The Colour of Leadership– Catherine Shovlin

Hi! Welcome to this week’s program. My guest is Catherine Shovlin. She’s a senior strategist who specializes in the use of innovative techniques to uncover the hidden reasons, when and why people are attracted to certain environments in situations and when or not. One of the creative techniques that Catherine uses is Colour Psychology.

In this interview, we’re going to talk about her book “Your True Colors” available on amazon, in which she explains out every color affects us differently, physiologically, that means in our body we have a different reaction. The same can be set of art in general and how it can be used to create connectivity. As leaders, these areas of research have significant impact from how we create environments to connect people to the clothes we wear, to the specific colors we use in our products, in our marketing, in our web design and in our branding. We are going to zero in on one of Catherine’s specific projects in Southeast London community. This edition it is called “Bold Vision- A community Charity for New Cross and Telegraph Hill.” You know, it’s hard to imagine how outdated bylaws have prevented the establishment of gathering places such as cafes and pubs.

The community buzz that was created by Bold Vision has not only increased the vibrancy of New Cross and Telegraph Hill, but has also increased property values. We’re also going to look at the next phase of this project, which found Catherine in a Syrian refugee camp in the Middle East. All of Catherine Shovlin’s work can be summed up with her brand called “Changing the Logic” which can be found at

I must apologize because in the interview I referred to her brand as “Change Logic” and it is “Changing the Logic.” My hope is that our conversation will help you recognize where you have and where you could use intrinsic human programming like color and art to create spaces and opportunities for innovation and transformation. Or, as Catherine says, “Letting the ideas get you, rather than you getting the ideas,” an example indeed of changing the logic.

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Lesley:  Well welcome, Catherine to this show. And, I’ve found Catherine by a twitter feed that I found kind of interesting and clicked on her, and discovered that her URL, her brand was called “Change Logic.” And since this program is all about changing our logic of how we see leadership and how we see women in leadership, I decided to hunt her down. And so, she’s on the show with me today coming from London, England. And I would like to first Catherine, what does the brand “Change Logic” mean?


Catherine: Yeah. Hi, Lesley! Um, it’s interesting isn’t it? Because since I left the corporate world 15 years ago, I’ve got involved in more and more different things. And sometimes when I was trying to explain to people what I did, it seems like just a list of activities. So I really was looking for what’s the common trend, and my background right at the beginning was a master degree. So I’ve always been a logical thinker and like to understand the logic of what’s going on, and I have also been obsessed with changing things for years. As soon I’m in any situation, I start thinking, “How could this be made better work if we changed here?” So it came to me that that’s really the common trend of everything…


Lesley:  Oh it is. And so, you have had this thirst, this hunger to change things around you from the gecko.


Catherine: Even as a child for standing there, thinking, “What’s wrong with these people? Don’t you see that this is the best way to do it?”


Lesley:  Well, and you’ve been incredibly active in a number of fields which we’re going to start to talk about, where your influence is going far and wide. I do want to start though with the books that you created and put on the market last year called “Your True Colors.”

You know, for a number of people in the previous generation of leadership training, they took Colour Psychology by Hartman. And, it basically they were called “You’re a blue if you’re social,” “You’re yellow if you’re more of a happy-go-lucky kind of person” like they actually placed color into a psychological disposition of leaders, so that they could see when they would clash with other colors of people. And when they were in sync with others who were of the same color are about similar kind of nature. I always found that labeling somewhat difficult because it just puts such a complex thing called “humans” into this kind of labeling. Your book is so different; it really talks about how color impacts us. And, can you tell us about what the impact of color is and how important that is when you start thinking about change?


Catherine: Hmm, that’s an interesting way of framing it, yeah. Well for start colors it’s just energy. Yes, it’s part of the electromagnetic spectrum. So the same way is if you hear a nice sound or a horrible sound, it affects how you’re seeing. Different colors affect us physiologically in different ways, like say red for instance increases our heart rate. And that happens whether we can see it or not. ….are very used to color these static turns, or fashion turns… less are in the way that it gets into our bodies. So even if you’re blindfolded and I changed the wall behind you from blue to red, by projecting a color unto it, that will change your physiology.


Lesley:  Oh my goodness. So this is where you talk about in the book how it’s really a physical element to us as a body intelligence that we’re using as supposed to the intellectual aspect of ourselves.


Catherine: Yes. And if anything the trained intellectual aspect, the color can be a bit of a misguide, so people maybe wear black a lot because they feel like it’s stylish and cool. But it’s actually draining their energy because it doesn’t chime well with their physiology, and they’re undermining themselves every time they do that.


Lesley:  So, how do we notice color and how it affects us? Is it the same for each of us, or are we all different in how these colors impact us?


Catherine: Well, we’re all different but we’re in different and more subtle ways than the blue person and the red person that you’re talking about just now. There’ll be a red that works from you and a red that works for me out of the hundreds of thousands of reds that we can distinguish with a human eye. And if you’re in the right kind of red then that will reinforce your strengths. And if you’re in the wrong kind it will bring up your weaknesses more.


Lesley:  So, I can actually feel it when I’m either interacting with the color on a wall or I’m putting some piece of clothing on. If I use my intuition, if I use my body senses, I will be able to identify my own energy blueprint with that color.


Catherine: Yeah that’s interesting, yes, probably without learning anything consciously if you could tune into it. And when I was learning I brought home my homework from the training course and had all these pieces of color scattered on the table, and we had to organize them into these different compatible groups. And our struggling with the couple, my 4-year-old walk passed and she asked what I was doing. And I explained, and she said, “Okay I’ll do it.” She closed her eyes and ran her finger across the colors, and said, “Those two can’t be together” and she knew nothing. She was just coming… well, she knew everything. She was a wise 4-year-old. She was just tapping into that.


Lesley:  So that’s how innate this intelligence or this sensory capability actually is.


Catherine: Yeah. And that’s why when they’ve done tests of like tuning up the colors on a brand or some packaging. People don’t say things like, “I like the color.” They say, “That one’s more trustworthy.”


Lesley:  What is a trustworthy color?


Catherine: Well, it depends what the product is supposed to be doing. So it’s the right kind of colors for the job or the product, and then you need to be in good harmony so that they’re not fighting with each other. You know, like a person, if a person is consistent in their values, in their beliefs and they walk the talk, we trust them. That’s not what’s going on and you feel a bit uneasy even if you haven’t identified it.


Lesley:  What the source of that uneasiness is. I love the quote that you have in your book which is from Carl Young “Colors are the mother tongue of the subconscious.” Yeah, can you take us into that a little bit?


Catherine: Um, so, one of the interesting projects I get involve with this and reading the colors in a children’s hospital, and it was a ward specializing children on the autistic spectrum. Some of them have lot of struggle relating to the world as it’s organized. And it was very interesting understanding more about their world and where they were coming from, and finding the colors that would be supportive for them. So that instead of getting profit by primary colors that people think of automatically when they think of children, they would be calmed and ceased.


Lesley:  Oh my goodness. And that makes so much sense in terms of how that… I was in the hospital recently and the horrible dream like they seem to use institutionally. It doesn’t make me feel anything, but, “Oh God, I’m in a hospital and I hate it here.” I’m interested here because you are a change agent. We’ve talked about color and how it impacts. And I really recommend people picking up your book because leaders have this innate ability to work with color in ways both in terms of their environment, in terms of their brand, in terms of their own personal use that I’m sure that they are not really conscious of, and so I think it’s a marvelous tool for that. But I want to get into your change work in terms of the Bold Vision projects that you’re involved in. And just before we go into that, it is highlighted on your web with orange. So, is there a correlation between Bold Vision and orange?


Catherine: Yeah that’s a good question, yeah. Orange is as I say “appetite,” so appetite for food but also sexual appetite and appetite for life in general. So, it’s appropriate for us to have something that was about the urge for doing more. Organization is about encouraging people to connect more with each other, to be more empowered in their community, to have ideas and start implementing them.


Lesley:  You know what it so struck me, Catherine is that the company that I had to close down when I moved to Portugal was called “Burst” and we immediately went to orange. And I’d never had an orange logo before, and it’s exactly the reasons that you’ve just identified which we instinctively went to because we liked it but frankly have no idea of the meaning behind it.


Catherine: Not under conscious idea.


Lesley:  Oh my God, it’s so fascinating. And just before we do get into Bold Vision, I want to comment that you also comment in your book that “Women tend to have a greater sensory capability for color due to their history of dealing with food, in gathering food, in preparing food, that they have to watch the colors of their foods so that they know whether they’re on, they’re off, they’re fresh, they’re not.” This is somewhat the history of why women may have more color sensory capability?


Catherine: Yeah, there is a measurable difference in how many colors women can discern compared to men, which lots of couples need to know…


Lesley:  Oh, do they ever? Oh that is so true but there is a difference.


Catherine: And also babies. You know, when babies start doing a slightly art color, the sooner you spot that they more likely can take action.


Lesley:  You know, my granddaughter is seven months and her mom can read her color like in a second. Even though I’m a mother of children, you know, this is not my baby, and say, “Are you sure?” Sure she’s correct. But, you know, the instinctive nature, the bond that she has with Nora obviously has this much more in tune capability.


Catherine: Right, Interesting.


Lesley:  That’s fascinating. So Bold Vision, this is an absolutely amazing platform. Can you just give our audience a little bit of taste to what Bold Vision is all about?


Catherine: Hmm. We started because I didn’t mean to serve and it turned out the people missed having a place to go, so we have these weekly picnics on the hill but then it’s England. So, you know, you always can’t have a picnic every ten times a year that’s alright. So we wanted an indoor space and a lot of this area was all built at the end of the 19th century by one of the guilds, and they had rules against hostelries, against pubs, against their fallacy, so there were no cafes or pubs within the residential area.

We’re excited to do that first and we found an abandoned space, a semi-underground space and got everybody involved. You know, hundreds of people handling along buckets of sand and soil that they dug out from underneath and tip in the skip, kids involved. Some people giving money, some people doing fundraising events. And between us, between hundreds of people in the community we created are crossed base. And five years ago now and that’s still thriving café and community space, a space where things happen. A bit like when I was at University if you went to the culinary or the student’s union, you wouldn’t need to make plans. You just go there and you knew you’d jump into some people and some conversations, but that was what we wanted to recreate that kind of easy, relaxed, socializing… Well, maybe someone would say, “You know, I’ve always felt we should do such and such about that” and then something starts to be generated.


Lesley:  So, in the modern-day language it would be called an innovation hub, a laboratory. These are all same things in the sense that it’s a gathering place for people who are attracted to the space and the people, who it attracts and they naturally show up, and you’ve got five years of sustainability.


Catherine: Yeah. And then, since then we’ve also taken on a little maybe half a mile away the local library that used to be run by the government and they closed it. And there’s a group of people in the community who wanted to operate that but needed to be part of an official organization so they can enter Bold Vision too, so it’s part of the family. And that’s a huge success that’s way more useful, and used and valued by the community than when it was a government organization because it can be very agile. You know, they can just very quickly to what they see the people need and organize it within a couple of weeks, instead of having to go through some complicated process in government. And now we have growing projects, as well community guardians. I bet on to guarding themselves so they find it more entertaining to guarding together.


Lesley:  A just one entertaining to guarding together, I find leading can be very meditative and after a while it becomes kind of “Oh my God, what am I doing?” You can be chatting with somebody else while you’re doing it. It takes you to a whole different level. And when we are doing things, especially working with earth, which is been proven time and time again is that we distress and open up. I mean, it’s fascinating in inner city New York, they have a program where Monday morning they always have kids come in and work with earth, dirt, mud, whatever, to take away the stress that they’ve experienced over the weekend in their homes.


Catherine: It’s interesting, isn’t it? That’s something we traditionally think of as dirt is actually detoxifier.


Lesley:  Ah, it’s a detoxifier which is amazing. So, the interesting thing is that in all of these environments because you have wonderful pictures online, art plays a big role. And you’re also part of an organization called “Artmongers.”


Catherine: That’s right, yeah.


Lesley:  Now, I love the term that you use which is “We believe that art is there to precipitate a change in perception in the world.” Wow! Can you tell me how you’re using art in your various locations to do that?


Catherine: Yeah. So that’s kind of the exact opposite of art being a state, or symbol or something hung on the wall in a private home. We think it needs to be out there where people are living. And, changing the feed of the space and therefore changing the way people behave in the space. So where that face was built, originally that was a bit of the area which people scaffold enough a bit of a dark street. And the starting point was putting up a carnage where everybody in the community brought their favorite fabric and have it photographed…


Lesley:  Oh I did see that. And that’s where it came from because it’s gorgeous.


Catherine: That kind of brought energy into the space without anything else changing. The function of the space didn’t change but just because it felt different then people started thinking of it differently. You know, it’s like the foundation for being able to create a community space there.


Lesley:  Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. And now let’s get into some of the tougher work of change that you are in. And, you know, again, a leap into a fundamental area that’s facing our world; you just came back from a Syrian refugee camp.


Catherine: Yeah, couple of days ago.


Lesley:  And tell us a bit about what you’re… Was this part of the Bold Vision projects?


Catherine: You know, I think this is a project that brings together a lot of these strengths for me because it’s partly a research project, so that’s lined in with my behavior research work. It involves color so it includes that. It’s through Bold Vision charity because it’s about community empowerment, and it’s working with Artmongers for the artistic content.

So it’s really for me beautiful combining of all of those strengths. And it kept about because in discussion with the artists, they’re saying, “Well, we like doing art in adversity and making change in difficult situations.” What would be the most difficult thing you can think of, and he said straight away a refugee camp.” We were having a talk about that in the summer; he’s saying that the captain was like throwing the dog a bone.


Lesley:  Okay, done and delivered.


Catherine: Yeah. So that was in April, we talked about it, and in July we were there during the first project. And then I was here that just now doing the impact evaluation because we need to demonstrate how it’s improved well-being in the camp, because that makes it possible to start replicating the model, and getting more funding and doing more of this.


Lesley:  So tell us a bit about what is it that you initiated, what did you do in the camp that you had back to measure its impact?


Catherine: In the first instance we did two art projects, and now we’re doing some follow-up projects. So the two art projects: one was called “Peace Rocks” depending on how you say it, because we never go anyway with a solution in mind. We go there waiting for the solution to come out of the space and the people who were there. And when you stand in a refugee camp in the desert, it’s just like flat and beige as far as the eye can see. It’s a very bleak environment. Another thing that there is plenty of those rocks, who we decided we should use what was there and work with the rocks. And initially there was some pushback from the security who have to… As a camp with tens of thousands of people, so it has to be run safely for everybody. And they said, “No, no, this is the Middle-East. You know, rocks are a traditional weapon for us. You can’t work with that.” And I said, “Well that’s the idea, we’re turning them around.” So we’re turning them from a sign of aggression to a sign of peace… And it was such an accessible thing so we had buckets of beautifully colored paint, but we see the artist that admits them created from what we could get locally. And with just the children dipping the rocks in and their look of wonder on their faces as they go in, and then a second later they come out transformed. It’s a very perfect tactile process.

Everybody was drawn into this idea transforming the rocks. And the next month we’re doing similar rocks all over the area here where I live in London, so that people can firstly show solidarity in a sense of connection with the refugees in the camp. Kind of acknowledging that they’re human beings is not just a x-million people and the new story version of refugees, it’s this are people as well with hopes and dreams.


Lesley:  This is amazing. It combines so many different aspects or strategies of leadership. The whole kinesthetic intelligence of physical activity, the whole notion of color, the notion of transformation, the notion of people working together, the notion of tying it to other communities. Where do you get all of these ideas, Catherine?


Catherine: I think for me, in the last 12 months, is more about letting these ideas get me. You know, I did my growing up in the corporate environment in the oil business that was very functional, traditional male values. It’s all about getting it done, and forcing it through and making people do what they can do and that’s what I thought leadership was about. And now, more and more I think it’s about the way you are, like what you’ve got left when all your authority has been stripped away and still be a leader. And still somehow see what needs doing and encourage other people to see it or contribute to it, and adjust what you think needs doing and achieve something together.


Lesley:  And as what we’re finding with particularly because this show has its research is about women, if it is stripping the ego side of power away and going into a much more powerful, not force but powerful form of leading, and you mentioned about the values. And I really love the values of Bold Vision “Openness: for all, not elitist. Mutuality: benefits both communities, not patronizing, not a handout. Potentiating: raising skills and awareness for all involved. And Courage: may mean thinking in new ways, going beyond our own comfort zones.” How did you come up with those values as a group?


Catherine: We just brainstorm them and they resonate it in what we really want. And we needed them because there were times when we thought, “This isn’t going to work.” All the things that are sort of are not working, or that’s too many people getting in the way of that or this is too controversial and we needed to be out to say, “Hang on, we’ve got to have the courage to do it.” Last year I did the feminine power course… She often talks about how especially if you’re a woman; you’re probably looking at things differently and you probably trying to do things that haven’t been done before, no connection together, different pieces in a new way and there isn’t a manual. And so, you will fit like you don’t know what you’re doing because you don’t. You’re finding out as it go and to just realize that that’s allowed.


Lesley:  Yeah. And actually that’s where true inspiration and innovation come from are in those moments. You know, it just raises for me the quote that “Music is the space between the notes.” You know, it’s how we embrace as you say that openness, the potentiality and then things come to us. We kind of magnetize. And you’re so busy in so many different areas that you’re constantly feeding yourself with different lenses.


Catherine: Yeah. I think that’s important too. I think everything is relevant even if it might not seem like work. It should be helping out with something in you can school, or something in the street because somebody needs assistance, or going to see a film or reading a novel but it’s all input, I think. And as long as you’re keeping open to integrating with that then it’s all your call.


Lesley:  So, we’re coming to the end which is so tragic. I want to have you back on because we’ve only touched just a tiny little bit of surface of you and your experience. But in your advice, the final sort of advice you’re going to give the audience, if I’m stuck in my current sense of logic, what are one or two techniques that I could embrace to a) let me know that I’m stuck, and b) let me start shifting?


Catherine: That’s a great question. Yeah okay. Um, I think one of the thing is that its fine to be uncomfortable in situations but not with yourself, and sometimes that feeling of stuckness is when we’re having to compromise too much about what we believe in. And the strain of that uses up all our energy and it’s harder to see a way out. So I would look at that to see, “Is it the thing that’s uncomfortable or is it me?”

Being in a refugee camp is uncomfortable; trying to work out how to run a focus group with a bunch of adults with dementia is uncomfortable. Every time we step out of our comfort zone is uncomfortable, but that’s fine because that’s kind of growing a stretching discomfort rather than the one that sucks your energy.


Lesley:  Yes. So really the advice is to get out of your own way, and I don’t mean that in sense of first of all being attuned to how you’re feeling. But it’s also is that notion that when I start to feel uncomfortable, I know I’m about to learn something.


Catherine: Yeah. That’s an opportunity, it’s like, “Oh that’s interesting! What does this mean then?”


Lesley:  Well, you are fabulous and a change agent par excellence, a leader who I think we need to keep our eye on in terms of your influence, and all of these elements that a mathematician in her wisdom has evolved through. So, I can’t thank you enough, Catherine for taking the time today to speak with me from London.


Catherine: It’s been a pleasure. I learned something as well about myself.


Lesley:  Oh, then this was a success for both of us. Okay, thanks so much!


Catherine: Thank you!

Well, I did asked Catherine after the interview what she have learned from our conversation, and here’s what she told me, “Well, I tend to think I always learned something from every conversation. But in this case, I think it was the way you drew lines between the things I do—joining up the dots. I don’t often talk about more than one of my activities at a time.”

You know, I did start this program with the notion that we as leaders have a responsibility to uncover the hidden truths, so as that we enable people involve in any given task to discover what is truly being asked of them. Catherine pointed us to the use of color and art as it means to tap in to people’s connectivity engagement and the action we wish from them. I know that you as leaders are constantly engaging with the plenitude people you’re hoping to influence as well as collaborate with.

But, you know, let me ask you this, how are you as leaders tapping into the wisdom held within the innate minds and bodies of your customers, your staff, your colleagues? What specifically are you doing to help them uncover the rationale they’re using to connect with you? How are you helping them shift their logic so as to open up the conversation to fundamentally new ideas?

Well, have a think about that.

If you want to know more about Catherine’s work, then I would suggest you head over to artmongersaction There you will see art in its best use in public spaces and how it’s used to attract both people and the function that goes on there. More on Bold Vision is at, and of course Catherine’s website

Go on to LinkedIn and Catherine can be found @catherineshovlin S-H-O-V-L-I-N. As always, you can find more about me at, at and on facebook “women who lead radio show.” Also, I’m on linkedin as Lesley Southwick-Trask. Don’t forget, this is your show, I am your host. See you next time.

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