy and processes


Leading is a social activity.  It’s about people first and the effectiveness of your conversations, supported by great strategy and useful process.


Myth 7:  Culture change is a project management process


In a similar vein to the previous myth, culture change is so much more than a project management process.  Leaders are far too reliant on structures, strategy and processes to support organisational change. To change culture you need to change the collective organisational brain of your people. See the next myth on how to do that!


Myth 8:  I can’t change people


Neuroplasticity is one of the most significant discoveries of our time.  Through FMRI technology, neuroscientists have discovered the brain’s plastic ability to reorganise or ‘rewire’ itself in response to changes in behaviour, thinking, environment, emotions and bodily injury.  This process works through attention – the more attention you place on the brains wiring, the stronger it gets.  Where we place our attention influences how our brain engages in this reorganisation and hence how we grow and change over time.  When this attention is deliberate, it is referred to as self-directed neuroplasticity.


When, through powerful and deliberate conversation, you influence the direction of another person’s attention, you are, in fact, influencing how their brain is changing.  Learning powerful conversation skill is, in fact, one of the most effective ways to truly influence others.


Myth 9:  Failure is not an option


We learn through failure.  A child does not simply stand up and start walking.  They stand and fall.  Stand and fall again, trying different techniques and slowing getting used to a new way of getting around.  For some reason, when we grow up, we seem to lose that innate understanding that learning is a process that relies on failure (which is the recognition and appreciation of what NOT to do).  In organisations, we need to develop a healthier relationship with failure in the form of an experimental mindset.  Conversations need to change from a focus on achievement (which risks failure) to a focus on running experiments and then debriefing and learning from them, and bringing that new learning into the next conversation.


Myth 10:  I know the answer


There are more possible ways to connect the brain’s neurons than there are atoms in the universe (John Ratey).  Every one of us is different, in fact, much more different that we ever imagined, and this means that we can never truly know or understand what another human being needs or wants.  Never presume you can know the answer, until you get curious and find out much more about what another person wants or needs.  Check out my blog on 50 Shades of Conversational Narcissism! 

Five Myths About Leadership Conversations That Need to be Busted!

Five Myths About Leadership Conversations That Need to be Busted!

As a leader you spend 80% of your time in conversation. Many leaders severely underestimate both the power of good quality conversation in getting things done and improving performance…and also how very ordinary we are at it. Here are five myths about business conversations that need to be busted!


Myth 1:  I am good at communication and conversations


Conversation is a skill and an art and very few of us are taught how to use conversation to get the very best from the brains of others. Our role models and habits, not to mention the pressure of time and energy also mean that we resort to ‘telling and instruction’ as the predominant means of communication over a work day. The brain does not like being told what to do – even when an individual asks you to ‘tell’. When people are told or instructed – even if they ACCEPT and ACT ON the instruction, they will not OWN the outcomes.


Myth 2:  What people say is the truth


Truth in itself is a myth. There is my truth, and your truth, and the version of truth that makes sense. People lie, for all the right reasons. Cognitive bias colours and filters the truth. Our past experiences and behaviours create the unique ‘wiring’ that drives future behaviour, and it’s not always based on an objective reality.


Myth 3:  People know what they want


When I begin a coaching engagement, more often than not my ‘coachee’ arrives with their clearly documented ‘3 goals’ that they wish to achieve from the coaching. It usually only takes about 20 minutes to uncover that beneath those goals are some very different goals. We tend to think and exist on our ‘surface’ and it takes effort and skill to help people to delve beneath the surface to find out what people really want and need. But if you can, the rewards are plentiful.


Myth 4:  Emotion is destructive


We avoid emotion, particularly emotion that we categorise as ‘negative’. There is no such thing as positive or negative emotion, it is our interpretation of emotion that categorises them. It is much more useful to view emotion as valuable data that can guide us to know the truth (see Myth 2) of what is going on for us. Learn to embrace and regulate emotion rather than avoid and suppress it.


Myth 5:  Conflict is not productive


Conflict (in its useful form) is not only productive but necessary. I prefer to refer to conflict as Deliberate Debate and I specifically teach this in my Rewired Teams programs. If your meetings are a round robin of ‘sharing’ updates, then you are either missing a great opportunity for creative thinking and problem solving, or simply wasting precious time. The process of challenging and stretching our own thinking and the thinking of others – of not accepting at face value what is put forward (see Myth 2) and of leveraging off the thinking of others is the critical missing piece in many teams.


Five more myths to come in my next blog…



Have a nice day!



50 Shades of Conversational Narcissism

50 Shades of Conversational Narcissism

Yes, I read the books and yes, I’ve seen the movies. Moving right along…


I talk a lot. Often about myself, but more often than not about my plans, what I want to achieve, the next adventure I want to go on, or the next task I need to conquer. I’m a raving extravert so what happens on the inside, is totally expressed on the outside without much filtering.


My father will on occasions jump in and comment “It’s just all about you, isn’t it Michelle!”


Well, yes.  Why wouldn’t it be?


But from my perspective it isn’t JUST all about me. It’s about an internal drive for perfection and achievement. It’s about appreciating the privilege of the life I have and making the most of it before I die. It’s about showing my kids what life can offer and giving them the confidence to be themselves in the world. It’s about so much that only I, who lives inside my head, can appreciate and understand.


To the outside world, I may possibly (no probably) appear a bit narcissistic. Making it all about me is not my intention, but it can certainly be the outcome from the experience of others.


The biggest mistake we humans make in conversation is that we become conversational narcissists. We make it all about us. Our intentions are good, but the impact can be quite different.


Now the problem here is that this is not only common and normal, but it is how we have evolved (or in this case, not evolved). Our survival instincts drive us to make it all about us – it’s how we are wired.


Unfortunately, it’s a major barrier as we come to understand more about the human brain and its motivating forces of threat and reward.


Are you a conversational narcissist? See how many of these you can tick…


During a conversation, have you ever thought to yourself (or out loud)…


I know what they want/need…

My idea is better…

There is an obvious answer here…


Or have you ever said…


☐  Why don’t you just try this…

  What I would do is…

  Why haven’t you…


Or do you…


  Set and lead the agenda in meetings, or in a conversation for that matter…

  Assume that your team or colleagues have understood your instructions or requests… (only to discover later that they didn’t)

  Assume that your team or colleagues have the same goals or desired outcomes that you do… (only to discover later that they don’t)


Or even more importantly, have you been on the other end of a conversation or meeting where…


Nobody asked your opinion or thoughts, or when they did, they didn’t take the time to dig deeper or understand your perspective

You wasted your time because nothing in the meeting was of value to the issues YOU are currently facing

You left the conversation thinking “Well, that was all about them!”


If you have ticked a few of these then you have engaged in, or been the victim of, well-intentioned conversational narcissism.  Your drive to get things done, or to help others understand or achieve, overtakes the critical skill and process of supporting others to engage in quality thinking, to self-motivate and engage, to discover, learn and grow for themselves.   You may also be missing out on valuable alternative perspectives or ideas, or preventing a useful challenge to your own one-sided thinking and perspective.


Leadership is about conversation, and we need to get it right.


You must begin to notice your conversational narcissism and deliberately move to a place of conversational humility – characterised by conversational curiosity! You don’t, and can’t know it all, so take some time to ask.


Here are 5 shades (sorry, not enough page space for 50 – but the book is coming!) of conversational narcissism that you might find yourself falling into, and a few tips on what you can do about changing it.


Conversational GREY – the AVOIDER


It all feels too hard, so you just sit in the background, agree, say little and avoid rocking the boat. You are scared to evoke emotional responses that may make you feel bad or challenged – defensiveness, anger, sympathy, embarrassment.  You may even ‘beat around the bush’ a bit and avoid saying directly what you really want to say…sound familiar?


This is experienced by others as passive aggressive behaviour and they will experience much frustration.


Conversational RED – the REACTOR


You take everything personally and react to what has been said based on your past experience, your values and your future goals – none of which are known to others.  When the conversation doesn’t go your way, your response is to walk away, or begin to just ‘tell’ so you can move on…sound familiar?


This is experienced by others as an inability to listen and they will give up trying to engage with you.


Conversational BLUE – the RESCUER


You are good at what you do, so when others are struggling, you know you can get it done faster and better yourself, so you take it on.


This is experienced by some as distrust or by others as an opportunity to pass the buck and take it easy. You will find yourself with too much to do and not enough time to do it.


Conversational GREEN – the HELPER


You are a great listener, and when others are in pain or experiencing difficulty in working through something, you want to heal the pain and just ‘save them’. You have a million different ideas, suggestions and solutions that you bombard them with.  You feel great knowing that you have saved another soul from the depths of despair…sound familiar?


This is experience by others as confusion and overwhelm and they will feel more helpless.


Conversational GOLD – the PLEASER


“Yes” “I totally agree” “Really, she did that??” Relationship building is important to you, but your desire to connect deeply with others and be accepted into the ‘tribe’ can lead you to be a YESer.


This is experienced by others as weakness – or if they have narcissistic tendencies then you are simply feeding them! Nothing gained.


In all these shades, you are making the conversation about you – be that protecting yourself, defending yourself, or making assumptions about what others need or want from a conversation. Conversational narcissism shuts down thinking, fuels defensive responses, creates apathy and wastes time.


AND…you find yourself feeling like you are doing everyone else’s job for them, and you are frustrated by the lack of self-accountability and engagement in your team.  People cannot NOT be engaged when they are doing the thinking and the talking – so change up the balance in respect of those two things.


So…start making conversations all about others…it has to be all about…THEM!


  • Be a conversational facilitator not a consultant – trust that others know what they want or need from a conversation or meeting and ask them.
  • Let others make the decisions about a conversation or meeting – What to focus on? What the outcomes need to be? How long to spend?
  • Let others do the thinking – What is your perspective? What would be the best outcomes for you? What other perspectives or stakeholders should we be considering?
  • Allow others to road test their solutions, even when you know it might not work
  • Ask others if they want feedback from you, don’t just give it. And if the answer is yes, then ask what specific feedback they would like and how would they like you to give it.


This doesn’t mean that you don’t express your ideas or needs as well, but only AFTER others, and only if relevant to who has the responsibility for doing the thinking.


Essentially, a conversation needs to work for THEM if you are to get what YOU want – so ultimately, it comes back to being all about YOU anyway.  Give these ideas a go in your next conversation or meeting and see what happens…





Green Tea and Dark Chocolate: Seven Steps to Guiding Your Brain for Success in 2017

Green Tea and Dark Chocolate: Seven Steps to Guiding Your Brain for Success in 2017

This will be the third time I have posted this blog as a kick off to a new year.  


Interestingly, it is the blog where I have received the most ‘likes’ and feedback over the past two years. (Hint: Please forward this to all your mates and ‘like’ it yourself – I’d love to break last year’s record!)


Being the third time, I feel I can now own this as my annual Green Tea and Dark Chocolate blog.  


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 a theme for the year has served me well over the past few years.


Your brain is dealing with many, many bits of information and data entering your senses at any one time, and you only have capacity to pay conscious attention to a relatively small amount.


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 are 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 2015 my theme was REWIRE – helping my clients to change their thinking and behavioural habits through the evolution of my programs. In 2016 it was CORE and I was on the road to developing an entire curriculum around this concept. BUT, CORE didn’t actually happen – instead, it evolved to a different but even better curriculum.


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’.


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 2017…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.


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


By the way, my words for 2017 is LEADING HUMANS. I feel a passion for becoming one (a better version of myself), and for creating them, so they can in turn lead them! Watch this space.


Welcome to 2017 – your best year ever – and I look forward to supporting you on your professional and personal journey!

4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 4 Challenge

4 Steps to Powerful Conversations: Part 4 Challenge


Part 4 of 4 –  Challenge. This is the last step to my 4-part series on Powerful Conversations. (Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)


Time to Make Waves – Challenge and Stretch

“You can’t say that!”


Why not? Because we sophisticated, socially evolved human beings are too fearful of upsetting others or unwilling to risk or experience the discomfort of stretching and challenging the thinking of others, even when avoidance will lead to longer term pain.


I believe it’s because we simply aren’t that skilled at it, and we don’t do the work as teams and organisations that we need to that supports good quality business dialogue and deliberate and useful debate.


But we need to start stretching and challenge our own thinking and the thinking of others. Einstein is famously quoted as saying…


“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”


Powerful conversations take us beyond our current patterns and preferences of thinking and usually require the intervention of diverse and curious questioning, and a preparedness to call out the potential issues and flaws in the thinking of others.


BUT, we need to do it masterfully, and if you follow the three prior steps in this four step process – validation, permission and curiosity, you will be in a much better position to respectfully challenge thinking in a way that minimises a threat (pushback and denial) response and maximises diverse and creative thinking.


Here are some ways you can start your challenges…


  • May I challenge some of your thinking around that?
  • I can see some potential flaws in that thinking which you may not be aware of. May I share another perspective?
  • We have different experience and perspectives here. Would it be useful to take some time sharing those?
  • Unfortunately, due to policy constraints, that approach is unlikely to work. But would you be up for a discussion on how we can achieve the same outcome a different way?


So there it is – Michelle’s Four Steps to Powerful Conversations – I’d be keen to hear how you go using them all together and seriously invite you to post on my Rewired Conversations Facebook group.



Have a powerful conversation day!




Rewired Conversations: Brain-Based Coaching & Conversation Skills Intensive


If you’re interested and committed to learning how to have truly Powerful Conversations, I am offering a 4-day Rewired Conversations intensive next May-June 2017 at a cost of $3,950 plus GST.


What’s included:


  • 4 day intensive workshop delivered by a highly experienced and qualified Professional Certified Coach (accredited under the International Coach Federation – ICF), and the program is accredited under the ICF
  • An online PRISM Brain Map ($399)
  • 10-week 10-module online My Brain Academy education program ($499)
  • Copies of Michelle Loch’s books – 52 Weeks of Awesome Leadership and Your Brain is Your Business ($70)


Package cost:  $3,950 plus GST



Why this program?


You will be interested in this program if…


  • You want the people in your team – colleagues and direct reports – to do better thinking and have better conversations
  • You want things to start happening (increase performance, engagement or productivity) in your team or organisation
  • You are having the same conversations over and over again
  • You want to feel more in control in your conversations and meetings
  • You want to stop wasting time and energy and get into ‘useful’
  • You want to be more influential in impacting and developing your direct reports, and also in managing upward
  • You want to have conversations that work!



To register or find out more click HERE