Episode 69: Grace Under Fire, Part 2 The Leveller, with Caroline Goyder

Episode Notes

Caroline is an experienced voice-coach who helps actors, leaders and fundraisers to grow their confidence and impact. She is the author of several best-selling books including Gravitas and Find Your Voice and has worked with Rob Woods to create two learning bundles for the Bright Spot Members Club, of which this episode is an excerpt.

Relationships within charities and non-profits are sometimes difficult. In Episode 68 Caroline shared a model from Virginia Satir that she has found to be powerful for understanding the dynamics of these relationships.

Having explained three unhelpful coping mechanisms last time – The Blamer; The Placater and The Computer – in Episode 69 she explains what’s going on with The Distracter, and then shares how we can bring the poise and positive energy of what Satir calls The Leveller to these and other challenging situations.

Further Resources

The Satir Model, Virginia Satir

Four levels of listening, Otto Scharmer

Another podcast episode with Caroline – Increasing your Gravitas

If you like this episode, do check out Episode 68 in which Caroline explains the first part of Satir’s model and 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 by following these links.

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 69

Rob:

Hey there folks and welcome to Episode 69 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. This is the show for anyone who works in fundraising and who wants ideas, and maybe a dose of inspiration, to help you enjoy your job and raise more money, especially during the pandemic.

Today, I’m very excited to share the second half of my conversation with the voice and leadership coach, Caroline Goyder. Caroline is the best-selling author of several books, including Gravitas, and most recently, Find Your Voice. In Episode 68, we shared part of a learning bundle that Caroline created with me a few years ago to help fundraisers achieve more poised when dealing with challenging relationships in their fundraising. In particular, Caroline explained the model that she’s found helpful for responding to patterns that can occur in work relationships in charities. It’s a model created by Virginia Satir who was a successful family therapist and the author of several books in the 1970s to help people improve their understanding of challenging dynamics in relationships.

In Episode 68, Caroline went into some depth with the first three challenging archetypes that can occur, both within ourselves and our colleagues. These were first the Blamer who focuses on everything they think other people have done wrong. The Placater who tries to avoid conflict by saying things they think others want to hear, and The Computer whose favorite way of avoiding dealing with difficult issues is to dive deep into detail and process. Near the end of that episode, Caroline moved on to explain what Satir called the Leveler, which is the archetype that also exists potentially in all of us, and which is the person who has the greatest chance of handling the difficulties with the other archetypes.

In this section, Caroline goes on to explain the final archetype in the model, the Distractor, as well as offering more practical tips to help us show up as the Leveler more consistently. Whether or not you’ve listened to Episode 68 already, I hope you’ll find the tips in today’s episode helpful as a standalone discussion; although if you find Caroline’s perspective helpful, I recommend you check out the other episode as well. It’s probably useful to bear in mind 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. But I think the issues we talked about here and Caroline’s advice are still as relevant as ever.

What do you say that at the heart of all four of these archetypes, which are an unhelpful energy at the heart of each and every one of them actually is just fear.

Caroline:

Yep, yep. Pure and simple.

Rob:

Because of the fear, we have a symptom level way of expressing that and sometimes it’s shouty blamey and sometimes it’s just pleasing people. But really, and if that’s true, then some of what can help us on a good day, some of what could help us react less to the difficult person, donor or colleague, is at some level not react to the behavior that’s a bit stressful or annoying, but knowing deep down someone is struggling here.

Caroline:

Yep, exactly.

Rob:

And then, when you know that you can maybe not get hooked in to take it so personally.

Caroline:

It’s back to NLP again. Satir was one of the people they modeled in NLP, and one of the big NLP principles is people are doing the best they can with what they have. Sometimes that person going, “You should all have done the best job. I’m not happy with this,” that’s them. Hard though it may be to see in that moment, managing the situation the best way they know how in that moment. And so, yeah, that compassion for the frightened person underneath is probably going to help you be more resourceful. They may still be really annoying, but you’ll certainly be more resourceful about how you handle it, and it gives you more of a perspective in the moment.

This is true for us in our home lives as well or with our families when we’re sitting down at Christmas or over a family birthday and the argument kicks off. That can be helpful in lots of parts of our lives as well, just to understand that most bad behavior is at some level driven by fear, even if they’re not voicing it. Certainly, in corporate life, that’s true.

Rob:

For the sake of doing what we said we were going to do, we’d better mention what the fourth archetype is. And then, lastly, anything else you would say to help us? I like the idea of the Leveler, but any other trick? You coach people for how to get to doing the Leveler thing because goodness knows sometimes it’s wonderful in theory, but how do I do it in practice? So, what’s the fourth one and then any more Leveler tricks?

Caroline:

So the last one is Distractor. It’s an energy that is about, “I’m frightened, so I’m just going to change the subject,” and it’s the person who goes off on tangents the whole time. I can quite happily do Distractor given half a chance. For Distractors, they need to know how to come back to center and to know that they don’t have to dazzle; they don’t have to impress they. And actually, for Distractors to learn to really listen is powerful because often they’re spinning in this vortex of adrenaline and fear, and so they’re not really listening. They’re not really paying attention.

You often see it in younger people: someone whose maybe in their mid-20s and has just joined, and has lots of big ideas, and thinks they should be a certain way; often you get quite a lot of Distractor energy. And so often it’s just about helping someone feel safe and helping them feel that they’re enough, that they’re good enough. One of the things that helps Distractors is to really see them, and to value them, and to give them a sense of what their strengths are, and to give them a sense of confidence in themselves because often the arrogance of Distractor comes out of a sense of inadequacy. It’s a hard one to unpick in a way.

Rob:

And in that moment of you genuinely seeing how good they really are, not all of that is necessarily being manifested right now. But if you look for that and you see it, and they sense that you see it too, maybe you express that explicitly; maybe you don’t need to so much. But seeing that potential and that good quality can help them need to stop constantly ducking and diving and shifting the lights. That will help them slow down and focus and go deeper. And then, they’re more likely to work with you on what you’re doing together, or if you’re managing them, they can help them just tune into the one thing and do it well, rather than constantly be needing to collect lots of different sparkly things to get attention with.

Caroline:

I love the sparkly things. That’s exactly it. I think the Distractors are most tricky when they’re your boss, actually. I have worked for a Distractor I my life, and then that’s a whole different problem. Then you just have to notice the patterns and see the fear that’s underpinning it, but it’s a much trickier situation there. I think.

I think really important with this just I can’t say that a Distractor is just to clock it in yourself if you’re doing it as well. When I get into it, it’s usually I’ve had too much coffee; I haven’t centered myself; and usually what I say to myself is just, “Stop. Ground yourself.” It’s about get rid of the adrenaline; just centre.

And if we come back to the idea of Leveler, which is really the antidote to all of them. Really, a lot of what I do is coming back to the same stuff. It’s about just get back to the body. As you’re sitting in the meeting, notice what you’re seeing. See the color of the walls. See the people around you. Notice the sound in the room. Notice what you can hear outside the room. Notice what you can smell in the room and just really come back to your senses. I think really deeply listen to what people are saying.

I think often when we go into those four negative archetypes it’s because we’re, as you said, telling ourselves a story. We’re probably not really deeply listening. We’re trying to impress or we’re trying to make someone else look good, or make someone else look bad, whatever it is that’s going on. So just stop all of that; come back to and deeply listen to what’s going on. And to borrow from Joanna Motion… I don’t know if people have met or worked with Joanna. She’s brilliant. One of the things she says, “If you’re in a meeting, you don’t have to be the dots. You don’t have to dazzle. You don’t have to impress. Your job is really to join the dots, to make sense of a conversation that’s happening in the room and to see the bigger picture, and to be able to listen in a way that is really generative.” When we do that, we become really useful to the conversation rather than just everybody bursting in and speaking over each other.

Rob:

Listen in a way that is generative?

Caroline:

I should give the source for this. There’s a guy called Otto Scharmer, whose surname is S-C-H-A-R-M-E-R. If people go onto YouTube and put in “Four Levels of Listening Otto Scharmer,” he’s there explaining it. The two higher levels, which are very…

There’s four levels. There’s downloading, there’s factual confirmation, there’s empathetic listening, which is very leveler—tuning into someone else’s perspective—and then generative listening, which is tuning into what is trying to happen here. It’s really Joanna’s joining the dots. What’s emerging? That is really powerful and that’s a real Leveler behavior.

Rob:

Uh-huh. Yes, that’s not always easy to do when the stakes are high or we’re in the story, but even just to know what we’re aiming for, that that covers that extra level of listening that you can’t possibly do unless you’re present, and caring, and listening. But the aim to that when you can practice that? My goodness, there’s a power to it, either for a donor or for a team of fundraisers, if we can bring that kind of listening and role to a meeting we’re in.

Caroline:

You can get a bit hooked on it, even if it’s there for five minutes in a meeting, that’ll be the good five minutes. So, you can catch it for a bit and then try and expand it into other places that you find yourself. And yeah, it’s a powerful one to chase down.

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. 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 or four day training course when actually there’s really good value for money in your series.

And Rob, you bring some really fantastic speakers and professional fundraisers to your series. 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, let’s go back to the interview as I asked Caroline for practical tips that we could use to bring the energy of the Leveler to our relationships.

So we’ve got for the archetypes. A, we can see those in others and you’ve given us some tips for how we might handle that; B, to be on the lookout for these four tendencies within ourselves and the antidote being the Leveler. You’ve already given us some ideas for how we can do Leveler more. If there was one or two more key things that you do for a client, if Leveler is the answer to something they’re struggling with, how else could you have us go into this being the leveler?

Caroline:

Right. This is a really voicey thing, and so it might be a bit out there for people, but I’m going to offer it because it’s where I’ve got into Leveler in my own journey, to use the expression. There are two things I think that can help you with this. One is to learn to breathe diaphragmatically. Most of us don’t breathe fully. We breathe into our chest. We don’t really breathe properly with the diaphragm .

The way I was taught to breathe diaphragmatically… and I invite people to try this out… is lie on the floor and put a book or a heavy bag on your stomach. Don’t do this at work. Do this in the comfort of your own home. Lie down and just put a book or yoga bolster, or a child, a cat, on your stomach, and as you lie there just feel that as you breathe in the stomach lifts and as you breathe out the stomach drops. You can do it before you go to sleep at night and you’ll sleep really well. There’s something about that ability to breathe in a really deep centered way that allows us to show up more truly who we are and to get past the mask that we put on when we want to impress people.

The second thing I would offer is for people to find a really centered voice because it’s very hard to be a Leveler if we’re… We all have a voice that we do when we think we should and it’s a… That’s often these four archetypes have a voice that is cut off from the body because there’s attention or there’s a mask. So what I would say to people is sing. If you have small kids, sing to them; that’s that easy. If you don’t, put the radio on in the morning or put a CD on, or put something on iTunes that you really love and sing along absolutely to your heart’s content. Just notice where your voice is when you sing, when you really sing and that it comes from your core and not from your throat. That’s when you’re going to have a leveler quality.

Rob:

So it’s not that we all need to… Because I was suddenly filled with fear that I need to go and do a singing lesson.

Caroline:

No, no, no,

Rob:

All you’re saying is in some kind of playful situation, simply driving to work, put the radio on and allow myself to sing, but really go for it and be in the moment and do it… enjoy it.

Caroline:

And be gloriously bad. I’m a gloriously bad singer and it’s letting go of… Because all of those four negative archetypes, they’re thinking how they should… ” should be this in a situation,” that’s going to make me a Distractor. When we really sing in a way that is like the way we would sing if we’re at the rugby, that’s when the whole… our core is engaged; the whole of our body is expressing who we are and that’s when we show up as a Leveler. So it’s singing gloriously badly to your heart’s content.

Rob:

And so then, here’s the crux. Whereas before I might’ve thought singing is about trying to sing better, it’s about doing it so that you get the self-awareness of noticing what your voice does when you are truly just enjoying the singing. And in that moment, that greater self-awareness trains your body or your voice box, or whatever, your diaphragm, to know that it can go there. So then when you’re in these certain situations, dealing with a complainer, it’s easier for you to have… even whilst tensing up a bit, your voice can come from that better place because you learned how to do it, or you noticed that you can do it.

Caroline:

You’ve opened up that space. If you want to get techie, you’ve opened up that resonant space. We’re like a tuning folk as human beings. When we’re resonant in our own experience, we tend to resonate for other people. So when I was being told as an actor that I wasn’t embodied, and I didn’t have a powerful voice, it was because I was trying to be a version of me that I thought people wanted, and that doesn’t resonate. We only resonate when we actually just are who we are.

A really good way, although I know it’s not culturally the thing we do in the UK, is to sing. If you go to parts of Africa and you say, “Do you sing?” they’ll say, “Yeah, of course I sing.” But in Britain we’re a bit, “Oh, I have to sing in the choir,” and it is just God doesn’t mind a bum note, so just put the radio on in the car and sing along. Your voice will be warmer and you will show up at work in a different way, but go for being really out of tune; that’s the aim.

Rob:

So this other thing that interests me. A key theme I’ve learned from you over the years and in these interviews is practice is key.

Caroline:

Everything.

Rob:

Practice certain things, not just on the big day of the big pitch that or the interview, but do the five minutes of singing every time you’re driving to work, or whatever the thing is. Practice those things. But the paradox I’m hearing is on the one hand, Caroline, you’re telling us to practice more and on the other, you’re saying be more real and be more you. But somebody would say practicing is making you less you; you’re trying to be something you’re not. But what you’re saying is, while you practice these certain things, it allows you to peel back the layers and then the real you shows up.

Caroline:

Exactly.

Rob:

Am I getting that partly right?

Caroline:

It’s the layers of an onion idea that if I look at my 15-month-old, there’s a kind of essence of person there, that when she goes to school and when she’s around other teenagers and when someone tells us she shouldn’t do that because it’s not cool, she’ll learn a whole way of being that’s very different from the 15-month-old. In some ways, it’s about unpicking all the layers of, “How I think I should be,” which we learn in our teams to impress our peer group, so that we can show up really truthfully as the adults.

It is very much… the practice is about getting to something truthful. You’re practicing being you. Anybody who does any yoga or golf or any dance will know that the more you practice something, the more you can forget yourself. And really, what we’re going for is what actors call self-forgetfulness so that you can just show up in that meeting and just exist, and that is really powerful.

Rob:

My daughter who just loves to draw and unlike me, when I remembered specifically trying to do a good drawing to win a competition, she just draws because she loves to draw.

Caroline:

That’s it. Yeah.

Rob:

That’s one of her ways. She’s five years old. She’s really good at being just her in that moment. What I think you’re advising our viewer to do is it doesn’t needn’t be drawing and it needn’t be yoga but, what are the things at some point in your life you’ve ever done where you love to do the thing for its own sake?

Right now, you might’ve stopped doing that because you’re so busy with this impressive job and all, but a key thing to take from this call might be in the next few weeks, just rekindle the doing more of that thing that you love to do. Caroline is saying practicing that is one interesting way that you can get back to this realness. And that, more than anything, can help you have grace under fire in dealing with these difficult situations we need as a fundraiser.

Caroline:

Yeah. And if we really tie all the ends back up, if we go back to that pilot of the plane metaphor, it’s that ability to really regulate your own state and that is hormonal. When adrenaline hits your system, firstly, it’s about noticing what’s happening around you and the turbulence that those four archetypes are causing. Then, it’s about tuning into your experience and just taking a moment to really regulate your own system so you respond. If you are doing stuff outside work that gives you joy and makes you feel happy and relaxed and at ease, then you’re going to be a calmer more responsive pilot, and you’re not going to be triggered in the same way.

So, really what we’re talking about, that core here, is how you balance your brain chemistry. If anybody wants to know a bit more about that, watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk because she talks a loss about how the power of the body to regulate the brain’s chemistry, and that’s a good place to find out more about this kind of thing.

Rob:

Yeah. So I highly recommend it. There’s a good reason why it’s the second most viewed Ted Talk in history.

Caroline:

It’s great, isn’t it?

Rob:

It’s inspiring every time I watch it. Amy Cuddy, C-U-D-D-Y. Amy Cuddy: how your body language shapes who you are. We really need to wrap up. Obviously, with this Gravitas, which I got lots of these ideas from and they’ve helped me. But if they want to get advice from you, how could they find you, Caroline?

Caroline:

The site is gravitasmethod.com.

Rob:

Thank you to you, Caroline, for making so much time and generously sharing your ideas. I’m sure our paths will cross again in a few weeks’ or months’ time. But in the meantime, thank you so much for your time today and best of luck with your coaching tomorrow.

Caroline:

Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure. Bye, Rob.

Rob:

Thanks, Caroline.

Well, I hope you found my conversation with Caroline was interesting and helpful. If so, please do subscribe to the podcast today so that you never miss an episode. If you’d like a full transcript and a summary of this episode, go to the podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk.

And as I mentioned earlier, this was an excerpt from the Grace Under Fire learning bundle, which is one of two training films that I’ve created with Caroline for the Bright Spot Members Club. It’s one of more than 45 learning bundles available in the club alongside the masterclasses and the 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 brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join.

Just before I finish, I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who’s been sharing these sessions with colleagues and on social media. I really appreciate your help in getting these ideas out to help as many charities as possible during these challenging times. Caroline and I would love to hear what you think about this episode. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter. Caroline is @CarolineGoyder and I am @woods_rob. So, thank you for listening. Good luck with your fundraising and your work relationships. I look forward to sharing more Bright Spot insights with you very soon.