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.

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.

Salespeople Are Burning Out Faster Than Ever — Here’s Why

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

According to Glassdoor, professionals working in sales can make well into the six figures and are one of the most popular positions companies seek to fill. But retention tends to be low with the pressure to meet numbers, lack of adequate training and inevitable rejection.

71% of companies take 6 months or longer to onboard new sales reps; and at a third of all companies it take 9 months or more, says ClearSlide and CSO Insights research.

And there is a minimum 20% annual turnover in Sales—and it’s up to 34% if you include both voluntary + involuntary according to Bridge Group research.



Millennials are even more likely to turnover:

What’s happening here?

I pondered this recently with Dustin Grosse and Michael Shultz of ClearSlide, and here’s what we came up with—based on both research and our decades of experience in the world of Sales and Sales Management.

Here are the top four reasons why salespeople quit—and what to do about them:

1. They don’t have coaches and mentors. New salespeople, and especially millennials, need strong coaches and mentors to find long-term success. When they’re left on their own without adequate support, they’re likely to hit a roadblock after a period of initial success.

According to CSO Insights, sales leaders spend only 20% of their time helping their team close deals. If your sales leaders are “too busy” to help, nobody wins. Make supporting your team a top priority. Give them best practices, be available for questions, ask how things are going and offer advice. Set up a mentorship program, pairing veteran sellers with new recruits. The initial time investment will motivate and inspire newer reps to commit and persevere, even through the rough patches.

According to the Deloitte and CEB studies above, millennials cite lack of professional development, coaching and mentorship as top reasons why they transition out of companies.

Retention of millennials requires two things: continuous feedback so they can have insights, and an Individual Development Plan (career path with clear skills building plan) so they can aspire.

2. They don’t have the latest sales tools. Millennial salespeople are typically tech savvy and eager to embrace modern sales technology. When they don’t have the latest tools and modern platforms, that can hurt morale and impede productivity.

Many salespeople — particularly younger ones — conduct business on mobile devices, but it can be impossible to access the content they need to close deals on their smartphone or tablet. In fact, according to a CSO Insights survey, 88% of sales professionals are unable to find or bring up critical sales material up on their smartphones, and 60% of sales organizations report a longer sales cycle due to a lack of proper tools. This hurts the sales professional’s long-term productivity and success. Companies that want to set their sales team up for success should move away from general purpose tools and invest in more modern sales-specific tools and platforms.

ClearSlide, for example, offers an engagement platform that helps companies to offer content to support the sales process (a video, a whitepaper) and then track which content is consumed: how and when. ClearSlide connects to the top CRMs, and real-time viewing stats and alerts are provided so the sales people can connect with the prospect as they are in process of consuming the content. This dramatically increases the quality of engagement.

3. They don’t understand that data and insights are their secret weapons. Salespeople need to embrace the advanced analytics that can give them an edge.

Today, there are more people involved in the buying process than in the past. Buyers are typically more sophisticated too since they can conduct research online before they ever respond to an offer. According to research from CEB, the average B2B buyer is at least 57% through a purchase decision before ever connecting with a salesperson. This means sellers need to engage with prospects very differently – selling in a way that maps to the buyer’s journey and expectations. Give young sellers data that help them identify, target, and interact with the right context at the right time. Sales Engagement Platforms allow sellers to track genuine customer interactions across channels, giving them the insights they need to accelerate sales cycles.

4. They don’t have a playbook. Salespeople need to ramp up rapidly, and have a clear playbook to navigate prospects and the selling process.

Our clients find that the key components to a sales playbook are:

• Buyer personas – These are the generally three to six profiles of prospects your company sells to. Included should be their customer journey, meta program profile, and safety/belonging/mattering trigger.

• Sample messages for each persona – Providing sample email messages and scripts for outreach, follow up, nurturing and revival are key. When a salesperson sees how to most effectively communicate with a particular persona they can simply edit and send the message. This saves them hours each week and keeps them focused on what they do best: prospect, nurture and close. LinkedIn, for example, has a Perfect Pitch Library which is a library of videos of actual prospect interactions from a video call.

• Tools and resources per sales stage – New salespeople need to have quick and clear access to tools and resources (such as content) to move prospects through the sales process swiftly. Guiding the sales process with content helps both newer and experienced reps to reduce the sales cycle base on the best practices of their top reps.

• Industry fluency – millennials struggle to understand the industry that the prospect works in. For example if selling into financial services and having no background there, have industry executive summaries, key pains in the industry, key trends and buzzwords, internal case studies and use cases. This helps the prospect have the experience of “same as” and helps the salesperson build both rapid rapport and to do reference selling to get rapid credibility with the prospect.

Also it’s key to note that inside selling and field selling are converging. Insiders are now expecting to get out into the field, and field reps are doing more video conferences and “inside” work than ever before. Both need to learn new tools and techniques.

How is your sales force doing?

Angry Customers? Don’t Flip — Do This

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

“Oh no, Mr. Jones is on line two again! What does he want now?”

When our clients/customers complain we want to cringe. We want to hide. We want to defend ourselves. Critter State is a natural escape. After all we’re only human, and our ego and sense of well-being feels threatened. Heaven forbid we actually did something wrong, and will have to admit the mistake and suffer the consequences.

What if we choose instead to really listen? What would happen if we treated each complaint as an invitation to better understand the needs and requirements of our people? Of our Tribe?

Every organization exists for a purpose–even if we don’t have a clear mission statement–we exist to solve some problem for our customers. So when they reach out to us to complain, when they make the effort to connect even negatively, we need to realize that what they are actually communicating is that they still have needs. Needs that we can resolve.

Angry Customers? Don't Flip - Do This


The Big Question Is How

How does one stay centered and meet the customer where they are? How does one avoid getting triggered and take the opportunity to learn?

The most effective skills I have learned and taught to my clients is the toolbox of rapport.

Let’s start with the basics. Every person has their own map of reality. That map of reality consists of beliefs about ourselves and about how the world works. These beliefs are a product of where (geographically) we were born, how we were socialized and educated, our socio-economic background, our religious beliefs, our ethnic identity, our gender identity, our family beliefs and experiences, our personal life experiences.

Seek And Ye Shall Find

If someone is “like you” your maps of reality have a big overlap, you feel safe with them and rapport can be easy to establish. If they are “not like me,” we have to work a bit harder to understand their map and to increase the overlap through empathy. One of the best ways to do this is to stay in what I call “inquiry mode.” In other words, ask a lot of questions before advocating for your ideas, opinions or solutions. And when you ask those questions, really listen to the answers. When it’s your turn to talk, use what they’ve said to ask the next question and help the person clarify their own thinking.

One of the best questions to stay in inquiry mode—especially if we think we disagree—is to ask, “What specifically do you mean by abc?” Where abc is a word or phrase the person just used. For example, a client with whom I was recently working kept using the word “leadership,” as in “my team lacks leadership.” By asking what specifically she meant by “leadership,” I uncovered a whole realm of specific professional skills and etiquette that her team needed to be trained on if they were going to achieve their strategic objectives.

Unpacking and understanding the specificity in a generalized complaint often reveals misunderstandings (due to each person’s differing map) and gets to the core of the issue more quickly. The customer also feels heard, which goes a long way to repairing any damage caused by a mistake. In fact, research has shown that doctors who communicate openly with patients, who admit mistakes and listen to complaints have far fewer malpractice suits than those that try to defend themselves, cover up mistakes or don’t listen to the patient. If there wasn’t a mistake, asking questions will quickly reveal the source of the misunderstanding much faster than defending an action.

I Wanna Be Like You-ooh-ooh!

To really understand where someone is coming from, to get on their map of reality, it also helps to use simple rapport techniques based in mirroring. There are five basic types of mirroring  we can practice: 1) physical body, 2) vocal, 3) sensory system preference language 4) keywords and gesture playback, 5) Meta-program language pattern matching.

Mirroring is a very basic human (and mammalian) activity that we are born neurologically pre-disposed to do. Infants who are only minutes old will actively mirror people’s faces. When we are first born, belonging is crucial to survival, so we are born with “mirror neurons” that cause us to immediately mirror others so that we appear “like” and can belong. It’s very basic safety wiring.

When we mirror another person, we help them to feel safe and they are more likely to communicate openly with us. When we mirror another person we also, for a few moments, can physically experience a little bit of what it’s like to be them. We can physically get on their map and increase the amount of overlap.

Customer Focus Vs. “Being Right”

We have all heard the saying “the customer is always right.” I would argue that’s not true, sometimes there are misunderstandings, sometimes a customer makes a mistake, sometimes they don’t have the same information we do and it is our job as solution providers to bring new information and insight. What is true is that it is our job to focus on the customer and understand, empathize with, their experience.

Defending our position, focusing on who is “right” and who is “wrong” shifts the focus to something else entirely.

Using the neuroscience tools of inquiry and mirroring to keep the brain in “Smart State” allows us to create more empathy. Once we are connected in this way it becomes easy and natural to move from a situation where a customer who is complaining is a problem, to a situation in which a customer who voices a concern becomes a valuable ally in growing our businesses profitably.

Five Fatal Mistakes That Halt High-Performance Leaders

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

Companies rise and fall on leadership. Period. And there are five areas that top leaders tend to focus their attention. It’s no surprise that these same areas are where unsuccessful CEOs make fatal mistakes.

These are the most fatal mistakes, because by the time the CEO, board or other executives can understand what has happened, there is massive momentum heading towards a discouraging future.

The Research

Robert S. Hartman, a Nobel Prize Nominee, devotes his efforts to helping people maximize their leadership potential, understand their thinking and prioritize team dynamics. Through his study of The Science of Axiology (a scientific approach to how people make value judgments in leadership situations), Hartman has developed a valuable assessment tool.

Throughout his research, he noted that high-performance leaders selectively place importance on some information while neglecting other information. The result is criteria for decision-making. After surveying and assessing over 1000 top leaders worldwide, he found a pattern of consistent attention and regular lack of attention to vital areas of leadership.

What follows are The Five Most Common Mistakes Of High Performance CEOs, inspired from the research of Robert Hartman, and from decades of my consulting, coaching and leadership training of high performing CEOs.

Five Fatal Mistakes That Halt High-Performance Leaders


1. Lack Of Consistency And Conformity

Although most top executives will profess that consistency and conformity are top priorities for the growth and scaling of their company, in practice many CEOs demonstrate and/or embody a different message. Conformity is usually a paradox in growing corporations, where thinking outside the box is heavily encouraged. And consistency could even be a joke – depending on how much rapid growth is occurring at an organization – it is not uncommon for a trend of “fire fighting” to take hold as the company culture.

To avoid this mistake: Messaging how important systems and procedures are to your team, even in rapid growth, is essential. Systems and procedures maintain brand, product, customer service and other departmental consistency to the customer. Internal attention to having growth spurts be individual stages that get gelled back into the corporate structure will pay huge dividends.

2. Lack Of “Strategy Follow Through” Discipline

It is tough to choose a strategic direction, see less then favorable results, and stay the course. The innate human instinct is to jump ship quickly before the ship goes down!

However, more often than not that the problem is not the strategy, but the tactical execution of it. Top leaders often look for the “right” strategy, and although there are likely stratospheres of probability for strategic outcomes, world class CEOs focus on execution and course-correction of a strategic direction before abandoning ship. Having the discipline to continue the course-correction process, particularly through the ability to ask probing questions, results in solutions. This is how we solve problems that are real versus solving problems that are an extrapolation of a probable outcome.

To avoid this mistake: Consider the best case, worst case and possible unexpected forks in the road ahead of time. Work with your team to create the expectation of long-term commitment to a strategy – even through tough times. Focus on the execution of a strategy chosen and avoid the temptation to keep returning to the drawing board!

3. Lack Of Mission, Vision, Values

There are very few companies where one could walk into a random office, ask team members to recite the Mission, Vision, Values of the company, and have them actually recall something even similar to the document prominently displayed in the lobby. Yet, this offers the most compelling barometer for all decision-making and emotional engagement of your team. The No. 1 reason the team is not related to the company Mission, Vision, Values is because the CEO is not connected to it.

When a CEO is disconnected from, not embodying or not presenting the Mission, Vision, Values of the company frequently – in meetings, emails and at corporate events – the entire culture begins to slide. Team cohesion and focus wane, perhaps not all together but surely from the optimum state, and you end up with disengagement and dissatisfaction in the company.

To avoid this mistake: Create a daily habit that connects you with the Mission, Vision and Values of the company. As the leading beacon for the company, this is the CEO’s primary driver, and should be consistently present in both physical and psychological form all day long. If you find that your documented Mission, Vision and Values no longer ring true, make it a priority to update them to ones that you and your entire company can get behind.

4. Lack Of Instilling Responsibility And Integrity

There are two common mistakes that thwart the interest in increasing self-ownership and high accountability in companies.

The first is “Leadership by Friendship.” We all know that a leader who interacts with their team by being the “best buddy” or friend will often fail to make good judgments, hard decisions and key shifts at important inflection points. Most CEOs ask themselves, “How can I get my team to take higher levels of Self Ownership and Accountability?” but often sacrifice what they want most in an attempt to avoid upsetting the “culture.” Once the CEO has allowed accountability to drift and get sloppy, the rest of management follows and results inevitably suffer.

The second common mistake that thwarts instilling responsibility and integrity is “Leadership by Fear.” Commonly taking the form of passive-aggressive or simply aggressive interaction, communication and actions, this model requires constant attention and energy by the CEO. This model primarily inputs scarcity into the culture – leading to a “good enough to not get your head bitten off” model. The carrot and the stick are only part of the equation that causes self-ownership and high accountability:

Clear Expectation + Owner Agreement + Rewards & Consequences = Ownership And High Accountability

To avoid this mistake: Setting an example of clear, actionable expectations, soliciting agreement from your team and having a published and clear set of Rewards & Consequences will instill responsibility.

5. Little Fostering Of Innovation, Innovative Thinking And Change

How does this jive with Mistake No. 1? Well, along with the need for systems, procedures, conformity and consistency, a company will also need a high level of innovation, innovative thinkers and a drive for constant change.

From a politically correct standpoint, every CEO will tell you that they encourage out of the box thinking, or innovative thinking. In practice, many company cultures instill a sense of fear for stepping too far out, really being a true innovator, or creating change. Even if some innovation is allowed, the CEO must decide how far down the chain of command there is willingness for innovation and change.

To avoid this mistake: Top companies and CEOs have designed systems that support innovation and for employees and key execs to have the experience of their input actually impacting the company (and possibly strategic decisions). A top CEO can avoid a stagnant company by fostering innovation from every person at the company and openly rewarding those that contribute.

Are you ready to stop making fatal mistakes and start making commitments to proven processes that will better your organization?

Great Leaders Discover Hidden Talent During Lunch Breaks: Now You Can Too

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

A terrific way to foster connection and safety, belonging, and mattering in your culture is for the CEO to have lunch with small groups of cross-functional employees on a regular basis.

The spirit of this CEO Lunch program is to spend an hour with the CEO talking about everyone’s experiences at the company, helping everyone get to know one another, and helping everyone see the humanity of the CEO.


Forbes 5.7

Here’s a basic draft game plan:

• Determine how often the CEO wants to have these lunches… monthly is ideal. Note if the company has thousands of employees you’ll want to enroll additional senior executives to host lunches too.

• Have five to six people total (including the CEO) for one hour or so.


The tone and format of the CEO Lunch is key. You’ll want to create enough structure so everyone gets a chance to speak while keeping a warm and informal tone. Here’s a format my clients love:

• Expectation setting: Open forum, OK to ask any question, the CEO will answer what he/she can, “the spirit of our lunch is to hear your experience here, learn what is working and what we can do better, hear any ideas/insights of yours, I’ll jot them down to ensure I remember” (it’s best to send this format in advance so employees have a chance to prepare their thoughts)

• Welcome: “Thanks for being part of tribe, you make a difference, we’re doing great things together”

• Launch: CEO does personal and professional check in for couple minutes (a key event that’s happening in their personal life and one in professional too). (Example: Personal: I’m really enjoying my kids right now—they’re at the age where they’re asking cool questions. Also I’m feeling concerned about my aging mom. I realize I’ve not wanted to deal with this and now need to look into how to help her golden years be the most fulfilling possible. Professional: So much is going right that I have to pinch myself some days! It’s a very exciting time! Also, though, I’ve realized that in all our growth we’ve missed some the of people development things we could’ve been doing—so I am diving in here to help us get caught up.) Two to three minutes each person, after the CEO simply move around the group in clockwise fashion.

• Feedback Frame: Now go around with each person answering “What’s Working” and “What I’d Like To See More Of.”

• Gather all ideas/insights/info as people talk (the CEO may want to have his/her assistant take notes) and the CEO recaps them so all know they were heard.

• Closing: “Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself, your life, your ideas for how we can create an even cooler company. Your ideas are awesome and inspire me. I’m so glad you’re a member of our tribe. Together we’re doing great things. Thanks again.”


My clients find that the increased connection that comes from these lunches (and they can even be coffee breaks if that makes them easier to schedule) often results in: unsung heroes and high potential team members being “discovered”, new innovative ideas being aired, problems being uncovered and improvements to morale.

See how they work for you!

Customer-Centric Marketing Is Emotional: 5 Steps To Understand Emotions In The Sales Process

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on





Sometimes I run across a tool that’s just too good not to share. This is one of them.

I have taken hundreds of my clients and their teams through an exercise called the “Customer Journey.” It’s a powerful process and clearly illuminates what’s missing in sales and marketing messages. Thanks goes to Paul Boag for the clear layout above.

Me-Centric Marketing

Here’s the essential difference. Often, when we think about marketing our focus is on ourselves. How much can we sell? What is our target market? Who is our ideal client? Even when we describe customer needs we are often seeing customers through our own eyes and filters.

The Customer Journey process walks us through our customers’ experience and asks questions that force us to see ourselves through a different lens. Through their lens.

And the structure of the process means you can’t “lead the witness” either.

Your first step is to determine your basic customer personas, for example: corporate executives, IT managers, purchasing managers. Then either cover a huge wall with paper, or project a template from a pc and type in the results together.

How you divide up the work depends on how large your group is. However, please don’t assign any chunk of the work to just one person. The point is to work collaboratively. So ideally you have diverse teams work through the entire grid for one customer profile or a section of a profile.

You-Centric Marketing

Across the top of your customer journey grid (the column headers of the grid) will be the stages a customer moves through as they select a new partnership/vendor:

  • Discovery: This is where your customer first becomes conscious that they have a problem/need. They are beginning to look both internally and externally for ways to achieve their vision. This is where they’ll “discover” you, so be sure you are visible! Some marketers call this the Awareness stage.
  • Research: Here the potential customer understands their problem/need and is seeking information about you, your competitors and possible solutions. You’ll want to make sure your info is easy to find.
  • Selection and Justification: At this stage the potential customer feels that your solution meets their need and the solution can be justified. They’re selecting you. Hooray!
  • Delivery and Partnership: Now you and your customer are in it together, you are partners. It’s time to deliver on your promises and work through any challenges together.
  • Post Sale: The courtship is over, how will the relationship grow and deepen over time?

On the left side of the grid (the rows of the grid) we have the info we want to understand at each stage. They are:

  • Tasks: What is the customer trying to achieve at this stage?
  • Questions: What does the customer want to know at this stage?
  • Touchpoints: How does the customer interact with our organization at this stage?
  • Emotions: What is the customer feeling at this stage?
  • Weaknesses: How does our organization let the customer down at this stage?

I also have my clients track at the bottom of the grid how long customers typically spend at each stage and compare it to what they would like to have happen. From here we can uncover where prospects get “stuck” and then create neuroscience-based marketing messages to help them regain/keep momentum.

Tricks Of The Trade

I have found that answers tend to move around a bit so if you’re putting things on a wall, you’ll want to fill in the grid with post-its so that you can move them.

Use a neutral third party to facilitate and maintain momentum. They will see things and ask questions that you can’t possibly think to ask. You’re too close.

Once the grid is filled in, it is crucially important to validate the findings. Again, use a neutral third party to have calls with your customer personas—these take about 30-45 minutes and you’ll want to send the completed Journey to them in advance. And be sure to reposition the “Weaknesses” section—we edit it to say “Opportunities” for how we can serve customers even better before we send to the customer for validation.

Make sure to schedule a follow-up meeting where your sales and marketing plan will be reviewed relative to the validated findings. Things will change for sure!

The Case Of The Tragic Sales Force

One of my clients brought me in because they just couldn’t understand what was happening. They had been working continuously on their culture and the team had become a true SmartTribe.

Yet sales continued to languish.

The team began by defining each profile clearly and applied Meta-programs to flesh out the profile definitions and deepen our understanding of the different customer types. They then walked through the “Customer Journey Grid,” discussing each profile at each stage and getting more and more honest about what the customer was experiencing and where they were letting them down.

After validating their findings by talking with their customers, they met and made several major changes to their marketing message and sales process. The findings even eventually affected how they deliver and how they follow up. And for the first time ever, sales and marketing are aligned with the customer’s true experience.

And the best news? Now sales are zooming due to deeply connecting with their customer. My client is now consistently hitting their Targets and sometimes even their Mind Blowers.

I’d love to see you achieve this too!

See the Customer Journey as a storytelling tool. The better we can understand the customer’s experience, the better we can serve them on their journey

*Interested in diving deep into the  brain-based tools you need to deeply connect with prospects and customers, forge trust quickly and expedite the sales process for producing phenomenal results? Join us on April 12-14 for our E-learning series. Double Your Sales & Crush Your Competition: Using Neuroscience to Sell Better, Market Better, Close Faster!

Why Mindfulness And Meditation Matter In Leadership

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on





STI 3.13

What stresses you out? We all have situations in which it is harder to maintain equilibrium than in others. Mine is: having to do too many administrative tasks that should be done by someone else. What’s yours?

Proof That You Should Do Nothing

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.

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?

Meditation.  Mindfulness. Stopping your thoughts. Whatever you’d like to call it.

You know about the well-documented benefits. But are you doing it?

One of the biggest indicators of my clients’ success in stepping up their leadership is whether they have an existing mindfulness practice or are willing to start one.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neurotheologist and director of research at Philadelphia’s Myrna Byrd Center of Integrative Medicine recently studied the brains of spiritual leaders while they meditated or prayed. In his video he concludes:

“The more you do a practice like meditation or prayer, your brain physically gets thicker and it functionally works better.”

Mindfulness meditation has long been touted as an effective way to improve our health and well-being but studies have been notoriously subjective and difficult to validate. New studies are reporting that mindfulness meditation helps relieve our levels of perceived anxiety and depression. It improves attention, concentration, and contributes to better sleep. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies, and found 47 trials that addressed the above mentioned issues and which met their criteria scientifically valid research. Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain and improve sleep patterns.

A study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter. The study only lasted 8-weeks and in that time they found benefit equal to prescription drugs—and without the side effects.

The Mind Is A Lousy Master…And An Excellent Servant

One of the biggest causes of stress is ruminating, or repeating a certain stressful thought. The brain sets off down an old thinking pattern and stays there. Mindfulness practices teach our brain to pop up out of that old pattern and recognize it for what it is.: a default and well-worn groove that we have a choice to step out of. We can then focus on the candle, on a flower, on a mantra…on whatever we choose to focus on.

I believe we have repetitive thoughts because most of us haven’t trained our minds to be still. Your mind and thoughts can be directed—and you’ll see results fairly quickly. And best yet, in stillness you will find all of the answers you seek.

Mindfulness meditation re-grooves the brain and builds a new neurological network. Do it enough and, like the studies show, you can train your brain like a muscle to stay calm and present in the face of adversity or good old daily stresses of life.

Do Try This At Home…And At The Office

There are many teachers of meditation and books or CDs to show you the way. Here are some of my favorites for beginners.

If you’ve never meditated before, a simple way to start is to breathe in to the count of seven, hold for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of seven.  Then repeat.

When you’re counting use the “one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand…” method. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to focus on your breath. Set a timer for five minutes before you start. I recommend sitting upright with palms facing up.

If you want to close your eyes or light a candle or place a flower in front of you to focus on, do it. When you’re starting out you’re just exploring and finding out what works for you. If you’re having a stressful day at the office, practice the above breathing technique. You can even do it during a meeting!

That’s why meditation is referred to as “practice”. As in “I’m practicing meditation” or “I have a meditation practice”. You’re teaching you’re brain to interrupt repetitive patterns, calm and center itself.

It takes practice to get to automation, but it’s worth it.


How To Make Good Habits Easy And Bad Habits Hard

My friend is an Elementary School teacher specializing in Emotionally Disturbed kids and working on a campus dedicated to that population. She spends the first month of school teaching her students how to behave in the classroom: how to line up, how to greet her every morning (she asks them to look her in the eyes, say “Good Morning”, and shake her hand), how to transition between subjects and stations, how to pack up at the end of the day…etc. She teaches very little else that first month, “just” habits.

A month sounds extreme, but she has the fewest incidents of physical violence on a campus where physical restraints are common and her students log in more hours of actual, disruption free, learning than any other classroom there. You see, no one ever taught that group of children how to behave in a culturally appropriate way. They just got in trouble when they couldn’t hold their emotional issues and didn’t have good habits to fall back on. By explicitly training them in habits that support learning and cooperation, she creates a positive culture in her classroom.

Culture is made up of many habits.  Many of which we don’t think about, or think are unimportant.

Which Of Your Habits Are “Normal”?

What habits does your team consider normal? Do people put dishes in the dishwasher or leave them in the sink for someone else? Do people put bowls of sugar out in front of their diabetic teammate who’s trying to abstain? Do people communicate when something’s going wrong or do they hide?

Some habits may seem trivial but they add up to a total culture.  Think about Erasmus’s The Praise of Folly where the argument (as told by Gretchen Rubin) of the growing heap is:

“If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.“

In other words, things add up. Eventually one very small thing, one trivial incident causes a blow up, or creates an “I don’t care” culture, or one coin makes a man rich.

What kind of culture do your teams’ habits add up to? A culture of open communication? Of trust? Of support?  Do they create Safety, Belonging and Mattering?

Or do they add up to fear, distrust, and competition? Is Critter State  prevalent?

What kind of culture would best serve your strategic goals?

Make “Good” Habits Easy, “Bad” Habits Hard

Okay, so you looked at how your team’s habits add up to your culture, and you see some room for improvement. Now what?

First look around (and enlist your team to look around) for the easy fixes. Do you make the “bad habits” (things that do not support your desired culture) hard and the “good habits” (the things you’d like to see more of) easy? Or even fun?

It’s amazing how humans will habituate themselves around things that are more convenient.  That’s why retailers love the “one click” shopping button (and why I blocked mine). How can you make it more convenient for your team to engage in the habits that support your organization’s values? How can you make it inconvenient to do otherwise?

Making the habits we want to encourage fun also adds to their allure. In Sweden a piano stairway decreased escalator use and increased stairway use by 66%.




If the little things are in place, how much more likely is it that your team will feel comfortable calling on each other when something major goes wrong?

The Pitfall of the Reward Strategy

When first seeking to change organization-wide habits, it can be tempting to employ a Behavioral Approach, i.e. the carrot and the stick. One problem with extrinsic rewards is that once the reward (or punishment) ceases, so does the behavior. Our brain has then been wired up to get something and if it doesn’t get that (even if we like the activity) we won’t do it as a habit.

In fact a study (Lepper et al. 1973) about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards on motivation using children and drawing showed that rewards had the exact opposite effect and actually reduced motivation.  In the study, children were selected who already liked to draw. Those that were offered a reward to draw not only did the least amount of drawing during the experiment, but also long afterwards.

In addition, the Behaviorist Approach (rewards and punishments) draws attention away from problem solving. As it turns out attention is our most precious commodity when it comes to habit change.

Creating the Habits We Would Like

According to David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz in their informative article about the brain and organizational change, “Try to change another person’s behavior, even with the best possible justification, and he or she will experience discomfort. The brain sends out powerful messages that something is wrong, and the capacity for higher thought is decreased. Change itself thus amplifies stress and discomfort; and managers (who may not, from their position in the hierarchy, perceive the same events in the same way that subordinates perceive them) tend to underestimate the challenges inherent in implementation.”

The key seems to be in how to create and maintain focused attention on problem solving and the desired habits. Once things move from the frontal lobes into the basal ganglia they no longer require fixed attention. They’ve been grooved in, and we no longer have to decide anything or experience those uncomfortable error messages.

Thomas Malone and Mark Lepper identified several sources of intrinsic motivation:


Take One Small Step at a Time

Most habit change experts agree that the small step, one (or a very few) things at a time work best to form new habits. But mostly we want to target one thing at a time and lock it in place. Eventually all those small things add up to a big SmartTribe culture.

What habits would you like to change at your company?

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.