The Number One Neuroscience Game-Changing Tool All Leaders Need For The New Year

Who do you work with that just drives you bonkers? Do you wish there was a way to wave a magic wand and instantly remove the immediate irritation, angst and frustration you associate with them?

While I don’t have a magic wand, thanks to neuroscience, I do have a practical tool that you can start using right now that will reap immediate results. Bye Bye Angst – Hello Focused Presence.

The tool? Reframing.

By definition Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more useful alternatives. It is a practical and valuable tool to shift perception, your perception of self or someone’s perception of themselves.

Same behavior – different contexts  – create different meaning.

Example: You’ve just mopped the floor and your spouse makes tea. While transferring the dripping tea bag from the pot to the garbage, tea drips all over the floor. You could focus on the “bad” behavior, complain, start a fight and have no tea or affection that afternoon. Or you could look at those shining drops and say to yourself, “Wow, I have someone who loves me in my life! And they’ve made me tea. Just look at those tea drops on the floor, there’s the proof I’m loved!” And then enjoy that cuppa with your messy but loving partner.

The behavior and the facts of the matter are the same, we’ve just altered our self talk to make different meaning from the tea drops on the floor. And after all, at the end of the day, do you care more about some drops of tea or about your relationship?

According to research from Stanford University, only a half hour of complaining every day physically damages a person’s brain. Neurons in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for problem solving and meta-cognition) are injured when flooded with the chemical signature of the body’s response to negativity, whether you are the complainer or the recipient of the complaint.

And worse yet, complaining can be habitual. Once the complaining aspect of Critter State becomes acceptable we all just normalize around it. According to Guy Winch PhD, author of “The Squeaky Wheel”, venting also puts cortisol, the stress hormone, into our bloodstream.

That’s not to say, don’t notice problems. Too much rose-colored glasses can also become a liability. To know when to reframe and when to address with some targeted feedback , let’s take Pope John the XXIII’s timeless advice here: “See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.”

Where we’ve decided to “overlook”, grooving your brain to reframe helps keep your brain healthy and everyone in the Smart State.

End Office Stress

Sometimes a whole team can be stuck in a cycle of negative distorted thinking.

Humans create distortions. The brain naturally and usefully deletes, distorts and generalizes. This is necessary for survival as without this capability we would simply be overwhelmed with input. However, occasionally these distortions can get grooved into a not-so-useful pattern. Look out for some common distortions listed in the table below:

Distorted Thinking

Reframing here allows you to shift your thinking and expand your perception. Think of it as putting on a different pair of glasses – what would you see if you put on a pair of sunglasses with a heavy tint when you are in a dark room? You would see shadows and dark forms that you can’t identify. What happens when you take those glasses off? You may see the most beautiful room in the world.  When you switch your glasses, what you see changes. Reframing, mentally and linguistically, does the same thing.

Try this exercise

Look through the above table.  Which distortions are most potent for you? For your team? For your company culture overall? Name the distortion. Name the meaning that is being made from a behavior or circumstance. Think of it like an equation, in our minds, this behavior (or circumstance) = something negative. Then try replacing the negative with something positive and/or empowering. Inside your head you are saying: “That doesn’t mean (something bad), it means (something positive)!”

For example, what if there was a lot of labeling going on, and someone who made a mistake is a “careless loser”. Try applying the thinking “What if that behavior (making a mistake in this case) meant something different”. Then try thinking “Making a mistake means (something positive).” In this case, you could try, “Making a mistake means someone is trying new things, they are innovating and learning.” Look for some evidence to back up this new meaning. Then try saying it to others about a particular incident.

Make a game out of shifting the team out of distortions that are pulling you into Critter State. Using the reframe you came up with in the above exercise, try saying it to as many people as possible in a morning. Then sit back and watch it go around just like a game of telephone. The words will shift but the intention won’t.

Reframing is powerful when working with your teams. This tool allows you to change your stance and to help shift the team out of the tension triangle to empowerment.

Achieve Your Goals Faster: The Latest Neuroscience of Goal Attainment

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

Why do we fail at achieving goals?

The answer is in your brain—and your blood pressure.

And high blood pressure can help you keep goals on track.

Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist from NYU, recently explained how properly set goals boosts our systolic blood pressure (SBP), which is the measurement of our body being geared up and ready to act. If the goal is easy to achieve we get a nice spike. If it’s moderately hard but seems like a feasible challenge (harder than easy) we get a larger spike and thus more excitement in the body and sympathetic nervous system. But if the goal is seen as impossible our system writes it off, indicated below by SBP decrease.

Emily Balcetis 2015

So what does this mean? As leaders we have an opportunity to create greater neural activation around goals by ensuring we create systemic support. And when we strike a balance when setting goals the neural activation and systemic support help us to achieve them. Often present in goals, and especially present in stretch goals or “mind blower” needle movers are the following key factors:

  • Psychological distance
  • Social distance
  • Spacial distance

The medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) deals with the here and now. You’ll recall from previous blogsthat when we light up, or activate, the MPFC it helps us to simulate goal achievement, to envision what it will be like to achieve the goal and what to do. But when goals seem too far away we get far less activation in the MPFC and thus far less simulation or envisioning how to achieve the goal and what it will be like.

So to succeed in goal setting, and especially in stretch goal setting, Balcetis’s research states we’ll want to:

  1. Plan for Obstacles  have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup plan to the backup plan. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics everyone was betting on Michael Phelps. He had already won 7 gold medals, and his next event was his strongest—his eighth gold medal was nearly in the bag. But then tragedy struck: he dove into the pool and his goggles filled with water. Virtually blind he activated his backup plan—he started counting his strokes. He knew how many strokes he needed to get to the other end of the pool. So he focused, stayed calm, and yes, won a staggering 8 gold medals. Planning for obstacles while at the same time envisioning success boosts our systolic blood pressure—it increases our readiness to act.
  1. Create the Right Habits – Setting and sharing intentions make goals happen. When we make commitments to ourselves and others, and we discuss, sign off on them, and ask “what can I do today” to get closer to achieving our goal we boost systolic blood pressure too. These are called Implementation Intentions. Our team and our clients often ask “how will I move the needle this week?” because we call goals needle movers. This is why at our firm we set a minimum (“easy”), target (“moderate”), and mindblower (“impossible” per Balcetis, but we use the below techniques to boost systolic blood pressure to move them closer to “challenging”).
  1. Move the Goal Closer – above I talked about the 3 types of distance your brain associates with a goal: psychological distance, social distance, and spacial distance. Moving the goal closer requires us to envision it, to see ourselves achieving it (like Michael Phelps seeing himself win the race). Remember the goal must be specific and tangible (win this race) versus more abstract (get gold medal). With this “promotion” focus we activate the left side of our prefrontal cortex and the planning/envisioning gets stronger. We also light up the ventral striatum where we experience reward, and get a nice dose of dopamine to cause good feelings around the goal being achieved.

When we focus on the goal in our mind’s eye, Balcetis found that goals actually looked 30% closer (and thus more achieveable).

Emily Balcetis 2015

And when goals look closer, any progress we make towards achieving those goals actually feels easier, so we psych ourselves up and not out. And the goal feels 17% easier.


And finally… we can actually increase the speed at which we achieve the goal by 23% too!


This is how incredibly powerful your brain is. Wow.

To have an experience of moving your own goal closer, right now, click here. Looks closer now, yes? Feels easier now, yes? And best of all, you’ll achieve it faster now too.

Let me know how your goal setting and achievement has been improved by this blog!

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.

How Engaged Teams Boost Sales

Susan came to us because her company was stuck at the $250 million revenue inflection point. Revenue had risen to $262 million but slid back down, then hovered at $251 million for a few years, and the last year had been really scary—revenue had plunged to $207 million.

Susan was justifiably proud because the company had been featured in several magazine articles that proclaimed how wonderful and innovative the company was. She did not expect us to find anything amiss in the Cultural Assessment and quite emphatically told us so. She was certain her company’s problem was not getting introduced to the right investors. But she was willing to let us do the analysis anyway so that we could help her and the real problem.

What we found shocked and depressed her. Less than 10% of the company understood the company’s vision or could explain how their jobs and their performance related to it.


Why Are We Here?

A bronze plaque in the lobby celebrated the company vision and at quarterly town hall meetings a selected team TISI -0.21% member would repeat it too. Sure, they could read or even memorize the vision, but they didn’t feel it. The vision didn’t get them up in the morning, didn’t throw fuel on their internal fire to achieve great things, didn’t motivate and inspire them, and didn’t stick them firmly in their Smart State.

Deeper questioning revealed that there was little alignment in the team members’ day-to-day operations and there was no sense that they were part of a team achieving anything beyond staying profitable and staying employed, when in fact the company did have some extraordinary and compelling values.

The worst part? The company was unable to attract new talent, and was losing key players. Top salespeople and engineers were heading for the door. Without career development or a stake in continued growth, employees had little incentive to exceed minimum performance expectations. If this continued, the company would take an even deeper nosedive. It was time to act, and fast.

Why Are We Doing What We Do?

Diagnosis: The major issues boiled down to lack of clarity. The company vision existed, but it had no impact, no emotional equity. Marketing and information technology had no real accountability structures. The executive team was disengaged and constantly looked to Susan to resolve turf wars, which led to rampant misunderstandings and divisiveness.

We hunkered down with Susan and set the ground rules. Together we would rebuild this culture. She’d be a key part of it, but when we told her to back off and let her people drive, she agreed to do so.

After ninety days of leadership training and one-on-one coaching for Susan and her executive team members, the team had gradually become more and more engaged in their Smart State and less committed to their Critter State. They began to see themselves not just as managers but as leaders responsible for communicating clearly with their energy and intention just as much as with their words and directions.

Clarity Fuels Engagement

We rounded up the management team for beer and pizza late one afternoon. Together we formed a code of conduct (explicitly naming value-based behaviors) that everyone vowed to uphold. Next , we drafted the company’s mission, vision, and values. Were they perfect? Nope. Did they motivate and inspire the team? Yep. That was a solid start. Even better was that the executive team insisted on emphasizing the two most effective forms of communication at this meeting: requests and promises. Once they had the hang of it and saw the results it produced, each and every one of them committed to holding their teams accountable to creating effective meetings. The company’s meeting rooms were soon plastered with our Five Types of Communication chart (again making desired cultural norms explicit) and the new focus made meetings efficient.

Then we implemented new formats for communicating the company vision with clarity, and overhauled the accountability and reward structures. Within ninety more days, the executives and all team members were supporting one another in living their mission, vision, and values. The new statements were not that different from Susan’s version, but the team owned them and they were stated in a common language, so they could feel their importance.

The firm is now able to consistently attract the talent they need— and the communication and clarity structures helped the entire team see into their blind spots. One year later Susan’s company is zooming toward $270 million in revenue (from $207 million the previous year), with the $500 million inflection point as the target in four years or less.

Do you know your company vision? Do your team members know it? Do they feel emotional about it?

Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a neuroscience-based leadership and culture coach. Her current NY Times bestselling book is entitled SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together. 


One In Five Workers Will Quit Their Job This Year — Here’s How To Keep Your Rock Stars

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CareerBuilder recently released a survey saying that 21% of workers plan to change jobs this year. Wow—that’s the highest percentage since the recession, and a whopping 17% increase from last year.

Let’s find out why…

Why People Will Quit This Year

According to the CareerBuilder/Harris Interactive survey of 3,008 full-time workers, people will quit if they:

· are dissatisfied with their job: 58%

· are dissatisfied with advancement opportunities at current company: 45%

· are dissatisfied with their work/life balance: 39%

· feel underemployed: 39%

· are highly stressed: 39%

· have a poor opinion of their boss’s performance: 37%

· feel they were overlooked for a promotion: 36%

· have been with their company two years or less: 35% (versus only 13% of workers who’ve been with their company for five-plus years.)

· didn’t receive a pay increase in 2013: 28%

… And Why People Will Stay

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Eight in 10 workers (79%) have no intention of leaving their current job this year. Key contributors are fulfilling relationships with co-workers, work-life balance and benefits. Here’s the break down, per CareerBuilder:

1. “I like the people I work with.” – 54%

2. “I have a good work/life balance.” – 50%

3. “I have good benefits.” – 49%

4. “I make a good salary.” – 43%

5. “There still is a lot of uncertainty in the job market.” – 35%

6. “I have a quick commute.” – 35%

7. “I have a good boss who watches out for me.” – 32%

8. “I feel valued and my accomplishments are recognized.” – 29%

Five Ways To Keep Your Rock Stars

Here are tips from our clients with the strongest employee retention and morale:

  1. Make a difference. We all want to be part of something bigger, to stand for something worthy, to devote our precious time to more than the pursuit of the almighty buck. Make sure your mission, vision and values make people feel proud to be part of your tribe. If they don’t, click here to download our Leadership Kit and follow our quick tutorial to turn yours around.
  2. Be firm but fair. Every year all the top HR firms do a survey of what sort of leadership people really want—a nice boss or a tough boss. And every year the results are the same: people want a firm, and fair boss—someone who is tough and nice. This helps a worker know where they stand, how to succeed, what is expected of them with clarity and transparency.
  3. Give people power. There’s a fine line between autonomy and anarchy, and it’s called expectations. If we set clear performance expectations, and clear areas of ownership, people will make good decisions—and if they don’t they’ll figure this out fairly quickly. Before people make decisions ask them to consider: is this a win-win for both parties? Is it ethical? Does it honor our values? Then do it. Let people own their areas, and they’ll bring you great ideas and loyalty.
  4. Inject passion, play, release, communication in your culture. We all need to blow off steam at work, have contests and fun lively competition, love what we do and love who we do it with. When your team speaks openly with one another and leadership, when we embrace our humanity, when we know the team has our back and we’re in this together, retention and morale are high. How human is your culture? When mistake are made do you clear them up together or have a blame fest?
  5. Do strategic plans two times per year. People need to know what is going on, where we’re headed, why, when and what it’ll mean when we get there (and why we should care). Our most successful clients have us help them craft one day strategic plans every six months. We look 12 months out each time, and spend one-third of the time brainstorming/having visions, one-third sorting through options and making plans, one-third of the time on deliverables, timelines, who owns what. Then everyone can own their area (see #3 above) and feel powerful.

Choice in the workplace is greater now than ever before. This is good news: it means employers need to continually raise the bar to engage their employees, and it means we all need to forge a code of respect, honor, and commitment to one another. The theme is collaboration: the employer has value, the employee has value, and together we’re deciding—like any relationship—to invest in one another to create something great.

Make sure your culture is on track–take our 3 minute assessment here.

Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a neuroscience-based leadership and culture coach. Her current NY Times bestselling book is entitled SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together. Join her tribe and get free webinars, neuroscience resources, and more by clicking here.