Sandra Krot: Human Dimension Consultant. Sandra is a co-author of Invisible Power.
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How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Sandra Krot: I’d like to answer that question from three different perspectives: the perspective of the individual person in an organization or business, the perspective of the leader in an organization or business, and the perspective of people like you and me who are wanting to be of service to businesses. I’ll start with the individual because what I have to say is the foundation for all three categories.
The critical problem for all human beings in all businesses across the globe is the pervasive misunderstanding of where our experiences and feelings come from.
It’s a misunderstanding comparable to the misunderstandings throughout our history that blocked our evolution. For example, take the misunderstanding that the earth was the center of the solar system, not the sun, or the misunderstanding of where infection came from. These were pervasive misunderstandings, and they had consequences.
There’s a misunderstanding today that somehow our experiences and feelings can get put upon us or be caused by something outside of our own minds, which has profound consequences in business.
There is a principle-based paradigm at work. A paradigm is, of course, a set of assumptions, or a set of facts, or a way to look at something very definitive. It’s very black and white. You’re either in the paradigm, or you’re not. We are living in what you might call a false paradigm. Just like we were when we misunderstood the Earth was the center of the solar system. It was a false paradigm.
The false paradigm that we live under in this world is the paradigm that something other than thought—or other than our own internal psychological process—can bring us an experience or a feeling.
I call it a false paradigm, not to judge it in any way, but the earth was never the center of our solar system, and infection was never caused by evil spirits and bad air. These paradigms were false, but not in a judgmental way. They simply were not true. The outside-in thinking paradigm we believe as human beings is not true.
When people who work in an organization get awakened to what’s actually true about how the mind works, they can see for themselves how the mind doesn’t work or can’t work. It puts them in a position to be everything we want people to be and everything we want ourselves to be when working in an organization.
When you don’t feel victimized by your circumstances, when you have a feeling of choice, when you have options, you really do settle down as a human being. You settle down as a worker. You settle down as a contributor. You become a better listener. You see what to prioritize in your work. You see what purpose you really serve and what’s important. You become very creative because you’re not at the mercy of thinking that fills up your head, taking you away from your ability to be creative and have new thinking at any moment. For individuals to see past this false paradigm—to see that the mind really works only one way, that it works from the inside-out, that our experience is being created within. To see this is a game changer.
In my mind, Leaders and people managers have a little more responsibility than the individual contributor. To some degree, leaders and managers have influence over others. That’s why my company, Insight Principles, starts with leadership when we work with businesses. We feel that leaders need to see what is happening inside. Once leaders see for themselves that there is nothing—not the economy, not the deadlines, not the customer none of those things are the source of their feelings and stress. Once they see this, they can make the decisions they need to make for their businesses to thrive. And, of course, just like individuals, they become better listeners. When you’re a good listener, you get more and better information. This really has an impact on the company and the bottom line.
From the perspective of those of us trying to help organizations, I think we stop focusing on changing behavior. Behavior to me is the caboose on the train. People behave how they feel, and people feel how they think. If we don’t address thought, we really have no hope of changing behavior—not consistently or sustainably. If we don’t address the source of thought, then the behavior will be something we must constantly be on top of. That’s a workload for any corporation. It’s a workload for any human being. So, we need, as practitioners, to stop focusing there and to begin to see what the true source of behavior is.
I know plenty of programs look at thought, but they look at it as thinking styles. Or they see it as trying to change people's thoughts to get them to think better.
What is far more valuable is to teach people what they think—to teach and show people that they are gifted at birth with this incredible power called the power of thought.
This power brings to us every feeling, every experience, and every glimpse of reality we have ever had from the moment we were born until the moment we die.
The power of thought is truly the most powerful force in the universe. It’s sitting under our noses, and we don’t know it. We don’t see it. We don’t realize it. As a result, we don’t get to use this gift the way it was designed to be used. I feel like my first and sometimes only job when I’m helping a business is to help people see the power of thought.
What does it take to get an employee's full attention and best performance?
When I walk around the corporations I work with, what strikes me is how busy people’s minds are. It is very difficult to get people’s full attention. What is needed is for all of us to realize how the human mind actually works.
When I saw that my experience can only come from thought in the moment, this realization took so much thinking off my mind.
I stopped fretting about things. I stopped thinking about whose fault it was. I stopped having these long dialogues in my head about why this was unfair and who was to blame, and what I needed to do to feel good about myself. There’s so much extra thinking that people do. It keeps them preoccupied.
One of the results we hear from our clients when they realize how their minds actually work is they say to us, “Wow, I can’t believe how much more present I am!” They discover that a whole set of capacities and abilities shows up when they become present. They feel more insightful. They feel more creative. They feel they can see the bigger picture and get perspective. It’s not like they’re not already doing this. It’s that these capacities show up more often when their minds are free of unnecessary and unproductive thought.
You can tell people, “You just need to quiet your mind or clear your head or be mindful.” But that’s like telling people you just need to lose weight or stop smoking.
It’s great information, but to pull it off, you have to see in the moment what actually is filling your head up. It surprised me how much extra thinking I was doing that served no purpose other than to perpetuate an outside-in illusion. To get people’s full attention and best performance, we need to teach them and help them see for themselves how their minds actually work.
It’s interesting when you see how your mind works because, at the same time, you see how it doesn’t work. That’s the nature of seeing something as a paradigm. When you see something as a paradigm, it’s like putting a box around it. It’s definitive. It’s black and white. When I realized my experience came from thought in the moment and no place else, it eliminated all other possibilities. That realization rendered so much thinking useless.
My mind quieted down, my mind cleared, and I could pay attention. I see this happening with the companies that we work with. It’s making a big difference.
What do people really lack and long for at work?
Sandra: I recently read a study concluding that people feel more stressed today than ever. I certainly do observe this when I go out into companies. People are feeling tremendous stress, which they attribute to their job and life in general. They’re stressed about their inability to balance their life at home with their job. People are feeling the stress of that, and people feel rushed. They feel they don’t have enough time.
When I ask people if they had a magic wand, what would they want? Many of them will say, “I want more time.” Then I’ll ask them, “What would more time do for you?” They’ll say, “It will allow me to finish all my work.” Then I’ll say, “What would that do for you?” They’ll say, “I would be able to relax.” Then I’ll ask again, “What would that do for you?” Finally, you get to the fact that people want this sense of peace and are fine. All is going to be okay. They’ll find the answers that they need.
Because we live in a misunderstanding about how the mind works, we don’t see that there is only one paradigm that’s actually true. We think that the peace we’re looking for will come at the end of all our work being done. The to-do list is completed. But that’s not where peace comes from. Peace is a natural state. It’s the state we would be in if we understood how our minds worked. It’s the state we’re in when thinking comes off our minds, and we are present.
We instinctively know that the state of peace is actually very productive. In that state, we have tremendous capability and capacity that seems present without working at it or making it happen. When people see that this peace they’re looking for is within and only a thought away, they settle down. A lack of peace is being created in their minds and thinking. When people understand this, they stop looking for peace by getting everything done or being all things to everyone. They may even say no to things.
I worked with a young executive on the fast track at his company. He has a difficult divorce and gets custody of his two young children. I remember talking to him about it because he said, “You know, Sandy, if I hadn’t learned how my mind worked, I would have been tied in knots. But I could see the extra thinking I was doing about my career path and role as a dad.” And he said, “It became so clear to me that I had to tell my bosses that I wanted off the fast track. I had to dedicate these next few years to my children. I would be the one who drove them to school and picked them up. I was going to be the one to go to their soccer practices, dance recitals, etc.” He said it did not feel like a sacrifice. “It felt like that’s what I had not realized, the true source of all my stress, upset, and future worry.”
I see more and more people saying no to all the activities available in the world that take our time. They’re so much happier for it. But I can’t tell people, “You really should stop being on social media so often!” Or you should stop taking your kids to every single activity on the face of the planet! I don’t tell people what to do with their lives. I don’t try to change behavior, but I think when people see where peace really lives, they make decisions accordingly, and again, they are not hard decisions. They’re obvious. And they don’t feel like a burden or a sacrifice. They feel like it’s the wisest way to go.
What is the most important question leaders should ask employees?
Sandra: I can’t say there is a most important question. I just think management should be asking questions. I don’t think we ask enough questions.
We make a tremendous amount of assumptions. We forget that we live in a thought-created reality and nobody thinks exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, so we are going to live in different realities.
Truly, we live in separate realities. But we forget this. It’s easy to forget it because our reality looks clear and obvious.
Management lives in their own reality, and they forget to talk to their people. I can’t tell you how often I’ve worked with an executive and they’ll be so perplexed or confused about their team’s behavior. I’ll say, “Have you asked them?” And they’ll say, “No.” It’s just a surprise to me. I don’t know that there’s a magic question, but I really think that being curious, asking questions, and having an open dialogue are critical factors for a team’s success.
What is the most important question employees should ask leaders?
Sandra: The only thing I would add to what I said above is that employees should be asking many questions, too. I think we get the idea that asking questions is a bad thing. I should know, or I don’t want to tell them I don’t know. It’s just ego. It’s that image of self-importance that we all suffer from.
I think that as people gain more respect for how brilliant the mind is and how much intelligence and wisdom there is in every human mind, we become more comfortable asking questions.
Questions are truly the gateway to finding new information. We don’t look for new thoughts if we think we’ve got everything nailed. We think we know everything already. Why would we look?
Because I have such a respect for what’s behind the mind, I’m always asking, and I’m always looking. As an employee, I encourage them to ask questions to be persistent but not in a bad way. Some things employees are asked to do are a waste of time. We should ensure that the boss or manager has thought through the implications of what he or she is asking us to do. Sometimes they haven’t.
What is the most important question we should ask ourselves?
Sandra: This question made me chuckle because many of my friends and colleagues know that I often say, “I’m going to have a tattoo put on the inside of my wrist, and the tattoo is going to say, ‘Do you know where this feeling is coming from?’” It’s such a show-stopper question for me. When this question comes to mind, it helps me remember how the mind actually works.
The other question I ask myself is, Have I looked for an insight? An insight is really what I need when I’m in a dilemma, have a problem, or can’t make a decision.
It really does throw everything to another level, and I’m able to have the mental clarity needed to see what to do next. When the unnecessary thinking has dropped away from my mind, there’s this open, empty space. Then, the insight shows up and helps point me in the direction I need to go.
You seem to have a little different perspective on the Three Principles. Can you help distinguish that for us?
Sandra: When I saw the principles as a paradigm that the mind works only one way and can’t work any other way, it took so many discriminators or conditions that I had innocently and inadvertently put on connecting to our deeper intelligence. That’s the piece I wanted to hone in on responding to your questions. I believe it helped me simplify the whole message.
I used to talk about states of mind a lot, but I don’t talk about them anymore. The reason I don’t is because when I did talk about different states of mind, people inevitably heard there are good states of mind and bad states of mind. They wanted to know how I got into a good state of mind. I kept scratching my head and wondering why people asked me how-to questions. I’m not trying to prescribe a behavior or a state of being. I’m trying to explain how the mind works!
Then I realized I was setting up this dichotomy of good thinking, bad thinking, good state of mind, bad state of mind, and so on.
What I want people to see is—the mind works one way. Period. It works from the inside-out.
You will have a battle when you think it works from the outside. You will get split—me against what’s causing my feelings or experience. It’s this misunderstanding that splits us from our wisdom and deeper intelligence. That’s what does it. It’s not a state-of-mind issue. It’s a misunderstanding issue of how the mind works.
When people see for themselves in the moment, “Wow, I’ve just gone outside here.” We come back to how things really work. When we come back to how things really work, we get the benefit of the built-in design of the human mind to help us and to show us the way.
Note: This interview is from The Future of the Workplace. Discover more powerful interviews like this in The Future of the Workplace.