The Whole Shebang

Ep. 06 - Unlocking Collective Wisdom in Conscious Gatherings, and Reimagining Leadership with Jon Berghoff

November 15, 2023 Jen Briggs Season 1 Episode 6
The Whole Shebang
Ep. 06 - Unlocking Collective Wisdom in Conscious Gatherings, and Reimagining Leadership with Jon Berghoff
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This was one of those "pinch me" episodes. What an honor to have the opportunity to sit down and chat with Jon Berghoff, CEO of Xchange, a visionary in the realm of transformational group facilitation.

We discuss how conscious leadership and personal growth can unlock our untapped potential and eventually meander into the magic of conscious gatherings, where the power of connection, play, and meditation, become instruments of psychological and neurological wellness.

We end, where everything begins... with Love. Jon shares his answer to the question "What matters most?" guided by his mentor, Dr. Danny Friedland's wisdom, on how love and compassion towards self and work are fundamental to a fulfilling life.

What We Chat About:

12:42 - Conscious Leadership
17:30 - Leadership and Influence
20:22 - Adversity, Stress, and Being Unconscious
29:23 - Men, Women, and Inner Work
31:52 - The Rising Feminine
35:42 - Creating Conscious Gatherings and Connection
45:01 - Community is the Answer to Brokenness
54:30 - Holding Space for Difficult Conversations
57:48 - What Matters Most?

Resources
Jon at LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/jonberghoff/
Website: xchangeapproach.com

Notable Mentions
Jodi Berg - Former CEO of Vitamix
David Brooks -Author of How to Know a Person
Raj Sisodia - Author of Conscious Capitalism
John Mackey- Former CEO of Whole Foods Market
Kelly McGonigal - Harvard Researcher and Author of The Upside of Stress
Lynn Twist - Author
Meg Wheatley - American Writer and Teacher
Peter Senge - Systems Scientist
Danah Zohar - Author and Thought Leader
Tulane Montgomery - Futurist and Educator
Dr. Daniel Friedland - Author 

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Speaker 1:

And there's a deep, deep basis for this observation is that whenever something is broken between people, or in a group, or in an organization, or in a culture or a society, the fastest pathway is to strengthen the connections between the parts of that system. In other words, whatever the problem, community is the answer. And people might not realize that intellectually but, as you pointed out, once we experience it we realize how healthy it feels.

Speaker 3:

Hello, it's me, your host, jen, and fellow journeyer on this path of learning how to reintegrate feminine energy into the boardroom. So we'll talk about things like conscious capitalism and leading with vulnerability and awareness and connection and play. We'll be diving into the bedroom. So basically, we're going to talk about the horizontal mamba In all seriousness. We're going to look at how to create a deeper level of intimacy and connection in your romantic partnerships, but also in all of our relationships. I think we've become so disconnected. So how do we gain that in our relationships? And then we're going to look beyond that into any tool or practice that helps us become more magnetic and more full. So manifestation techniques, meditation and personal development approaches that will help us move through challenges to step into our brightest, fullest, most magnetic version of ourselves. It's all the things. It is the whole shebang. So buckle up buttercups, we're diving in. You all are in for a treat.

Speaker 3:

Today I had the honor and privilege of sitting down with John Birkhoff, co-founder and CEO of Exchange. As the creator and founder of Exchange, john Birkhoff is considered a pioneer in the field of transformational group facilitation. He is the collective wisdom whisperer to global CEO summits, leadership conferences and high stakes gatherings for organizations like conscious capitalism, women presidents organization, heart math, arthur Page Society, nasa, keller Williams and many more. Over 15,000 coaches, consultants and change agents are now using Exchange to redefine how we unlock potential at scale through transformational learning experiences.

Speaker 3:

And let me tell you we covered a lot of ground from conscious capitalism and conscious leadership. We talked about tools that you can use for triggers and self doubt when they come up, even at your highest level of leadership. We talked about inner work and collective intelligence. We talked about a biological case for connection and how there's also a business case for it. So there's a lot here. Sit down, grab a favorite beverage, put those earbuds in. We hope that you enjoy this conversation as much as we did. Welcome, john, to the whole shebang. Thank you so much for being here. It's really an honor to sit down and chat with you today.

Speaker 1:

Jen, I'm thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 3:

Tell us a little bit. Let's just start with the work that you're doing now with Exchange. If you could give our listeners just an overview of what it is and maybe what led you to this work or this kind of approach to work.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, honored to share. I think a starting point, jen, is my deepest curiosity, and our curiosity to exchange is really centered around what we can learn about how to bring out potential not only in individuals, but specifically when people come together in different group settings. So I know you're familiar, but it could be a training, a workshop, a meeting that happens inside an organization and if you stop and think about it, there's so many places where we invest resources, time, people, money, our heads and our hearts in these different group environments, and that's our deepest curiosity. And the way that the learnings materialize is we teach folks from all around the world how to design and facilitate gatherings that hopefully tap into the collective heads and hearts of whoever's come together. So that's on a high level. That's our curiosity.

Speaker 3:

It's beautiful. I should back up and just share a little bit for the people to know, like how we met. So I very serendipitously ended up in one of your courses Awaken Conscious Leadership and prior to that I felt very frustrated and very stuck with a few of the things that I was trying to figure out how to integrate. So, one, neuroscience. Two, this whole masculine feminine dynamic, and three, leadership. And I was like how in the world will these things collide? And then my coach, debbie Frapp, invited me to be a part of this course, awaken Conscious Leadership, and I don't know how many faces you can see on your screen when you're in the workshop, but I probably cried no less than a dozen times because I was so like, oh my gosh, here it is. Like. Here is the collision of all of those things and just a word of gratitude for you and the way that you showed up and led with head and heart. It is maybe the first and most poignant example of that that I've seen via Zoom.

Speaker 3:

nonetheless, and so it was just really meaningful for me. And talk about unlocking potential. I definitely feel like I am a story of that experience, so thank you personally for the work that you've done. It was such a powerful transformative experience for me.

Speaker 1:

Oh, thank you for that, jen. That means the whole world to hear you share that, and I feel very fortunate to hear you share that, even though I'm one of the teachers or facilitators. I mean, as you're aware, it's a topic like conscious leadership. I don't believe there's such thing as like an ending to that learning. It's a path.

Speaker 1:

We're on it, we're off it, and so I'm as much on the learning journey as I might look like I'm on the teaching journey, and we're very fortunate to meet so many folks like yourself through these teachings.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, if we could go back a little bit further. You know I read in your bio that you have some experience in sales previously, but I find it I'm sure there's a lot that I don't know. I'm curious what your experience was like when you started out in business and you were young and go get. You were like quickly rising to the top in terms of sales, correct?

Speaker 1:

That's true, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, this is not a time for humility, john, I know, but I want to hear a little bit about that. And then, did you always approach your work and leadership with this, this lens, or was there a point at which you were like, ooh, something, we can do something different here.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, maybe I can kind of work backwards and answer your question, but I also want to honor one of the things I love. I told you this a minute ago. I went this morning and I listened to your first episode of this podcast and you know I enjoyed it for a lot of reasons. One of them is your invitation for people to be on this journey to connect with our true selves, and I love that invitation and our whole selves. So I want to give an answer that reveals the whole story, so to speak.

Speaker 1:

Prior to founding exchange. Yes, I was an executive at the Vitamix Corporation where we made very nice, high-end blending equipment, and that was a life-changing, career-changing experience for me. I was given a gift of being guided by some incredible women leaders. In fact, jodi Berg at the time was the CEO. She was their CEO for 30 or so years. Her great-grandfather founded Vitamix in 1921. So that's its own fascinating story, but Jodi taught me so much that has affected what we're doing today at exchange, most notably this idea that to be a leader today it's not really about having all the answers you know.

Speaker 1:

At a different time in history, a leader, a manager, was supposed to know everything. Now it's maybe more about how do we invite the collective intelligence and intuition and creativity from as many people as possible. Jodi was the first person to kind of invite me into that, but prior to Jodi I had some experiences at a young age where I was successful before I found Vitamix. But what's really interesting, jen and I think this is probably the part of the story that you and maybe I might both find more interesting is my success was largely a result of a period of time in my life that was anything but successful between the ages of sixth grade and high school For a whole assortment of reasons.

Speaker 1:

I was in primarily because my parents had moved a couple times. I was in like something like four different schools within five years. And what ended up happening during that time in my life is I really struggled. And when I say I really struggled, you know that might actually be a soft way of explaining it. There was a period of time, particularly in high school, where I struggled not only in school. I never went to college because none of the places I applied to accepted me, and I eventually figured out how to kind of solve for that. But during that time in my life I was struggling not only intellectually but socially, physically, emotionally, mentally, every imaginable way. So much so that you know I'm curious about things like the psychology of things today, and I took me 20 years to realize I was so afraid for my safety, for my life I actually hid inside our school library every single day, anytime I wasn't in class for more than an entire year in high school.

Speaker 1:

I was afraid to be seen by other people. So I guess the reason I felt like sharing that part of my story is it took me a long time, but I eventually felt like a lot of what we've created at exchange was, in some unconscious way, me trying to heal some wounded part of my own soul, so to speak. So there's a few different sides to my story there.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. I'm gonna blank on the name of the book I just started reading. Yesterday. I made the mistake. It's how to Know a Person. I think is what it's called. I'll put it in the show notes.

Speaker 1:

David Brooks.

Speaker 3:

Yes, so I made the mistake of turning the audible on today and to a chapter about compassion and empathy and how to really see somebody and be seen and just like instantly weeping because there is something so innately human and beautiful about being seen and seeing other people.

Speaker 3:

So when you talk about that period in your life where you are afraid to be seen and then where you are now which to me, visible and seen is probably not the same thing, right, but to me I feel like you're very seen or you're allowing yourself to be seen by people now, and that's quite a transformation.

Speaker 1:

I like how you put that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

That's a wonderful reflection to think about, I love that.

Speaker 3:

So, one of the things that I've been so excited to talk about with you, well, two things conscious leadership and conscious capitalism.

Speaker 3:

I had not heard those phrases until I was introduced to your work at Exchange, okay, and it was so much that I was intuiting. But I was like, oh, there's a whole swath of work out here on this and you are one of the centerpieces of this work, if I'm understanding correctly. I mean, you just got back from a summit with CEOs on conscious capitalism and conscious leadership, and so I would love to dive into that and hear you unfold a little bit. Maybe we can start first with conscious leadership what it is, what the tenets of it are.

Speaker 1:

Yeah Well, so conscious leadership I mean these are two big words that can mean a lot. They could mean something different to everybody, and I actually think it can be useful to introduce the phrase conscious leadership in the context of conscious capitalism, and I can explain why. So you are correct, I literally just got back last week. I have the privileged role and opportunity of getting to support the annual conscious capitalism CEO summit as a designer and the facilitator of the conference, and that is it's like a dream come true to get to lead a room of leaders of companies that want to purpose or they already have purpose their companies to elevate humanity through business, which is kind of an essential higher purpose of conscious capitalism. But the I think the backstory that helps to answer your questions. For me personally, I came across and I think it was 2012 or 13, may have been about 10 years ago this organization and it's also a set of management principles and tools and even some embedded in their company as a strategy called conscious capitalism, and I first read the book by that name, which was coauthored by Raj Sassodia, who was originally a professor, a marketing professor, and John Mackey, the founder and longtime CEO of Whole Foods, and what I was learning about for the very first time was that capitalism.

Speaker 1:

First of all, if we look back historically, even just over the last 200 years, you know, a couple hundred years ago and I'm not going to get these data points spot on, but directionally, what I'm going to say is pretty well documented. Just a few hundred years ago, jen, the large majority of the world population was illiterate, like 90, 95%. That number is like almost inverted today, or something extraordinary. The large majority of the world lived on, in today's dollars, less than like a dollar or two a day. The large majority lived in extreme poverty just in the last couple hundred years, and capitalism deserves some important credit for literally pulling humanity out of the dirt.

Speaker 1:

At the same time, I think there are many who have realized that we need to be really thoughtful about the way that we lead, the way that our businesses and our institutions live in our world today, and so this paradoxical name conscious capitalism is a set of philosophies and in tenets, and there's four tenets, and one of them is for any enterprise or business to connect themselves to the highest possible purpose. The second tenet is about caring about everybody that we interact with, or what they call a stakeholder orientation. The third one is about a conscious culture, which all these are my words, and I would say it's a culture where people can be and bring their whole best selves or discover their whole best selves. That's my paraphrasing. And then the final tenet is conscious leadership, which, in the context of conscious capitalism. We need conscious leaders to enable those other three tenets to come alive.

Speaker 1:

And Jen, just one other point as I've gotten to know you, you know, I know that you are interested in not only a holistic perspective but one that is backed by data. There is some very solid data that has come from many different places that validates that these businesses that operate with these types of principles they also outperform, so we can actually do well in the world and do good. Maybe they actually go together. So I just wanted to give that historical context for anybody who's new to this conscious capitalism concept, and I'll do my best to answer. What's conscious leadership? How about? In like a sentence you said through a three day training.

Speaker 3:

we read on it how do I do it in a sentence?

Speaker 1:

Well, here's one, here's one way and there's not one way, but let's just consider that leadership is something that's available to all of us as soon as we realize. We all have influence at any moment. Leadership is the undeniable influence we have in every interaction and even when we're not with others, even just the conversations that happen within ourselves. And so if we put a word like conscious right in front of it, let's just actually let's try and make this kind of simple or impractical For us. Conscious leadership is how do we just become more aware of our influence?

Speaker 1:

and you know how do we influence from the inside out. If we want to lead well in the world, we've got to start within. What are the practices and tools, based in good evidence, that can help us to cultivate from within the kind of presence that'll help us to be better in whatever environment we want to be? Better in, so I'll stop there. That's a lot to chew on, it's so it's so much.

Speaker 3:

I have a million things to ask you. Yeah, I think, when I think about conscious leadership and awareness, to me the the converse side of that is running on automatic right. It's. It's I'm going to show up to work, I'm going to show up to life and I'm going to just go and, and maybe it's a little bit more reactive and responsive, but it is not from a place that is inside out, and I think this is just my perspective.

Speaker 3:

I think in our society, I think in a lot of workplaces, that is the way we run, and so I I'm trying I want to like illuminate the conversation to help people that may be running on automatic right now and that are like okay, how do I become a more aware leader? Or what does that look like? Like I've seen you demonstrate that. And for the people who are like well, how do I connect to a higher purpose at work? How do I lead with more awareness, can you help break that down for us? What does that look like? What would, where would a leader start, or what are some things for them to digest with that?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm really happy to. I'm just making a note of something you said. I enjoy how you put that, like running on automatic or autopilot. Yeah, you know what's interesting, Jen, is you reminded me that we met you at this training that we host twice a year in its unconscious leadership. But you might remember the title of the training. We actually call it Awakening Conscious Leadership.

Speaker 1:

And what's really interesting about this word conscious is if we're looking to make this really useful and practical kind of, like you pointed out, the opposite of being conscious is, well, it's when we're unconscious of how we're behaving or why we're behaving there's other words that we use that are all synonymous it's when we're reactive, it's when we are out of control, so to speak. And let me give a disclaimer, and then I'd love to just call myself out here. I can talk about all of this probably with coherence. It doesn't mean it's easy and it doesn't mean that even someone like me is constantly conscious. In fact, one of the one of the great joys of running these trainings is how much I realize that maybe I'm just running this because I need it myself. Right, I'm a parent and a Darren and I are blended family. We got five kids and we joke all the time. As soon as we think we're enlightened, all we need to do is spend a few minutes with our kids.

Speaker 3:

Life will have a way of humbling us, doesn't it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So your question, I'll bring this from kind of the sky to the streets for a second and I would encourage any of us to stop and just think for a moment about in our own lives or in our own work, and you could think of this in the most personal way. You could also think about this in the broadest context of this time that we're living in, in our world. We're living in a time where, as one of our teachers years ago described, the world seems to be changing faster than humans seem to be equipped to adapt to this change. And I can just speak for myself. You know, I've been through actually many challenges that, as I heard about your journey, I can relate with when I think about just my own adversities that I've dealt with. Even in just the last two or three years, I have had levels of stress that I've never had before. In fact, I've had times where I was really stressed out about how stressed out I was, and you and I can smile at that.

Speaker 1:

But anyone who's listening knows that those are very difficult, difficult moments and that stress and that self that it comes with doubt, self-doubt and ultimately the neurological answer to what happens when we're under pressure is. We get reactive, we get unconscious, we operate from a place within us and anyone can relate to this when we think about moments when we're not at our best. You know I think about when I go home every night and I'm around my kids and you know stress is a result of demands exceeding resources. Right, just to give a textbook answer. But how does that materialize and what can we learn and what can we do about it?

Speaker 1:

Well, at the end of the day, I'm tired, I'm under resourced and everything I know I should do and who I should be, it's not always who shows up and I'll reactively say or do something, Even if I have good intentions, and you know. A good question for me to ask is when? When is my reaction causing more harm than good? Not all reactivity is bad, but when is? Inside of my relationships and my conversations and I find Jen, the greatest tool, the greatest mirror for my own learning is looking at my most personal relationships and especially the ones that challenge me the most. Usually I find, whether it's my kids or someone I work with, that if I pay close enough attention, if I can notice these moments when I get triggered by something, I've eventually discovered that, first of all, that's happening all the time and secondly, it probably means I'm bumping up against a new edge of growth for me.

Speaker 1:

It probably means I'm bumping up against something that I've not fully healed or resolved within myself, and so the good news is I keep getting triggered. There's more for me to learn, all right.

Speaker 3:

It's great news. I love this On a very so unpractical level. Thank you for sharing and being so transparent. By the way, I think it goes to show that we are all so human, no matter our background or our position or our experience or what we are. And so for me to hear you say, yeah, I have these moments of self doubt or I've had more stress than I've had before and I've been under resourced. What do you do during those times that you're feeling a lack of resource or a lack of belief, or how do you work through that?

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So it's the question of all questions and I try and turn to anyone of a variety of different tools.

Speaker 1:

We refer to these as practices and you know I've been, the last number of years, realized that if I want to dig my way out of these difficult moments, there's a lot of work that I ought to commit to doing every single day so that when I'm in these moments it can be a little bit easier to find the ability within.

Speaker 1:

So, for me, the tools or the practices you know, and as you know the way we teach these, there are certain tools that are what I would call from the neck up and neck up tools, and we need all these types of tools, I think are, you know, it's another way of saying I could, just I could have a conversation with myself about what's going on, and sometimes for some of us that can, that can be really useful. For example, if I have practiced asking certain questions with enough repetition, then in the heat of a difficult moment I might be able to remember to consciously go to one of these questions, and one could be, and I mean I'll just jump right into the deep end. When things are most difficult, I try and remember to ask myself how might this be happening? Maybe not so much to me, but instead for me, and you know, in some moments I don't want to hear that question.

Speaker 1:

The other little voice will say fuck off. But I've learned over time that if I'm willing to open myself to listening, that eventually an answer might arise to that. Or here's another example of just changing the question which can change the story. And this, this I learned from Kelly McGonigal, who's one of the great researchers out of Stanford on stress. You know she teaches that for many people they can immediately reframe a very difficult moment by changing the question from unconsciously you know how do I get through this or deal with this to how do I remind myself that this stress just means something I care about is at stake. There's an interesting flavor in that question, isn't there? It actually brings a tone of like self-compassion, which I think is always important.

Speaker 1:

So I said, these are neck up, you know internal dialogue tools. But then there's neck down stuff which is understanding the power of our breath and I try every single day to practice breath work and different meditative practices and I've noticed that the breath can be a real savior in difficult moments. But hopefully I've cultivated that muscle before I get to those moments.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I'm going to take a little bit of a left. It's not total left turn. I'm going to meander down this path, do you?

Speaker 1:

want to go there with me, I love that. I love that. That's great.

Speaker 3:

I recently was leading a class on happiness and hustle and notice that there was a five to one ratio of women to men that showed up.

Speaker 3:

And one of the things that I appreciate is that you're not shying away from the sort of the work or the inner work and the conversation around it and talking about things like breath work and I could probably say this in the wrong way, so just forgive me, but like you're a masculine man and you're showing up and you're grounded and you're leading with clarity and you're having a lot of success in your business.

Speaker 3:

And so I put a thing on Facebook that was like hey, why aren't more men into personal growth and development, which illuminated some of my biases out of the gate. Right, I just hadn't asked enough questions. Well, I got feedback from one one gentleman in one of my organizations that was like well, because I perceive that like you're just speaking to women, and I was like no, no, I'm missing the mark somehow. But then, kind of what came out more as the conversation went on, is that or this is what my perception is is that there are good amount of men, just like there are women, that are leaning into this work and personal growth and development, but they seem to feel like there's either less space or less safe space to talk about it in a public way, and I don't know if that's just like the chamber that I'm in. But I'm really curious just to hear maybe your experience as a man in leadership and doing this work, or maybe your personal experience, just kind of your thoughts on all of that.

Speaker 1:

Oh my gosh. Well, there's so many things that come up for me. You know I've spent a good amount of time working with both men's groups and women's groups. I've worked for several years with women presidents organization. They're an incredible membership of many of the great women leaders, business leaders in the world, and we worked with their chapter chairs as they navigated through the first couple years of the pandemic.

Speaker 1:

So I've been in a lot of rooms where it's just men and just women and I think what you're perceiving the way I'm going to choose to receive it is you may be perceiving that it can feel more or less likely for men to be interested in doing certain types of work or being in certain conversations, and and what I have seen is that there are places and spaces where there are men doing incredible deep inner work, and I've seen rooms where women are invited but it's still mostly men and that could be for a whole assortment of reasons. I've also seen women's groups where I can tell that inner work is not making its way into the room but because those women had to, they had to overplay their masculine for so many generations. So I've actually seen the opposite play out.

Speaker 1:

And I think there's kind of a broader context and then an invitation for all of us. The broader context is just the willingness to recognize that we're living at the maybe the end of, and who knows? I mean there's prophecies and predictions and data, but hundreds of years where, as one of my deep, soulful mentors, lynn Twist, has taught me, and there's a prophecy that's told and I wish I could cite the origins of it, but Lynn shares with me how the bird of humanity has flown for so many years with the wing of the feminine tied behind its back and the result of that is the masculine had to work really hard. You know any strength overplayed brings out shadows. I know you're interested in polarities and I think that's what happens if we're not mindful individually and collectively right.

Speaker 1:

And so I think a lot of the challenges we see in our world we can trace that to what happens when there's this overplaying of the masculine. And so there are many who believe, hope, wish for, perceive that this is a time where, if that feminine can rise up, there's more wholeness. So I think a willingness to see that that really has played out is one reason why it could be that men or women have not been open to these conversations that you're hosting, that invite the whole self, because we're part of a broader system. That has stifled that. But I was thrilled to be here today because you're serving as a warrior for the whole human spirit right now. And yeah, so thank you so much for that perspective.

Speaker 3:

Thank you for that perspective. That's really I don't feel like that'll be healing for me too. Just to contemplate that a little bit, and it is interesting the more conversations I'm having and the more I'm diving into this, even the polarity side, I'm like, oh, this idea that as a strong, strong, independent woman, I feel like my emotions have been too much. That is not unique to women, like I do think that more and more of this it's not gender specific at all, it is more societal, and so I really appreciate what you shared about what Lynn was saying, that the wing of the feminine has been clipped behind her back. Yeah, I feel that, and how powerful is it that we can be a part of unclipping? How to change that into a verb Flying. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Okay, thank you for meandering with me, that was fun.

Speaker 1:

I love meandering Anyone who works with me. I'm quite skilled. You're game flat.

Speaker 3:

Okay, great, okay. So I would love to come back to the summit that you just came back from. I have a few questions about that, so maybe I mean you touch on a little bit what it is. I would love to hear, just from a leadership standpoint. So you designed and facilitated this whole summit for CEOs of conscious capitalism. I'm curious, as you were designing it, what your objectives were, what you were shaping what you were looking to create in that experience. So maybe what is it? And then that question.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So I think the first way I'd love to honor is that, you know, conscious capitalism as a movement, as a community, as a philosophy has been around since long before I was doing anything. I'm doing.

Speaker 1:

And this is actually this was the 15th year they've hosted their annual CEO summit, so I was given the gift two years ago. This is the second year we were invited and they just asked us to come back again next year and to come in and support this summit. And so there's an incredible team, there's a board of directors, it's already in place and you know the role that I and our team got to play is as thinking partners. How do we help this summit to be a more conscious way of gathering? Right, and to use a play on words, but in all sincerity, there are so many gatherings in the name of learning, in the name of this is a room full of leaders, and our interest at exchange and conscious capitalism shares in this interest. It's why we form this beautiful partnership is when we fill a room with human beings. Let's recognize that the wisdom in the room, the collective intelligence, it's a real thing. But how many of us have attended so many gatherings in person and online, where we walk away and in our heart of hearts, we know that we didn't tap into that collective wisdom? And so you know, the practical expression of our work is when Abby, who's the vice president of programming and extraordinary leader herself, brought us in and we started designing and tinkering with the summit. You know, the kinds of questions we asked were OK because they already have incredible speakers that come in, and so the questions that we asked are OK.

Speaker 1:

How do we, number one, design professionally guided moments during the summit where we lead a conversation in the room, even if we only have a minute or two sometimes we have an hour about what's being shared from the stage, which you know when you start to look at.

Speaker 1:

What does that actually accomplish? What it does is it in a superficial way? It moves the moment from passive to interactive, which is great, but it moves the learning to a place that's a lot deeper and it ultimately moves the learning from the stage to the audience, where the learners become the teachers. So when we're supporting a summit like this, with a room of incredible people in the audience and incredible teachers on the stage, we're looking at how do we shift the mixture so that we're not spending the majority of the time listening to great teachers and great teachings, but we're balancing it with conversations that happen in the room that are designed and guided with different questions, to contemplate our purpose, to contemplate the lessons we've learned to contemplate the futures that we want to create, and how do we do it in a way that honors the whole person too. So we're not only facilitating conversations, but we're bringing moments of play.

Speaker 2:

We're bringing even dancing into the room for those who want to go in that direction.

Speaker 1:

We bring meditation and breathing to connect to that deeper place of presence so that whatever else we're doing, we can get or give more out of it or to it. So, that's what comes up.

Speaker 3:

That's great. I think from my experience too, this maybe goes without saying, but one of the huge I don't know if benefits is the right word but just the connection that you experience with other humans and maybe coming a little bit full circle to that idea again of being sane and seeing others. And it's such a theme to me because I think we are so disconnected in general as humans and so it's so powerful to create and design and choreograph space for all of the things you mentioned and that connection that I mean I am connected with you now, beyond that one experience, because there was room for connection, which is so powerful. So I just wanted to add that I'm really grateful for that dynamic that exists in those spaces.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I'd love to build on what you're saying, because there's a biology that underlies what we do. There's also a business case that underlies what we do. And even if the reason everybody has come into this room is so we can learn which is a very intellectual reason to come to the room, and it's a good reason to come into the room right, we've got to be able to transform our knowledge and our thinking so that we can be more creative and solve problems and create new possibilities, right, even if that's why we're in the room. What we've stumbled into, jen, and you've seen how we do this, even online, which is totally wild. I never would have thought it would have been that possible. But what we've stumbled into is the realization that every time a group comes together, there's three sources of what we call capital intellectual, social and communal capital and many people come into the room for the first two ideas, or maybe I want to meet others, but there's this underlying, even invisible, source of value. That's rarely why someone might show up, but it's often the biggest reason they'll come back. Anybody in any business whether you're a trainer, coach, you host conferences, you run meetings or you want to create a healthy culture understands it when I say this is why people want to come back. There's a really strong business case for this right, and here's the fundamental lesson.

Speaker 1:

Every one of us this speaks to your point about being seen every single one of us is asking some version of a question.

Speaker 1:

Every time we gather, two or more of us come together and the question is something along the lines of can I be me and still be a part of whoever this group is? Can I be me and still fit in, however you want to name that? Right? And there's a neurological reason why we've asked that question. It's to stay alive, right? The interesting thing is the fastest way for people to feel that sense of psychological safety is not by listening to somebody say something from a stage. It's actually by having an intimate interaction, maybe in a small group or with one other person. So what we've stumbled into is the realization that the sooner we get intentional about choreographing and then facilitating all these different types of interactions in the room, it actually helps people to get to that part of their brain where they can be in the most learningful state possible, so we can get a better return on all the knowledge that's coming in and out of the room.

Speaker 1:

So there's a case and a biology for this whole idea of helping people to feel seen.

Speaker 3:

I love that so much and that's where the unlocking the potential comes from right. I mean, the sooner we can answer the question with yes, I can be myself and be accepted and get out of limbic brain, the sooner we can get into creativity and connection. And I hadn't heard that term communal capital and I, as you were saying that, I was thinking again. Maybe this is just the arena as I'm in, but I feel like sometimes when I facilitate trainings and I'm like, okay, guys, we're going to get into group real quick, you know, I'm ready to create some communal, and people are like, please don't make me do it. And then, when we're, when the time is done, people don't want to leave and I don't know. So I kind of I usually spring that on people because I want them to show up and then experience it and walk away going, wow, that was really powerful, we unlocked potential, we felt seen, we felt safe, we were able to get creative and I don't want to leave now, which is really powerful, but it is kind of a stumbling into it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, it's, it's really interesting. It's it's recognizing the difference between what people say they want and what they might really need. And you know, when we talk about belonging or building community, I think these are words that have gained a lot of traction in the last few years. And yet what I notice is that there are many organizations that are starting to use these words more often, saying yeah, yeah, we need to build community, we need to, we need people to connect meaningfully. They're saying it, but what I'm sensing is there's still not a widespread awareness that this is meeting one of the most fundamental human biological needs of our time right now. And you know many of our teachers and mentors here at Exchange. You mentioned David Brooks, who wrote how to Know a Person. He's a mentor of ours and I had a series of conversations with him when he was doing research for that book. He came to our community. He did this whole exclusive, of course, he did.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, he did a whole exclusive interview with us about his research, like two years ago, coming into that book. And you know one of the things that David's work points to, and so many of our teachers here at Exchange who are mentors, who've come and visited our members, from Meg Wheatley, who's one of the great system scientists and leadership teachers of our generation, or you look at Peter Zangier, dana Zohar these are all folks who both teach about the science of systems and they also, in the latter part of their careers, have become spiritual teachers. It's interesting.

Speaker 1:

Well, at least that's my perception, it seems that they've seen the intersection. And one of the lessons that we've learned and there's a deep, deep basis for this observation is that whenever something is broken between people or in a group, or in an organization, or in a culture or a society, the fastest pathway is to strengthen the connections between the parts of that system. In other words, whatever the problem, community is the answer, and people might not realize that intellectually but, as you pointed out, once we experience it, we realize how healthy it feels.

Speaker 3:

I love this so much. This is just like filling me up. One of the things you said about the difference between what people want and what they need, and I think that's such a poignant thing about leadership when you're in a position I don't know if that's a gift or if it's just you see enough patterns over time. But you can look at the community or the group of fractured people that isn't really communal and go, okay, they're saying they want this, but I see that they need this and I'm going to guide them into that and watch what happens from that. But I don't know if you have anything to add to that, but it just was kind of dawning on me as you were saying that that I just think it's such an integral part of leadership is being able to discern. We don't just do what people want. It's not just give them what they want, Just discern what they need. And then how do I get them there?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's a very interesting conversation topic, I think. What comes up for me is I really think that the way we think about leading and leadership is it's definitely long overdue to be kind of reimagined. And I think this question of what's the difference between what we want and what we need I think an interesting way to come into this is the realization that many people still believe that what we need is a few people who have all the answers to tell the rest of us what to do. It's kind of like Henry Ford is always quoted who knows if he ever said it right, but he's always cited as saying if I would have asked my customers, they would have said give me faster horses.

Speaker 1:

And what's interesting is in our world, our domain, is how we gather, which, if you stop and think about it, if you were to say gathering is an industry, it's the largest, it's how we spend the most time, it's where we invest the most of our heads and hearts and dollars is in these gatherings of two or more people. So we just want to give some reverence to how important this is when we come together. I think one example of understanding the difference between what people want or expect or believe, and yet how? Maybe what we need is something different, is what we are seeing.

Speaker 1:

Let's take this CEO summit is that we no longer need in a room full of leaders to design and lead these gatherings in a way where we're saying a few people are going to give the rest of us the answers. What we really need is a different type of leader, is a leader who's willing to not just be the sage on the stage, but to also transition to being the guide on the side, that's willing to ask questions Instead of it being all about what do I know and what can I tell you, and how can I control controls and illusion most cases, Anyways how can I ask, how can I invite, how can I unlock ideas and perspectives from as many people as possible?

Speaker 1:

That's just a good example of a shift that people might not be aware of until they witness it, and then they realize how meaningful and valuable that can be to lead differently, by being the guide on the side, which, as you know, that's the center of what we teach to folks that come through our trainings.

Speaker 3:

On the topic of those leaders, and maybe whether it's the summit or other leaders that you've worked with or seen coming off of that, what are some of the themes that you see in those leaders, characteristics or what did you see and experience?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, that's a great question. I have kind of a privileged opportunity in that I get to lead so many groups of leaders and oftentimes I do feel like I'm the dumbest person in the room, at least in certain domains, and I love that. It's really cool. I think there's a few kind of common threads that in different environments where we're leading leaders of the largest or many of the most well-known or purpose-driven companies in the world, one of the common threads is a widespread recognition that our world is heading in a direction that is truly unpredictable and not something that we necessarily can control. That invites some deeper, deeper contemplation amongst leaders.

Speaker 1:

There's a historical basis for these types of comments. A lot of folks listening to this could go John, you didn't need to tell me anything, I can look around right now and see that we're in a very precarious place in our world. One common thread is I'm seeing a recognition more and more and more that things might actually get more difficult before they get better, and so, as one of our teachers, meg Wheatley, often has reminded us to consider, at a time like this and history has repeated itself at times like this there are always a select group of people who arise and are what she calls warriors for the human spirit, who they do what is needed. They do what is right, not because they will be able to change the course of the world, but because it is needed and it's what's right. And I'm seeing a lot of leaders recognizing the need for deeper introspection around. Who are we choosing to be?

Speaker 1:

which happens to also be the title of Meg's most recent book. That's one thread, one common thread. Another thread, and I wanna quote Tulane Montgomery. She was one of the attendees and also contributed in a panel at the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit. Tulane is a futurist, she is a strategist, she's a systems thinker. She's also quite funny she's a humorist, I think that's the word. And Tulane, she's the CEO of an organization called New Profit. I hope I got that name correct because I just met her for the first time.

Speaker 1:

But one of the things she talked about is the need for what she calls intentional community, and even just at this CEO summit, there were multiple times on stage where leaders of very well-known organizations talked about how we need to invite the kinds of cultures or communities where we can have very difficult conversations.

Speaker 1:

You talk about polarities, what we are seeing as a recognition amongst leaders that we need to be willing to not only give people, to not only give people the freedom to express, but also to be willing to stand in the tension of these differing perspectives, because when there's tension between people, there's a lot of tension in our world. The unconscious response is often well, how do I relieve that tension, which often is by walking away from the conversation or finding others who share the same perspective, so that we don't have to be in that tension. But in that dynamic tension is an energy where something amazing could come out of it, and leaders need to be willing to host spaces where this dynamic tension can be honored. And that starts within ourselves. Am I willing to be in a conversation where I can genuinely listen to and be curious about somebody who sees something completely the opposite as I do? That's a common trend, a common thread. I see that leaders are more and more asking for, calling for. I'll just stop at that.

Speaker 3:

That's so beautiful. As you were speaking about that, I was thinking and this is where the inner work is so important because I cannot imagine being able to hold space for that tension or be present and aware and open, like really open to the conversation, if I am not resourced, if I am reactive, if I'm feeling defensive of my perspective in any way, and just speaking from my own experience, it takes time and practice to get to a place where you can show up to a I don't know a space that has tension in it and actually appreciate it and hold the space, for it is gosh. It's so powerful when you experience that, but not easy to arrive at that place.

Speaker 1:

I think I'm still working on it myself. Yeah, some things are more triggering than others.

Speaker 3:

I'll just say that, yeah, and I love how you put it too. I don't know if it was in Shakti leadership, but she talks about that polarity, that when, anytime that we have that resistance between two things, if you have a magnet in the two poles, it is in the space between the poles where the power lies, it is in between the polarities that there's electricity moving, that is getting ready to birth something beautiful. And so when we can show up with that perspective of appreciating and welcoming even the tension, knowing that it can result in something really powerful, instead of just like, well, how do we just choose to disagree here? It's like oh no, there's some power here, that's, that's.

Speaker 1:

And I think one of the hardest things to do, jen, is to listen to this conversation and then go be in a conversation with someone where I feel like I'm given a good effort to be non-reactive, but there's an awareness that I have, that this other person either doesn't have an interest or they don't have the tools in being non-reactive, and it can be demoralizing to be in relationships at work or at home or in our communities, with anybody where the feeling we have is that they are not making an effort.

Speaker 1:

And that's when I think for all of us. We have to remind ourselves let's do what we're going to do because it feels right, not because we can control or change other people. If we really want to change other people, I don't know. I think the best way to do it is probably just through who we choose to be. Yeah, and maybe one day our influence could rub off, but that's where it gets difficult for me at least I agree with that.

Speaker 3:

I appreciate that wisdom there because, yeah, on a practical level, how do we walk that out when we're in those situations? And that sentiment of doing what's right is powerful. Thank you for that we are nearing our time. I have just two more questions for you, kind of open-ended, I would just love to hear as we wrap up our conversation together in awakening conscious leadership. Dr Danny Friedland shared this question that he was asking of himself or of his life, which is what matters most right now?

Speaker 3:

And so I'd like to ask you that question what matters most for you right now?

Speaker 1:

Well, goodness. Well, what matters most, since you named Dr Danny I'm so glad that you did Dr Danny, as you know, was an incredible mentor to me. It still is Was an amazing friend, was a student of our work, and then he lost his battle to cancer in October 2021. But where he succeeded wildly is in leaving a big legacy that is still affecting many of us every single day. And so you know, danny left behind his wife, sue, and his two boys, zach and Dill, and also some beautiful lessons in that question. What matters most? I think for me, what matters most, is to remember that all the ups and downs and the challenges and the opportunities at work and at home can be a distraction from what is most essential, which is to do my best, as often as I can, to remember to do it with love, and love for who I'm, with love for what I'm doing, love for the gifts within the really difficult struggles, and love for myself. And that all sounds really nice.

Speaker 1:

Sounds like something you could put on a mug, but I'm saying this or a pillow, yeah, I'm saying this to myself, for myself, because, fuck, life is not easy, and you know, that was actually since you brought up Danny, one of the messages that he shared in his really his final weeks and days to his boys. He had this whole series of YouTube videos anybody could go watch and he put these out in the open and he shared a message with his boys. Of all his videos, some of them were hours long, he and I and others having conversations about life, and there was one that was like 90 seconds long and it was to his boys, zach and Dill, and he said, zach Dill, hey, I just want you to remember what gives me love in my heart is for you to live a loving life, love for each other, love for the planet, for life itself. And so, since you invoked Danny, I'm allowing his teaching to inform my answer. That's what matters most right now.

Speaker 3:

I love, love in all the facets and so appreciate that. Thank you for sharing that, okay. Lastly, how do people connect with you? If they'd like to get more information about exchange or your work, how can they get in touch with you?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, you can probably find me in many of the places where you could find people online LinkedIn, facebook.

Speaker 3:

You can Google my name.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and this is where my team's like John, you got to get your marketing shit together here. I'm like what website do I give out X, change Approach the letter X, the word change approachcom is our website and, yeah, if somebody wants to connect, you know we run these immersion trainings teaching folks how to design and facilitate group experiences that unlock collective potential, and we're we're honored. We've had several thousand people come through these trainings just since the pandemic got here. And then there's once in a while, jen, I host personally a live experiential introduction to our work. So if someone's listening, I'd love to meet you. Come meet me. I do these about once a month online and that's kind of a cool way to see what we're all about. I'm sure there's some other things on our website People could download or check out. Xchangeapproachcom would love to meet anyone who heard this conversation, and the code word, if somebody listened to this far, is avocado, that's what you listen this far into this conversation.

Speaker 3:

That's fantastic. I will put I'll put the website in the show notes. So thank you so much, john, for being here and for sharing your wisdom and transparency and for following the nudges and the guidance that's been put in front of you. It's a blessing to so many. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Hey, thank you, Jen. It's an honor to be here. Thank you.

Speaker 3:

As always, thank you for tuning in. I hope that this episode is supporting you in becoming your most whole self so that you can lead your most full life. You are definitely worthy and deserving of that. All of the resources that we shared today are going to be linked in the show notes. You can check those out there, along with ways that you can connect with us if you've got questions or feedback or people that you think we should reach out to to highlight their story on the Holshbang podcast. In the meantime, please be sure to hit that follow button so you don't miss a beat. Share this episode or any others with those that you think could benefit from this conversation, and you can do the podcast a huge favor by leaving a five star review In the meantime. I hope that you have a fantastic bangin' day.

Conscious Leadership
Leadership and Influence
Adversity, Stress, and Being Unconscious
Men, Women and Inner Work
The Rising Feminine
Creating Conscious Gatherings and Connection
Community is the Answer to Brokenness
Holding Space for Difficult Conversations
What Matters Most?
Empowerment and Resource Sharing on Podcast