Are You In A Leadership Role? Here’s What You Need To Know About Your Brain

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

Human beings actually have three brains. Both our hearts and our intestines have neural tissue. So there is the heart-brain, the gut-brain and the brain that sits in our cranium (or, if you count the one that sits in our cranium as three—reptile, mammalian, and human neo-cortex—then we actually have five brains!).

I recently discovered an organization called HeartMath Institute. They are doing some phenomenal work that is helping leaders to understand heart-brain communication.

HeartMath has found that the heart has its own complex nervous system that processes and conveys a tremendous amount of information. According to their research, not only does the heart send signals to the brain, it actually sends more signals (more information) to the brain than it receives from the brain. So the commonly held idea that our organs just respond to orders and instructions from the “head office” brain is a false notion.

Are you in a leadership role?

Command and control doesn’t work in the body either.

As an organism, human beings are a very complicated species. If we were not able to process environmental information quickly we would have been food for another species long ago. Let’s face it–we’re pretty puny compared to lions, bears, apes…and many other species that tend to avoid us.

It would seem the human body has always organized itself the way we humans are finally learning to organize our businesses: with just as much (or actually a lot more) bottom up input as top down “messaging” and managing. Our bodies take in environmental feedback at lightning speed and make an incredible number of decisions each moment based on that input.

According to research from Google, the body takes in 11 million bits of information each moment and can consciously process 40 bits.

The feeling that “part of me has a mind of its own” is actually true. It does.

Messages from the Heart Brain

Here’s a crucial HeartMath discovery: “signals from the heart especially affect the brain centers involved in strategic thinking, reaction times and self-regulation.” Look again at that list: strategic thinking, reaction times and self-regulation. All of these traits are vital to effective leadership. So when you hear, “My heart’s just not in it.” Or conversely “I love that idea!” Or when you notice “half-hearted” enthusiasm…pay attention! The “heart brain” is telling you something.

“Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of neurocardiac function that reflects heart and brain interactions and autonomic (unconscious) nervous system dynamics.” (McCraty & Singer, 2002) In other words, the people at the HeartMath Institute have found a way to measure and prove correlations between how variable our heart rate is (e.g. is our heart rate calm and steady or does it speed up and slow down a lot?) and various physical outcomes.

When HRV was measured in relation to other physical phenomenon, correlations were found to exist between 1) health and behavior problems, 2) psychological resiliency and the ability to adapt to stress, 3) superior performance and tasks related to executive functions.

The signals that the heart sends are biological patterns that encode information. What the HeartMath Institute has been doing is to measure these invisible magnetic forces and notice when there is physiological coherence. This word “coherence” has a very specific and important meaning in their work:

“Physiological coherence describes the degree of order, harmony and stability in the various rhythmic activities within living systems over any given time period.”

They have proven that by learning to regulate our heart we can improve all kinds of things. For example, HRV coherence is associated with improved mental functions. And they have developed an entire training system for our hearts. How amazing is that! The HeartMath Institute is creating a whole body of self-regulation tools that allow people to train to achieve optimal states of coherence.

Coherence and What This Means At Work

Let’s apply this to our leadership development work. If a person is living and working in an environment that triggers “Critter State,” they would be unlikely to be able to maintain coherence. Their defense mechanisms would be up and they would have limited access to their frontal lobes. It seems that part of the physiological reaction, the shutting down involved in a fight, flight, or freeze reaction to fear, would most likely involve the heart rate as well. The reduced access to the creative parts of your brain might actually be caused by the messages sent from the heart, rather than vice versa. Conversely, “Smart State” in the brain would be more likely to exist when there is more coherence in the heart.

In my work, I talk a lot about how to reduce fear in the workplace and structure full engagement. The HeartMath Institute’s work brings to light a key component of this type of leadership. When I speak about things like recruiting based on company values, aligning people with an emotionally compelling mission and vision, creating an environment of safety and belonging, frequently recognizing and celebrating achievements so that people know they matter…I am also talking about how to engage the hearts of your people. Engaging the heart is a key component of evolving a “Smart State”. It’s time to consider the heart brain at work.

Is Technology Making Us Dumb And Numb?

As we spend more and more time connected to technology, we’re spending less and less time connected to each other.

And as we spend more and more time connected to technology, we’re multitasking more. That’s a problem.

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Multitasking reduces gray matter density in the area of the brain called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC). Susan Greenfield, a brilliant neuroscientist at Oxford, spoke about this, and other related issues, at the recent Aspen Ideas Festival.

Here’s a quick primer, thanks to Wikipedia. The ACC has both cognitive (dorsal), and emotional (ventral) components. The dorsal part of the ACC is connected with the prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex as well as the motor system and the frontal eye fields making it a central station for processingtop-down and bottom-up stimuli and assigning appropriate control to other areas in the brain. By contrast, the ventral part of the ACC is connected with the amygdala, nucleus accumbens,hypothalamus, and anterior insula, and is involved in assessing the salience of emotion and motivational information.

The ACC is involved in a number of cognitive and emotional functions including reward anticipation,decision-making, empathy, impulse control, and emotion. It acts like a hub for processing and assigning control to other areas of the brain, based on whether the messages are cognitive (dorsal) or emotional (ventral). So when we have reduced gray matter density in the ACC due to high media multitasking, over time we see reduced ability to make sound decisions, to modulate our emotions, to have empathy and to connect emotionally to others.


Reduced connection increases stress, distrust, even aggression. And it also decreases empathy.

Here’s an example of how social media is making us disconnected.

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So the result is… lots of anxiety in all areas of our personal and professional lives. We “over share” on social to feel good, often creating and ideal us. But then the real us isn’t revealed, which causes greater disconnection. And the cycle repeats.

Your Brain on Stress

Stress causes your body to release cortisol which then triggers cytokines–proteins that are key in cell signaling. Cytokines affect the behavior of many cells. The result? Excessive cytokines lead to lots of trouble. Here’s a summary:

Stress -> Cortisol released -> Cytokines triggered-> A person then:

  • Is easily upset
  • Has immune system damage
  • Experiences learning challenges
  • Has difficulty organizing


Learning systems affected by cytokines are:

  • Hippocampus: memory, learning
  • Limbic system: fight/flight/freeze response
  • Amygdala: emotional regulation, reactivity, remembered stress
  • Prefrontal Cortex: self-regulation, attention, executive functions

So what’s the solution? Bring profound meaning to your workplace to increase connection, trust, performance, shared identity while reducing stress and emotional upset.

Shared identity + profound meaning = trust = tribe

Creating Trust and Tribe

You’ve read about the importance of safety, belonging, mattering in my previous blogs. This is a great foundation to create trust. Let’s now understand what trust does for your awesome brain.

In environments and relationships of trust serotonin and dopamine are released, which results in our feeling good due to oxytocin (the bonding neurotransmitter). At the same time cortisol (the stress-related hormone) is reduced. The result is we experience increased resilience in stressful times due to trust of our leader which supports our own emotional self-regulation (“I’m with a great leader, so I’ll be ok, so I don’t need to freak out now.”)

A more reliable, enriched, interactive tribal environment is good for the brain and business. Enrichedmeans an interactive, stimulating environment which leads to increased surface area of brain cells, which results in making more connections/solving problems faster/figuring things out faster/innovating better.

Reliable Environments Have High ROI

A brain in an enriched (stimulating) environment will have more branches, and more branches = more surface area = more connections = more meaning (personalizing things around you)…

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Meaning can also manifest as checks and balances. Think of when you last made meaning about someone/something… how did it make you feel?

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So more meaning equals:

    • More fulfillment
    • More contribution
    • More innovation
    • More loyalty
    • More emotional resilience
    • More retention
    • More engagement
    • More trust

Your Trust and Tribes Action Plan

Here are a series of questions to help you assess the state of your company culture, your family, your world.

  1. Shared Identity
  • Does your culture have a clear identity? If so, what is it?
  • Does everyone throughout your company agree with and feel inspired by the identity?
  • Does your shared identity create safety, belonging, mattering?
  1. Profound Meaning
  • Are your mission, vision, values working as well as they could be?
  • Do you have an effective process to recruit true tribe members?
  • Does your team have high trust and transparency around performance?
  1. Tribal Rituals
  • Does each team member have an Individual Development Plan?
  • How do your culture rituals support your values? Are they enough to motivate belonging and mattering?
  • Is it safe to fail in your culture?
  1. Transparency, Feedback, Fairness
  • How skilled is your team at giving formal feedback?
  • Does your tribe feel comfortable giving and receiving frequent and open feedback (both positive and negative)?
  • How are accountability misses handled? Are responsibilities transparent?

How much trust and tribe do you have? Do you think tech is making us dumb and numb? I’d love to know.

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!

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

Top 10 CMO Insights From The Economist Conference

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The Economist recently held its annual conference for chief marketing officers — dubbed “The Big Rethink” — at New York’s TimeWarner Center.  I couldn’t make it, but my friend Steve O’Keefeof SixEstate did. Thanks to Steve we have his top 10 tweetable moments:

1. “40% of our marketing spend in China is digital.”
– Tim MahoneyGeneral Motors

When one of the biggest consumer advertisers in the world says his company is going to spend almost half its total marketing budget on digital — in the largest market in the world — it says a lot about the future of global business and digital marketing.

2. “What matters to millennials is what their friends think is cool.”
– Anindita MukherjeeFrito-Lay North America

Mukherjee had some of the best lines at the conference. Concerning the controversial issue of paying Facebook for promoted posts that push content to your followers, she said, “If you do it right, the juice is worth the squeeze.” She also explained how FritoLay collaborates with Walmart to track promotions, noting that Walmart knows more about FritoLay consumers than FritoLay ever will.

3. “We are quantifying the value of the influencer.”
– Deanie ElsnerKraft Foods Group

Deanie Elsner, one of the new breed of brainy-friendly-female CMOs, explained how big data analysis supercharged peanut sales for Kraft by refocusing marketing on women instead of men. It also led to marketing Lunchables to adults, tripling sales of that brand in one year.

4. “Interactive fans are more important than avid fans.”
– Simon WardleOctagon

5. “Empowered consumers are in charge now.”
– Mayur GuptaKimberly-Clark

Before the conference, The Economist stoked a great deal of discussion with an article citing a Gartner stat that in 2017, CMOs will have a bigger share of the technology budget than CIOs. Gupta put the horse back in front of the cart, saying the whole organization needs to recognize that the customer is in charge now, not the CMO, the CIO, or the CEO. Neil Bedwell at Coca-Cola said much the same thing about marketing: “The days of talking about yourself are over. We’re telling fan stories now.” Michael Brenner at SAP says it’s true in B-to-B too: “Storytelling is the future of marketing — with the customer at the center of the story.”

6. “Customers expect you to know who they are and what they like.”
– Tariq M. ShaukatCaesars Entertainment

Almost all of Caesars’ regular customers use the entertainment giant’s rewards program. That program captures 80% of all activity by customers. That includes deep data such as what people eat and drink in restaurants and how often they use amenities, along with more basic information about customer wagering, winnings, and losses. Caesars draws the line at storing data that might upset members if known.

7. “We will tell you who your significant other will be.”
– Amit Shah1-800-Flowers

Amit Shah was speaking about the future of digital marketing, but even in the present, your florist may know many important details about you and the people around you. With enough data, they really could point you to someone nearby with shared interests.

8. “Consumers are more concerned about the erosion of personal privacy than they are about climate change.”
– Laura SimpsonMcCann Truth Central

Simpson stressed the need to compensate consumers for sharing their data. As an example, she said the men and women who spend up to two hours each day uploading data about themselves and their babies to the WebMD Pregnancy App believe they are raising better babies as a result. Consumers are willing to tolerate privacy invasions if it results in better lives.

9. “A human PLUS a computer beats a human OR a computer every time.”
– David RogersBRITE Columbia Business School

BRITE Columbia Business School Executive Director David Rogers made the marketers in attendance feel a little better after a day hearing how big data analysis is rendering us obsolete. Among other insights, he saw a “hollowing out” in marketing coinciding with the decline of the middle class: “Advertising production values are either very high or very low.”

10. “It’s not about being perfect — it’s about being the best at being better.”
– Peter McGuinnessChobani

The last word here goes to Peter McGuinness, rock-star marketing head of yogurt dynamo Chobani. While McGuinness came across as an old-fashioned CMO (smart, male, intimidating), he explained how Chobani’s “How Matters” slogan applies to marketing. It really does matter how you handle your marketing, and the goal really should be continuous improvement — the best at getting better.

How many of these top 10 truths do you apply in your marketing?

Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a former serial entrepreneur, White House advisor and neuroscience-based executive coach that helps leaders build cultures of trust and high performance.

Fix or Fire? Who To Cultivate, Turn Around, Let Go Of At Work

I was thinking the other day of Jack Welsh’s philosophy that people fit into four categories of performance:

  1. Live the firm values and do produce: keep them!
  2. Live the firm values and are not producing: keep them and develop their performance.
  3. Don’t live the values and don’t produce: easy–fire them!
  4. Don’t live the values and do produce: all organizations struggle here. They should be fired or coached—but many organizations do neither.

Let’s turn this around.

First, recruit people that are naturally aligned with your values.

Here’s where we find our clients often struggle:

  • 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. Here’s a sample list of recruiting questions that apply to all roles in a company:

  • Which of our company values are most aligned with your personal values? Why?
  • Please tell me some times in your career when you’ve most powerfully embodied our values?
  • What are the 5 career accomplishments you are most proud of? Why?
  • What are 5 adjectives used to describe you by: colleagues, bosses, friends, yourself?
  • What makes a working environment most compelling?
  • Where do you want to be career-wise in 3 years? 5 years?
  • What is your mission in life and why would working with us help you achieve it?
  • What is the most important thing in life? How do you ensure you honor it?
  • Please tell us a bit about your past entrepreneurial experiences and why/how you’d fit in with us.
  • [add all of your role-specific questions here]

Now let’s address the people in categories #2 (lives the values but not producing) and #4 (don’t live values and do produce) above. Work on turning them around with our Counseling Process first. And if that doesn’t work, it’s time to let them go. To start:

  • Determine what a realistic counseling/turnaround period is: 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on the complexity of the behavior change.
  • Next , think through the specific behavior(s) you need changed, as well as what level of support you are willing to provide.
  • Last, determine the consequences if the behavior does not change (Demotion? Termination?) or if the behavior does indeed change (Keep current job? Move to another team?)
  • Good—now schedule the meeting with the employee that needs counseling.

Our clients love our conflict resolution process below, as it helps everyone get to a shared positive understanding for growth/resolution:

  1. Set the stage – explain why you’re meeting and the outcome you want (to form a collaborative turnaround plan)
  2. State observable data/behavior – this is where you describe specific behaviors that must change and examples so the employee can “step into” the past scenarios
  3. Describe impact – the damage that these behaviors are doing to others/the company/the employee themselves
  4. Check problem acknowledgement – do they agree that there is a problem? Do they agree this problem now must end? This is the most essential step. If you don’t reach agreement here, go back to step 1. Once agreement is reached you’ll notice steps 5-7 are more pleasant, as the employee will now be engaged in finding a solution!
  5. Co-create a plan – set a time period (30-90 days) where you’ll meet weekly for 15-30 minutes to track their progress on releasing the challenging behaviors identified above. Make the plan very specific in terms of what you need to see and when you’ll know you got the outcome you wanted. If the turnaround doesn’t occur, state clearly what the consequences will be (lose job, etc).
  6. Check understanding – is everything clear? Anything else we need to cover? Reiterate desire for a positive resolution so the consequences can become irrelevant.
  7. Build small agreements – launch the plan and commit to ending the conflict once and for all. Be sure to track it frequently and make sure all concerned see the behavior change too.

What categories are your employees in? When will you address those in #2 and #4?

Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a former serial entrepreneur, White House advisor and neuroscience-based executive coach that helps leaders build cultures of trust and high performance.