Deepen Your Relationship With Centers Of Influence

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

Our favorite door opener Caryn Kopp discusses the importance of relationships with Centers of Influence— thought I’d share!

Networking, whether it is in person, via Linked In or in another manner, can have a lasting effect on future referrals. This is your opportunity to deepen the relationship with Centers of Influence. If done properly and with sincerity, you can have a referral source forever; if done poorly, they may never help you again.

Networking, whether it is in person, via Linked In or in another manner, can have a lasting effect on future referrals.


I recently attended an event and witnessed a conversation between a Center of Influence, Mark, and a Business Owner, Tom, that went poorly. Tom had previously requested a Linked In introduction via Mark, to a prospect named Susan. Mark took time out of his busy day, located Susan, a first connection on Linked In, wrote the introductory note speaking highly of Tom and noting how responding would be in Susan’s best interests. He felt good to have made the connection.

Months later, at a networking event that I attended, Mark saw Tom and said, “Hi, Tom! How is everything progressing with Susan? Tom was expressionless. The blank stare continued. Tom could not remember how it was going. In fact, he couldn’t remember Susan at all, or if he ever bothered to pursue the introduction. How might Mark feel at that point? What are the chances that Mark will ever help Tom again? Zero. Tom is not going to want waste his own time, nor the time of his valued connections.

Know who you are going to see and check the status of prospect referrals you are working on. A CRM or spreadsheet is invaluable here so that you can show your gratitude and appreciation the next time you see your Centers of Influence. Otherwise, they are never going to help you again.

How can you deepen your relationships with your centers of influence?

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!

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?




Today’s Workforce Only Wants Three Things

What does today’s workforce want, really?

Early retirement?

Ever-elusive work-life balance?

Or just a decent place to work with nice people?

While the war for talent continues, the talent themselves are strategically deciding with whom they want to align. Here’s how to get them to want to align with YOU.

According to a recent study by Ranstad, employers need to brand themselves intentionally–and “branding strategies cannot be left to chance… strategies require a laser focus on building core components – factors like company culture, candidate perception/experience and employee engagement.”

I agree–we must bring the brain into the equation too, ensuring your team is recruiting, retaining, working from their SmartState. Let’s check out the latest data in the  infographic from Ranstad where you’ll find:

  • Top 3 sectors where employees want to work
  • Most important criteria when choosing an employer
  • Personality traits most desired in an employer
  • Factors that put work-life balance at risk
  • Top motivators for teams
  • Retirement expectations

What Todays Workforce Wants Infographic

How can a company rock their branding strategy?

Eat, sleep, live your values. Per Ranstad “The bottom line is, an empty brand promise can reap devastating outcomes.” Be clear about what you want and you won’t have to wage war in order to attract and retain your top talent.

So what does today’s workforce want most? As I see it financial and emotional stability, cool people to work with that they trust, and as much work-life balance as we can get.

Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a global thought leader on corporate culture and performance optimization and a neuroscience-based executive coach.

Stop Being So Predictable As A Leader: 6 Ways to Change this NOW

Does your team “have your number?” Do your kids? Your significant other? Sure they do.

Because it only takes a short period of observation to find the harsh truth: people are predictable.

Yet as a predictable leader, you compromise your ability to influence and to shift another’s behavior, which is often crucial to accelerate results, boost revenue, ensure sustainable growth. While a large part of influencing is about making people feel a sense of safety, belonging, and mattering, sometimes we need to bluntly lay out the facts. Being able to switch from one stance to the other is an immensely valuable leadership skill.



How Flexible is Your Behavior?

Most of us react in predictable ways, have predictable patterns of behavior, and have predictable speech patterns. No wonder it’s so easy for people to peg us….and no wonder it can seem virtually impossible to get through to certain people.

Chances are your employees know what you’re going to say or do in many situations before you even have a chance to react. Consciously or unconsciously they tune you out (and maybe retreat into their critter state if they think your reaction will be negative)…and any productive potential the conversation may have had is lost. Or perhaps, unbeknownst to you, the way you are acting and reacting sends others a different message then the one you meant to convey.

There’s hope. The following behavioral stances can be mixed and matched for maximum influence, rapport, and outcome. When we use different stances in different scenarios, we get different results. Thanks to all my teachers on stances: Milton EricksonTony RobbinsJerry Jampolsky, and many more. There’s the:

Mommy: Supports the recipient fully, sees and acknowledges how great they are. As a result the recipient feels huge.

Anthropologist: Behaves with major curiosity and high inquiry. This stance asks  lots of questions and is continually curious, at times even fascinated.

Drill Sergeant: Hard core, tell-it-like-it-is, no sugar coating. This stance is supremely direct but not mean.

Professor: Cool, high advocacy, factual, “this is how it is,” “when you do X, you get Y.”

Best Buddy: Highly empathetic: “I’ve been there, I know how hard it is.”

Guru: The wise knowledgeable one, often used by consultants, has a touch of Professor but is less linear and more about overview, has a touch of warmth and heart. This stance is the expert with a heart and high enrollment.

Behavioral Stances in Action

Brain-Based Proof That You’re More Effective Working At Home

image015It’s time to ditch the office. It’s time to have more control over your brain as you work, and the best way to do that is to work from home. Over the past 3 years we’ve been tracking how our clients, executives in senior leadership, sales, marketing, finance, operations, improve performance in three key areas by working from home .5 to 2 days per week.

The results are surprising. The secret is to forge these new positive habits when working from home, then bring the benefits to the workplace.

1-Make Better Decisions—Faster

40 = the number of hours per week that companies expect people to be strong decision-makers

3-5 = the actual number of peak decision-making hours that people report

You make better decisions when you have a chance to reflect on all aspects of what needs to be considered—and not when you have the proverbial gun to your head. As we know from meta programs, if you’re on the reflective end of the Active-Reflective  continuum, this is even more crucial. When you are insulated from interruptions and can control your environment you make better decisions, because you brain experiences less stress.

Speaking of stress, let’s consider the massive amount of uncertainty that exists in today’s workplace.  Thanks to Harvard Medical School research we now know that 75% of people in uncertain scenarios will make decisions based on fearful assumptions—they are expecting something bad to happen. The result is decisions that are risk-mitigation and pain avoiding, with little or no strategic vision in mind. Vision isn’t possible because fear shuts down the prefrontal cortex, so we have no access to our innovative, problem solving, planning parts of our brain.

Client result:

  • 300% increase in hours of peak decision making time each week- based on training their brain in managing their emotional state.

2-Design Better Strategies and Solutions–Faster

10% share of people who do their best thinking at work

39% share of people who do their best thinking at home

In the relentless pursuit to be strategic, extract and demonstrate value, and provide optimal solutions all the time, the workplace is a continuous pressure cooker. This means the brain is often in fear and disaster prevention instead of in analysis and designing the outcomes we want. What happens on our best day? How did Einstein form strategies and solutions? When asked how he created his theory of relativity he said first he felt it, then he saw it, then he could articulate it. He let his mind wander, have visions, form connections, then he formulated the visions into something he could tangibly communicate.

Einstein also said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of coming attractions.” We need to engage the emotional brain by seeing, hearing, feeling ourselves standing in the future when the strategy is being executed. How is it going? How are people feeling? Are they embracing it? What’s working? What’s not? Now take this learning and ask yourself what you need to adjust right now, before you lock in and launch the strategy.

As leaders the more we balance the logical (prefrontal cortex) planning part of the brain with the emotional (mammalian) area of the brain the more effective our strategies will be.

Client result:

  • 200-400% increase in the quality of strategies – by giving their brains space to feel into the future before a strategy is deployed.
  • 73-97% increase in ability to influence outcomes/others – due to more time to thoughtfully craft communications.

3-Increase Focus and Have More New Ideas

Ever had the feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it? That’s the intuitive part of our brain, the insula, at work. This is why we often have great ideas when on vacation, or when shooting hoops or hiking in nature. Our brain is wandering, forming connections, resolving incongruencies, testing out theories. Working from home enables more vision time. Many of our most successful clients allocate one half to one full day per week (Fridays are best) for Vision Time. This is where they let their brains wander, and countless new products, strategies, alliances have resulted.

Our clients that allow Vision Time or even Vision Retreats (solo time in nature for a weekend) consistently crank out market-leading products, ideas competitors haven’t had, and innovative approaches to leverage assets and efficiencies. Give your brain a break and see the great insights that come from it.

Client results:

  • 300-500% increase in innovation across the company when they first followed this process themselves, then taught their teams.
  • 20-47% weekly increase in time on high value activities – due to reduced distractions and drama of the workplace

So working at home makes us faster, better, and heck, it’s even cheaper.

Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a neuroscience-based executive coach that helps leaders build cultures of trust and high performance.

Statistics Sources:

#1 above:  40 and 3-5 from Neuroleadership Institute; 75% from  Harvard Medical School

#2 above: 10% and 39% from Neuroleadership Institute

All other statistics from SmartTribes Institute clients