The critical problem for all human beings in all businesses across the globe is the pervasive misunderstanding of where our experience and feelings come from. It’s a misunderstanding that’s comparable to the misunderstandings throughout our history that blocked our evolution.
Welcome to our interview with Sandra Krot. Sandra is a Human Dimension Consultant at Insight Principles. She is also one of the authors of Invisible Power: Insight Principles at Work. Sandra works with individuals as well as working groups and leadership teams. The work she does is based on fundamental principles about how the human mind and human thought work. An understanding of these principles provides people with a glimpse into their potential for creative thought, well being, and relationship effectiveness.
Welcome Sandra, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of the Exploring Forward Thinking Workplaces conversation. (Read the interview highlights and get our take on the interview at How to Combat the Ill Effects of Busy Minds.)
Q1: How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives & finds meaning, and change & innovation happen naturally?
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 say is the foundation for all three categories.
It’s a misunderstanding that’s 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 and not the sun, or the misunderstanding of where infection came from. These were pervasive misunderstandings, and they had consequences.
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 that is 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 we’re 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. And you become very creative because you’re not at the mercy of thinking that fills up your head, taking you away from your own ability to be creative and to 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.
Leaders and people managers, in my mind, have a little bit more responsibility than the individual contributor. To some degree, leaders and managers have influence over others. That’s why when we work with businesses, my company, Insight Principles, starts with the leadership. We feel that leaders need to see for themselves what is going on 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 their stress. Once they truly see this, they can make the kinds of 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 on the bottom line.
And from the perspective of those of us who are 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 constantly have to 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 that plenty of programs look at thought, but they look at it as thinking styles. Or they look at it as trying to change what people think to get them to think better. It is far more valuable is to teach people that they think—to teach and show people that they are gifted at birth with this incredible power called the power of thought. This power is bringing to us every feeling, every experience, and every glimpse of reality we have ever had since 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.
Q2: What does it take to get an employee’s best performance and full attention?
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’s 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 when they become present, a whole set of capacities and abilities shows up. They feel more insightful. They feel more creative. They feel that they can see the bigger picture, so they 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 be able to pull it off you have to see in the moment what actually is filling your head up. It was a surprise to 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 was coming 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, and 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.
Q3: What do people really lack and long for at work?
I recently read a study that concluded people are feeling more stressed today than ever. I certainly do observe this when I go out into companies. People are feeling a tremendous amount of stress, which of course they attribute to the job and/or their 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 get all my work done.” 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, this sense that they are fine. All is going to be ok. They’ll find the answers that they need.
Because we live in the 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 is going to 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 a very productive state. In that state, we have tremendous capability and capacity that seems to be present without working at it or making it happen. When people see for themselves that this peace that they’re looking for is actually within and only a thought away, they settle down. Lack of peace is being created in their own minds and in their own thinking. When people understand this, they stop looking for peace by getting everything done or by being all things to all people. They may even say no to things.
I worked with a young executive who was on the fast track at his company. He goes through a difficult divorce and ends up getting custody of his two young children. I remember talking to him about it, because he said, “You know Sandy if I hadn’t learned about 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 about my 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 was going to 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’m going to do. I know I could not have done it with such ease and grace had I 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 that are available in the world that end up taking our time. They’re so much happier for it. But I can’t tell people, “You know, 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.
Q4: What is the most important question management should be asking for employees?
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 so clear and obvious to us.
Management lives in their own reality and they forget to talk to their people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with an executive, and they’ll be so perplexed or so 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 is a critical factor a team’s success.
Q5: What is the most important question that employees should be asking management?
The only thing that I would add to what I said above is that employees should be asking a lot of questions, too. I think we get the idea that asking questions is a bad thing. Oh, I should know, or I don’t want to let them know that 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 thought 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 make sure that the boss or manager has thought through the implications of what he or she is asking us to do. Sometimes they haven’t.
Q6: What is the most important question we can ask ourselves?
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.
It really does throw everything into another level, and I’m able to have the mental clarity needed to see what to do next. 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. 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.
Q7: You seem to have a little different perspective on the 3 Principles. Can you help distinguish that for us?
For me, 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 of the 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 in 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 do I get into the good state of mind? I kept scratching my head and wondering why are people asking 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’m setting up this dichotomy of good thinking, bad thinking, good state of mind, bad state of mind, etc. What I want people to see is—the mind works one way. Period. It works from the inside-out. When you think it works from the outside-in, you’re going to have a battle. You are going to 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.