Hypnosis works by placing people into trance. While 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.

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. When you are in a bad mood, think of what you remember, what you believe and what you are capable of.

Negative and positive workplace trances have a massive impact on performance. What we focus on―or fail to notice―is critical in determining the quality of our outputs.

What you can miss in a trance

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 the information that you base your decisions on. Consider when you look around the room for everything blue. By selecting and remembering the blue things, everything else gets easily 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, or things you do well, or maybe human things like behaviours, communication and interaction.

4 workplace trances

By the above definition, in the office we enter into a range of different trances (or states of increased and narrowed focus), many of which can decrease performance.

These include, but are not limited to the following trances:

  1. The stress of a circumstance
  2. Concentration on fear and risk
  3. Focus on the blame game
  4. The always-busy trance.

Think about how these trances―or excessive focus on these things―can (and maybe is) harm your business.

Positive focus

On the other hand, what would happen if employees were to adopt a different trance, one where the 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 employees come to work, they are primed to shift into higher-performance ways of being. How great would this be for your business?

Make workplace trances work for you

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 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.

Lead by example

Prioritise high-value trances. As a leader, you go first and they follow. If you exist in a low-performance trance, 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, and choose positive trances to demonstrate to your teams.

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).

We are always in a form of trance―so if you want high performance, simply work to select a high-quality trance for you and your team.