We can’t help it – we all get hypnotised by our circumstances. The quality of your performance and culture is often a direct result of the workplace ‘trance’ that you and your teams are in. So many people seem to get stuck in low quality ‘trances’, where poor performance is the only practical outcome. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We can consciously choose a higher quality trance and then achieve so much more.
Hypnosis works by placing people into trance. Whilst there are lots of scary ideas about hypnosis and trance, world experts in the field define trance quite pragmatically:
Trance is a simply a state of focused attention.
Consider when you are absorbed in a great book or TV show. People can walk in and out of the room, and you may not even notice them. You can be absorbed in the story, and instead of seeing the words on the page or images on the screen, you are transported into the story. You no longer feel the temperature in the room, the level of lighting or even the discomfort of how you are sitting. You are absorbed and focused on only one aspect of your experience.
Notice how when you finish working on your laptop for a long time, you become aware of your body again, and the discomfort in your butt, your shoulders or your neck. You have been in a trance, highly focused on a small part of your experience. When you finish that trace, you become aware of so many things that you were simply failing to notice before, such as the temperature in the room, your seating position, pain and discomfort signals from your body, the lighting, and even the time.
What we focus on – the type of trance we are in – selects the things that we attend to, and the things we simply ignore. It also changes the types of resources, memories and actions that we most readily access. Also referred to as ‘state based learning’ – when we are in a certain ‘state’ (or trance), it is connected to the specific thoughts, memories and resources that we can access. Consider what happens when you are under stress, or in a bad mood, to what you have access to when you are relaxed and happy.
Negative and positive trances therefore have a massive impact on workplace performance. What we focus on – and conversely fail to notice – is critical in determining the quality of our outputs.
What you miss:
As you focus in on a very narrow part of your experience, you have to overlook everything else. The trance primes what you pay attention to, and informs your availability bias for what you pay attention to and base your decisions on. Consider when you look around the room for everything blue. By selecting and remembering the blue things, everything else gets overlooked.
What if, in this example, blue things were problems in your business. If you were attending to these so strongly, what else would you miss? Maybe opportunities, maybe things you do well, maybe human things like behaviours, communication and interaction.
There are a number of common workplace ‘trances’ – and often the trance is contagious. It starts somewhere in the office, and pretty soon everyone has caught it and are letting it dictate their performance. Here are a few trances that are common in the workplace:
- The stress trance. When you walk into the office, everyone is stressed. Everyone becomes easily stressed and people readily feel overwhelmed at the slightest request.
- The fear trance. The glass is half empty, and all I see are risks and things that can go bad. I can single out the problem amongst all of the opportunity.
- The blame trance. We look for someone to blame. Someone must to blame for what is going on. Someone must be at fault – rather than take ownership, we shift the blame.
- The busy trance. Everyone finds ways to be busy, rather than productive. Busy is the new norm, and if you are not busy, then you find ways to be busy – even if it is highly unproductive.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Can you imagine how each of these trances has the capability to shift people to lower states of performance? It is not hard to see how these trances – or excessive focus on these things – can (and maybe is!) harming your business.
Trances can also be positive. Trances of possibility, of chance, or adventure, and even of fun. Imagine, then, what would happen if people in unresourceful trances were able to adopt a different trance, one where their focus was on exploration, possibility, getting stuff done, choice, or even the customer experience? As these trances are developed and then accepted as the norm in your work environment, they become ‘linked’ to your workplace. Every time your staff come to work, they are primed to shift into higher performance ways of being. How great would this be for your business?
What you can do for yourself and your organization
- Recognise when you are in an unresourceful trance. Stop, take a breath, and decide on a more resourceful or positive state to be in. Use things like the front door at home, your office door or the staff room as anchor points to remind you to ‘switch up’ to more positive, valuable states of focus and action.
- When staff are in an unhelpful, and unresourceful trance, invite them out of it. You can never force someone to give up their trance, but suggesting they see the other side of the coin ( what is working, for example, or the bigger picture) changes their focus and can break their trance.
- Prioritise high value trances. As a leader, you go first and they follow. If you choose an unresourceful trance such as blame, fear or stress for yourself, it encourages others to try it on. Often whole workplaces are locked in the shared trance of the leader- with massive impacts on performance. Lead by example, go first, choose positive trances to demonstrate to your teams.
- Recognise and encourage positive and resourceful states in the business. Don’t accept unresourceful trances as the norm in your business, team or even for yourself. It is simply not up to a high performance standard.
- Ensure people are in resourceful states when you share information or train them. If we want them to access and interpret this information in the best way, then connecting it to positive states allows them to see the good in it, adapt it and apply it. Simply loading into a negative, unresourceful state will see it evaluated in that way, and often rejected as not being helpful ( regardless of its true value).
- Anchor your workplace as a place of positive and resourceful trances. Make it deeply ingrained in your culture, so that simply being at work primes performance (rather than reducing it, which many offices seem to do).
What trance are you in? What trance would serve you even better right now? I invite you to experiment with higher quality trances and see what happens to your performance and outcomes.