Talks & Media

Corporate Webinar | Building Resilience

This was a special lockdown Zoom broadcast I did for a client of corporate wellness providers Maureen Kark & Associates. It was conducted on 5 May 2020, at the height of the coronavirus lockdown. The theme was “Building resilience during lockdown” and I approached it through the lens of developing and practising equanimity. If this gets you wondering what equanimity is all about, or why it matters, take a look at this blog post.

Podcast Interview | Staying Motivated

This was a special lockdown podcast series by Radio 702. In this one, released on 2 April 2020, I chat to Cindy Poluta about how to stay motivated when you’re working from home. It’s relevant outside of and beyond lockdown.

getting staying motivated
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Podcast Interview | Personal Effectiveness

This is an interview by Dr Hilton Rudnick and Colleen McLintock for Radio Omnicor Episode 32 on 25 November 2019. The subject is Personal Effectiveness.

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Radio Interview | Men In Crisis

Here I’m interviewed by Nathi Ndamase on SABC’s Radio 2000 show “The Weekend Favour” on 10 November 2019 for their weekly “Roundtable Discussion”. The subject is Men In Crisis.

neil bierbaum life executive coach
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Podcast Interview | Practical Mindfulness

This is an interview by Colleen McLintock for Radio Omnicor Episode 23 on 1 February 2019. The subject is Practical Mindfulness.

neil bierbaum life executive coach
Play Audio

Radio Interview | Practical Mindfulness

This is an interview by Dr D for Radio Today on Melanie Walker’s “Walkabout” show on 13 September 2017. The subject is Practical Mindfulness.

neil bierbaum coaching for men

Motivational Talks

Talk Topics | Personal Effectiveness

In each chapter of my book, Personal Effectiveness for Executives, there is a section called The Executive Context. It’s all about how to apply the principles that you’ve learned into the executive, or leadership, context. This series of talks covers all of those topics and more.

neil bierbaum author speaker coach lunchtime talks

Theme: Getting Motivated

The Five Motivational States

TOO MUCH rest is bad for you. Why? Because below rest lies the state of ennui, which is a fancy word for boredom. When you’re in that state, like on a Sunday afternoon, or during the third week of holiday, it’s very hard to get going again. There is value in knowing how much to rest, and how to shift into the positive state of animation, so that you can get from there into that state of optimal experience that we call the state of flow.  Oh, and avoiding the state of agitation is useful too. This talk will introduce you to these and other aspects of becoming—and remaining—motivated.


Theme: Executive Coaching

What Is Executive Coaching and How Can It Help You?

LEADERSHIP IS like being given a role in the end-of-year charity play, but with no script. You just get told, “You’re playing the bad guy,” and you have to step in, with no script, and make it up as you go along. Ironically, most leaders are chosen as a result of their expertise, skill, or talent in their particular technical area. Yet, as a leader, they no longer do all that stuff. Their job now is to get other people to do those things at that same level. Yikes, I hear you say, that’s as scary as being in the charity play! Exactly! Hence, executive coaching.


Theme: People, Vision & Purpose

The First Thing A Leader Needs to Know

DO YOU want to know a secret about people, one that will help you tremendously as a leader? OK, here it comes. When people want something bad enough, they’ll make a plan to get there. They’ll find a way, no matter how hard it is, no matter what it takes. So, how does this help you as a leader? Well, it means that your job is not to explain the how or the what-must-be-done of a goal. What you need to do is present the goal in an inspiring way such that people will really buy into it. Then they’ll work out for themselves how they can get there, what they need to do, and so on.


Theme: Values-Based Leadership

Leading Through Values

PEOPLE ARE strongly motivated by their values—to the degree that they’re prepared to give their lives, whether literally or figuratively, for their most important values. So, if you really want to get to know your people, have a coffee with them and explore their priority of values by finding out what interests them, both inside and outside of work. You can start to treat them as they are by speaking into their unique, individual priority of values. In addition, you can harness this when you need to align them with the corporate values.


Theme: Integrity

Creating a Culture of Integrity

INTEGRITY IS a word that gets thrown around a lot. Everybody claims to have it. It’s often the first one that gets pitched for the company values statement. However, we can define two different levels of integrity, each with its own price to pay, and its own benefits. Usually when people talk about integrity, they’re talking about what we’ll call first order integrity. In other words, being honest, keeping agreements, not breaking the rules. There’s another level of integrity, however, one that we’ll call second order integrity. That one’s a lot more challenging—and powerful.


Theme: Agreement & Accountability

Creating Agreement & Accountability

ONE OF the great challenges of being a leader is to create an environment of understanding, agreement and accountability. Mostly, we live in a world of uncommunicated expectations. Then, when you or the other person doesn’t get what you want, you feel the need to force, cajole, or manipulate the other person or people. There is a way of asking for what you want, and taking the answer that you get, and when you can have this as a culture, you simplify a lot of things, including getting rid of those pesky office politics that can be so exhausting and destructive.


Theme: Paradox & Polarity

Shifting from Either-Or to Both-And Thinking

IF YOU have a look around you and the world today, you see that there is a tremendous amount of polarisation, politically and socially. If you look at the subject closely, you’ll see it seems to be something that is ingrained in our thinking as human beings—the need to be right and make others wrong. If you think about it, nobody is out there gathering evidence to prove themselves wrong, are they? A third way opens up when you accept paradox. You recognise the possibility that both sides are right—at the same time. That creates a whole new context, which is a not a win-lose, but a win-win context.


Theme: Raising People’s Levels of Work

The Five Kinds of Courage It Takes to Lead

TO DEVELOP a coaching style of leadership takes time. It takes time to develop the competence and it takes time for people to get used to responding in the right way. Then the process itself takes time—there’s the whole business of clarifying your understanding and asking questions and waiting for people to respond. Hopefully, you can see the potential upside—how it can set you free to focus on “flying the plane instead of serving the drinks” and how it can improve team and organisational performance by elevating everybody’s level of work. It takes courage, however.


Theme: Working with Emotion

Leading with Compassion

LEADERSHIP IS about being firm while being flexible, asking the best out of someone while getting what they going through. It’s about having both of those elements present at the same time. You’re listening to them; you’re hearing their story, and you’re not necessarily buying into it. Yet, you’re not trying to break them by forcing them to do what you think they should do, or do it within a certain time. Everybody has their own tolerance and so it’s about being sensitive to that level of tolerance.


Theme: Systems & Stasis

Don’t Panic, It’s Not the End of the World – Unless It Is!

IF YOU’RE familiar with systems theory, you will know that systems are designed to sustain themselves and to survive. Each system, even from the tiniest cell, interacts with its environment and it learns from that interaction. And the one thing it learns is that anything it does often enough must be necessary for its own survival. This is why it becomes very difficult for any organism to change its own behaviour once it has established that as a pattern. So difficult, in fact, that some organisms will continue that behaviour, even when it doesn’t ultimately serve them. People’s personalities are systems. Teams are systems. No wonder, then, that we struggle so much with change.


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Theme: The Flow State & The Comfort Zone

Work as An Opportunity for Growth

IF YOU take a look around you, you’ll see that life never stands still, it’s always moving. Indeed, this is one of the core sessions you can gain from doing a mindfulness meditation. You’ll notice that everything passes—thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, they all come and go. Now, while the clever, educated Western mind will see this as a quaint, but trivial, afterthought, the Eastern traditions see it as one of the most important things you can recognise about life. Why? Well, let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t.


Theme: Dealing with Complexity

Making Decisions in A Rudderless World

EQUANIMITY IS the ability to be with things as they are, and to move with life as it unfolds. This is very difficult for human beings to do because we’re all so occupied by judgements of whether every tiny thing that happens is good or bad (for us). This leads us to try to control events much more than we actually need to – or more than we even are able to. Often, the bad thing―that thing we didn’t want to have happen―happens, and it turns out OK, or even better, in the end.


Theme: Equanimity

Could You Care Less? How Developing Equanimity Can Dramatically Decrease Your Experience of Life as Being Stressful

EQUANIMITY IS the ability to be with things as they are, and to move with life as it unfolds. This is very difficult for human beings to do because we’re all so occupied by judgements of whether every tiny thing that happens is good or bad (for us). This leads us to try to control events much more than we actually need to – or more than we even are able to. Often, the bad thing―that thing we didn’t want to have happen―happens, and it turns out OK, or even better, in the end. When you develop equanimity, through mindfulness, you learn to pay attention to what’s real and what matters. You start to move with life instead of trying to force it or resist it. You become more present, make better decisions, get into flow more easily, and have a better experience of life.


Theme: The Red Zone

Don’t Panic, It’s Not the End of the World (Unless It Is!)

AS CHILDREN, we can experience our father’s anger for breaking the rules, say, or our mother’s rejection for not living up to her expectations, for example, as life-threatening. It feels like the end of the world.

Let’s say later in life, you think that same thing is going to happen again, your fight-or-flight response kicks in; your executive function shuts down, and you literally become a ball of reactive emotion. You’re in the red zone. So, when we say to people, “It’s not the end of the world,” or, “At least nobody died,” the language is quite apt. It addresses what’s literally going on in the body, and the mind.

For some people, being in the red zone means an angry outburst. For many, it’s less obvious. Some people withdraw and go into the dark, depressive places in their minds.

Mindfulness helps you to get present and therefore get in touch with what’s real, rather than what’s imagined. It provides the foundation for a technique for you to recognise your red zone triggers; to recognise when you’re in the red zone; and how to get out of it. Then, once you learn to do it for yourself, you can recognise it in others and talk them down from a red zone reaction too.


Theme: Complexity

Making Decisions in A World Of Complexity

LET’S FACE it, life is not as simple as it used to be, and the old rules don’t apply anymore. A generation or two back, your place in society was quite well-defined in terms of race, religion, social class and gender. Likewise, your moral behaviour choices, the way you would raise your children, even your choices at the food market and how to spend your leisure time, were fairly limited.

In the post-consumer, post-truth, social media age, we’re overwhelmed by choice. From career to gender identity, there are options available that were not even named a generation ago. That’s not to mention the range of spiritual, religious, leisure and entertainment choices; the range of news sources; the range of product options. That means, quite simply, that there are many more decisions to be made―more quickly―and you better make them because unmade decisions can be a major contributor to stress―and depression. The good news is that mindfulness can play a part in transforming that. For example, being less attached to outcomes can reduce the intensity of the experience, and make energy available to make more decisions, more easily. Maintaining the balance of your mind means being able to assess situations more objectively and make purposeful rather than knee-jerk, reactive decisions.


Theme: The Flow State

Work is Good For You! Flow: The Real Reason Why You Like Fridays and Hate Mondays!

THINK OF those times when you’re doing something you love, like your favourite hobby―playing a musical instrument, gaming, gardening, exercising―and you hit those peak performance levels. In those moments, you lose track of time. You feel exhilarated and you wish every moment could be like that. We call that the “flow” state, or the state of “optimal experience”.

The flow state has been studied scientifically over decades. Those studies have shown that people get into the flow state more often at work than they do when they’re lounging around at home. And yet, we’re all trying to get to Friday, and we hate Monday! So what’s that about?

The fact is that getting into the flow state has less to do with what you do than how you do it. What you do matters, but how you do it is just as important. It requires active focus and attention at the outer limit of your skill levels, among other things – funnily, enough, all the things you do at work!

So, what if the feeling you have on a Friday is not because the weekend is ahead, but because you’ve been actively focused and engaged all week?!


Theme: Authenticity

How to Lead Authentically

IMAGINE THAT you’re late for a meeting. When you arrive, you make the excuse that the traffic was really bad. You hope everybody will accept your story. However, let’s say someone points out that they travelled the same route and were able to make it on time.

At this point, if you’re like most people, you’ll add to your story in order to save face. Alternatively, you can take the less common route and own up that you stopped to pick up a coffee.

If you choose the first option, you add a second layer to the little white lie. When you do that, especially when everyone can see that you’re doing it, you decrease presence and affinity. That’s when all that office politics and gossip moves in. After all, something has to fill the vacuum.

If you choose the second option, you don’t add that second layer. Instead, you allow the truth to come out. When you do that, you create presence and increase affinity. Think about the impact it has when people come clean and tell the truth. For days afterwards the energy remains high and everyone feels motivated and aligned.

Are you and your team ready to remove that second layer and enjoy those benefits?

Motivational Talks

Talk Topics | Personal Effectiveness

In each chapter of my book, Personal Effectiveness for Executives, there is a section called The Executive Context. It’s all about how to apply the principles that you’ve learned into the executive, or leadership, context. This series of talks covers all of those topics and more.

neil bierbaum author speaker coach lunchtime talks

Theme: Getting Motivated

The Five Motivational States

TOO MUCH rest is bad for you. Why? Because below rest lies the state of ennui, which is a fancy word for boredom. When you’re in that state, like on a Sunday afternoon, or during the third week of holiday, it’s very hard to get going again. There is value in knowing how much to rest, and how to shift into the positive state of animation, so that you can get from there into that state of optimal experience that we call the state of flow.  Oh, and avoiding the state of agitation is useful too. This talk will introduce you to these and other aspects of becoming—and remaining—motivated.


Theme: Executive Coaching

What Is Executive Coaching and How Can It Help You?

LEADERSHIP IS like being given a role in the end-of-year charity play, but with no script. You just get told, “You’re playing the bad guy,” and you have to step in, with no script, and make it up as you go along. Ironically, most leaders are chosen as a result of their expertise, skill, or talent in their particular technical area. Yet, as a leader, they no longer do all that stuff. Their job now is to get other people to do those things at that same level. Yikes, I hear you say, that’s as scary as being in the charity play! Exactly! Hence, executive coaching.


Theme: People, Vision & Purpose

The First Thing A Leader Needs to Know

DO YOU want to know a secret about people, one that will help you tremendously as a leader? OK, here it comes. When people want something bad enough, they’ll make a plan to get there. They’ll find a way, no matter how hard it is, no matter what it takes. So, how does this help you as a leader? Well, it means that your job is not to explain the how or the what-must-be-done of a goal. What you need to do is present the goal in an inspiring way such that people will really buy into it. Then they’ll work out for themselves how they can get there, what they need to do, and so on.


Theme: Values-Based Leadership

Leading Through Values

PEOPLE ARE strongly motivated by their values—to the degree that they’re prepared to give their lives, whether literally or figuratively, for their most important values. So, if you really want to get to know your people, have a coffee with them and explore their priority of values by finding out what interests them, both inside and outside of work. You can start to treat them as they are by speaking into their unique, individual priority of values. In addition, you can harness this when you need to align them with the corporate values.


Theme: Integrity

Creating a Culture of Integrity

INTEGRITY IS a word that gets thrown around a lot. Everybody claims to have it. It’s often the first one that gets pitched for the company values statement. However, we can define two different levels of integrity, each with its own price to pay, and its own benefits. Usually when people talk about integrity, they’re talking about what we’ll call first order integrity. In other words, being honest, keeping agreements, not breaking the rules. There’s another level of integrity, however, one that we’ll call second order integrity. That one’s a lot more challenging—and powerful.


Theme: Agreement & Accountability

Creating Agreement & Accountability

ONE OF the great challenges of being a leader is to create an environment of understanding, agreement and accountability. Mostly, we live in a world of uncommunicated expectations. Then, when you or the other person doesn’t get what you want, you feel the need to force, cajole, or manipulate the other person or people. There is a way of asking for what you want, and taking the answer that you get, and when you can have this as a culture, you simplify a lot of things, including getting rid of those pesky office politics that can be so exhausting and destructive.


Theme: Paradox & Polarity

Shifting from Either-Or to Both-And Thinking

IF YOU have a look around you and the world today, you see that there is a tremendous amount of polarisation, politically and socially. If you look at the subject closely, you’ll see it seems to be something that is ingrained in our thinking as human beings—the need to be right and make others wrong. If you think about it, nobody is out there gathering evidence to prove themselves wrong, are they? A third way opens up when you accept paradox. You recognise the possibility that both sides are right—at the same time. That creates a whole new context, which is a not a win-lose, but a win-win context.


Theme: Raising People’s Levels of Work

The Five Kinds of Courage It Takes to Lead

TO DEVELOP a coaching style of leadership takes time. It takes time to develop the competence and it takes time for people to get used to responding in the right way. Then the process itself takes time—there’s the whole business of clarifying your understanding and asking questions and waiting for people to respond. Hopefully, you can see the potential upside—how it can set you free to focus on “flying the plane instead of serving the drinks” and how it can improve team and organisational performance by elevating everybody’s level of work. It takes courage, however.


Theme: Working with Emotion

Leading with Compassion

LEADERSHIP IS about being firm while being flexible, asking the best out of someone while getting what they going through. It’s about having both of those elements present at the same time. You’re listening to them; you’re hearing their story, and you’re not necessarily buying into it. Yet, you’re not trying to break them by forcing them to do what you think they should do, or do it within a certain time. Everybody has their own tolerance and so it’s about being sensitive to that level of tolerance.


Theme: Systems & Stasis

Don’t Panic, It’s Not the End of the World – Unless It Is!

IF YOU’RE familiar with systems theory, you will know that systems are designed to sustain themselves and to survive. Each system, even from the tiniest cell, interacts with its environment and it learns from that interaction. And the one thing it learns is that anything it does often enough must be necessary for its own survival. This is why it becomes very difficult for any organism to change its own behaviour once it has established that as a pattern. So difficult, in fact, that some organisms will continue that behaviour, even when it doesn’t ultimately serve them. People’s personalities are systems. Teams are systems. No wonder, then, that we struggle so much with change.


A

A

A

Theme: The Flow State & The Comfort Zone

Work as An Opportunity for Growth

IF YOU take a look around you, you’ll see that life never stands still, it’s always moving. Indeed, this is one of the core sessions you can gain from doing a mindfulness meditation. You’ll notice that everything passes—thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, they all come and go. Now, while the clever, educated Western mind will see this as a quaint, but trivial, afterthought, the Eastern traditions see it as one of the most important things you can recognise about life. Why? Well, let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t.


Theme: Dealing with Complexity

Making Decisions in A Rudderless World

EQUANIMITY IS the ability to be with things as they are, and to move with life as it unfolds. This is very difficult for human beings to do because we’re all so occupied by judgements of whether every tiny thing that happens is good or bad (for us). This leads us to try to control events much more than we actually need to – or more than we even are able to. Often, the bad thing―that thing we didn’t want to have happen―happens, and it turns out OK, or even better, in the end.


Theme: Equanimity

Could You Care Less? How Developing Equanimity Can Dramatically Decrease Your Experience of Life as Being Stressful

EQUANIMITY IS the ability to be with things as they are, and to move with life as it unfolds. This is very difficult for human beings to do because we’re all so occupied by judgements of whether every tiny thing that happens is good or bad (for us). This leads us to try to control events much more than we actually need to – or more than we even are able to. Often, the bad thing―that thing we didn’t want to have happen―happens, and it turns out OK, or even better, in the end. When you develop equanimity, through mindfulness, you learn to pay attention to what’s real and what matters. You start to move with life instead of trying to force it or resist it. You become more present, make better decisions, get into flow more easily, and have a better experience of life.


Theme: The Red Zone

Don’t Panic, It’s Not the End of the World (Unless It Is!)

AS CHILDREN, we can experience our father’s anger for breaking the rules, say, or our mother’s rejection for not living up to her expectations, for example, as life-threatening. It feels like the end of the world.

Let’s say later in life, you think that same thing is going to happen again, your fight-or-flight response kicks in; your executive function shuts down, and you literally become a ball of reactive emotion. You’re in the red zone. So, when we say to people, “It’s not the end of the world,” or, “At least nobody died,” the language is quite apt. It addresses what’s literally going on in the body, and the mind.

For some people, being in the red zone means an angry outburst. For many, it’s less obvious. Some people withdraw and go into the dark, depressive places in their minds.

Mindfulness helps you to get present and therefore get in touch with what’s real, rather than what’s imagined. It provides the foundation for a technique for you to recognise your red zone triggers; to recognise when you’re in the red zone; and how to get out of it. Then, once you learn to do it for yourself, you can recognise it in others and talk them down from a red zone reaction too.


Theme: Complexity

Making Decisions in A World Of Complexity

LET’S FACE it, life is not as simple as it used to be, and the old rules don’t apply anymore. A generation or two back, your place in society was quite well-defined in terms of race, religion, social class and gender. Likewise, your moral behaviour choices, the way you would raise your children, even your choices at the food market and how to spend your leisure time, were fairly limited.

In the post-consumer, post-truth, social media age, we’re overwhelmed by choice. From career to gender identity, there are options available that were not even named a generation ago. That’s not to mention the range of spiritual, religious, leisure and entertainment choices; the range of news sources; the range of product options. That means, quite simply, that there are many more decisions to be made―more quickly―and you better make them because unmade decisions can be a major contributor to stress―and depression. The good news is that mindfulness can play a part in transforming that. For example, being less attached to outcomes can reduce the intensity of the experience, and make energy available to make more decisions, more easily. Maintaining the balance of your mind means being able to assess situations more objectively and make purposeful rather than knee-jerk, reactive decisions.


Theme: The Flow State

Work is Good For You! Flow: The Real Reason Why You Like Fridays and Hate Mondays!

THINK OF those times when you’re doing something you love, like your favourite hobby―playing a musical instrument, gaming, gardening, exercising―and you hit those peak performance levels. In those moments, you lose track of time. You feel exhilarated and you wish every moment could be like that. We call that the “flow” state, or the state of “optimal experience”.

The flow state has been studied scientifically over decades. Those studies have shown that people get into the flow state more often at work than they do when they’re lounging around at home. And yet, we’re all trying to get to Friday, and we hate Monday! So what’s that about?

The fact is that getting into the flow state has less to do with what you do than how you do it. What you do matters, but how you do it is just as important. It requires active focus and attention at the outer limit of your skill levels, among other things – funnily, enough, all the things you do at work!

So, what if the feeling you have on a Friday is not because the weekend is ahead, but because you’ve been actively focused and engaged all week?!


Theme: Authenticity

How to Lead Authentically

IMAGINE THAT you’re late for a meeting. When you arrive, you make the excuse that the traffic was really bad. You hope everybody will accept your story. However, let’s say someone points out that they travelled the same route and were able to make it on time.

At this point, if you’re like most people, you’ll add to your story in order to save face. Alternatively, you can take the less common route and own up that you stopped to pick up a coffee.

If you choose the first option, you add a second layer to the little white lie. When you do that, especially when everyone can see that you’re doing it, you decrease presence and affinity. That’s when all that office politics and gossip moves in. After all, something has to fill the vacuum.

If you choose the second option, you don’t add that second layer. Instead, you allow the truth to come out. When you do that, you create presence and increase affinity. Think about the impact it has when people come clean and tell the truth. For days afterwards the energy remains high and everyone feels motivated and aligned.

Are you and your team ready to remove that second layer and enjoy those benefits?