Why Smart People Make Stupid Decisions

*As originally seen on

We’ve all been there.

We make what we think is a rational decision. And then seconds, minutes or days later we wonder “What was I thinking?!” Was it a temporary lapse of sanity? Were we just distracted and decided anyway?

We knew it wasn’t the right decision or the best decision, but in that moment, we made a decision anyway. And it ended up being a stupid one. Why?


The Science Behind “Stupid”

Does this mean that we are indeed stupid? Nope. It simply means that not every decision we make is actually rational. We see what we want to see filtered through our inherent biases, and then we make decisions based on those biases. These biases are called cognitive biases and we all have them.

cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. These biases cause conclusions, inferences, assumptions about people and situations to be drawn in a less than logical fashion. We all create our own “subjective social reality” from our perception of the input we receive — both from outside of us and inside of us.

How can we stop making stupid decisions and start making smart ones? By spending time understanding our cognitive biases.

When we understand, we make better decisions.

Check out this graphic, then in a few minutes I’ll walk you through how I used it to help a client make a smart hire instead of a stupid one.

What’s Your Bias? Or How Bias Impacts Business

Neil Jacobstein, an expert in artificial intelligence, notes that we all use AI and algorithms to mitigate and compensate for many of the following heuristics in human cognition (thinking):

Anchoring bias: Tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

Availability bias: Tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events with greater “availability” in memory, which can be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes.

Bandwagon effect: Tendency to do (or believe) things because many people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behavior.

Hindsight bias: Sometimes called the “I knew it all along” effect, the tendency to see past events as being predictable at the time those events happened.

Normalcy bias: Refusal to plan for, or react to, a disaster which has never happened before.

Optimism bias: Tendency to be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes. 

Planning fallacy bias: Tendency to overestimate benefits and underestimate costs and task-completion times.

Sunk-cost or loss-aversion bias: Disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it.

Click here for a complete list of all cognitive biases.

Jacobstein is fond of pointing out that your neocortex has not had a major upgrade in 50,000 years. It is the size, shape and thickness of a dinner napkin. “What if,” he asks, “it was the size of a table cloth? Or California?”

The Benefits Of Bias—And How To Optimize Yours

Biases can be helpful. They filter through information overwhelm, they help make sense of the world, they allow us to make quick decisions in a fast paced world. Check out this recent challenge an executive coaching client of mine had.

My client needed to hire a VP marketing to take the company to the next level. He had four candidates that had made it to the interview stage and one had even made it onsite to meet with four different key stakeholders in the organization. I asked him why he favored this one candidate by such a long shot. As I listened I heard the following biases. He was showing:

• Planning fallacy bias: Underestimating how long the process would take and what a great hire would cost.

• Anchoring bias: Focusing on one piece of information (the candidate’s current job accomplishments but not his entire career—his resume had  two decades of one to two year roles).

• Availability bias: Because the candidate was successful (in a huge company with tons of resources available) he assumed he’d be successful in a much smaller company (with about 1/6 of the resources the candidate was accustomed to).

• Optimism bias: Some of this too…thinking we’d have a solid candidate identified, screened, hired within six weeks.

I expressed these concerns, and how cognitive biases can be busted when you:

• Take Your Time: You will make better decisions when you aren’t hungry, tired or stressed. Taking time before making a decision allows you to have think about the future and the impact of your decision.

• Get An Outside View: Ask a trusted advisor or peer for their opinion.

• Consider Options: What else could you do?

Then he asked me to interview the candidate. I deeply questioned the candidate in each of the bias areas our client had. The result? They’re not the right fit for the company. Not by a long shot. The excellent news is our client avoided a costly hiring mistake and the super excellent news is that he still has three candidates that might fit the bill once they are interviewed by carefully avoiding cognitive bias.

While we’ll all still make stupid decisions now and then (welcome to being human!), once you understand cognitive biases you’ll mitigate risk by implementing the tools above.

Organizational Distrust Is Rampant: Why Leaders Should Be Worried

*As originally seen on

Distrust is rampant. It’s worldwide. It’s pervasive across all types of organizations in the business world. Even though the trust of CEOs is at an all-time low, we can help heal the distrust that may exist in your organization and boost your trust-factor among your tribe.

Are you ready?


You Can’t Buy Trust

Organizations can’t ‘buy’ the trust of their team, but they can create and foster it through increasing engagement and avoiding common pitfalls.

A tribe that continuously activates the reward network — smart tribe — is more productive and effective.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) - Pain and Pleasure

via UCLA

A tribe that continuously activates the pain network suffers from three common leadership pitfalls:

• Pitfall #1: Asking for feedback yet not acting on it

• Pitfall #2: Unemotional or not compelling mission, vision values

• Pitfall #3: Ineffective delegation

When we activate the reward network, an organization inspires intrinsic motivation in their tribe. This intrinsic motivation creates an environment where your talent wants to rise up, be accountable, honor the organization’s mission, vision, values and deliver consistent results.

Thanks to Seth Godin, here is a clearly laid out map to ensure you’re building trust most effectively. While this applies to marketing your brand, you are not only marketing your brand to your customers, but you are marketing your brand to your potential and existing talent within your tribe. Potential talent interacts with your brand far before the interview ever takes place. Once hired, talent will continue to interact with your brand ongoing.

Here are  Seth’s nine factors/aspects of building a powerful brand that inspires trust:

• Word Of Mouth: If I’ve heard good things about you, I am more inclined to trust you.

• Direct Interaction: Have you already interacted with me?

• Tone Of Voice: Does the tone build the relationship and foster Safety, Belonging, Mattering?

• Offer: What’s in it for me to listen to what you have to say? Do I gain more if I listen with an engaged and sympathetic ear?

• Size Of Leap: What are you asking me to do? How big is it?

• Tribal Affiliation: Are you one of us? Am I one of you?

• Perception Of Transparency: When I can understand your intention, I’m more inclined to trust you.

• Longevity: How long have you been showing up? How do you consistently treat your tribe?

• Mass Acceptance: When I hear about you from other tribe members, what are they saying? Is what they are saying, positive or negative, based in truth (perceived or real)?


Trust Drives Talent

Accountability is deeply tied to promises and trust. Safety, belonging, and mattering are quickly damaged when accountability is dropped. In previous blogs, I have discussed how as leaders, it’s key when administering consequences to determine if accountability is being dropped because the person is in their Critter State and is stuck, or if they are intentionally uncooperative.

In my experience, trust is broken in three levels: capability, commitment and character. The same applies to how trust is broken and egos are triggered from the perception of your tribe.

• Capability: Is the organization truly capable of doing what was promised? Capability breaches of trust are the easiest to fix if a company moves swiftly and is transparent.

• Commitment: Is the organization committed to following through on what was promised? Commitment breaches can be tricky. When an organization repeatedly drops commitments, we must find out what the underlying cause is. This can be achieved through leaders working with an executive coach and discovering/determining what they truly want to achieve using the Outcome Frame. This can also be achieved by listening to the feedback from the tribe.

• Character: If an organization keeps making promises and breaking them, who are they, really? An empowered and engaged tribe wants to be part of an organization they can count on. Character breaches are the hardest to fix since the tribe now doubts what the organization totally stands for.

Breaches in capability, commitment and character can take months or even years of demonstrating consistency to win back trust. The organizations that I’ve worked with typically see positive results begin within 6-18 months, depending on the level of Critter State among their team and the severity of the breach.

Trust Drives ROI

According to Paul J. Zak, founding director for the Center of Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, “In its 2016 global CEO survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. But most have done little to increase trust, mainly because they aren’t sure where to start.”

Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

• 74% less stress

• 106% more energy at work

• 50% higher productivity

• 13% fewer sick days

• 76% more engagement

• 29% more satisfaction with their lives

• 40% less burnout

Two practices to increase trust:

1. Look at Seth’s nine criteria above and scale yourself 1-5 (5 being the highest)and this will show you where you need to work.

2. Consider your organization’s capability, commitment, and character. How are you doing?

How To Leverage Newly Reported Job Outlook Optimism & Recruit Great Talent

*As originally seen on

Optimism regarding finding a quality job is at an all-time high.

“For the first time since Gallup began tracking the question in 2001, a majority of Americans (54%) say it is a ‘good time’ to find a quality job.” What’s created this massive upward swing?

Also per Gallup: “People’s optimism is affected by the political lens through which they view the country’s economic health. However, the overall trend in the quality job measure has generally tracked with official statistics about how the job market is doing, including the severe drop after the Great Recession and the improved outlook in recent years as unemployment has reached the lowest point in a decade.”

How can you leverage this improved climate of optimism? As a leader/organization seeking quality talent, or as the talent looking for a quality role, here’s how you can get tuned up and ready to maximize this rise in optimism in the job market.


Leaders: Leverage Optimism And Recruit Great Talent

If you are a leader, this may be a great time to dust off your current impact descriptions. If you are still using job descriptions, this may be a great time to create impact descriptions.

Impact Description – Not Job Description

Impact descriptions help both your team and your candidates to understand that every role exists to impact the organization in some specific way.

Here are some of the items we recommend including in an impact (formerly known as job) description.

• Who we are (company mission, vision, values)

• Who you are (describe who a successful fit is)

• Why this role matters (how the role impacts others—both internally and externally)

• Who your internal customers are and how this role delivers value to them

• Responsibilities

• Requirements

• Performance metrics/KPIs for this role

• Potential career path (possible roles this role could evolve into, and/or job skills and leadership skills to be gained)

• Leadership level of role (see leadership levels graphic)

• Learning and development opportunities

• Compensation

• Once you have the right person in the right role, they need to understand and agree with what is expected of them.

The biggest net-net of having impact descriptions is they create a smaller pool of talent which is more clearly aligned with what you want to achieve with a given role. A smaller pool that is closer to what you want saves time and energy, and will ensure your next team member is the best candidate for your organization.

Redefine Recruiting

Once impact descriptions are used, our clients find that if they recruit for values and accountability, then the talent they interview are completely aligned with the values of their organization. Recruiting for values and accountability is a great way to leverage this boost in optimism around finding quality jobs.

Many clients ask for help in streamlining their recruiting processes. Here’s how we often find that they are going 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 representative of who they truly are. 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 five career accomplishments you are most proud of? Why?

• What are five 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 three years? Five 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]

Using the two processes above will ensure that you have the right talent to rock the right role.

If you are on the other side of the coin, talent that is looking for a quality job, here’s what you may want to consider.

Talent: Revisit Your Values And Polish Up Your Skills

Are you looking for a quality job with a company that is in alignment with who you are and the talents you possess? We suggest you dive into the following two areas:

Revisit Your Values

When’s the last time you really got in touch with your values?

Values will remind you of who you are and what your life is worth living for. Identifying your values is a process of discovery, a journey inward to who you really are. It is important to understand that your Values Compass is only as accurate and effective as the accuracy of the values you identify. By aligning your goals with your values and referring to them when faced with difficult decisions, the sense of struggle, overwhelm, and frustration in your life can virtually be eliminated. This does take time, but it is so worth it!

Think about a time in your life when things were very good. This would be a time when you were totally “at choice,” the best time in your life. Look at the values list below (or add your own) and identify five words on the list that were totally present for you during that time in your life. What values on that list were being totally honored during that time in your life?

Now repeat those same two steps, only think about one of the worst times in your life. This would be a time when you felt trapped, like you had no choices, a time when you were sort of at “rock bottom.” Identify the words on the list of values which were not  being honored for you during the time you described. Which of these words were clearly not present for you during that time in your life?

Though this process, you will experience crystal clear clarity on your values, which is important because you want to work with a company that has values that mesh with our own.

That way you are totally aligned.

Polish Up Your Skills

Are you ready to make sure you are the ‘rock star talent’ that the company you want to work with won’t overlook? We suggest self-evaluating (and maybe even ask a peer for feedback) if you are strong in these four brain-based areas.

1. Focus: ability to zoom in and zoom out, see big picture and little picture

2. Learning: ability to swiftly learn and retain information

3. Personal: knowing yourself and demonstrating self-regulation

4. Social: skills to read people accurately and skill to influence

*I go in depth regarding these areas in my previous blog: “Want To Be Promoted? Cultivate These 4 Traits.”

Trust me, spending some time polishing up your skills in these areas will increase your chance of landing your dream job drastically.

How will you leverage this massively improved climate of optimism?

63% Of Employees Don’t Trust Their Leader — Here’s What You Can Do To Change That

*As originally seen on

Trust is toast, according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

It’s worldwide, it’s pervasive across business and government, and trust of CEOs is at an all-time low.

CEO Credibility plunged by 12 points this year. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said CEOs are somewhat or not at all credible. Whoa. Wow.

How Trust Is Broken…

Lack of trust creates an environment where concerns quickly evolve into fears. And when fears collide with a belief that the system is failing, trouble results. Also as distrust and fear increase, the negative impact on employee morale, engagement and performance accelerate. The end results are disengaged employees, frustrated management and lower profits. And the problem comes from four key emotional experiences:

1. A sense of injustice – the experience of unfairness tamps down the insula, the part of the brain responsible for emotional hurt and intuition. If a person is experiencing unfairness they will be spending more time in critter state, which will impact performance, decision making, collaboration, overall peace and happiness.

2. Lack of hope – the experience of hopelessness is even more painful than unfairness, and it’s below Critter State on the emotional range. In neurolinguistics the states of hopeless, helpless, worthless, and grief/terror are consider Baseline States. It doesn’t get worse than this.

3. Lack of confidence – depending on the person and degree of lack of confidence we’ll likely see procrastination, reluctance to take risks, playing “small”, and yes, more Critter State.

4. Desire for change – this is encouraging as there’s some energy here. Desire for change means we can envision a possible future where things are better. This lights up the Ventral Striatum where we anticipate reward. If we can increase this experience we can get into Smart State.


A few more key findings are that with the experience of distrust Edelman found that facts matter less to people and bias becomes the filter. 53% of respondents stated they do not listen to people or organizations with whom they often disagree. Further, people are 4x more likely to ignore info that doesn’t support their beliefs. Wow.

…And How To Fix It

So what’s the solution? Edelman’s survey respondents said that a shift from a top-down approach to a more participatory model is needed. In a word: collaboration, communication, transparency and mutual respect. This means deeply listening to and strategically acting on insights from employees. The report also concluded that rebuilding trust is a shared responsibility. We’re in this together.

And sustainable trust is key. This means taking employee engagement and empowerment to a new level, and ensuring leadership is engaged and empowered too.

Engage Everyone

In previous blogs we have discussed proven and trusted neuroscience-based tools that will increase employee engagement, the real reasons your team is not engaged, how great leaders build trust and increase employee engagement and the one mistake leaders make that kills employee engagement.  Engagement starts at the top where the culture of the organization is formed–leaders must build a solid foundation where employee engagement can thrive.

 Leadership engagement = employee engagement.

Engagement and motivation happen when people solve their own problems, and create their own aspirations and expectations. That’s why the “outcome frame” tool is so powerful. Additionally it’s essential to:

• Use inquiry over advocacy—ask questions vs. giving orders, and use the Outcome Frame for deep insight and clarity creation.

• Hold team strategy and problem solving meetings at every level–meet to do the work not to talk about the work.

• Have team members create their own goals and action plans.

When we add empowerment to engagement, we will see profound results.

Empower Employees

Are you encouraging employees to have a voice? Are you empowering them to make decisions and to have a say in the company in their department/role and to offer feedback in a safe and outcome focused way?

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 problematic as well?

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 Critter State through a sense of loss of belonging, mattering and possibly safety. Not responding may result in having them feel invisible and powerless. This results in a fear-based culture where trust won’t thrive, when what we want is a transparent culture where trust is abundant.

According to the Edelman Report, the most trusted spokesperson to communicate the topic of employees are the employees themselves, not the CEO or the Senior Executives. Employees also find the following types of communication the most “believable.”

• 57% Spontaneous Speaker vs 43% Rehearsed Speaker

• 54% Blunt and Outspoken vs 46% Diplomatic & Polite

• 51% Personal Experience vs 49% Data

Effective communication works when we incorporate Safety, Belonging, Mattering into the dialogue. Here are three examples that employees can use with their leaders to increase this experience:

Safety: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you help me create structures, techniques, processes to foster innovation, safe and sane risk taking, intellectual challenges? I think this could really help us grow and stretch.”

Belonging: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you provide me with opportunities to bring people together, to form teams and help them perform at their peak? I would love to contribute this way.”

Mattering: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you let me know when you’re happy with my work/contributions and what specifically you like? This will help me do more of what matters to you and the company.”

Safety + Belonging + Mattering = Trust

We can help heal the significant distrust in the business world via first understanding what a person is experiencing and then intentionally helping them shift into engagement and empowerment. When we give people what they crave their Critter Brain (fear based) calms down and we can guide them into their Smart State.

The result? A culture where trust, true rapport, connection, alignment, enrollment and engagement live.

How will you build trust in your organization?

The Power Primer: Lessons From Andy Grove, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates And Larry Ellison

*As originally seen on


In my experience, leaders either use power well or they don’t. Thankfully, I’ve met more that fall into the “use power well” category.

Here are four powerful leaders and the lessons they taught me.

I hope their wisdom will touch you too.

Andy Grove (Photo By Anne Knudsen/Getty Images)

Andy Grove: Be Gracious

Andy Grove always tried to feed me. He was that kind of man, making sure others were comfortable. He was the most gracious billionaire of the dozen or so I’ve met, and the one I’ve most wanted to emulate. When I first pitched him to invest in my venture capital fund he told me the presentation was “lucid.” That to me was a huge compliment. When he introduced me to his wife he said “this is the woman that is managing our money”—which was too generous as I managed a very very infinitesimal amount of his staggering net worth.

The more wealth and power he acquired, the more gracious, considerate, kind he was to me. He always met me “where I was” intellectually and asked questions that were simple, straightforward and effective. His assistant always worked with my calendar to find a mutually appropriate meeting time so I felt respected and like we were equals. That equality was a remarkable and rare experience.

Bill Gates (TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Gates: Be Certain

It was 1985 and Windows was being trashed in the press. It had recently been launched and was full of bugs, was a commercial disaster, and was nearly unanimously ridiculed. Bill was unfazed. He said Windows was going to be the world standard, it was just a matter of time. We just had to keep plugging away at it, people would come to embrace it, they just didn’t “get it” quite yet.

Society often implies that we need to succeed to then be confident. But Bill taught me the exact opposite: you start with certainty, with confidence and then the proof shows up. It took until 1990 for Windows to become the desktop standard. Bill kept believing and moving through all the criticism for five years. Why? Because Windows was going to be the world standard. It was just a matter of time. He was certain of it.

Larry Ellison (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images)

Larry Ellison: Be Bold

Back in the day before Oracle was the market leader, their competitor Sybase regularly ate Oracle’s proverbial lunch. Head to head on sales calls Sybase was technically superior… and yet Larry told the world he’d eat their lunch. As his team marketed and sold with bold claims of superiority Oracle got lucky: Sybase had some problems, their stock price crashed, and things started to fall apart. Larry seized the day and put Oracle on top. When one of my startups needed Oracle licenses and we couldn’t afford them I decided to be bold with him. I offered Larry stock options in my company in exchange for Oracle software. He told me I had guts to try that. I said I learned the behavior by observing him. He laughed, signed the stock document, and had his people give me six-digits worth of software. And he never even executed the stock options.

Stephen Hawking (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation)

Stephen Hawking: Be Warm

I met Stephen at a White House lecture he was giving. This excerpt from my book Rules for Renegades says it all:

“Hi,” I say crouching before the seated man. He’s alone, slumped over the little desk attached to his wheelchair. “Your speech was terrific,” I tell him. “You make physics so . . . accessible. Thanks.” He smiles and shifts a little, preparing to type a reply into his speech synthesizer. Aware of the effort I say, “You needn’t respond.”

He looked up at me, into me, with deep dark eyes—no black holes here. His eyes embraced me in a down-duvet hug. And there it was: connection. I could feel his anguish, his giant, potent mind trapped in a tiny, twisted body. And right then my insecurity evaporates: I no longer care that I’m not a player, that I’ll probably never be all that important. Because my quest for success had been about being seen, about banishing the perpetual feeling of invisibility and inconsequence, about making sure I mattered. And right then, I did. I felt seen all the way through.

And I realized that this…this is a moment that I’ll remember, this very real, better-than-a-handshake moment: the soulshake, the touchless shake, of Professor Stephen Hawking.

Be Gracious. Be Certain. Be Bold. Be Warm.

Great leaders choose to lead, and they work hard to be the person that others choose to follow. They provide a vision for the future and a mission that their team believes in. They cultivate the desire to improve. Are you cultivating that intangible drive and passion for excellence, for being all that you can be? How can you cultivate the traits discussed above, not only for you but for your team members?

Four 2017 Topics That Bad Leaders Will Ignore And Great Leaders Will Embrace

*As originally seen on

Are you ready for 2017? What will make it your best year yet?

Will it be tackling key goals? Finally getting those long-delayed “to do” items off your list? Or will it be taking your leadership to an entirely new level?

I’m hoping for the latter—and if you’re on board, I’ll be right there with you. Here are the four key areas that should be on every leader’s agenda for the New Year.

1. Lead With A Great Story

“Every great leader is a great storyteller.” — Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist

Storytelling is a tool that is more powerful than most leaders realize. Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate Convince, and Inspire, says that: “storytelling is useful in far more situations than most leaders realize. The five most commonly used are probably these: inspiring the organization, setting a vision, teaching important lessons, defining culture and values, and explaining who you are and what you believe.” Stories help your team take the journey with you and share in the triumphs. Stories are memorable, so make sure people are remembering you in a positive way.

Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers


Here’s the storytelling “recipe” that my executive coaching clients love. If you are ready to dive deeply into each of these “ingredients” see my blog “Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers.”

Step 1: Focus On Your “Story Customer” And Their Context: Who is the story for?

Step 2: Make It Authentic: Telling a fairy tale won’t cut it, your “Story Customer” wants an authentic Happily Ever After.

Step 3: Give The Story Movement: Make sure your story moves from problem/challenge to a more desirable outcome.

Step 4: Make It Value-Oriented: Your story doesn’t need to be an action-packed, overly dramatic screenplay that J.J. Abrams wants to direct, it needs to demonstrate your values and provide insight on how you will show up for your team.

Step 5: Test The Efficacy: Tell your story and make edits as needed. It’s not carved in stone.

2. Use A Collaborative Approach To Motivate Performance

Performance motivation is intrinsic motivation within a supportive environment. Team members are empowered to understand their role, believe they are making a difference in their company and desire to bring their A-game. Every. Single day. This infographic lays the groundwork.


3. Boost Your Emotional Resilience

4 Steps To Become A More Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Are you done with the drama? Tired of negative meaning making?

In order to be emotionally resilient, you must increase your EQ (emotional intelligence). To briefly recap from my previous blog on EQ, there are four steps:

1. Figure out what you’re feeling

2. Take a breather

3. Consider the recipient

4. Focus on the outcome

Let’s create an environment where you as the leader get the results you want and your team members feel powerful, effective, enrolled and engaged. In order to do this, leaders must be able to manage their emotional state. Remember when I talked about how you can choose your meaning in any given situation? No matter what happens outside of us, we always get to choose the meaning we make about it inside. Emotional resilience is the ability to deal with the toughest, most challenging situations. It’s being able to bounce back even when you fail big. Emotional resilience is the one thing that will ensure you navigate through situations where others would give up. An article in Time discusses the research conducted by Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney that dives deeply into how the toughest people summon the will to keep going. They found 10 things that emotionally resilient people have in common.

1. Be Optimistic

2. Face Your Fears

3. Have A Moral Compass

4. Practice Spirituality

5. Get Social Support

6. Have Resilient Role Models

7. Maintain Physical Fitness

8. Keep Your Brain Strong

9. Be “Cognitively Flexible”

10. Find Meaning In What You Do

Neuroscience says there’s only one real way to deal with fear: to face it, head on. This is what the most resilient people do.

4. Bust Workplace Bullies

It’s time to get serious about busting bullies. They are scary, shocking, embarrassing and have been tolerated in the workplace for too long. Leaders avoid dealing with them because they don’t want the attack, conflict and discomfort. And bullies can be hard to detect because they often work within the rules of the organization. This stops now. Don’t let bullies disrupt and eventually cripple your company. If you have bullies in your culture, start with this plan on January 1.

My 3-Step Bully Rehab Plan:

1. Identify how you are enabling the situation

2. End the enabling behavior

3. Set up a new system with healthy boundaries and behaviors (rich in safety, belonging, mattering and shifting from tension to empowerment)

To see an example of how this rehab plan works, my previous blog goes into more detail. Remember, the targets of bullying are not always the weakest players – they are often the strongest. Bullying is a cycle that will result in prevalent Critter State, high employee turnover rates, far less revenue per employee, increased absences, the list goes on and on. It’s up to the leader to recognize that they are responsible for a team member’s bullying behavior. Confront the bully, use my formal feedback steps, turn their skills into assets if possible and create the culture of your dreams, a real SmartTribe.

For more info in bulling in the workplace and how it’s affecting your bottom line, check out my most recent post: “75% of Workers Are Affected By Bullying – Here’s What To Do About It.”

Chime in if you’re game to share this journey to the next level of leadership!

The Only Career Advice You Need For 2017

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

“The indispensable employee brings humanity and connection and art to her organization. She is the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around.” Seth Godin

Are you ready to have your career soar in 2017? If the answer is yes, do you have a plan?

Buckle your seat belt and here we grow… in the next few minutes we’ll map out the path to ensure you reach your goals for the upcoming year.

Career Advice


Why Your Work Matters

First, let’s look at the state of your world. Seth Godin’s insightful blog ’10 Questions For Work That Matters’ is the best place to start when reflecting on your work in 2016. These questions will ensure that you are connecting your work to something more meaningful than just a paycheck or a title. Make the commitment to yourself, to your company and to the greater good you are achieving through work that you are passionate about.

Reflect on and answer the following questions.

1. What are you doing that’s difficult?

2. What are you doing that people believe only you can do?

3. Who are you connecting?

4. What do people say when they talk about you?

5. What are you afraid of?

6. What’s the scarce resource?

7. Who are you trying to change?

8. What does the change look like?

9. Would we miss your work if you stopped making it?

10. What do you stand for?

11. What contribution are you making?

Per Seth any question that’s difficult to answer deserves more thought. Any answers that are meandering, nuanced or complex are probably a symptom of something important.

Solidify Commitment Via Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

An IDP is not simply a potential career path, this plan alone won’t guarantee results. But when you combine the IDP with your heartfelt commitment, that’s where the power is. An IDP is a two-way commitment between you and your company to empower you to grow, to provide you with new opportunities and challenges. It is a statement that tells you:

• You are safe here (we are planning your future)

• You belong here (we are envisioning where you can increase your impact for the tribe)

You matter here (we are co-creating a way for you to shine even more brightly)

This is why an IDP is essential, and also why it’s key for it to be co-created with your leader, and driven forward by you. If IDPs are a new concept to you and your company, this is your opportunity to introduce this concept to your leader.

Your leader and company will take your IDP seriously because it’s a written commitment. You will want to move it forward to enjoy the many benefits of personal and professional growth.

An IDP is:

• A written plan that outlines what career goals you want to accomplish and what steps you will take to meet those goals

• A tool you can use to envision, organize, and plan your career

• A tool for creating a personalized plan that best reflects your career aspirations, whether you want to plan for professional development, promotion or both

You are responsible for driving the outcome of the Plan. An IDP should be viewed as your motivation. When you commit to your IDP, you will show your leader that you are deeply committed to growth and the work required to see this plan to fruition.

Ideally, your IDP will be comprised of Professional and Personal Development sections:

Professional Development Portion:

• Identify two or more possible career evolutions that can occur in the coming 1-3 years. Note that they can be up or across the org chart or can include deepening your current role.

• What job skills will be needed?

• What leadership skills will be needed?

• A timeline for acquiring these skills

• A plan, budget, leadership commitment to support the plan

• Next steps and monthly or quarterly check-in on plan progress

• Agreement that the plan will be driven by you, not by your leader

Personal Development Portion (optional but highly encouraged):

• Personal growth that you wish to undertake (weight loss, fitness goals, learning new language, stop smoking, etc.)

• Mapping of how this personal growth will benefit the company

• A timeline for acquiring these skills/creating this growth

• A plan, budget, leadership commitment to support the plan

• Next steps and monthly or quarterly check-in on plan progress

• Agreement that the plan will be driven by you, not by your leader

Be sure to determine the frequency of follow-up with your leader to ensure that the objectives of the plan are being attained. I recommend quarterly. Note that your IDP will be updated as needed and as you continue your growth. IDP’s include a lot of important information, but they don’t have to be complicated or intimidating.

Here is a simple template that my clients have found to be extremely powerful.

Career Advice: Individual Development Plan Professional

Career Advice: Individual Development Plan Personal

Feel free to edit and make this template your own and watch your career soar in 2017!

Want Your Boss To Respect You? Do These 6 Things

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

Do people respect you?

Respect is often defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. The key word is elicited. Our actions and the outcomes we create are directly proportional to the amount of respect we think we should have and the amount of respect we think we should receive. While you can’t control or make your boss respect you, you do have the power to work towards earning that respect based on the outcomes you achieve, your attitude and other elements that I will discuss here shortly.

Want Your Boss To Respect You? Do These 6 Things


When working with my executive coaching clients, the subject of respect comes up frequently. Either they are challenged with not feeling respected or they feel that they have been disrespected by an individual higher up on the organizational chart. We discuss what respect means to them, how they feel it should be demonstrated and break down what meaning they are making around their boss’ words and actions. If they are looking to stand up, stand out and earn the respect of their boss, I walk them through six proven ways that will ensure they gain and keep respect in their organization.

1. Communicate Effectively And Often: Communication ensures alignment and connection. Any challenge can be resolved with authentic heart-felt communication. When in doubt, over-communicate so that your boss knows what’s going on and everyone knows what is expected and what is needed. Concise communication raises your status, saves everyone time, and moves the ball forward. Communication creates visibility and transparency—both of which help your boss make better decisions.

2. Model Integrity: Make your word your bond. Honor confidentiality. Keep your commitments, communicate in advance if you are going to be late and always be a reliable trusted team member. Ensure that your boss doesn’t need to check in on you by consistently delivering on time and per your commitment. Walk your walk and talk your talk. Focus on details and deliver accurate work.

3. Reflect Consistently: Make time to reflect on yourself, the clients, the company so that you learn how to improve and serve others best. Identify behaviors you want to shift and seek the support you need. If things aren’t going as you want, look into how you created the breakdown. Then fix it. Lessons are when we learn once. Mistakes are when we continuously repeat the same blunder. Avoid this at all costs.

4. Be An Active Contributor:

Be proactive, take initiative, bring solutions and never wait for someone to tell you what to do – anticipate and make a difference. Add value far beyond the scope of what you are paid for. The result? You’ll be a valued tribe member and get promoted. Again and again.

5. Continuously Learn And Raise Your Bar: Be a continuous learner. Be committed to growing and stretching into new definitions of yourself and your capabilities. Accept feedback as an opportunity to grow, and then implement the learning you have received. Get excited about what you could do and become with new skills that you take action to cultivate.

6. Be Optimistic And Energetic: Bring great energy and passion to your work. Don’t think of your position as a job, think of it as a mission, an opportunity to transform and support people who support and transform others.

 If you continuously demonstrate that making a difference in the lives of others is important and meaningful to you you’ll go far.

The key is to model the above behaviors consistently, this isn’t a “one and done” formula. Your values and your efforts will be recognized in your organization and by your boss. Remember, you can’t make someone respect you. You can make consistent effort to earn respect and at the end of the day, the person whose respect you need the most, is your own.

Headed Towards Burnout? Here’s What You Need To Do

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

As leaders we are expected to be highly present, have clear and consistent insights, maintain significant levels of energy, and stay grounded regardless of circumstances. Yet in today’s world of relentless change this can be challenging. When’s the last time you focused on you? It’s not selfish… it’s necessary.

There’s an infinite amount of work, especially as a leader in your organization. Sometimes, you just need to put the brakes on, because there will always be more work. Your mind is active all day long with some 60,000 separate thoughts each and every day. With all of those thoughts, it’s not surprising that your mind becomes so loud that we lose focus We know we “shouldn’t” get freaked out and anxious, we know staying present will enable us to find better solutions, we know we “should” be getting a good night’s rest to tackle the situation with a fresh mind the next day, but we can’t always get there without help. We’ve been hijacked. Our patterns are in charge. We’re human.

Headed Towards Burnout? Here's What You Need To Do


If you don’t take time to pause and decide to keep going on your current path or change a few things that will make a big difference in your life, you may burn out. It’s okay to take a look and say “Hey! This isn’t working” and implement a few changes that will steer you towards a destination that isn’t painful.

No one has time to process every single blip in their life. We can’t track down the source of every pattern and sometimes it’s not a pattern, it’s just life.

 So how do we take care of our health and stay mindful of what’s important when life throws us a curve ball?

Here are tools that my executive coaching clients use that have empowered them to avoid burnout.

Release The Resistance: Resistance vs. Allowing

• Look at 10 things in your life/the world that you don’t want/like (tacky wall paper, etc.) and look at each one and say out loud “I do not consent to you” (it’s not OK that they are there). See how that feels in your body (feel free to use emotion wheel).

• Now look at the 10 things again. They didn’t disappear even though you didn’t consent to them! Now look at each of the 10 things again. Say “I consent to you” for each (heck, they are there anyway, not much point in resisting this fact—consent isn’t approval, it’s just acknowledgment). See how that feels in your body.

• Reflect on the feelings associated with not consenting/resistance to what is vs consenting/acknowledging what is. Optimism isn’t universal consent. It’s OK if things aren’t OK with you. Notice what it’s like to let them be not OK and yet acknowledge that they are there without energetically resisting them.

Maneuvers Of Consciousness

First, think of something you are resisting. Now do the following steps.

• Negative Evaluation (three minutes): Say out loud all the things you don’t like, what’s bad about this, what you can’t stand. Really trash it. Notice what are the feelings here? (see emotion chart if helpful) break state (ask non sequitur question/count something/shake body out)

• Curiosity (three minutes): Now get really curious about this situation. How did it come to be? What is familiar about it? What good things come from it? What are the feelings here? break state

• Amazement (three minutes): Now become amazed that it came to be. Wow! This is fascinating! What’s amazing about it? What are the feelings here? break state

• Full Appreciation (three minutes): Now honor everything about this situation/state. Yes! This has been so very helpful in order to bring me to the next level. Wow. So much gratitude and appreciation. What are the feelings here? break state

• Now do a short Outcome Frame below. Map out a clear vision of your desired state for 15 minutes minimum—bask in it, ask each question in detail

Outcome Frame

• What would you like? (something you can create and maintain)

• What will having that do for you? (what will you get/benefits)

• How will you know when you have it? (criteria/proof you got it)

• When, where, with whom would you like it? (scope and timing)

• What of value might you risk or lose? (get present to risk/what might change)

• What are your next steps? (get into action)

Learn where you are giving your power away. I discussed this in a previous blog on Energetic Weight, answering the 10 questions will give you some great insight into where your power is going.

Emotion Wheel

Use the Emotion Wheel to help understand what you are feeling. The center feelings are the “core feelings.” The Emotion Wheel can help you get to the core emotion you are experiencing, increase your emotional vocabulary and make connections you may not have otherwise made.

Avoid burnout - emotion whell

Choose The Meaning

No matter what happens outside of us, we always get to choose the meaning we make about it inside.

Example: Lots of things are changing, lots of short notice client requests and deadlines

Meaning making option #1: This is so stressful! I am emotionally exhausted by this, it’s all too much!

[result of this meaning = missed deadlines, incomplete work, stress for self and those that have to deal with the missed deadlines/incomplete/low quality work, no fun for anyone and certainly no ease-grace-joy]

Meaning making option #2: Yes! Change means movement and growth and a chance to really shine and pace myself. I will show up fully to serve our awesome tribe. How great that I get to tap my awesome brain to become even more clear, find even more solutions as I focus on the outcomes I want to create.

[result of this meaning = empowerment, choice of how to respond vs compulsively react, ease-grace-joy, support of self and others, shine my light, honor my company values, choose my reality]

Which meaning would you like to make? Our words shape our reality, and meaning making and reframing are key to shape our reality.

The key to avoiding burnout is to visualize the person you want to be, set your intentions and get out of your own way.

Games Get Goals Met – Here’s How

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

Are you using games to help your team achieve their goals?

Gamification creates healthy competition, learning, communication and incentives. When used properly, gamification can change the face of goal attainment in your organization.

We Are Wired To Game

Gaming puts the user in a state of flow.

“In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” –Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

And that state of flow feels good and improves performance. Gaming also creates intrinsic motivation and arouses the player’s brain causing attention to be engaged and motivation high.

Games Get Goals Met - Here's How


The Power Of Gamification In The Workplace

Gamification: “The use of Game Design Elements in Non-Game Contexts” Sebastian Deterdin

Gaming isn’t just for teenagers. Approximately 155 million Americans spend 3 or more hours per week playing games and the average age of gamers is 35. Gaming is big business, sales (non-digital) staying consistent in 2015 with 13.13 billion dollars in sales. Chances are several members of your team are gaming for entertainment, it’s time to tap into that drive to game and apply it to goal attainment.

In business, when we take goals and put them in the context of a game, the process to achieve those goals becomes more fun and engaging. Gaming supports learning a new skill and using a combination of different skill sets to achieve a goal on an individual and team level.

Gaming Principle Applied To Goal Attainment

Our Director of Client Care is a fan of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. Through gaming, she has refined her leadership skills and applies the techniques that her character in the game uses for great success in her day-to-day life. She visualizes her projects as ‘quests’ and her team members as part of her ‘guild’. The story of the game has similar elements to the story in her work. It may seem silly at first, but this approach combines intrinsic motivation towards stretching and achieving her goals. The best skill that she ‘practices’ when she is gaming online is that the quest is never really over. The journey continues and as she levels up, she strengthens each skill towards the new goal.

There are a vast amount of gaming styles, game systems and theory that can be applied to goal attainment. Here are a few simple ones to get you started.

• Points System: team members earn x amount of points through achieving a goal or completing a task towards a goal

• Level System: team members can achieve a Level status, based on their accumulated points

• Badge System: team members can achieve a Badge that is specific to what they accomplished

• Achievement Status: team members can be awarded a specific status based on what they have done (these are extremely popular with Fitness Apps, a person acquires an achievement based on how many steps they walked)

• Leaderboard: team members are publicly listed on a Leaderboard based on their accumulated number of points or based on the Level they achieved

All of the above are fantastic for short-term goals and for initially supporting the learning of a new skill. The goal is to create intrinsic motivation for your team and the above system, combined with deeper elements of gamification, will sustain long-term goals and stretching beyond the basic reward incentive system.

Level Up!

More advanced elements of gaming can be applied to the ‘real’ workplace as well. With the vast amount of video games, virtual realities are created that allow gamers to visualize multiple real-time streams of information. The roleplaying elements allow gamers to explore different perspectives. They can create and take on roles as someone else and experience what it’s like to work towards a goal as someone else with a different skill set. Gaming enables simulations for experimentation. You can try different methods to achieve the goal, fail and learn because you have the opportunity to explore with more than one chance to succeed.

Gaming can also incorporate team work. Many multi-player games allow you to create characters that all have vastly different skill sets and all of those skill sets are necessary to win. For example, you can create a tank (the character that goes in and can take the most damage), a healer (the character that will fight but is in charge of paying attention to the health level of all players and healing them during the battles) or a DPS (the characters that have the skills to deal the most damage), each character is extremely valuable. You can create combinations as well but these are the basic three.  All of these characters are required to solve the mystery, to complete the quest and they all claim the rewards at the end. What elements from these different gaming systems can you start to implement in your organization?

Advanced Gamification should include the following elements:

• Reflection: Doing + Reflecting = Learning

• Exposition: Using a narrative sets the stage and helps transition players between stages into reflection

• Choice: Team members should have a choice of goals, how they will be scored, what they want to pursue and input on the system created

• Information: Allow team members to find what is relevant and to continue without gamification when they choose

• Play: A place for experimentation, creation, learning through failure and exploration without limits

• Engagement: Game elements are used to allow teams to engage, connect people to peers, create relationships and engagement with different perspectives (Scott Nicholson Professor of Game Design and Development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford Ontario RECIPE of gamification)

Each business and team is unique, and while the concept of gamification seems simple enough (just assign x amount of points towards each step towards achieving a goal) this process needs to be brainstormed. What will resonate the most with your team/department/etc? If your Finance team loves seeing their name on the leaderboard but your HR department doesn’t, try a different approach and find something that is equally compelling for each department.

See if there are gamers on your team and ask them.