How the Immunity To Change program can bring out the best in you

How the Immunity To Change program can bring out the best in you

A new year inevitably calls for a new outlook on life. And this year I’d really like to dig deep into Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey‘s Immunity To Change book and program. I read the book during a wonderful few days in my family’s village of Bubión, near Granada, Spain over the holidays and it has sparked a deep interest in me. 


Written by Professor Robert Kegan and Lecturer Lisa Lahey and first published in 2009, Immunity to Change focuses on how so many people fail to achieve their goals – no matter how motivated they may be. Moreover it gives concrete processes for the reader to work though so that they can break through their unconscious blockages. As Lisa Lahey says in her interview on Brené Brown’s Dare To Lead podcast, “you have to let yourself go to places that are uncomfortable and that also feel true. While also working on not judging yourself.”

During the same podcast, Lisa walks Brené through some of the processes with the aim of being more efficient at work. The response from Brené as she digs deep into her way of working is very illuminating about the whole program: “I’m perpetuating the behaviors which are depleting me!”

immunity change book and process

It was great to take some time to relax in the village of Bubión to figure out my goals


Using the book as a prompt, I also worked though my own unconscious blockages and found the process incredibly liberating. It boils down to a four step plan but is so much more complicated than that:

  1. Identify your goal (such as being a better leader, get in shape, etc.)
  2. What keeps you from achieving that goal? Define what actions you take that contradict your goal: it could be negative self-talk or control issues. Do you feel like you always have to lead team meetings rather than letting others contribute?
  3. What are your hidden mindsets that are stopping you reaching your goal? A good way of figuring these out is imaging what would happen if you stop leading the team meetings. Maybe you are scared of looking weak or unknowledgeable?
  4. Identify underlying assumptions. This is the lense through which we see the world and is very hard to change.The last stage is the hardest part to work through and Lisa explains that it can take around a year for us to re-learn habits and change the way we think about things. But, of course, if we don’t put the work in then we never will achieve those elusive goals and real change in our lives. 

Sitting in my beautiful mountain home I got to thinking about my own goals. Slowing down, thinking about how I really want to be and really taking care of myself is definitely something I need to work on. And these thoughts were mirrored in my own town’s adoption of a new way of taking the traditional grapes to signal the New Year in Spain. Normally people eat a grape for every toll of the bell at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Failure to do so will result in bad luck for the rest of the year, goes the superstition. Cue hamster cheeks and choking noises from most people! However this year my village of Bubión, inspired by the Cittalslow movement, decided to slow things right down and eat a grape every 10 seconds – see below for the video. 



I love the idea of taking time to really appreciate the world around me. My family. My friends. My community. It’s so easy to feel pressured to try to fit in as much as possible at work and during my free time. So I want to make sure that the work that I do really counts. Which is why I’ve decided to train as an Immunity to Change facilitator. I’m really excited about what this next stage of my life will be like and I can’t wait to help as many people as possible overcome their unconscious blockages. Because it’s normal to experience resistance to change it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace the discomfort that comes with challenging our old ways of doing things. And re-working that persistent negative self talk. We’re all so much better than we think. Please reach out to me if you want to know more about my coaching and training sessions.


Happy Holidays and an exciting new coaching project

Happy Holidays and an exciting new coaching project

I want to wish every single one of you a very happy holiday season. Thank you for your support this year, for your feedback and for just being there.

It’s been an interesting and productive year for Intercultural Understanding. We’ve continued our work with IDI Guided Developmental Coaching for the Georgetown University students in Madrid and Salamanca, offered intercultural adaptation orientation sessions for US university programs in Madrid including Georgetown and Marist College, and we’ve also begun a new collaboration with Spanish Studies Abroad in Sevilla to train staff and professors in intercultural communication and diversity and inclusion practices. In 2023 we’re also looking forward to collaborating again with the University of California Education Abroad Program in Madrid.

On the business side of things, we initiated a series of trainings for Openprovider, an ICANN-accredited domain registrar and technology company founded in 2004 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Openprovider is now working as a 100% remote company and is committed to hiring the best employees from all over the world. We’re loving working together in workshops to increase our cultural knowledge and diversity and inclusion practices, and we’re very much looking forward to designing new growth trainings in 2023.

Almendra Staffa-Healey in Geneva

Almendra Staffa-Healey at the Horizon Académique program

And on the international collaboration front, we’ve been fortunate to participate in the Horizon Académique Program in Geneva, Switzerland, and to helping displaced Ukrainians in Madrid understand the Spanish work culture.

It’s been so enlightening to meet new people and to forge new collaborations. Not only that though, during this year I’ve also learned a lot about myself.

And it’s this new self-awareness that has spurred me on to get accredited for my coaching skills. I’ve coached for intercultural competency for a number of years now, but I really want to expand my remit to include personal, executive, teams and transitional coaching.

Almendra Staffa-Healey coaching

Coaching can be truly transformative. If you’d like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to get in contact

I want to help people to find their true calling and accomplish their goals. To bring out the best in themselves. To let go of old habits and negative self-talk which is holding them back. Coaching can be truly transformative. It requires a lot of work and self-analysis on the part of the participant. But like anything that takes a bit of work, the rewards are plentiful. If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, why not reach out for a free 30-minute discovery call? I’d love to talk to you!

SOAR: Creating a Culture of Welcome – Beyond Inclusion

SOAR: Creating a Culture of Welcome – Beyond Inclusion

Watching a new initiative take flight is always exciting and on November 12th, Deepika Bhoolabai presented her new venture “SOAR, School of Awakening and Re-Creating”, at SIETAR Barcelona’s in-person open event for members and potential SIETARians. Brian David George and Almendra Staffa-Healey, who are also SIETAR España members, supported Deepika in this launch and will be collaborating in the project in the future. The event, hosted by Tea or Coffee School of English, included participants from diverse backgrounds. And to reflect such diversity, Spanish, Catalán and English were all spoken.

During the session attendees engaged in activities to foster novel and creative approaches to their sense of belonging. Deepika facilitated non-judgmental self-labelling with a guided meditation focused on reconnecting with childhood possibility. Brian led the participants in a connection and reconnection movement and music activity that helped elevate their creative brainwaves. And with the aid of VisualsSpeak, Almendra introduced a left-brain approach to participants, to help them discover which aspect of themselves had responded to the call of the event.

SOAR launch with participants

During the session attendees engaged in activities to foster novel approaches to their sense of belonging

After celebrating our uniquely diverse experiences and identities, participants described the work as:
  • “An electric current that allows me to be safe” – Michalis Leontiades
  • “Lowered my defences to make me feel like I live here now” – Niki Mahona
  • “Escuchar y conectar profundamente. Tener otra conexión incluso más profunda que con mis amigos” – Helena Lopes
  • “Espacio de empatía, conexión a través de nuestras historias. Llegar a la vulnerabilidad para llegar a respuestas honestas” Marilu Oros

SOAR: Understanding yourself. Understanding others. Creating together.

SOAR will launch officially in January 2023 to bring together a community of coaches and professionals all working towards one objective: to awaken people to their inner potential, to connect to others from a place of authenticity and together move towards re-creating new personal, professional and global systems.
Their motto is simple: Understanding yourself. Understanding others. Creating together.
How our Spanish Cultural Workshops are helping to bridge cultural divides

How our Spanish Cultural Workshops are helping to bridge cultural divides

I’ve been working with people in transition between countries for over 20 years. So it was a huge honor to use my experience to co-host a couple of Spanish Cultural Workshops with a group of displaced Ukrainians in Madrid. The sessions took place in October at the Biblioteca Angel Gonzalez and at the Instituto Internacional in Madrid. I presented the workshops in English and they were perfectly translated into Ukrainian by my co-host Iryna Shvartsblat.

Iryna herself had to flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it was her idea to set up these Spanish cultural workshops. She’d previously lived in the USA and Israel, so was aware of how important it is to develop cultural sensitivity. “Firstly I am so grateful that Almendra Staffa-Healey supported this idea. The intention was, together with the help of an experienced expert, to shed some light on the Spanish culture for the temporarily displaced Ukrainians in Madrid — in order to make the process of suddenly finding themselves in a new cultural environment at least a little more understandable. It’s a way for us to find ourselves and our curiosity,” she explained.

Spanish Cultural Workshops

It was a huge honor to use my experience to co-host a couple of Spanish Cultural Workshops with a group of displaced Ukrainians in Madrid in October. Photo ©: Suze McCullagh

I always come at these sessions with the idea of teaching people to really think about their own cultural values because, by recognizing those, they’ll be more able to understand their personal reactions to new values that may seem ‘foreign’ to them.

“Concerning Ukraine and Ukrainians, from my perspective, I would share about the value of the freedom to live, to experience, to develop and to build one’s own life, society, and country according to our own choices, feelings, priorities and culture.” Iryna Shvartsblat

The participants worked on some exercises followed by group discussions so they could get a real handle on what is important to them. Then we went through some of the main Spanish cultural norms — from their strong group orientation through to the powerful thread of tradition and stability that runs through all facets of Spanish life.

Kyiv, Ukraine

Moving countries is never easy but when the decision is forced on you, like for the majority of Ukrainians, it makes it doubly difficult. Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo ©: Gleb Albovsky on Unsplash

Lots of fascinating discussions were generated during the sessions. Such as how easy is it to get Spanish companies to take on new ideas if they tend to be bound to traditional ways of doing things? Is politics freely discussed in a Spanish office environment? Obviously making generalizations is always problematic and my favorite phrase of ‘it depends’ frequently came up! But I was able to give a good overview of how to conduct oneself within the context of a Spanish work situation. Both Spanish Cultural workshops went really well and the positive and grateful feedback from participants was fantastic to receive.

Bridging cultural divides

And, interestingly, as a consequence of these Spanish Cultural workshops, people are getting in touch with us. Tatiana Tsymbal who is based in Zurich was particularly interested in our strategies as she is working on similar workshops in Zurich, Switzerland. I gave her tips and advice so that she could set up Cultural workshops for Ukrainians in Switzerland. It’s so wonderful that our networks are expanding thanks to our common goal of helping others and bridging cultural differences. If you’re interested in setting up a similar workshop for your organization or company, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for more information


The 23 Inner Development Goals and how Intercultural Understanding supports them

The 23 Inner Development Goals and how Intercultural Understanding supports them

Sometimes the pressures of modern living can make us feel that we, as individuals, are helpless. That we are incapable of effecting change around us. Which is why the concept behind Inner Development Goals is so important. Instead of shrugging our shoulders in apathy, we can take action on a personal level, knowing that it’ll have reverberations on a global level. 

Pine leaf - inner development goals

Humility is one of the 23 Inner Development Goals that will help us achieve one of the aims of environmental sustainability set by the UN

The Inner Development Goals are basically 23 skills that we can all work on – encompassing such traits as our inner compass, humility and perseverance – with the idea that through working on ourselves, we’ll make better decisions, which in turn will help achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The SDGs were announced in 2015 and are aimed at ending poverty and inequality with strategies to improve health and education, while keeping a strong focus on environmental preservation and tackling climate change. 

“Outside perspective is complemented by an inside perspective, we need inner development work to reach sustainability goals.” Tomas Bjorkman

Sustainable Development Goals

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals were declared in 2015 but there is a sense that very slow progress is being made towards their fulfillment

The Inner Development Goals: bringing an inner perspective into play

The Inner Development Goals were founded by the 29k Foundation (who also have an amazing free app that can help you with your mental health and connect with an online, supportive community), Ekskäret Foundation, and The New Division. Subtitled ‘Transformational Skills for Sustainable Development,’ it was developed as a response to the slow progress towards the SDGs. 

As Tomas Bjorkman, one of the founders expresses: “outside perspective is complemented by an inside perspective, we need inner development work to reach sustainability goals.” If businesses and governments are held accountable as well as the individual there is much more chance of progress towards the SDGs being made.

Below is the list of the crucial five dimensions of the Inner Development Goals.

  1. Being – Relationship to Self: Cultivating our inner life and developing and deepening our relationship to our thoughts, feelings and body help us to be present, intentional and non-reactive when we face complexity.
  2. Thinking – Cognitive Skills: Developing our cognitive skills by taking different perspectives, evaluating information and making sense of the world as an interconnected whole is essential for wise decision-making.
  3. Relating – Caring for Others and the World: Appreciating, caring for and feeling connected to others, such as neighbors, future generations or the biosphere, helps us create more just and sustainable systems and societies for everyone.
  4. Collaborating – Social Skills: To make progress on shared concerns, we need to develop our abilities to include, hold space and communicate with stakeholders with different values, skills and competencies.
  5. Acting – Driving Change: Qualities such as courage and optimism help us acquire true agency, break old patterns, generate original ideas and act with persistence in uncertain times.

Here at Intercultural Understanding, the way we work is very much aligned with these core values.

Building intercultural competence and recognizing and accepting diversity is a developmental process. It requires increasing knowledge of your own cultural attitudes and values. When working with educational institutions or businesses, our workshops and talks are all about personal developmental growth. We get our clients to question their own values and think about how others may feel. Increasing our knowledge regarding how other people make meaning of the world expands our cognitive skills and provides us with an opportunity to see things from new perspectives.

Sometimes this can be a challenging task and we may feel resistance. Managing our emotions is a fundamental part of our work and is built into all our workshops and coaching activities. The idea that we need to start from the inside to really bring about meaningful change resonates strongly with us. If you have any questions about our programmes or workshops, drop us a line!