Don’t Be Blindsided By Change

*As originally seen on

Change blindness = when we miss a huge change because we were focused elsewhere.

Have you experienced change blindness?

Perhaps a key employee became disengaged and you could have prevented it. Or a high-potential employee kept asking for greater challenge, and before you noticed the flight risk, they left.

We’ve all experienced change blindness. It’s often a result of not being present because we are pulled in too many directions.

Heck, you likely would’ve really liked to see the change you missed, maybe you would have even benefited from it, but your brain deleted it. Why?



Because while what you look at matters, what you see matters even more.

Let’s unpack change blindness. Here are the players:

  • Cortisol = a hormone released in response to stress
  • Dopamine = a neurotransmitter with many roles, including signaling cells when the anticipation of reward is present and driving reward-motivated behavior
  • Oxytocin = a hormone that contributes to feeling connected to others
  • Your Sensory Cortices (SCs) = the parts of your brain responsible for “bottom-up” attention: responding to things that grab your attention and cause you to react (alarms, email alerts, or other outside stimuli that you react to compulsively and often without choice). Generally Low-Value Activities and reactive or even menial brain work occur here.
  • Your Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) = the part of your brain responsible for “top-down” attention: decision-making, planning, envisioning outcomes, where you choose to focus, and how you choose to respond to things outside of you and inside of you. Generally High-Value Activities and strategic brain work occur here.


Your Brain On Change

Why do we have so much trouble seeing change when it’s right before our eyes? Because we’re still trying to cope with the changes that happened yesterday, last week, or last month. Let’s take a look at our brain on change.

Whenever change happens, your brain releases stress hormones, like cortisol, which then fire up cell-signaling cytokines that alter your body. Suddenly your ability to regulate your behavior and emotions is compromised. Your ability to pay attention is compromised. Your memory, learning, peace, and happiness are all compromised.

When you’re overloaded on stress, you also tend to feel isolated, which decreases oxytocin. Then it’s all too easy to find yourself on a downward spiral of disconnection: from yourself, others, your world, your purpose, and even your place in the grand scheme of things. Today, we see increasing chaos, distrust, aggressiveness, and many other behavioral challenges in our world due to disconnection.

Being in a state of stress or fear also overstimulates our sensory cortices (SCs) and inhibits our prefrontal cortex (PFC). Increased sensory stimulation and decreased cognitive stimulation results in more irrational risk taking, obesity, aggression, addiction, and even schizophrenic behavior. It’s a big deal.

At the same time, we’re constantly checking email, texts, and other alerts to make sure we’re safe, creating excess dopamine. Remember, dopamine is the neurotransmitter fired when we anticipate reward or receive an unexpected reward, pleasure, or praise. But excess dopamine is a problem: it also inhibits our PFC, further affecting our ability to make good decisions, focus, and regulate our emotions and behavior.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it often causes us to addictively check our messages, emails, and social media feeds. However, what’s beneath it is the desire to connect. The desire for warmth. The desire to be seen, to be safe, to belong, and to matter. Instead of dopamine, what we really want is oxytocin, the bonding hormone, to help us know we’re not alone.

It’s Time To Reconnect

When you feel blindsided by change, the solution is simple: it’s time to connect again. To trust again. When oxytocin levels are up, cortisol levels are down. When we feel connected, we know we’re safe, we belong, we matter.

So how do we connect in this stress-heavy era? First, remember that people are essentially good. We all just have a greater or lesser ability to connect with ourselves and others. When you meet people who are angry or distant, perhaps they simply haven’t learned or cultivated the ability to connect with others due to the past pain or hurt. At times like this, it’s essential for us to have compassion and do what we can on our side to reconnect with them.

There’s no point judging someone who can’t reach out to others. Better to reach out and give them as much of an experience of “same as” as possible to help them re-establish their ability to connect and give them a sense of safety, belonging, and mattering. It just might help them reconnect in every other area of their life.

Tribes are primal. Being together with other humans is how we have survived for centuries. And yet technology, in an attempt to bring us together, has actually brought us apart. We all want to be in the “in crowd,” yet we are seeing more and more separation. This makes change even harder, because when times are uncertain, we need one another more than ever.

So while change blindness may be prevalent, change presence can be, too.

Think about the change you’re going through right now. In the midst of it, how can you connect with your tribe today?

Bullies, Borderline Bosses And Narcissists: How To Survive & Thrive

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

We’re hearing a lot about psychological safety, narcissism and subconscious bias in the workplace lately. But what’s beneath many of these challenges is BPD—Borderline Personality Disorder—a topic many tread lightly around.


Because unlike anxiety, depression, bipolar or other diagnoses, borderline isn’t easily treatable or curable. And very few people are actually diagnosed with this very difficult condition as “true” borderlines. True borderlines require navigation and survival strategies. So grab your galoshes, because we’re going in, friends.

We’re all a little bit borderline, so bear this in mind when you read the below. Here’s what BPD is, and how it’s part of your work and life and what to do about it.


What Is Borderline?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Method of Mental Disorders has a long list of criteria. Here are the ones you’ll most likely see in the workplace:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense relationships
  3. Unstable self-image or sense of self
  4. Intense moodiness, rapid mood changes
  5. Inappropriate, intense anger
  6. Stress-induced paranoid thoughts or dissociative symptoms (loses touch with reality)

Heck, we all know someone that fits that criteria.

So what causes it? According to Christine Ann Lawson’s awesome work  people suffering from BPD have suffered one or more of the following traumas in their past:

  • Inadequate emotional support following parental abandonment (through death or divorce)
  • Parental abuse, emotional neglect or chronic denigration
  • Being labeled as the “no good” child by a borderline mother

When a child suffers one of the above their ability to attach in a healthy way is damaged. Then we’ll see anxiety, avoidance, ambivalence/resistance, or disorganization in their experience of attaching to others.

We’re All A Little Bit Borderline

Per Lawson, there are four types of borderline personalities:

1. The Waif: This person is helpless, sad, lonely and feels like a victim. They are trying to get others to give them sympathy and care-giving. They can be socially engaging then turn on you, seek help then reject it, and gives away, loses or destroys good things. Their mantra is “life is way too hard.” When you have a Waif in the office they’ll be emotionally exhausting and frustrating to be around.

2. The Hermit: This person lives in fear of threat and persecution from a dangerous world. They are trying to get others to share their anxiety and need for protection. They are a perfectionist and worrier, and if you misstep they’ll shut you out. Their mantra is “life is too dangerous.” When you have a Hermit in the workplace you’ll want to follow in their path, clearing up the fear they are spreading.

3. The Queen/King: This person feels empty, deprived, angry, and has an insatiable longing that cannot be fulfilled. They’re demanding, flamboyant, intimidating and feel entitled to invade the boundaries of others. They can appear all-powerful provided no one questions them. They want others to comply. Period. Their mantra is “Life is all about me, and should be even more about me. I am important and you are not.” A Queen/King in the office is tough–they’ll make others feel inferior and dismissed.

4. The Witch/Warlock: This person feels self-hatred and conviction that they are evil. They need power and control over others for basic self-esteem. The more fear and submission they can get from others, the more self-importance they derive. They are domineering, you’ll see them rage and violate the boundaries of others. Hostility masks their fear. Their mantra is “Life is war.” The Witch/Warlock is often the trickiest as they’re just plan dark and emotionally volatile.

By now I’ll bet you’ve seen some of the above qualities in many people you know—including yourself. Here’s a quick quiz, followed by a secret decoder.

Borderline Quiz

Check off any of the below statements that seem familiar, coming from your boss or other key people in your workplace. And if you say or think these things, put an X mark by it. Then you can reflect on where you learned this behavior!


Borderline Quiz Secret Decoder

Here’s the Secret Decoder System for the above quiz. Check out which Borderline types are most prevalent in your work and life. Then in my next blog we’ll cover how to survive and even thrive when interacting with these tricky types!


I hope taking the above test will help you see how common, and how challenging these behaviors are. It’s key to approach these scenarios with compassion, kindness, and yes, caution. Now let’s dive into coping strategies for this complex situation.

Who’s On First?

There’s the borderline Primary (they’re “pitching”) and the borderline Secondary (they’re “catching”). In families parents usually are Primary and kids are Secondary. At work the roles aren’t always as clear. I’ve seen Primary borderline behavior in direct reports, which I’ve then been the Secondary to, and I’ve also been the Primary. You have too.

Who has borderline behavior in your life? Do you slide into the Secondary role and get swept up in their drama? When are you the Primary?

The tricky part about Primary borderline behavior is the stance of perpetual innocence. And their need to win no matter what—even at the risk of damaging relationships. That’s the system you’re working in when you play on this field. Borderlines will also try to “recruit” you to play with them, to try to push your buttons and make you angry, to get you to sympathize and take sides, even to try to get you to fire them in extreme cases. Be cautious here.

Three Survival Strategies

Here’s the bad news: The Primary will always perceive themselves as innocent. Here’s the good news: As the Secondary you have a lot more flexibility in your behavior, meaning you get to choose (yay!) what you’re willing to be guilty of.

1. Choose Your Realm Of Guilt

Wait a sec! Guilty?

Yep. Sorry. There’s no way to win in this system, all you can do is choose your realm of guilt. To survive, and ultimately thrive with a borderline Primary (if you can’t quit or get transferred to another department) you’ll likely be guilty of many things. Key is to retain your sense of self-respect and integrity:

Here are some examples of what you’ll be “guilty” of to survive in borderline behavior scenarios:

  • Standing up for yourself
  • Having healthy boundaries
  • Not responding fast enough: pausing and saying you need time to think (if you continually do not give the Primary borderline immediate gratification they will find someone else who will! Yay!)
  • Giving in (you may need to do this—be kind to yourself—it’s an un-win-able situation)
  • Disengaging (if they are raging this is your only option—let them wear themselves out)
  • Find a way for them to get rid of you while maintaining your integrity (and hopefully getting a nice severance package)

Make sense? It might not. We aren’t dealing with a logical mind here. Borderlines don’t live in logic.

2. Navigate Their Challenges

This choice I’m not so wild about. You choose to play the game as it’s how you’ll live to see another day. Just be true to yourself in the process and know it’s just that—a game.


3. Be Curious

This is like the Anthropologist stance that I described a while ago. You are fascinated by the person’s behavior and want to understand what it’s like to be them. Two cautions though—first, close your navel center (area around your belly button) as this is where energetic attack is aimed. Second, open your heart, as borderlines need compassion. Then you can ask 1 of 2 questions (or both):

How may I serve you?

How may I give you a better experience of me?

Matt Kahn taught me both of these. In either case the borderline will likely tell you all the ways you need to change for their life to work. This is when you can kindly say something like “thank you for your feedback” and leave. The list they gave you is what they want to change in themselves. You’ve just experienced a projection. Send them love and step away. They’ll get help if/when they want to, but often they don’t want to because for the Primary borderline everyone “is messed up” but them. This is the greatest tragedy.

It’s key to remember with compassion that all borderline behavior is an unworkable attempt to manage loss and damage related to love, safety, belonging and mattering. That’s why true borderlines are not capable of deep long-term relationships and cannot be present during intense emotion.

We’re all a little bit borderline—we all have tricky behavior at times. Key is to catch it, navigate it, survive and ultimately thrive.

The Secret To Surviving Your Holiday Office Party

It’s December and we know what that means… office holiday parties! Ugly holiday sweaters, gift exchanges, celebrating the end of the year and getting ready to start 2016 off on the right foot.

While some look forward to this annual celebration, there are many of us that just dread the idea. The thought of putting on an ugly sweater, making a side dish or cookies, participating in the gift exchange creates massive anxiety and stress. Not to mention the fact that Bob from Human Resources dressed as Santa gives you nightmares. Does he have to be that festive?

The truth is, this party is a professional event in gift wrap. In fact, your organization may use this party as a way to celebrate, acknowledge and reward everyone. Don’t be a Grinch!

If you aren’t ready to deck the halls, let’s look at the advantages to attending.

1. Fun: You may have more fun than you expected. When’s the last time you had a chance to relax and simply enjoy the company of those you work with?

2. Mingling: You will mingle with your leaders, peers and direct reports on ‘level ground’. If you have been trying to have a meeting or call with the CEO since January with no luck, you may be able to snag a few minutes of his time during this party.=

3. Building Rapport: You have the opportunity to experience aspects of your co-workers that you haven’t seen before. (see graphic below) This could be positive or negative. Either way, it’s a great way to build rapport. If your peer is naturally a victim during work hours, what role does he take on when he’s in a more relaxed environment? He may show that he is an outcome creator! Does your Boss switch from a persecutor to an action creator when he’s sporting an elf hat while eating fruit cake? Parties are a great way to relax and let our walls come down, but moderation is key. This is still a professional event. By all means join in with the karaoke but getting wild and crazy may not be in your best interest.

Shifting from Problem-Focused to Outcome-Focused

Still not feeling the reindeer games?  We have another tool for you. The holiday version of our powerful Outcome Frame.

  1. What would you like? (positive outcome you can create and maintain)
  2. What will having that do for you? (benefits and how you’ll feel)
  3. How will you know when you have it? (proof/criteria so you’ll know you got it)
  4. Where, when, with whom do you want this? (timing/who else/scope)
  5. What of value might you risk or lose/what side effects may occur? (what might you have to let go of, what might change)
  6. What are your next steps? (get in action)

Let’s have fun with this!

  1. What would you like? To have an awesome and fun time at the holiday office party. To celebrate the holiday and the past year with my co-workers.
  2. What will having that do for you? I will be relaxed and able to enjoy the company my co-workers.
  3. How will you know when you’ll have it? When I’m laughing, having relaxed conversations and fun at the party.
  4. Where, when, with whom do you want this? At the holiday party this week, with my team members, peers, direct reports and my boss.
  5. What of value might you risk or lose/what side effects may occur? A smidge of ego when I put on my ugly holiday sweater. A smidge more ego when I let down some of my walls to relax and enjoy the party.
  6. What are your next steps? Find the UGLIEST holiday sweater I can find, bake some cookies, put a smile on my face and keep a mindset that this will be FUN!

‘Tis The Season! Enjoy and I look forward to hearing how these tools worked for you.

10 Quick And Easy Tips To Rock Your Next Job Interview

What can you, the talent, do to stand out during your interview? How can you ensure that the interviewer sees your value and can convey that you are the best choice for the position?

First, let’s take a moment to examine the view from the interviewer’s perspective.

Many of our clients ask for help in streamlining their recruiting processes. Here’s what we tell them is wrong:

  • Candidates aren’t being screened for alignment with company values
  • Candidates aren’t being asked enough self-revealing questions
  • Recruiters aren’t using rapport techniques to powerfully put candidates at ease—which would result in them revealing who they are

A job interview is a candidate’s “Rock Star Moment”—they’re showing you their best face, so it’s up to the recruiter to ensure that it’s an accurate face, a face we can rely on, a face that is honest.

Are you ready to show your best ‘true’ face to stand out above the rest? Here are 10 tips to rock your interview.

Who Are You?

Time to dive deep into who you are and why you want this position. Ask yourself:

1. What is your mission in life and why would working with this company help you achieve it?

2. What is the most important thing in life? How will you ensure you honor it through your work?

3. Use our powerful Outcome Frame to discover why you truly want this position. Is this position in alignment with who you are? Do you only want a paycheck or do you share the vision of the company?

It doesn’t matter if you are being interviewed by a recruiter, the HR Manager or the CEO – these tips will empower you to nail your interview and shine like a rock star. To prep be sure you:

4. Know the company’s mission, vision, values  and drill down so you know which elements resonate with you the most. How have you demonstrated these elements in your previous work and life experiences?

5. Embrace and demonstrate a ‘tribal mentality’. We define a tribal mentality as: we’re all in this together, every person contributes and matters, each individual brings unique gifts to the collective.

6. Are ready to discuss what you are like on your bad days. Yes this is your rock star moment, but let’s be honest – you’re human and need to be transparent too.

During The Interview

7. Speak their language so they experience you as similar to them: (read: meta programs)

8. Give them what they crave: listen for requests for safety, belonging, mattering—then serve up what they want

9. Give them some “same as”: mirror their body posture/gestures, vocal tone/pace/pitch, key words, sensory system


10. Bring them a visual aid showing that you understand their challenges and you have some strategies/solutions in mind. A mind map, 3-6-9-12 month draft accomplishments list, a series of thoughtful value-added questions, some sort of leave-behind that shows you’ve put a lot of thought into how you’ll make a difference will cause you to stand out powerfully. You can bet the vast majority of other candidates won’t have invested this degree of energy and heart!

After The Interview

Of course the first thing is to send a hand written thank you note. It’s polite, it’s essential, be sure to do it! Next anchor the experience: during your interview notice what they like (art? dogs? etc) then send a thoughtful thank you gift—something they’ll feel good about since it is specific to them, and something that they’ll keep in sight (coffee table book, cool item for desk). Anchor your brand with this item. For instance if you’re interviewing for a marketing role and the topic of advertising and what makes it compelling comes up, and if the interviewer says they love old bill board ads, you could send them a coffee table book on this topic.

One last tip: offer to take on the scheduling of your reference calls. Making it easy for the interviewer to talk with your current or previous supervisors, direct reports and peers shows you honor and value the interviewer’s time.

Good Luck!

How Great Leaders Build Trust With 4 Brain-Based Tools

Recently one of my executive coaching clients came to me with this question.

“Christine, my team is disengaged and disconnected. I am being drained daily by high stress, high distrust and chaos. How can I get my team to trust my company and to trust me?”

The issue of trust can make or break an organization. According to Harvard Business Review: “People crave transparency, openness, and honesty from their leaders. Unfortunately, business leaders continue to face issues of trust. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, one in four workers say they don’t trust their employer, and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them.”

90% of our decisions of our behaviors are driven by our emotional brain. This means we are highly emotional beings driven by deep subconscious patterning. When we learn how to tap in and connect to deep subconscious patterning and how to give people what they truly crave at subterranean levels we get peak performing teams that trust us and trust their organization.

How do we get team members who say ‘I love my job, I trust my leader and l’m ready to rock today!’

The foundation of trust is safety, belonging and mattering.

What happens when we have a culture that is full of fear, stress and confusion? Our team does not experience safety, belonging and mattering therefore a culture of trust can’t exist. How do we move through a culture of fear towards a culture of trust? We use some pretty cool and practical neuroscience-based tools and techniques. Let’s dive in.

Is Your Team Engaged?

Ask yourself, how engaged is your team? Engagement is directly related to trust. One of the easiest ways to assess your team is to have them participate in an Employee Engagement Survey twice a year. Be sure to make cultural changes based on the answers they give you.

  • Have them answer questions that are based around safety, belonging, mattering.
  • Make sure that they can add comments and that their anonymity is protected. Your team won’t answer honestly if they feel that their answers could come back to haunt them in the form of losing their job.
  • Compare how engaged you ‘think’ your tribe is vs the feedback you receive.

This experience is very telling and uncovers blind spots which open the door towards putting processes in place to increase team engagement. There are 4 categories of neuroscience-based tools that will help you.

Proven & Trusted Neuroscience-Based Tools:

As leaders, our companies exist to make people’s lives easier. We provide products and services that make people’s lives better and that solve problems. But a funny thing happens when our teams don’t feel connected. Productivity decreases, our teams become disengaged and our profits plummet. Creating a culture that is engaged that trusts their leader isn’t as cosmic as it seems, there is a formula.

Shared Identity + Profound Meaning = Tribe = Trust

Trust creates reliable environments. Enriched environments are more reliable. Reliable and enriched environments equal ROI. A more enriched, interactive tribal environment is good for the brain and good for the business. What do we mean by enriched? This environment is interactive, stimulating which increases the surface area of brain cells. The result? Team members making more connections, solving problems faster, figuring things out faster and innovating better.

A brain in a more reliable (trust their leader) and enriched (stimulating) environment will have more branches. More branches equal more surface area which equals more connections which equals more meaning (personalizing things around you). This graphic is a great representation of what that looks like.


The people make the revenue happen. The people make the business model happen.

The brain needs to aspire and building trust will create this.

Let’s have fun at work, we spend a lot of time there!

Gain Energy In 5 Minutes

Do you feel totally drained by the end of the week or even by the end of the day? You can gain energy!

Here’s a quick (literally 5-minutes) way to recall your energy. Enjoy!

Discover, Engage And Sustain Workplace Talent In Three Simple Steps

Leaders today need all the leverage they can get.

We need to get more from ourselves, our teams, our company overall. Developing workplace talent is the major factor that will create sustainable and substantial success in your company–this will only increase in the near future. Plus, the impact of not developing workplace talent will impact more than just your bottom line.


A recent Gallup-Lumina Foundation Poll revealed that developing and investing in workplace talent remains an area that leaders must continue to focus on.

“Gallup asked respondents to think about talent as “the knowledge or skills people develop or obtain through education, work or other life experiences.” Nearly eight in 10 (78%) U.S. adults agree, “if the U.S. fails to develop a more talented workforce, it will fall behind other countries.” An overwhelming majority (87%) agree, “the federal government should make it a high priority to increase the talent of our nation’s workforce,” and 89% agree with the statement “cities that commit to increasing talent among their citizens are more likely to have stronger economies, better quality of life and greater prosperity than cities that do not.” Clearly, there is strong support among the American public for these statements.”

The findings also reinforce that developing workplace talent has an impact on more than the individual companies. When leaders develop talent effectively, the impact is felt on a local and global scale.

  • Majority say government must make increasing talent a priority
  • 78% say U.S. will lag behind other countries if talent isn’t developed
  • Most agree, cities that commit to talent have stronger economies

Ready to develop your company’s talent? Follow these three steps:

1. Find Your Hidden Talent

To identify the greatest untapped leverage in your company, start by assessing your current team.

Actively seek potential leaders that are already in your company—people with characteristics that can be leveraged and developed. When on the lookout for potential top talent, keep these questions in mind:

  • What is the future vision for your company?
  • What does talent mean in your company culture?
  • Which team members are consistent, high-performing, contributing to ROI, great at managing?
  • What specific characteristics and criteria make these individuals stand out?
  • How do they enhance the company culture?
  • How do they engage with the rest of the team?
  • How do they engage with you as their leader?

The answers will help you determine who has the potential to rise up in your organization.

2. Engage Your Top Talent

All too often leaders don’t create and foster an environment where talent feels comfortable or confident enough to stand out. It’s easier to blend in with the crowd versus stand out and be seen. When you create a culture that thrives on collaboration and transparency, your top talent will begin to rise. You will clearly see who these individuals are and envision what future benefit they can bring to the company. A few top talent indicators are team members who:

  • Feel deeply connected to the company’s mission, vision, values and emulate those elements on a daily basis
  • Display accountability
  • Deliver consistent high quality results

Now that you have found and engaged your potential top talent, it’s time to take action.

3. Sustain Talent And Take Action

In previous blogs we have discussed how to foster and nurture an environment where your top talent will rise. These tools will help you form an action plan that you can start implementing today.

  • Learn what your team members crave at a primal and neurological level – and give it to them
  • Create a culture that allows team members to rise up and stand out
  • Shift their brain from Critter State to Smart State
  • Learn how to shift your leadership stance
  • Learn how to keep your cool when under pressure

Your action plan will create sustainable results.

Your top talent will become more engaged and take great initiatives. They will learn how to be more effective and even mentor those around them to mirror the same behaviors. The result is substantial and sustainable top workplace talent.

Your top talent might not be immediately obvious, so you may have to dig deep. Get your leadership team involved in the process to help uncover your hidden talent treasures.

Time to start digging!

How Great Leaders Build Trust And Increase Employee Engagement

So how do great leaders do it?

Have you ever done something with the best intentions only to have it backfire?

Understanding how to light up the brain’s reward network and stay out of the pain network can help you to avoid common pitfalls (thanks to Naomi Eisenberger of UCLA for her research here).

The brain’s pain network gets activated when we feel physical pain (lack of safety), social exclusion (no belonging), bereavement (loss), betrayal (unfair treatment), and negative social comparison (no mattering). Our reward network is activated when we feel things like physical pleasure (safety), cooperating (belonging), having a good reputation (mattering), being treated fairly (trust), giving to charity (safety plus = abundance).

A tribe that continuously activates the reward network—a SmartTribe—is more productive and effective. A tribe that continuously activates the pain network suffers from three key leadership pitfalls:

©2011-2015 SmartTribes® Institute, LLC

Pitfall #1: Asking for feedback and not acting on it.

Having a 360 degree assessment and asking for feedback takes courage and helps to create an open and transparent culture. However, we have also seen this tool misused and create damage.

The damage happens when a leader asks for feedback and then either does nothing to improve him or herself or attempts to identify the source of criticism and punish it. Persecuting someone who took a risk to respond to your request is an obvious trust breaker, but why is doing nothing so bad?

When we take the time to give feedback to someone we have most likely thought about it, and feel that the person is not able to see or to prioritize something that can be clearly seen from the outside. When we do nothing, we discount the feedback giver’s experience and their desire to create a more positive outcome—we send them into the pain network through a sense of loss of belonging, mattering and possibly safety. Not responding may result in having them feel imminent persecution. Our clients find that combining executive coaching, once they received their 360 feedback action plan, provides long lasting desired results. Doing an employee survey of anything, and then disregarding the results is the same–it activates the pain network.

Asking is a very powerful tool. One that can be successfully used to maximize engagement and growth. Just make sure you also plan and invest resources in the follow up.

Pitfall #2: Flat or misaligned mission, vision and values.

Do you “sell” your mission, vision and values…do you sell the raison d’etre of your company to your team and prospective team? By “selling” here we mean:

  1. Starting with the market analysis (what engages and drives your people—and the people you’d like to have come work with you?)
  2. Developing and designing the product (are you crafting emotional statements that inspire positive feelings? Does your environment match your words? Does your operating/reward system match your values?)
  3. Are you marketing and selling? (are you communicating the mission, the vision, and the values in a way that sparks joy and enthusiasm? Are you identifying your tribal leaders and engaging them?)

Too often we walk into a company and find wordy mission statements moldering on the wall. Worse yet, we find reward systems that directly contradict stated values (e.g. stated value of “teamwork” but only individual rewards.)

When the mission, vision and values are stale, or not aligned, or not communicated in an enticing way, it not only does not activate the reward network, it activates the pain network. People feel a lack of belonging, they feel low social status in comparison with others who work for organizations that are alive and aligned, they may feel betrayed if there is a conflict between what they signed up for and what is happening or between a stated value and reality.

Flat or misaligned mission, vision and values don’t just fail to inspire. They hurt.

When was the last time you assessed your culture?

Pitfall #3: Ineffective delegation. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

One of our most popular SmartTribes Methodology processes is where we identify Low Value Activities and High Value Activities. The goal is to delegate your Low Value Activities as quickly as possible.

So what’s the problem here?

Delegation sends people into the pain network when it falls to the micro-management side of the spectrum or when what we call “drive by delegation” occurs—delegating without getting buy in, commitment, or assessing capability and capacity. Both sides of the spectrum indicate a lack of trust and misunderstanding about responsibilities. Both sides are going to fire up the pain network in both parties.

Micro-management leaves the delegator thinking they are alone and have to do everything, if they want to get anything done right. The would-be delegatee feels disempowered, excluded, and low status…they can’t get anything right and their opinions don’t matter.

Drive by delegation leaves the delegator feeling betrayed (because there’s no way the delegatee can do the task or project). The delegatee feels confused, and has a sense of loss…they might have had a dream about doing just this task but now they’ve been handed it in a way that they cannot succeed.

Proper delegation activates the reward network and is a win-win for everyone. Our clients use the SmartTribes Playbook: Effective Delegation Process to successfully complete these steps: assess capabilities and capacity, plan the outcome using a guided question format, set up milestones and implement tracking and check-ins.

Asking for feedback and input, creating mission, vision and values statements, and delegation are three powerful tools for building trust and long term engagement. Just be sure to use them in the ways that keep you and your team out of the pain network and activating the reward network.

How will you build trust in your organization?

Be Cool Under Pressure–6 Steps To Save Face

Handling Pressure is Possible

Pet peeves, irritation, triggers, negativity… are these pressures part of your daily life or things that only happen once in a while? Do you look forward to or do you dread the moments between your morning cup of coffee and reading your first email?

Respond Versus React

We are all human, so being trigged is a natural part of life. We can’t change that and we can’t control how other people act, especially when their actions irritate us. But we can control our reaction, and better yet, we can forge new neural pathways that will enable us to respond to a negative trigger in a way that serves us, instead of drains us.

Here are 6 steps toward releasing your routine reactions and creating new responses.

Step 1: Design Your Desired State

©2011-2015 SmartTribes® Institute, LLC  Pressure

What outcome would you like instead? Get clear on your desired state and if it is truly what you would like. Remember your outcome should be initiated and maintained by yourself and not require others to change.

John, a CEO of a large manufacturing company on the east coast, used to react badly to what he perceived as lack of professionalism or follow up by Sam, VP of Operations. He’d start a whole chain of judgmental thoughts about Sam, all the while desperately seeking to validate his own good work. Since Sam worked at a different site and in a different time zone from John, by the time the two had contact John would’ve written Sam off. And Sam’s small mistake had become a huge disaster. What was a ripple became a tidal wave.

The first step for John to get a better outcome—one that didn’t include frustration, stress and lack of trust–was to become conscious of his default behavior pattern.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s not working for me?
  • Where do I get triggered?
  • Do I automatically fall into blaming, shaming, berating or rescuing people when triggered?
  • What outcome would I prefer?
  • Is it ok for my team to make mistakes? If so, how often is acceptable?

In John’s case we weren’t worried about having all his co-workers comply with his standards, so we asked how he would like to respond if a ball was dropped. He said he’d like to feel calm and confident.

Achieving your desired state, or outcome, is dependent on you.

Step 2: Get Curious

When you are triggered, what is your first thought? Do you default to a reaction based on your perceived truth or do you take the time to truly evaluate what is happening? The key is to get curious.

What is the other person experiencing? What behaviors are available to them? What do they believe to be true? More importantly, are you valuing their beliefs and their experience? As leaders, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your team is inept, when at times, we need to look at ourselves.

Through our coaching together John realized he needed to present his problem clearly and also to openly listen to the other person’s problems and priorities without provoking defensiveness. He knew that to truly inhabit his desired state he’d have to let go of his anger response and cultivate real curiosity. He’d have to become open to the possibility that there was no problem at all… just someone with a different set of priorities.

Step 3: Check Your Ego

Fear? Attachment? Control? Entitlement? Which is pushing your buttons? What’s at stake for your ego? Notice what feelings you experience when you are triggered and start to slow them down. Let yourself really feel. What might you be believing—about yourself, the world, the situation, the other person –to be having this experience? What’s beneath it all?

For John, reacting in a passive aggressive way made him feel superior and in control. He was able to feel a greater sense of being important by preserving and defending the idea that he was right—even if it didn’t solve anything or move anyone forward. Yet some say that if you keep getting the same results from your team, the problem might not be your team. The problem might be your leadership. Worth pondering…

Step 4: Do a “Break State”

Shift your brain and give yourself some breathing room. Easy ways to break your state include counting things, asking questions that totally change the subject like: “What did you eat for breakfast?” or “Do we need a break/snack?” and movement such as stretching or walking around.

Step 5: Determine Your New Response

John decided he’d always do a break state, then call the person he felt had dropped the ball and openly discuss how it made him feel, and the beliefs it created in his brain. Using the phone instead of e-mail would let him communicate, connect, collaborate more effectively.

Step 6: Create an Image and Anchor It

Imagine a future you a few feet ahead up above eye level and to your right. Step into that version of you and take it for a test drive, i.e. imagine yourself in multiple situations where you used get triggered and try out the new response. How does it feel?

If this feels sufficiently wonderful press your right thumb into your left palm and apply some pressure. This is called setting an anchor (associating a particular touch with a feeling or emotional state). The next time you’re triggered you can press the same spot, and you’ll recall the desired state which will help you calm down and make a new choice—your new routine. If it’s not wonderful enough yet, make some changes to your new routine until it does.

Once John started calmly and confidently calling his colleagues instead of being secretly angry with them, he learned remarkable things about what was actually happening for people. With this information he improved his performance spectacularly. He also began to enjoy a whole new kind of connection and mattering, so much so that the shift became easy to maintain automatically because it felt so much better than being “right”.

All behaviors and behavior patterns had some kind of intended positive outcome at the time they were created; they were useful in some way to help us get the positive outcome we sought. The trouble is that as we grow and change, some behavior patterns no longer serve us. They need to be edited or released entirely. To do this we must teach our brain new patterns.

Which behaviors are you ready to let go of?




Wire Your Brain For Gratitude

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” ~William Faulkner

At Thanksgiving many of us reflect on what we are grateful for… and what’s for dinner. While a client was discussing gratitude with me, they asked if gratitude and altruism stemmed from social constructs alone or if one’s brain could be hardwired towards feeling more gratitude. While some of us are conditioned by our families or society to give back, are we truly giving back because we feel pleasure in doing so? The answer to that question is found in our brain.

Gratitude and being altruistic have a positive impact in our lives along with rewarding the pleasure center in our brain. Simply put, doing good feels good. Where do altruism and gratitude stem from? Are we hardwired for the desire to help someone? Or can we train our brains for gratitude?

Are We Hardwired For Gratitude?

Brain_Pain-and-Pleasure_D4Abigail Marsh, Associate Professor at Georgetown University, has conducted studies on altruism and the brain. Her findings are remarkable. Her interview, Why People Take Risks To Help Others: Altruisms Root In The Brain, on NPR discussed the extremes in altruism. Marsh discusses how the brain of a true altruist has a larger amygdala, “it’s an almond-shaped cluster of nerves; it’s our emotional radar. And it was significantly larger in altruists.” While Marsh’s research focuses primarily on organ donation and cases of altruism that are life and death, her findings still hold merit for individuals that want to express gratitude, feel gratitude and give back. Which leads us to how you can wire your brain for gratitude.


I’ve shared the following practice with all of my clients, and their results are amazing. They are able to generate gratitude from within, which allows them to show gratitude to others.  The gratitude practice also reinforces myelination, which will help reinforce feeling gratitude as second nature. Please take 30-seconds and try the gratitude practice. Your brain will thank you.

Gratitude Practice

Close your eyes. Focus on a blessing in your life… something you are thankful for. See an image of this blessing in your mind’s eye. Offer a silent “thank you” to the person or object of your blessing.

Relax into the feeling of gratitude. Take a deep breath. Feel more gratitude.

The latest brain research shows that six doses of feeling 30 seconds of gratitude daily (a whopping three minutes!) will enable your neurons to fire together and wire together around gratitude within a mere two weeks.

This means you’ll more easily and frequently access the feeling of gratitude.

Heck, we’re grateful for that!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone… I am thankful for you.