The Neuroscience of Leadership

0:00:00.0 S1: What’s up, guys? Super excited to let you know that we’re now releasing transcripts of the podcast is linked in the podcast description, you can also find it on LinkedIn at Danny Langloss in our document section, if you’re not filling us on LinkedIn, please do. We’re releasing leadership content daily, really driving a ton of engagement, it’s our main platform, if you haven’t already for the podcast, please hit that subscribe button so you never miss another episode, please give us a rating or a review that really helps us reach more people organically. Thank you very much. Let’s get after it. There are so many things that impact our ability to achieve success, but none are more important than leadership. Individuals and organizations rise and fall with leadership. We are here to help you rise. Thank you for joining us. This is The Leadership Excellence Podcast.

0:00:49.1 S2: Hello leaders and welcome to Leadership Excellence.

0:00:51.0 S1: My name’s Danny Langloss, and today we’re joined by my good friend Jennifer Thornton, and we’re gonna talk about the neuroscience behind leadership, so excited about this topic. Jennifer joined us earlier in the season and talked about the seven deadly sins of leadership, so many incredible take away so much positive feedback if you haven’t listened to it already go back and listen to it right after this one, and as we prep for that when she was the… She’s an expert in the neuroscience of leadership, she understands it so… Well, so deep and I’m like, I wanna learn more from you. Can we do this episode? She said, Yeah. And so here we are now recording it, so I couldn’t be more excited about that. And her 20-plus year career as an HR professional, Jennifer’s led teams internationally across Greater China, the UK, Mexico, United States. One of the specialization she has that I’m just so fond of is our ability to create high-performing teams, and I’m a big guy on fundamentals, and so really understanding the fundamentals of leadership, they’re so important, like the fundamentals of sports are so important. And so once we understand these things all the way down, it just makes us much more effective.

0:02:01.2 S1: The Great Mandela said, People will forget what you said. They’ll forget what you did, but they’ll never forget the way you make them feel. And when we think about human relationships and trust, and we think about influence and inspiring others and motivating, it’s all about the way we make them feel, and when you understand the neuroscience, you’re able to take that deep, deep dive. So Jennifer Horton, thank you so much for coming back. And welcome back to the leadership aces podcast.

0:02:25.2 S2: Thanks for having me and we were talking just before we started recording and that we could just sit around and talk all day long and people can listen or just having a good time together.

0:02:34.1 S1: All day long. All day long. Absolutely, yeah, it amazes me the diverse background that you have and how really you can just pull up, no matter what the leadership topic is, you can just pull up and start going right away and flow, and so our guests are in a real… For a real treat, like you said, the prior episode was just absolutely amazing. Do you wanna share a little bit about your background and how you’ve gotten to where you are today, Jennifer?

0:03:00.8 S2: Yeah, so my background, I grew up really enjoying work, I actually enjoy getting up and working, I love the thought about working and having a result and the productivity of that, and when I was young, I always wanted to grow up and work in the mall, and that’s what I did, I was a mall rat of the 90s, love working at the mall, but what happened is I very early learned about leadership and team building and made a lot of mistakes, and I still make mistakes, but I really was making a lot of mistakes, step my toes, a lot, that learned so much through different people that I worked with and different leaders, and as I started to mature and grow, I moved into the human resources side of the business, I really had a passion around talent strategies and creating environments where people could be at their best, because when they were at the best, obviously our results were better to… Understanding that those two things go hand in hand. And I did that domestically, I got the opportunity just out of the blue one day to ask if I would move to Hong Kong, and I was like, Sure, why not? I’ve never been there, I should totally moved to Hong Kong and off I went, and that started a whole entire chapter of my life and really that moment, you look back and there’s some key moments of change in your life, that was definitely one of mine, have built so much confidence, and it built a ton of humility because nothing teaches you humility than trying to go into a country you can’t even order your own food ’cause you can’t read the menu and you’re having to figure out how to even get food or to get from point A to point B, and then to also lead in that environment where you don’t know the culture and you’re having to learn it, and so it was just great.

0:04:42.3 S2: It led to a lot of years of some really cool international experience, and then, you know, I woke up one day and wanted to dive deep into my passion, and that’s really thinking about executives, how do they lead, how do they create better environments, which create better communities? And so that’s what I do today, at three or four were a talent strategy organization, and we help companies really look at where they’re going as a company and what does that mean for their talent pool, and what do we need to do to make sure that people… Are growing with the business. And that’s how I got here today.

0:05:14.9 S1: Awesome, what an incredible story. Incredible journey. So many great experiences. One of the things we will do is in the details of the plantar description, we’ll put in Jennifer’s website, how to connect with her on LinkedIn, a few other things that she shares with us, but I was so blown away by Jennifer. She did a training here recently, and several of our team members from the city joined that training, I wanted to join the training, but I was in and out of physical therapy, and so I wasn’t able to do that as I’m getting my ACL back to where it needs to be, but the feedback from the training, from your ability to present the information the way you convey it, the way you use stories, was overwhelmingly positive, and I appreciate you doing that for our team and encourage people to really check you out. I have to listen to the podcast. They’ll absolutely no way. So let’s transition and talk about the neuroscience of leadership, so thank you for that.

0:06:04.8 S2: Absolutely, I’m so glad they attended. It’s always good. Reading is a right time in the year.

0:06:09.4 S1: That is so awesome. So there’s been a lot of research now on the neuroscience, the chemicals within our brain, how our brains work, how we react, how it impacts the way we feel, our energy level or mood, all of those things, knowing what we know today, and all the research that we have… How does that… Or how should that change the way we lead compared to what we knew 20, 30, 40 years ago?

0:06:35.6 S2: Honestly, a lot of the things we’ve been told to do we should probably throw out the window and never look back, because how we were talk to lead, most of it comes from a time and period in which the jobs are very consistent. They were very focused, if you… It was very hierarchical. If you were the boss, you were really the boss of the person who the job you did, and you knew what everyone was doing in those world that world’s gone, we don’t lead in that type of world, and on top of that, when we were taught these best practices, things around, always show that you’re strong, never show them that you’re a week, make sure that you’re very directive and you tell them exactly what you want them to do, all that stuff, right, that we’re told to tell… When we do all of that, it’s actually creating a ton of fear and holding people back from innovation and learning in the workplace, so a lot of it just work and it worked in that time period, it was based on the knowledge we had and who knows… You and I might talk five years from now, and we might know even more about the brain and we may throw away the stuff we talk about today, but we have to really think about what do we know today, and how is the world structured today, and then how do we do our best to lead in that environment and really never hanging on to some old practices, but always evolving and finding new ways to lead teens.

0:07:58.6 S1: Yeah, how do we get 1% better every day? How do we create the environment for our team members to feel safe, to be excited to come to work, to be put in an environment where where they can take chances, where they can fail, but fail forward or they’re supported to be creative, innovative, ’cause… Yeah, now, so much more of that is required. And you talk about psychological safety, The importance of that, so let’s talk about fear reducing and kinda change because psychological safety is so important, we look at employee engagement, ownership, people’s happiness and enjoy at work their productivity, which results in the profits from a neuroscience side. Can you dive into that? How do we intentionally reduce that fear, eliminate that fear.

0:08:47.9 S2: There’s a lot of pieces to it, but I think the first place we think about is understanding how our minds work when it comes to interacting. So before I got on this podcast today, I was excited to talk to you. You’re a friend. We’ve always had great experiences. So when I woke up and looked at my calendar and I saw your name on a calendar, I had some good stuff I will do in it, I’m like, Oh, I could have fun day and I are gonna have a great conversation. So I really came into this conversation with some happy hormones and some feelings of this was gonna go well, so… Because I think it’s gonna go well. Chances are, it probably will. Now, if we had talked previously and I felt judged by you or I felt like you didn’t really get me or didn’t like me, and now I have to come to another meeting with you, and last time we were in a meeting, you were… You wouldn’t listen to him. You didn’t hear me, when I see that on my calendar, I instantly start creating all of these stress hormones and chemicals start firing off, and I’m carrying that into that conversation.

0:09:51.2 S2: So the first thing we have to know is our past history dictates how people are gonna interact with us, and same thing for us, if we’ve had a tough time with someone at the last few times, we’ve met them unconsciously, as soon as we know we’re gonna come into contact with again, our brain starts to protect us, which is fear, and it’s so important to know that because relationships we all know are built over time, but it’s actually truly built over time, and we actually build neuro-pathways that tell us how to think about people. And every time someone reinforces how we think that neuro pathway gets deeper and deeper and deeper…

0:10:29.5 S1: Wow, such a big thing. The one thing we talked about off-camera was this unconscious bias, the way our brain is making decisions on things that we’re not even really conscious about, and so you’re talking about these neural pathways that are created in our minds based on our experiences with people and how… Right away, that’s not only gonna impact how you feel coming into the conversation, but it’s gonna significantly impact the way you interpret words, actions. Behaviors.

0:11:03.2 S2: Yes, it’s exactly what happens. And every time we go to do something, our brains are just really lazy, their job is to keep us alive, so they’re gonna reserve energy, so point A to B, whatever is the fastest way. That’s where our brain’s gonna fire off, it’s gonna go, Hey, I’ve seen this before, and do this before, straight down that neuro pathway, and there’s a lot of value to that. We get some reserves, energy allows us to be consistent in our personality, there’s good things in that, but what also can happen is we can build neuropathies that are really hurting us. I believe that every time I go to this meeting, Mike’s gonna judge me. Make me think I’m great, who knows? But I’ve created that story in my head and I’ve ran over that neuro pathway, it just as a… Right, it just gets deeper and deeper. And I could have this whole belief, and then when I go into the meeting, I’m not myself, and so Yeah, Mike’s probably thinking, Now I’m a little Loni ’cause I’m not myself. I have all this anger or frustration or fear, but it’s really easy, if you’re in that situation, you can actually create new neuro pathways, neuroplasticity, and all you have to do, and again, this is gonna be easier said than done.

0:12:17.8 S2: But through practice, all you have to do is really say, How do I wanna think about this different… I know every time I go into this meeting, I feel this way, and you can make a list of how I feel or how do I think about every time I do this. Then you say, Alright, how do I want to think about it? And you create that new thought and then you practice it, and you practice it, and you practice it, ’cause that’s what’s gonna build over it. Now, if you’re having an especially hard day, obviously your brain is probably gonna go back to your old thought, you just have to kinda remind it, you have a new one, but over time, you will actually create a new neuro pathway, and I do this really fun exercise with the picture of a brain, and we take one marker and we draw a little pathway and we talk about what it means and what it is, and how does it harm us or harm people around us, and we get a different color pen and we make a new or little neuro pathway across the brain, and we talk about it, what does it mean to us, what does it sound like? How could it change our life and really practicing those…

0:13:17.8 S2: And I even have people lay that on their desk and throughout the day when they really think in a way that they want to… That new neuro pathway, I have them get that marker and keep riding over and over is over time they get this visual of this thickening of this line, and that helps them create a new neuro pathway.

0:13:34.2 S1: The intentionality is a big deal. Yes, totally. I’ve really been taking into things in the mindset, I is something I’ve been involved in for a long time, but this whole concept of we’re not born with the mindset, we can choose our mindset, we can create our mindset, and mindsets of foundation of our success, that’s what I believe at least. And so understanding how our brain works, the fact that, Okay, I’ve got this past when I’m having this interaction… This is the energy level. Let’s say I’m showing up. Does it serve me? Okay, it doesn’t serve me. How am I showing up? Saying it out loud, how do I wanna show up? And then intentionally showing up in that way is so important, so does it make sense to break down some of these chemicals and talk about them and what they are, and then what insight that gives to us as leaders through our communication.

0:14:25.9 S2: So we can definitely break them down, I think what’s the most important thing to do is really understand that every time we interact, we’re either going to get happy hormones or fear home ones, that’s really at the end of the day, from a simplicity standpoint, they fall in those two categories, and there’s a lot of things in there, and there’s a lot of nerdy science in there, but what’s important to know is you really have… At the end of the day, about… You have two sides at that point, you can pick, and every time we enter into a conversation, and we talked in the last podcast about addiction to being right, and that’s a dopamine head when we are right, we get happy hormone, a happy hormones, dopamine. It’s the same thing we get if we get sugar, if we like sugar, if we like shopping, any of those things are that dopamine and that stress hormone, that cortisol, I think we’ve all heard it, cortisol stuff on our body, it obviously creates all kinds of things. We’ve heard that it does, but at the end of the day, you get either a happy one or not happy one, and we get to pick…

0:15:32.7 S2: Honestly, we can actually pick which we want for the day because our brain believes what we tell it, and so if we tell it today is gonna be a tough day, I’ve got this on my plate and I don’t know how I’m gonna handle it, then chances are you won’t be able to figure it out ’cause your fear has risen and your prefrontal cortex goes down, they’re not an exact scale that I always visualize them as a scale, the higher the fear, the lower your prefrontal cortex can work, which is where the decisions and emotional control and all the stuff, we actually need a knife, it goes down… As her goes, atmosphere goes down, it goes up. And so we have to remember that we’ve got to keep those fear hormone, the fear, hormones and stress and all that quarters all out of our life, One, it’s physically hard on us, but it’s mentally hard on us too.

0:16:21.3 S1: So as a leader… So if I’m leading a team, what are some strategies that I can use and you can pick either side of the coin to try to release that happy hormones… Right. Versus the fear hormones. Yeah.

0:16:36.9 S2: So when you think about leaning, obviously work has a lot of fear just ’cause we’re exchanging a currency work for money, and if you don’t like my work, you may not exchange it for money, I might lose my job, I might get in trouble. And you have to remember that your brain’s not good at telling the difference of fear fierce, just fear snake on the leg or yelling, my boss is yelling at me, your brain is putting off the same stuff. It’s still in fear. So when you think about the work environment, you think about a modern work environment is one of the things I love to talk about is leaders who make learning and education and discovery cool. So if I work for a bunch of executives and they seem to know everything, they’re never wrong, they think they’re always right, they’ve been there, done that, they don’t wanna hear it and they don’t really wanna listen. Then in my brain, and I don’t feel like I have a voice, but two, I feel like, Wow, if I’m not perfect like them, then obviously I’m not any good. But then if you have an executive team that openly talks about, Hey, I work with a coach, and I’m growing every day, or I’m presented with this problem and I think I know where I wanna go, but I’m not sure, I’d love to play it out like let me hear from you.

0:17:53.6 S2: You’re the closest to the customer. Tell me what you’re thinking. That conversation, one, is giving you better information as an executive, but then it’s teaching your team that it’s okay not to have the answers, it’s okay to be an evolving human, and that starts to open up this environment where stress goes down because we’re not in fear of getting in trouble all the time. We’re actually celebrating discovery and learning and innovation, and if my idea doesn’t work, that’s okay, ’cause I had an idea versus… Well, if I give the idea, I’m gonna get in trouble, so I’m just gonna say nothing at all. And so those are some of the ways we can start to create an environment where people are innovative and we reduce fear by saying, Hey, it’s okay not to know it all, because we’re all learning together.

0:18:40.2 S1: Now, we talk a lot about the 21st century leadership leading the whole person and being human, this whole humanism concept, because I know coming up through the ranks at the police department, that wasn’t a thing, like the leadership had to be tough, strong, they had to know everything. There was a lot of micro-management, there was a lot of fear-based management. I remember conversations going into the chief’s office and getting yelled at because I didn’t have enough radar tickets the six months before, and I’d been assigned to investigations, I wasn’t even doing that job anymore, and so you learned how to survive in that environment, and you really can’t come to work as your full, authentic self versus when you have leaders, as you’ve talked about, that show their human… That realize they don’t have to have all the answers. They care about what you have to say that take the time to get to know you individually, both at work and your qualities and your goals, but at home, your likes, your dislikes, your family situation, and we shouldn’t dig to where people aren’t comfortable, but most people wanna connect on that level. And when we do that neuro pathway, you’re talking about when that person is coming to see you and speak with you as a positive one, it’s a safe one, it’s a happy…

0:19:59.6 S1: When this person is my cheerleader, they’ve got my back versus the situation when I went in to the Chief’s Office because whatever the situation was, I knew what I needed to do to survive and just get the heck out of there as fast as I could.

0:20:14.2 S2: And you think about high stake jobs, there’s policing, military, people are making a lot of very difficult decisions in a split second of a split second, and if we’re managing those people where there’s all this fear and to their prefrontal cortex isn’t really ready for what they’re having to deal with anyhow, because they’ve just gotten yelled at for two days straight, that’s not helping them be better at their job. There’s high state decisions around publicly traded companies, talk about some high-stake decisions there too, obviously very different, but any time we’re in an environment where our decisions are incredibly impactful to communities, to finances, to live to any of that, the more we can reduce fear, the more that person can make a decision that’s better, a better decision for them, and every single person around them because their brains prepared in a different way to make that decision ’cause it’s not just bog down and all this fear hormones and the stress hormones…

0:21:18.5 S1: No, absolutely. When we talk about motivation, when we motivate people, we inspire people, we break that down to fundamentally, what advice or suggestions or tips you have when we think about the neuroscience of the brain to be more effective in those areas…

0:21:36.4 S2: A great question. I think that we’ve been told to always, surely, you can do it. You’ve got this, you can do it. Well, what if that person is like, I don’t have it and I can’t do it. Right, and so through a motivation, you’ve actually put them in more fear, I’m gonna disappoint them. They think I can do this and I can’t. They said it’s easy, but it’s hard for me. So again, that old school motivation actually many times creates fear, but if you know someone’s up against something, you need to do some motivation, you now they’re going into a tough situation, you can say things like, I know this can feel difficult. How do you wanna feel about this situation to help you get through it, let them tell you to how they need to feel about it, because then you can lean into that and you can deliver to them what they need, you can also say things like… I know that you’re gonna have to make some tough decisions. What decision do you want to brainstorm with me right now so you can work through it. So again, they’re thinking, Oh, I have a partner here, if I am stumbling sibling, I am motivated to go ask for help, I’m motivated by the fact that I have a partner in this.

0:22:47.1 S2: So often we tell people, Mike does this all the time. It’s super easy. Why can’t you do it? Or we think that even if we’re thinking that that person can fill it through our chemicals, and we can say things like, You’re really good at all of these things, but I want you to develop in this area… So I know the first couple of times you’re gonna do it, it’s not gonna be fun for you, but I have no doubt you’re gonna figure it out, and if I don’t allow you to get awkward and uncomfortable and stumble, I can’t get you to that next level so let’s stumble through this together, so it’s just a really different way to open up a conversation versus… You’ve got this… Yeah, usually the boss is like, I’m not really sure what to say, so I’m just gonna go… Go team.

0:23:31.4 S1: When I hear you talk about this, I hear… The first word that comes to mind is empathy, understand, understand what our team member is going to put yourself in their shoes as a humanistic type leader, if you struggle in the same area and truly can feel what they’re going through, that helps them to say, Okay, somebody I’m not alone, there’s not something wrong with me, and if somebody takes the time to truly care about you and understand you, that’s a safe environment where we feel like, Hey, we belong, we’re important, and then one of the leaders greatest tools is asking questions, and another one is listening, and they’re really skills, so asking those questions, listening, helping them find the answer within them, build their confidence versus you got this no, tear it up. Now you’re fine. And they walk away going, I don’t know about that. But then being there to offer support to them, and I think the other thing that’s really important to talk about reducing fear, our relationship with failure is so important how we view failure, people in a fixed mindset view failure not as an individual act or action, but it actually creates their identity.

0:24:47.8 S1: Growth mindset, people view failure is nothing more than a learning opportunity on their path to accomplish what it is they want to accomplish, they get excited about taking on those challenges and stuff, and so as leaders, we understand through the fear what it does to dopamine levels, what it does to our serotonin… What does to our cortisol courts? All those things, it’s super important and shifting up and not being that lazy leader who doesn’t really know how to motivate somebody, but taking on some of these things… That’s so insightful.

0:25:21.3 S2: I’m glad she brought up listening, and it’s one of the things that I’ve really been thinking about a lot because again, we’re having to listen in a different way, we used to listen… You were told deep listening, and what we would do is we would listen to their problem, we try to fix it, ’cause that’s not a really good idea, but it actually, again, creates more fear if I tell my boss that I’m struggling or I have this… Then here she’s gonna just try to fix it or they’re gonna take over, and I don’t want him to take over, I wanted to figure this out, and so I’m really looking at ways… I call it conversation agility, it’s hearing people not hearing to fix their problems or sharing to motivate them or any of that, the hearing their limiting beliefs, and how do you redirect the conversation so they can discover what they need. So for example, if I come up and you’ve given me a task and I’m like, I am not the best person for this, Jamie over there, she’s really good at this, why didn’t you say, Do this? Well, I’m in fear, ’cause I know some of my team can do it well, but as my leader, you may need me to start to learn things, we might be cross-functioning, and so hearing that fear and not just saying, Well, they don’t wanna do the work, so that you just don’t wanna work hard, you don’t want the extra project, and the things that we sometimes think, you can say things like, You know what, you’re right, James, actually really good at it.

0:26:41.7 S2: But I need you good at it too, to get good, I need you to practice, and I know the first couple of times aren’t gonna go great, just like you said, you may fail, but that’s okay because Jamie and I are here to support you, and we’re gonna help you learn that and really starting to understand how are people thinking about things, especially people are stuck in the past… When someone says, We’ve never done it that way, or we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. Well, they’re saying that because they’re in fear of change and asking questions around, if we did try this a new way and it works, what could it mean for us and really, again, redirecting that conversation and not listening to fixed, but listening to help someone grow their mindset and again, is that growth mindset a fixed mind leaders like, I’m gonna come and fix your problems ’cause I know everything, the growth mind, a gross mindset, a leader is gonna hear that, hear and help them reframe that conversation in their head so that they can work through it on their own.

0:27:41.7 S1: And I hear you say that, that fixed mindset, leader, I hear a lot of direct command control, and on the other side, what it truly is is coaching, because people get coaching and training mixed up. You’re going to a training, we are going to teach you how to do something, right? Coaching is really a lot more about asking questions, listening and helping the other person figure it out… One of my pet peeves, one of my absolute pet peeves, and it’s not lazy leadership, ’cause it’s not leadership at all, it’s a lazy boss or manager is when everything is just… They’re lazy. They’re lazy. And so many times I’ve had to say, No, you know, I’m gonna push back, I’m gonna hit the ball back over the net at and challenge you to say, I don’t think they’re lazy at all, I think they lack the confidence. I think they’re worried about messing up, I think we haven’t done a good job of training them for one, or coaching them to help them through it, ’cause I really believe as people, and you’re talking about this, and this is definitely a fixed mindset, we build small ceilings above us and tight walls, because that’s very, very safe and as human beings, we times are wired to keep us safe, and his leaders…

0:28:56.7 S1: I think our job, and it’s not done in a day, and it’s not done through a speech, is to help them shatter that ceiling and to break down those walls. I think one of the most powerful things we can do for other people to help do that is believe in them, believing in somebody is such a powerful, powerful thing. I’m not sure what chemical that releases in the brain all at you answer that, but I found that to be so power and not just saying, I believe in you and walking away, but truly demonstrating and showing that, helping them through it, and then watching and intentionally catch them doing it right, or making strides and progress, providing positive reinforcement, have a conversation and celebrate a little bit and then… Okay, from a coaching standpoint. How do we build on it from there? Yeah.

0:29:41.0 S2: That’s a little… Oxytocin had some good stuff. Who doesn’t want a little of that… Yeah, and it’s interesting because we just were constantly trying to just be good humans, we’re just trying to wake up every day and may for our lives to the people around us a little better, take care of our families when there’s families involved, the emotions get high if I have a bad day at work, I’m bad with my family, and I think that there’s just so much humanity that we can share as leaders, and I think we’re missing a lot of humanity and leadership. And I think we learned a lot about that in 2020. I think some people who have never struggled, maybe struggle for the first time, and… I think we learned a lot about growth mindset and fixed mindset. It was interesting ’cause I have such a variety of clients, I work in all different industries, small, big, all different types, and as leaders were coming to me, it was interesting to hear their fears. I’m worried about everyone had fear who didn’t with their business, but really then starting to watch people lead through it and watch the ones who were like, We’re just gonna try and see if it works, or We’re gonna do this and it’ll be just fine, and they were so rigid towards it.

0:30:49.1 S2: It actually broke down. It was just interesting. But you’re absolutely right, I think as leaders, we have to have a little bit more humanity, and we have to recognize that we’re all just doing our best every day, and like you said, you know, I love that you talked about that person saying, everyone’s lazy, I get people saying, Well, none of my people do this, run of why people do that, and always my first question is, what about your language, your leadership, the way you lead, made that come true for them?

0:31:15.6 S1: Whenever there’s a problem, we first gotta ask what part of the problem and I… That’s right, until we eliminate ourself for the problem, I wanna take a little deeper dive on oxytocin. I told Jennifer, this is one of the areas that I was still looking forward to this episode, ’cause I have so much to learn when it comes to the chemicals and how they work, and I’d take it some notes some time ago, and so they actually… Tosca you talked about it being the bonding hormone, and what I found and just correct whatever I’m wrong with, but build on it, if I’ve got it right, is this bonding hormone isn’t just a positive in a sense that you are bonding with somebody, it actually reduces and fights against stress, fear, anxiety. So as we’re connecting with and bonding with people in this way, it’s reducing those negative emotions.

0:32:02.2 S2: It absolutely is, and we’re learning about them every day, and every day we’re learning that there’s even more chemicals that we don’t have names to get and different things like that, but the bonding piece of oxytocin is so important because if you think about in the work environment and you’ve got a big project and everyone’s gotta pitch in and everyone’s involved in it, if you don’t have a sense of bond than it breaks apart really fast, but when you’ve really done the work to create trust, which creates that oxytocin release, then you have that ability to come together, and we’ve all seen teams that came together and the impossible happened, and it wasn’t because they just met that day, or maybe they did, but they trusted really fast it was because there was a sense of, we’re in it together and we fell together and we grow together and we went together, and the more of that bonding sense a team has, the more they accomplish and then more they help each other, it’s really interesting around helpfulness in the workplace, there’s some people who’ve done some research around that, I’m not by any means a expert, but I’ve read about helpfulness and the…

0:33:15.4 S2: In the workplace, but when we are able to help people in the workplace, our teams actually function at a higher level because no one falls, and we have an environment where everyone’s out to win it just for them, we actually sabotage the entire team because we’re not willing to help, because if we help someone, they make it… It may be equal to us, they make it ahead of us, but that helping sense of a team is incredibly important to the success.

0:33:46.6 S1: Yeah, 100%. And I hear you talk about the idea that we’re helping, we’re all in it together, versus that person who’s in it for themselves and trying to look good, and the way that destroys things, one of the things we try to do intentionally is to reduce competition… Right, there’s gonna be some competition by nature, but a big focus, it’s something I teach my kids is something I talk about a lot with in our workplace on the podcast, this idea of only compete against yourself and always compete against yourself. One of the things that we used to do with the police department years ago, evaluation-wise, that we changed was when evaluations come out, we would show the ranking one through whatever with the names of the officers. And that was pretty negative. And so one of the first things I did when I became the police chief was we posted the scores only, and if it weren’t for the fact that these evaluations are a third of their promotional score, we wouldn’t have posted the scores at all, but because it’s a third of their promotional score for the next level, like Sergeant, people do need to know where or they’re at, and they can see without being embarrassed and anybody knowing where they’re at, okay.

0:34:59.5 S1: Now they can go ask, Hey, what is it that I can do to get here or to get there, but every way we could eliminate competition, we had a big issue with back stabbing and jealousy and envy when I took over his police chief, and so one of the things we immediately did was stop writing individual letters, there’s rarely anything in the job that’s done that doesn’t involve a team, and even though Jennifer might have played the most significant role in the team, Danny still contributed, and so we started only writing letters of commendation that were posted on Bolton boards, everybody could see them, to groups of people and pointing out the success of that and the fact that it couldn’t have happened without the team, and then started intentionally using the word team, and we actually required the supervisors to do the word six times a 12 hour shift, and the bonding that that created and the elimination of the competition, and when people pull together, it’s exactly as you said, what we were able to accomplish was so much more.

0:35:57.8 S2: And you re-wrote their neuro-pathways is what you actually did, and they had this pathway of high competition, I only went as myself, I’ve gotta be on the top, the list is gonna get posted, but you intentionally did things different just by using the word team six times and 12 hours, you were creating a new neuro pathway for supervisors to think this is a team. This is a team. This is a team. You posted that and everyone saw it, they’re like, Oh, we’re a team, and you just rewrote the neuroplasticity or the neuro pathway of that group of people to not think about being it for themselves, but did we think about it as a team? And therefore, that’s how they thought, but it took time, it didn’t happen the first day, I can promise you, I’m sure you, you remember how it felt the first day and everyone thought it was dumb and me, all that, and then you got over that hump and then it started happening and you’ll see, I’m sure today, you probably still see some of the way those people act because that’s now the pathway in which they see, it continues to be the culture, and this is why I was looking forward to this conversation to get a deeper understanding of the fundamentals in my growth leadership journey…

0:37:10.4 S2: That’s a life-long journey. There’s no destination, okay? What I’m really focused on right now is understanding more depths about why things work, not just the fact that they do, because great leaders are great multipliers, and if we don’t understand how to multiply, if we don’t understand how to coach or how to train or how to explain or how to help people look at it different, if you don’t understand those fundamentals, it’s gonna be about impossible for them to recreate what it is you want them to do, and this rewiring of this neural pathway… Is it something I’ve heard a lot about? And so it’s something I’m taking away from the episode and something I’ll be able to use in my coaching sessions, and I think it’s something for everybody to think about, the idea that we really have two kind of emotions, happy and fear.

0:37:56.2 S1: And we Dolittle the simple-ness of that, right? And so how do we intentionally connect in a happy way with our people and that’s… That week on leadership. That’s smart on leadership. So let me ask this question. Okay, let me ask it. So inevitably, there are problems that happen in the workplace, somebody’s late, somebody’s not being a good team member, somebody isn’t working hard enough, we’ve eliminated ourselves from the problem… Somebody’s violated a policy. Things just aren’t going well. Understanding the way our brains work, what’s the best way to go across that kind of situation, so we get the change we want, but we don’t have irreversible or near irreversible damage walking forward…

0:38:48.8 S2: I’m so glad you ask that. It’s funny, it’s something when I’ve been talking to a couple of clients about recently, and again, it’s, how are we told to do it and how should we do it? So we were told to do it for years, and I’ll watch my language since we’re on a podcast, a proof sandwich, right? You say something nice. You tell them what do they need to hear. Then you say something nice. I mean, that’s a definition of passive aggressive, I’m gonna be kinda not nice to you, kind of nice and not nice, and then we’ll go back and forth. That does not work, it confuses the world, it confuses what we’re here for, and so when there is a performance issue that we have to address because that is going to happen, it is the facts of life, then we need to be really honest and tell the truth in a way in which humanize someone… So for example, if someone is required, they’re part of the accounting team and the books have gotta be closed out in five days of then the mod and this person can’t get there, then we tell them the very beginning when we set them down, what I wanna talk about today is your…

0:39:46.4 S2: Is the objective of closing the books out in five days, as you’re aware, you’ve missed out the last three months, and today I want to talk about that and I wanna figure out why and how we can change it. And you just tell them the truth, if you don’t dress it up on everyone likes you, but you can’t do this, but everyone… It just is really confusing, and so you’re honest with people in a way in which you ask questions you discover, and you could still tell at the end of it, we have co-created this plan to get you to close out the books, but in five days… But I do need you to know if we don’t get there, we’ll have to continue this conversation, it is okay to say that, because again, you’re being honest and you’ve humanized them, you’ve come up with a plan, but you’ve also been honest with what will happen if they can’t do it. And I think that we shy away so much from performance conversations, that’s when people don’t grow because they’re like, I just have this talk, I think I’m in trouble, but I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do, and that’s because we use those old-fashioned conversations that we shouldn’t use

0:40:53.3 S1: At the end of the day, the way you just described doing that, I had a really good mentor that did things in that way, you want the person with the performance issue walks away feeling bad that they let the other person down because as this leader has made all these deposits into that emotional relationship account, because any negative conversation, almost any negative conversation is gonna make some withdraws, but how we do that, we can minimize the amount of the withdraw, and when you get skilled enough at it, you’ve been able to communicate this message, as you said, and the person walks away feeling like they let you down, more disappointed in themselves, then we’re really doing our jobs and ’cause they’re motivated to do good for themselves, but they’re motivated to do good for the supervisor as well. And I think that’s pretty powerful in most people, the old school is you’d come in, you get pushed, right, you’d be told what you did wrong, and you’d be told this better, it never happened again, and you’d be told to get out of the office. And all that does is destroy relationships and destroy cultures and create a lot of fragmentation, what you talked about is how you really repair and help and build people, and the difference in impact, I think is pretty phenomenal.

0:42:11.7 S1: Heifer, Jennifer is there, because this is an area I’m not as familiar with. As we talked about at the beginning of the show, is there anything I haven’t asked about your… I’m surprised you didn’t ask about this. We should cover this real quick before we ask about your call to action.

0:42:30.3 S2: I think what you should ask, here’s a good question, as if you are the leader and you’re an absolute fear and you don’t know what to do, what do you do to… You’ve talked a lot about reducing fear in our team, but we’re leaders making big decisions, we have fear too, and we have to address our own fear, and the more that we address our own fear, the easier it is for us to manage fear and others… ’cause again, the more fear we have as leaders, the less we can make logical decisions, the last emotional and empathy we can fill because we’re so wrapped up in our own fear, and so as leaders, our place to start is reducing our fear so we can reduce the teams per… And you can do that in a myriad of ways, and a lot of it is… One of the techniques I teach a ton is, what else could be true, and so when something goes wrong or something’s happened and you’re making all these assumptions, I’m not saying it couldn’t be true, but what else could be true, you could come in and team is a deadline, and you’re just few and mad and you’re yelling and you’re upset because you know your boss is gonna be mad, but what else could be true is maybe internet went down, they couldn’t do it.

0:43:44.3 S2: What else could be true is maybe they found a problem upstream, and if they fix that, they’re actually fixing more problems down the road, but you were so wrapped up, you couldn’t see it, and so always asking what else could be true. And also when you think about like, you’re busy and you haven’t talked to your boss in two weeks, and you’re like, Well, I haven’t talked to him, they must be mad at me, and we create this story. We’ve created fear now people are in our office and we’re in fear, so we can be empathetic to them, you can also stop and say, You know what, they’ve been really busy, they’ve had a ton going on, I’m gonna give them some grace and I’m gonna connect with them… And so really as leaders, we have to manage our fear first, and then we can manage the fear in our team…

0:44:28.9 S1: Love that, love that. And so as we do that, we asked that question, What else could it be… One thing I’d really challenge people with, and I was just having this conversation with my wife the other day about something that was going on. We are so wired to go to the worst case scenario that when we’re feeling that way, rarely are we write… We create this world that does not exist, and we’ve gotta be really careful and asking what else could it be, what are the alternative scenarios? The other thing that I think is important when we’re faced in tough situations is, Do you have a mentor if you don’t… I don’t care if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, if you’re a City Manager, Police Chief, ’cause whatever it is, do you have a mentor? Do you have a couple mentors, ’cause I like to have… I’ve got five, but I like to have more than one across different places, and then depending on what that build is, this executive coaching space is a big deal, I’ve started to look at executive coaching with some of our team members, and it’s nothing in the public sector I really ever thought about, but the discoveries that are happening there, and so we’ve gotta have somebody that we can turn to as well, because if we’re in fear, that’s gonna come across and that’s generally gonna create fear and the people were trying to leave, and that’s the last thing that we wanna do.

0:45:47.5 S1: Absolutely.

0:45:48.3 S2: And No. Executives should be out in the wild without a coach, I truly do believe that. It’s so amazing. I just, I wake up every day and I’m like, How did I get so lucky to have this great job here? Before we got on camera, I was talking about coaching sessions I’ve had this week in stories about people that showed up and they were mad at this person and this relationship was breaking down, and we talked it through and they reduced their fear. All of a sudden they’re like, Oh, that’s what probably happened. But they got to a place where they could see it in a different way, and then they could plan of how to go back and get back and balance with that person, and it’s really amazing to watch humans who take that time to take care of their mental health to take care of their fear and really just again, like you said, be one percent better every… And the people are living in our life that way, it’s just… They’re just great. They’re just so lucky. And everyone can do that. It just, it takes work, you know, it’s just like exercising or anything else we do, it takes work, but once you get used to doing that work, you build that neuro pathway, and so every day you get up, it gets easier and easier to live your life in a way of knowing that you are in control and that you can create your own path.

0:47:06.7 S1: You can create your own path. We choose is the greatest thing about our lives, and especially in the democratic country we live in where we are during free, we’re gonna choose, we choose our mindset, we choose their life, and there’s consequences to what our choices are, if we choose differently, that’s fine, but at the end of the day, we get to choose… One of the things I heard you say in there, from executive coach side or mentors, create a new sense of awareness, emotional intelligence, ’cause oftentimes we don’t see, we’re in our own way, and we are in our own way, the only thing that’s really stopping us as us and we think it’s everybody else or everything else, but it’s us, and so how do we get out of our own way and how do we react that with that… What a great question. You just ask yourself. That’s awesome, that’s awesome. So do you have a quick call to action for our listeners today.

0:47:53.7 S2: So you can… We have a couple of great freebies you can download from our website. One of them is how to create innovation and have crazy idea meetings, and you can go to and find that, and you can also find another great resource around the addiction to being right and the damage that does to relationships in the workplace and then how do you start to step away from that addiction, and how do you open up again, innovation and trust in the work environment? We have lots of free tools for you in the resource section at

0:48:24.6 S1: that’ll be linked in the podcast description and details this addiction to being right, which is really the foundation and the seven deadly sensitive leadership. The podcast we did. And was released in early January. What an incredible episode. So many takeaways there. Jennifer Thornton, thank you so much for coming back. Thank you for joining us. You always are a wealth of information and knowledge. We really appreciate it.

0:48:47.0 S2: Well, I always have a great time and who knows? Maybe we can do it again soon.

0:48:51.0 S1: Well, absolutely, I’m gonna hold you to that.

0:48:53.0 S2: Right at it. Yeah, we’ll do a quarterly podcast or something

0:48:57.4 S1: Here talking about the neuroscience of leadership, knowing today, the difference between what we know today and what they knew 30, 40 years ago, in so many areas, we were getting it wrong, we know now that leadership isn’t about power and control, it’s about service and empowerment, Jennifer broke it down simplistically, which I really love that there’s two basic emotions that we feel happy and fear when we’re in fear, our prefrontal cortex shuts down, we don’t make very good decisions and shuts down creativity, innovation at destroy psychological safety. Destroys productivity, destroys teams, and so we really gotta be focused on different ways to create a safe environment, to create environment where we connect and bond, or releasing those positive chemicals in the brain, the oxytocin, the dopamine, the serotonin, and really reducing those levels of cortisol, it just and now we know enough to really go at it to really figure it out, one of the things at the end of this podcast, I think is a huge takeaway, if you’re a leader and fear, what should you do? And so looking to alternatives about what else could it be that I’m fearful of, but really consider, if you don’t get in an executive coach, getting a mentor, getting two or three different mentors and opening yourself up to that we’re all human.

0:50:20.3 S1: We no longer have to show up as the strongest, the smartest, the know everything, always gotta have every answer is a matter of fact, we’re much more effective as leaders, we don’t… If we say, We don’t know if we show the human side, if we connect, and if we’re really trying to create high performing organizations and make the impact in the world, we’re put her to create, if we’re really serious about helping our team members do that… This is the path, this is the way… You enjoyed this podcast, please consider subscribing, leave us a rating and review so we can reach people more organically and remember, always. Be committed to excellence.

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