What is Bullshift

We created Bullshift to help people get more openness, honesty and straight talk at work. We’ve identified 12 BULLS that block people’s ability to be open, honest and direct and 12 ways to SHIFT them. We aim to teach these Principles through humour so everyone can enjoy the learning.

We present the Bullshift Principles in keynotes and workshops, facilitate learning in customised programs (with workshops and coaching) and support their practice with online resources on our website and App. Would you like to shift the bull?

Each principle is simple but, for most of us, they are not easy.

Why can't we just be honest with each other?


Don't compete, Collaborate

Work with people rather than against them.
When you're competing against people you should or could be working with.
Because when you compete against people, you usually don't listen as effectively, don't empathise and don't share completely honestly.

Humans are animals. Some of us can fly planes or order food online or make a soufflé but we’re still animals and sometimes our animalistic, scarcity-driven instincts will kick in. Watch your own and try not to get sucked in by those of others. Try to persist with your determination to collaborate. Humans have egos, too. Egos are inherently insecure and reactive. Find security and self-esteem on a higher plain and you’ll not so easily get sucked into fighting other peoples’. Breathe deep, smile, persist – collaborate.

When I would normally compete, I will instead collaborate generously

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Don't be defensive, be curious

Be curious - park your ego, ask, listen, understand.
When people say things you don't like.
Because when you're defensive, you discourage people from being honest with you and miss countless opportunities for learning.

Be careful that your ego does not pretend to ask questions for learning when it really intends to just trap the person, undermine them or make them look stupid. For the curiosity to cure your defensiveness, it must be genuine.

When I hear something I don't like and notice myself getting defensive, I will ask genuine questions

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Don't make excuses, take responsibility

Say what happened, own your reasons and take responsibility.
When you would normally excuse yourself from something for which you are actually – or could be – responsible.
Excuses can be childish, dishonest and disempowering and they usually mean we keep having the same issues. Taking responsibility means looking for the things we CAN control and owning them – it means truly growing up.

We tend to trade excuses – I’ll accept that “traffic was terrible” rather than saying you should’ve left earlier if you’ll accept that “I haven’t had time” rather than saying I should have prioritised better. Excuses are accepted, so we keep making them. Well, even if your excuse will be accepted, try not making one. See if you can take responsibility even when nothing big is on the line. Then, when it counts, you will have had more practice.

On one occasion when I would usually make an excuse, I will explain my reasons and take responsibility.

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Don't use corporate speak, use real words

Use real words.
All the time.
Corporate-speak or bureaucrat-speak can be impersonal and intangible. It doesn’t resonate with most people – doesn’t inform, motivate or educate – which means it doesn’t effectively communicate. It can even aggravate.

Real words can easily become buzzwords and corporate bulldust. Be careful you don’t replace corporate speak with something real only to have it become corporate speak through overuse. Keep it alive and tangible and always check that you’re actually communicating – not just talking while others pretend to listen. Also watch the desire to impress others with buzzwords – the few you impress will be outnumbered by people shaking their heads and sighing.

I will translate corporate concepts into words that make sense to my audience and make sure I’m actually communicating.

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Don't have an opinion if you don't need one. Stay open

Stay open.
Whenever you don’t need to have an opinion.
Forming opinions too quickly can get in the way of open conversation, clear analysis or learning new things.

This principle is not encouraging you to be insipid or indecisive. It is asking that you keep an open mind until you need to make decisions. Also note that if you’re quite opinionated, it’s not enough to hide it – you’ll have to work on actually opening your mind.

I will listen fully to something without having a single opinion about it.

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Don't express opinion as fact, express opinion as opinion

Express opinion as opinion, perception as perception. Use “I” statements to speak for yourself. Ask, “Do we know that or just think that?”
When you need to separate data, information, knowledge, assumptions, opinions, feelings and beliefs. When there’s heat in the conversation or the stakes are high. When you need to show respect for varying points of view.
Expressing opinion as fact can unduly influence a conversation, can turn beliefs into reality and can inhibit understanding of the problem or situation.

The more passionate you feel about the subject, the less likely you are to distinguish between facts and opinions. It’s a common persuasive technique to just say it like you’re right. Try to remember in those situations to be honest and make distinctions between opinions and facts. Speak your truth but don’t assume you speak for everyone else. Ask, “Do we know that or just think that?” Remember our “truth” is not “The Truth”, it’s just our limited perception of life from our unique perspective.

I will listen fully to something without having a single opinion about it.

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Don't get too emotionally invested, detach and reflect

Detach, dis-identify and reflect – ask questions of yourself or others.
When you need to get some perspective. When you are too attached, obsessed or possessive to make an objective assessment.
If you’re heavily invested in believing something, you’ve lost the ability to tell if it’s true or not.

This is not easy to do and it won’t work unless you do it properly. The aim is to understand your deeper motives. Keep diving. It should feel like work. As Ann Lamott said, “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks in it.”

I will notice an attachment that is causing problems and I will loosen my grip.

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Don't gossip, be respectful

Be respectful.
When you hear people engaging in gossip about colleagues or other departments, teams or organisations. When you hear rumours about changes in the workplace.
Gossip can be toxic and can have a range of negative impacts.

Gossip can be exciting. The ego can derive pleasure from hearing it. Maybe gossiping about someone  makes you superior to them for a moment or gives you a vicarious thrill. So you could ask yourself, “Why do I want to talk about this? What is my motivation here?” If your motivation is selfish, mean, judgmental or superior, you could ask yourself if you really want to behave that way today. If you need to vent frustration about someone, ask yourself if you can do so without slandering them. It’s up to you.

I will only talk about people as I would if they could hear me.

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Don't pretend, be authentic

Be authentic, be yourself to the best understanding of what that means.
As much as you can.
Pretending costs you more than it gains.

Being yourself means being your deepest, truest self, not just a new creation of your ego-self. Some people go through a “mid-life crisis”, breakdown or depression and discover a deeper self, different to the false self they’d been taking out to the world every day. Others “go on a journey of self-discovery” only to create a new identity – a new ego-self – that is even more vividly painted than the last. The more effort they put into creating ego-self 2.0, the more defensively they maintain it. Just watch yourself that you’re looking for your authentic self – your essence – rather than just replacing your old pretence with an even bigger one.

I will watch and listen for my essence and build the courage to be myself.

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Don't use sarcasm, say it straight or don't say it

If it needs to be said, say it. If you’re using sarcasm as a weapon or shield, drop it.
When sarcasm is anything other than genuinely good-natured banter.
Sarcasm can sometimes work as a casual, back-handed way to deliver a message but if that message has not landed, repeating the sarcastic approach is unlikely to improve the situation or build respect.

Sarcasm can be fun but it can also be a weapon, a shield or a disguise. There are times when the sarcasm has become too much but a person who is suffering doesn’t want to say so – they don’t want to be told they “can’t take a joke.” Check your motivation and balance the jokes with positive straight-talking.

If it matters, I’ll be direct. If it’s my stuff, I’ll take it to therapy. If in doubt, I’ll leave it out.

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Don't mutter, speak up

Speak up.
When not doing so will have negative impacts for yourself or others.
Bad things happen when good people don’t speak up. You limit your own ability to learn or contribute. Collaboration requires open, honest conversation.

Speaking up doesn’t mean to be rude or aggressive. In most cases, speaking up is more effective if you apply the other principles in this book: be genuinely curious, take responsibility, express your opinions as opinions and don’t be sarcastic. Practicing this principle does not mean that you walk around talking with no filter. It means raising the things that matter most as soon as possible.

I will be courageous and speak up about one thing.

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Don't be vague, get clear

Clarify what’s in doubt. Verify understanding and alignment.
Whenever you sense vagueness within a conversation; either through words, body language or a misalignment of expectations.
Vagueness costs time, money, resources, relationships and energy - both physical and emotional. Getting clear saves time, money and resources. It strengthens relationships and increases energy.

Words are not enough to ensure you have clarity. A person may say “I understand”, “Got it” or “Yep” but the tone of voice or body language may say something different. When you are getting clear, look and listen for SUB-TEXT that says something different to the TEXT. And if in doubt, check it out.

I will notice any time there is vagueness and then ask and verify until we have clarity.

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Bullshift is about reducing ego reactions to have more conscious responses.

What behaviours do you tend to do on a regular basis purely out of automatic ego-pilot reactions? Do you need to get more consciousness within your life? Do you need to shift the bull?

Get in touch to Shift the Bull

Try to do less of these

  • Over-reacting
  • Stewing too long
  • Over-identifying
  • Possessing & obsessing
  • Over-inflating
  • Deflating to flat
  • Excluding people
  • Micro-managing

Try to do more of these

  • Responding proportionately
  • Reflecting, learning, forgiving
  • Identifying in a healthy way
  • Caring for and about
  • Succeed and learn
  • Fail and learn
  • Including and involving
  • Building trust and clarity

Andrew transformed our planning days from a typical ‘death by PowerPoint’ to a really interactive and enjoyable experience. In particular, the BULLSHIFT presentation struck a chord with everyone – the difference in the office post-event was amazing!

Pino Todesco IS&S, Woodside

Andrew Horabin was simply amazing, his ability to bring humour into a very insightful presentation was such a refreshing change. He seemed to be a combination of Carl Barron and Daniel Goleman, and that's not something I thought was possible.

Participant Coles Distribution Centre

What an absolute cracker of an event! Thanks so much Andrew for your incredible performance. The research you went to in order to connect at the right level with our audience
was like no other headline act I have seen. You have an obvious and infectious passion for what you do and the audience revelled in it. I had dozens of people say you were the highlight of the day! Thank you for your generosity, advice and a brilliant performance.

Karen Spencer Australian Institute of Company Directors

The "Bulls"

The “Don’t”s are the “bulls”, the things our egos tend to do automatically, often without our permission or awareness.

You can assume that most of the time your first reaction is an ego reaction. It takes consciousness to notice that reaction but choose whether or not to act on it. Your reactions are automatic and come mostly from your self-protecting, insecure ego.

The "Shifts"

The “Do”s are the “shifts”, the things most of us have to choose to do – with consciousness – in the moment. They may be common sense but they’re not common practice.

Your responses are conscious choices you make from your Higher Self when you are present and self-aware. If you’re not conscious of your internal reactions before they possess and control you, then you’re on ego-pilot and your internal reactions will become your external behaviours.

We want to help you shift the bull.

Get started with Bullshift

Kick start your teams think tank with seven resources and get a taste for what could be achieved with an entire resource library from the Bullshift Company.

Keynotes & Workshops

We deliver fast, funny, interactive and inspirational keynote presentations that challenge people to get more openness, honesty and straight talk at work. We’re scheduled as the opener to get people fired up and set the scene, after lunch because we entertain and engage or to close the event so people go out on a high.
Our workshops use humour and a bit of heart to get people thinking about how they communicate at work. They’re inspiring, practical and enjoyable. Our Facilitators use their skills as stand-up comics and expert facilitators to gently draw people’s attention to the varied defensive reactions that typically flare up whenever we receive critical feedback or hear things we don’t like.


How much more effective could we be if our team members, colleagues and managers were all able to be open and honest and talk straight to each other? Imagine if we could give and receive feedback more effectively. Imagine the increased energy and the saving of time and money.
To really learn, practice and integrate the Bullshift Principles and skills, we can customise a program for you – a combination of workshops, coaching and online learning. To understand your aims, determine the most valuable content and design the best delivery methods, give us a call or send us an email to start the conversation.

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