Episode 68: Grace under fire, with Caroline Goyder

Episode Notes

As in all complex organisations, relationships within charities are sometimes difficult. And negotiating with supporters can be far from easy. Clearly these challenges can affect our stress levels and our ability to work positively with others to raise funds and further your charities’ goals.

In this episode I’m delighted to share an interview from within our Bright Spot Members Club, with the best-selling author, Caroline Goyder, who is a gravitas, confidence and voice coach. I was keen to get Caroline’s advice on how fundraisers can better understand the unhelpful dynamics that can occur, and to explore ways we can increase our poise and skill in handling them.

This interview happened long before the pandemic began, at a time when most important conversations within charities happened face to face. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find the kinds of challenging relationships that Caroline describes remain common, and her advice is as powerful as ever now.

Further Resources

Books

The Satir Model, Virginia Satir

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Time to Think by Nancy Kline

Another podcast episode with Caroline – Increasing your Gravitas

If you like this episode, do check out Episode 12, in which we shared Caroline’s advice on gravitas and how to win the hearts and minds of your supporters and colleagues.

Want to go deeper and get 24/7 access to LOTS more practical training content?

This episode is part of a learning bundle we created with Caroline to help you achieve more Grace Under Fire as one of the many learning bundles in our Bright Spot Members Club. In the middle of this episode Hannah mentions how helpful she’s found it to be a member of the Club since the start of the pandemic. If you’d like to find out more about all the training bundles (on today’s topic and LOTS more) and live weekly coaching sessions that Hannah and the rest of the club get access to, or to try for just a month, go to www.brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join/

Want training, inspiration and support to increase fundraising income? You can find out more about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme; the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme or the Individual Giving Mastery Programme.

Free E-book. If you’d like to know powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, then do check out my free E-book: Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise money with major donors, corporates and trusts, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power

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‘Confidence is not a birthright… it’s a set of habits’

Caroline Goyder

Full transcript of Episode 68

Rob:

Hello and welcome to episode 68 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. This is the show for anyone who works in fundraising and who wants ideas and maybe a little dose of inspiration to help you enjoy your job and raise more money especially during the pandemic. Today I’m very excited to share an excerpt from a training film that we made a few years ago with the gravitas, confidence and voice coach Caroline Goyder. Caroline is the best-selling author of several books, including Gravitas and most recently Find Your Voice. In episode 12 of this podcast, we shared Caroline’s advice on how to win the hearts and minds of your supporters and colleagues. And in today’s episode we’re looking at how you can increase your poise and how to handle difficult situations in your fundraising.

Whether those conversations are with people outside or inside your organization. Just to be clear we conducted this interview more than a year before the pandemic began at a time when most important conversations happened face-to-face rather than remotely. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find the kinds of challenging relationships that Caroline describes remain common and her insight to help you perform at your best is still spot on. So hello, Caroline, can you hear me?

Caroline:

I can indeed. Hi, Rob.

Rob:

Hi, thank you so much for making time. Again, I know several months ago you helped us with some ideas to do with winning hearts and minds. And thanks for making time yet again at the end of a long day of coaching or training. One of the topics I really liked and I think is really so important in fundraising and the book I think you refer to it somewhere as this idea of having some grace under fire. So there are times when life is not easy for a fundraiser. There are stressful meetings, there are some difficult people we have to work with internally and externally. What are two or three of the types of character or types of difficult complaint or situation that fundraisers seem to have to deal with that you’ve noticed?

Caroline:

When I talk to fundraisers my sense is that there are so many different dynamics that fundraisers are dealing with. And I think that also charities are often quite complex almost. There’s almost a family dynamic within some charities isn’t there, there are lots of different complex characters and then fundraisers are going out of that family into other complex relationships in terms of corporates or major donors or trusts and all of that difficult systemic stuff. So fundraiser are constantly dealing with challenging relationships, difficult conversations situations where they might be thrown into turbulence. And I think the metaphor that really interests me in this situation is the pilot of the plane. Because as a fundraiser, you’re really piloting for the audience your talking to your charities playing, you represent the charity.

And when you hit turbulence within that relationship, when there’s a difficulty, when there’s a challenge or a question, it’s how you respond to it that they’re looking at. And if I’m on a plane and we hit turbulence, what I want more than anything is for the pilot to be calm and to exude a sense of presence and just an understanding that they will get through this and that they will look after their passengers no matter what. And I think for me that’s what grace under fire means. And when someone has the capacity to stay calm and centred in that situation, I think everybody sees them in a way that has respect and trust.

Rob:

And I think of my own experience, I have my moments when I manage to do that. And definitely I’ve had my moments especially when I was working full time in a particular charity, where I was running on empty. And it was the fourth thing that day or the fourth thing that week. And at that moment I did not manage to have that poise and calm.

Caroline:

It’s so hard when you’re embedded within an organization because we’re both consultants it’s so much easier as a consultant because we know we can walk in and walk away. And soon as I’ve when I worked at a drama school, as soon as you’re in that relationship that family dynamic it’s so much harder. And that’s where there’s a lovely model from a woman called Virginia Satir who was a family therapist. And it’s a great way to unpick dysfunctional relationships. It’s why I think it’s a really great model to help within organizations. She basically talks about five archetypes of communication, four of which are quite unhealthy and one of which is the antidote you might say.

So the four negative archetypes. If I think about working at central I certainly saw all of these. The first one which is really is a beast actually is the blamer and I can do the blamer. Now people generally don’t do this in meetings, but you do get the sense of a character who is feeling some kind of fear about something. So what they do is they talk in quite a staccato way and there’s a sense that everybody else is to blame and it’s not them.

And they’re always looking for someone else to pin stuff on, and to make others feel bad about something that hasn’t happened, that it’s never their fault. It’s always somebody else’s and there’s always this staccato quite driving energy, and it makes everybody else stressed within about 30 seconds of that person entering the room.

Rob:

We know that character very well. Certainly we can see the people around us who can do that if we’re really honest sometimes we can admit that actually that is within us too.

Caroline:

We all do.

Rob:

The point of an archetype, isn’t it? What’s the next one.

Caroline:

If we sit with blamer for a bit actually because I think that’s a really important point Rob, that we all do all of these. And so it’s not just about noticing it in other people, it’s about also really tuning into it ourselves. And when we hit blamer or when we notice blamer, if we’ve hit blamer ourselves then it’s really important to take responsibility because blamer says, “It’s your fault. You’re bad. I’m okay.” And so, first of all, just centre yourself get calmer, go and have a cup of tea. Look out the window, come back and find a way to have a common shared responsibility and not to try and shift it. If someone else is doing it to you, first of all, find a way to help them diffuse the fear a little bit, and then help them to find a common purpose. Because as soon as we’re shifting the blame onto other people, we’re closing down any kind of dialogue, so you have to find a way to open it back up again.

Rob:

So I read something quite recently about taking responsibility. I’ve always been told “Take responsibility.” And in my head I’ve said, “But what if it genuinely is all objective people would say that person messed up or were obviously lazy or rude. And I obviously did all of the right thing.” Sometimes that is still true… Does taking responsibility mean I’ve got to pretend it was my fault when it really wasn’t. And what this particular, I think it was a blogger or a book was saying to me is take responsibility doesn’t mean you’re taking the blame on you, but taking responsibility does mean you’re taking back some responsibility that there’s something you can do about it. And as long as you are blaming, focusing on it on what someone else has done, your power has gone because all your energy is out there.

Caroline:

They’re bad.

Rob:

You’ve got to take responsibility that even if it was someone else’s fault, probably wasn’t all their fault, probably you were… But even if it was, responsibility means you’re having some potential to do something about it.

Caroline:

It’s kind of chaos theory in a sense that in any dynamic, once we’re in that dynamic we have an effect and it’s owning the effects we’re having. And I like the idea of just going first, I was taught it in NLP actually. If someone’s being really rude to you, you could just be rude back or you could go first and be polite and charming and respectful. And they might still be rude but what might happen is that you might find they soften and they become more charming and more respectful than they were. And either way they started off being rude, so you might as well try going first and see what happens.

Rob:

In that moment finding a way not to react, but to choose how you’re going to respond.

Caroline:

Exactly. Exactly. So blamer is a really toxic one. And what blamers tend to do to most people in organizations is to turn them into placators. So in Satir’s model she has some one pointing… Her book is called people making it’s very 1970s. I think it’s out of print, but you can still get it on Amazon. And there was some fantastic drawings and one of the drawings is the blamer pointing, and then the placator is doing this. And we’ve all worked with placators, it’s the person who says, “Of course I’ll do that.” Or, “Anything you want. If that’s what you want that’s great.” And they go off and they do nothing. Because it’s all about in the moment placators want to… They’re frightened so they will do anything to make the situation go away.

They’ll give you anything you want in order that you’ll leave the room, and then they won’t do what you want because actually all they wanted was for you to go. And so blamers set up a situation … In sales it’s called happy years but it’s basically the same thing where they don’t really get the truth, they just get a face saving exercise. And so nothing ever changes because one person is going, “You’ve done this wrong.” The other people are going well, “Well, we’re trying to change it.” And then you just cycle through that pattern over and over again until everybody leaves.

Rob:

If we recognize that in ourselves or we see the pattern is there a quick tip for how to get out of it, or we do you want to do all four of the archetypes and then a way to get out of all of them.

Caroline:

I think it’s probably good to think about placators quickly and then we can move on to the other two. I think with placators what’s really important is that you have to make people feel safe and you have to listen to them. So as someone who is quite task focused, something we talked about last time, I’ve learned that if I don’t slow down and soften placators won’t really say what they think. And so it’s finding a way to make people feel relaxed and safe and asking the right questions, and really finding out what they want and really finding out what they think, and taking time to be okay with that and not be judgmental and that’s the point where things will change.

Rob:

So initially we might feel like we’re doing our best to send those signals. It’s just that this person has been so badly stung by another colleague or something that happened to them in their life last week. That just doing it a bit. What we think would be enough for us may not be it and to persist in being present and sincere in sending that signal, that it is safe and you genuinely are open to hearing what’s really on their mind. And you’ve found that if you hang in there and sincerely send that signal, often a placator can cut through this facade.

Caroline:

Well, you get to something that’s really authentic and at that point you can start to unpick mindset. Because often the placator’s belief is nothing will change, “It’s always been like that here. Nothing will ever change. So I might as well just smile and say I’ll do it, but it’s never going to change.” And so then you have to unpick mindset and go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. There’s a great book by Carol Dweck on mindset. People haven’t read it.

And a lot of the stuckness in relationship and in organizations comes when we believe it’s never going to change. So I think that the way to help placators change mindset is to tell stories, to give narratives of organizations of charities that have seen change, where it’s worked. And that when placators believe that things can change they no longer need to just play this role. They might actually then hook into the motivation that will move them forward. And then they’re no longer in placator, they’re in something more active.

Rob:

Very good. So at the heart of a lot of placating behaviour is this lack of hope, lack of belief of what’s the point I think that what can really break that is showing them the examples, either someone else within this organization that did do the thing and life got better for them, or have another organization where they did this thing and big progress was possible. It’s a very powerful thing to find that social proof or those real examples, and that can change the belief and that can change the behaviours of the placator.

Caroline:

Exactly. And I’m sure you’ve come across the book Story for Leaders by David Pearl it’s really great if you haven’t. And he talks a lot about the stories that organizations tell themselves and how you change that story.

Rob:

So that’s Story for Leaders by David Pearl.

Caroline:

It’s a really great book just in terms of if you’re going to help them shift mindset, just what is the story that this organization wants to be telling itself and how do we tell that story? Now I know that is the real turf of many good fundraisers. It’s in this particularly stuck placator moment, that it can be very powerful to shift mindset as well. So you might be thinking of it out there in terms of the story of the organization. Have you thought about that internally? Because that can be really powerful too.

Rob:

In my experience fundraisers understand that they’re going to have to work hard to make a good case or find the stories for donors, but at some level what holds us back if we’re in a larger organization that has quite a solo mentality, where not all of the other teams seem to really be trying as hard as they could be to help fundraising succeed. Some of what holds us back from bothering to find the story or work harder at the internal selling is this, “Well, why should I have to? We’re all trying to help the elderly, or we’re all trying to protect children from abuse here. Why should I have to work so hard to help the colleague in this team-” But again, in that moment, it’s that story you tell yourself that I shouldn’t have to taking the responsibility doing what actually, what it would take to persuade someone.

Caroline:

It’s literally that self-awareness, isn’t it. And we all get stuck. We all have our fixed mindsets about stuff. And again, back to NLP, I was taught something really useful, which is as soon as you notice yourself saying, “Why do they always?” The they is powerful because that’s telling you that you have objectified that part of the organization and the always is powerful. Not in a good way, spot the moments where you say they always do that, because you are in fixed belief land at that point and we all do it. And when you clock it, change it. Unfix your mindset because nobody always does anything.

Rob:

Hi, it’s Rob. And I just wanted to jump in really quickly to let you know about the Bright Spot Members Club, which is where we publish the full learning bundle that Caroline helped us create. Rather than have me explain I wanted you to hear from one of our members, Hannah, who joined in March, 2020, and who’s made use of the resources ever since. She’s had a fantastic year, which has included doubling the income for her small arts charity compared to the year before COVID and she credits the club with helping her to make this progress. Here’s what Hannah said about why she’s a member.

Hannah:

I think this way of learning for me just fits in much better with my workload. You’ve got so many different resources online that you can just tap into when you need them. And so many different experts that you’ve brought to your program, that actually, I think I would struggle to be able to persuade my board of trustees to spend hundreds of pounds sending me on a three, four day training course when actually there’s a really good value for money in your series. And Rob you bring some really fantastic speakers and professional fundraisers to your series. And some of the sessions may be very short, but actually that really suits my style of learning. So I think actually I would say to someone just give it a go.

Rob:

If you’d like to find out more about how the club works go to brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join for now, though, back to the interview as Caroline and I continued to discuss the habitual and often unconscious language patterns that can affect our stress levels. And again I recognize this a lot of the time I’m fine with this, but in the moments of greatest stress that’s when I hear myself trotting out, “That’s typical. Why can I never?” And in that moment I tell myself a lie that is a false generalization. And in that moment that language spirals me into a place of stress and lack of hope that stuff can get better. If anyone wants to read up more about that then there’s a really good book all about resilience called Grit by Angela Duckworth.

Caroline:

I’m writing that down.

Rob:

Grit by Angela Duckworth And there’s a really interesting chapter there about the most resilient people watch their language and they tell the truth. It doesn’t mean they walk through the living room and there’s lots of children’s toys still on the floor. Doesn’t mean they think, “It’s so clear that there’s no mess here,” but it does mean they don’t say, “Why is it such a rubbish tip? Why is it the pigs stye?” In the moment that you can do it with an extreme word like that man on strictly saying, “It was a disaster.” It wasn’t a disaster. There was no tidal wave, all that happened was someone got their footwork messed up in the dance.

But in the moment you call it a disaster rather than messed up footwork or you call it, “Such a tip here,” rather than there are some toys on the floor, then you get hooked into the story and the lie by the language itself, unconsciously, and you take away your power to just get on and do something about it.

Caroline:

So much so exactly. It’s so powerful, isn’t it? It’s just clocking it. When we clock it. We have control.

Rob:

So the book there is called Grit. I highly recommend it by Angela Duckworth. So far Caroline you’ve talked about two of these archetypes that we notice in others, but actually if we’re really honest, sometimes they appear within ourselves especially in moments of stress. What was the third one?

Caroline:

So the next one that shows up not in organizations she calls computer and bear in mind that this was the ’70s. Rest in peace she’s not around anymore Virginia Satir, so I don’t know whether she couldn’t computer anymore because computers are everywhere, aren’t they? But they weren’t in the ’70s. And computer it’s the person in your organization who is maybe finance, but they tend to be quite analytical and quite left brained which is slightly old brain science, but just go with me. And they’re very logical people there’s not much emotion or energy and they like to do things step by step. So I have a coach in the US called Denise who says basically that when she asks an engineer or a brain scientist tell me about quantum physics. They’ll say, “Well, if you start with the Big Bang.” And she is just like, “No, please don’t start with the Big Bang.” And four hours later they’re getting to and then 30 million years ago.

It’s a very process driven, very analytical, very logical approach to life and it says, “I’m feeling a bit frightened therefore I will cut myself off from any emotion.” So they’ll start meetings with things like, “So looking at the agenda we need to focus on our KPIs for the next quarter and going forward we will need to analyse and it becomes really deeply unengaging. And we all do a little bit when we’re frightened, when we want to hide behind the facts. And what we have to do is let go of the fear and be able to be more authentic, more honest about what we’re really experiencing.

So I would do it if I was feeling nervous and needed to impress someone, and I might find myself talking too much or showing off about something I’d learn. And actually it’s completely meaningless, it’s not helping me, it’s not helping them. It’s much better for me to acknowledge that I’m frightened and to be more authentic and more connected to the other person, not shut myself off. I think the difficulty for computer people is that they’re often not very self-aware. So I know I’m going into computer when I go into my head, when my voice gets a bit flat. How you help someone become less computer when they’re not aware of it is a really tricky one. They get sent to me because someone will say they’re not very engaging or their voice is a bit flat when they speak. I think that the thing I would say for people dealing with computers is see if you can get to know the person beyond their work life. See if you can take them out for coffee, see if you can find out what they really love.

Because often when you find out that they love collecting old stamps or something or maps or they like walking in the Brecon Beacons, then a different person shows up and that’s the person actually you want to encourage when they present or when they go into a meeting. It’s getting them to take the mask off to some extent.

Rob:

And at some level you just seeing that varied and more human side to them will help you have a way in to like or respect or see their warmth more, and as soon as you perceive it probably your energy will change and you have probably some greater chance of having some rapport with them. So anything at all to get out of that meeting room potentially can help both of you.

Caroline:

Exactly. And I suppose where fundraisers and meeting these people is likely to be in the big corporates. If you go into meet a CFO or someone who’s very high up in IT, often CEOs have been CFOs. Those kind of people are very process-driven. They can be very analytical. They can be quite cool in their response to you. See if you can get to the person underneath, see if you can ask the questions that will unlock them.

Rob:

Very good. So does that person who’s doing process, they’re speaking flutter, they’re thinking in their head. And if we were coaching ourself, really it’s realizing that there is great value in knowing process and knowing numbers, knowing KPIs. But sometimes we tense up and think that is the main game. Whereas actually what we need to bring to a certain team meeting or a certain meeting with a corporate, actually paradoxically is our human playful warmth side, our connection side rather than our task side. The awareness of that. And choosing to be flexible and having the courage to let out the other instead of the defense mechanism of going to task, that’s the thing that you coach people do. But if we’re coaching ourselves, maybe just acknowledging that that might… It’s maybe reading your book or listening to your downloads, that might be the thing we needed to find a way to do more.

Caroline:

In fact although we haven’t done the fourth one, the way the antidote to all of these Virginia Satir calls the leveller. An what she says is that you just need the freedom to see what you see, to hear what you hear, to feel what you feel and to say what you think. I didn’t really get it at first. I didn’t really understand how profound it was but it is just that.

Rob:

Would you say it one more time.

Caroline:

She calls it the four freedoms or the five freedoms I think, the ability to be present in a space to see what you see, to acknowledge that is true for you, to hear what you are hearing, to feel what you’re feeling and to say what you think and if you don’t understand to ask. So it’s a complete truth, a truth to your experience in the room and God it’s powerful. I was working with a very senior client in the US… Well, she was in London but she’s from the US and her chief of staff said, “Look when you were coaching her, what she really needs is a critical friend.” She said, “Everybody tells her what they think she wants to hear.” And at that level people basically lie to you.

She said, “Basically, what we’re paying you for is to be honest. You’ve got to tell her what you think.” And it was just reminder of the power of those freedoms. That actually we think we’re supposed to show up a certain way and say the right thing and most people don’t want us to say the right thing, they want us to say what we think. Now you have to do it gracefully and you have to do it empathetically and you don’t always say exactly… You don’t say everything, you’re quite careful about what you choose.

You say the thing that is going to help someone move forward. So you don’t say, “I hate your dress.” You don’t say, “That was a really stupid thing to say.” You say, “In my game I think you need more passion when you speak and I think that will help you.” So you do it as a critical friend, but I think when we find those freedoms or when we show up is what she calls a leveller actually everybody else relaxes to some extent because we’re being honest and authentic.

Rob:

Certainly I’ve been studying leadership a lot in the last two years and I’ve interviewed more than 20 leaders. The best five or six, there was one quality all of them had, the energy I get from them and the way I see their teams and sometimes big departments are so hardworking and loyal to do their very best for what this leader is trying to achieve. Those top five or six is realness and this authenticity and this sincerity, they sincerely care about their people. Obviously they care about the mission, but this other thing they sincerely care about their people. And that is so clear because of how real they are and how authentic rather than hiding behind this mask of wanting to be seen a certain way. That’s the quality I would say that stands out most in those top six of the 20, I interviewed. And you’re talking about Satir’s language the leveller, I’ve realized that that’s the thing they’re doing.

Caroline:

It’s something that seems so simple and it’s that kind of simplicity that’s actually incredibly profound, it’s simple and it’s complex. And I think we come to it when we are just really tuned into ourselves and really self-aware. And it’s back to what I was talking about last time, which is really about finding practices that help you tune into your emotions, that help you understand how you’re showing up. As you said last time that could be going for a run or it could be learning to sing, or it could be playing a musical instrument. It could be painting. It’s a practice that you do beyond work that gets you into a centred present flow state. That’s the stuff actually that feeds into work because it allows us to be more whole. And I think we should show up as the whole person at work. And I know in corporate life that’s not always easy, but as you say the people who do are the people we notice for sure.

Rob:

It’s so marked when someone has found a way to let themselves do that and do it well, again, linked to something we said last time this theme of vulnerability. But the paradox is in letting go and not trying to project a certain image and always have all the answers and being willing to say, “I don’t know, what do you think?”

Caroline:

Exactly.

Rob:

In that moment of vulnerability, it takes a bravery to let go, but the paradox of it is my goodness your power then to influence others for good dramatically increases because you let go.

Caroline:

That Marianne Williamson idea that as we let our energy shine then other people are free to do that as well. In lots of corporate situations everybody is hiding because everybody is frightened. Whether you’re going into a meeting with someone external or whether it’s within your own organization and so if you are leading the meeting… Nancy Kline’s book Time to Think is a really good book to read on all of this. It’s how you create a space where people are able to speak, and all voices are heard and people are able to listen. And if you can do that then you won’t have these archetypes showing up, you’ll have levellers showing up. And that’s when stuff changes because people tell you what they think.

Rob:

So there you have it. I do hope you found our conversation helpful. If so, please do remember to subscribe to the podcast today so that you never miss an episode. For a full transcript and a summary where we mentioned the various books that we discussed do go to the podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk. As I mentioned earlier, this was an excerpt from the Grace Under Fire video learning bundle that I created with Caroline for the Bright Spot Members Club. It’s one of more than 45 training films available in the club, alongside the masterclasses and group coaching sessions that we arrange each week for fundraisers in the club. If you’d like to find out more about our training and inspiration club for fundraisers or to dip your toe in and try for just a month, go to brightspotmembers.club.co.uk/join.

Just before I finish I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s left us a kind review on iTunes or Spotify or Stitcher, and everyone who’s been spreading the word about this show to colleagues and on social media so that this content can reach and help as many charities as possible this year. And Caroline and I would love to hear what you think about today’s episode. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter Caroline is at @carolinegoyder that’s G-O-Y-D-E-R. And I am @woods_rob. Thank you so much for listening today. Best of luck. And I look forward to sharing another episode of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast with you very soon.