The Power of Emotional Intelligence

Posted on May 8, 2014. Filed under: Interesting Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Charles Coy, the Senior Director of Analyst and Community Relations at Cornerstone, considers innovations in talent management and speaks about the power emotional intelligence adds to our businesses.




When companies are recruiting or assessing a candidate’s capacity for a position, it’s not uncommon for them to administer a personality test such as the Myers-Briggs. While personality tests may offer some insight, they fail to capture a key indicator for success — emotional intelligence. For example, hiring extroverts for sales positions is a tried and true practice, but based on a personality test, an employer can’t tell whether a candidate will be persistent enough to develop and close new deals. Emotional intelligence (EQ) involves a person’s capacity to be empathetic, maintain optimism in the face of adversity, provide clear thinking and remain composed in stressful situations — all important traits for a leader or team player. When used as an alternative or supplemental tool in the recruiting process, testing emotional intelligence can yield significant long-term results.

“An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or her impulses, communicate with others effectively, manage change well, solve problems, and use humor to build rapport in tense situations,” says Mike Poskey, vice president of human resources consulting firm ZeroRisk.

Instead of looking at personality and experience, companies are increasingly incorporating EQ into the recruitment process. One in four hiring managers say they are placing greater emphasis on emotional intelligence when hiring and promoting in the wake of the recession, according to a Career Builder survey.

Emotional Intelligence Programs at Work

There’s no doubt that there’s value in evaluating job candidates based on their emotional intelligence, but how do companies put that into action? Here’s how three companies are employing emotional intelligence programs:

Become centered

Google, known for its innovative programs, offers emotional intelligence training to help employees find their inner peace and a state of meditation. More than 1,000 employees have completed the Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program, developed by Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s resident “Jolly Good Fellow,” according to Wired. Employees learn about the five crucial skills of empathy, motivation, social skills, self-awareness and self-regulation.

Teach soft skills

The world’s second-largest construction equipment maker Komatsu looked to increase the emotional intelligence of its employees after the economic plummet in Europe by first conducting engagement surveys and addressing issues that were top of mind for employees. Managers and employees alike participated in a leadership program that encouraged innovation and developed people-based skills.

Hire for retention

To tackle the problem of high turnover, auto dealer Park Place Dealerships focused on emotional intelligence during the recruiting process. The company evaluated a candidate’s emotional response to various phrases such as “With this ring, I thee wed.” After integrating emotional intelligence into the hiring process, sales employee turnover decreased from 60 percent to 12 percent on an annual basis, according to Chief Learning Officer.

3 Tips for Integrating EQ into Recruitment

Baking emotional intelligence into the evaluation process is easy with these three steps, notes Anna Gibbons, corporate communications manager at recruitment agency Sellick Partnership:

  1. Write a job description that goes beyond qualifications to describe softer skills required, such as adaptability, communication skills, teamwork and motivation.
  2. Employ psychometric testing, such as the Thomas International Personal Profile Analysis (PPA), to identify what motivates candidates and how they react under pressure.
  3. Pay attention to a candidate’s body language and word choice — they can greatly impact first instincts, which hiring managers should always take into account.

“In every decision, emotions count,” Max Ghini, director of global strategy for emotional intelligence consulting firm Six Seconds, told Chief Learning Officer. “Better engagement is key for bottom line, and emotional intelligence is greatly connected to organisational performance.”


charles coy

Charles Coy is the Senior Director of Analyst and Community Relations at Cornerstone. He is responsible for getting the word out about Cornerstone as a company, as well as evangelizing Cornerstone’s innovation in talent management technology solutions. Charles continues to be interested in the ways that technology can impact how organizations evaluate, motivate and value their employees.

Charles brings a background in public policy analysis and research to Cornerstone. Having studied regional economic development and education policy, Charles originally came to the company with an interest in the convergence of technology and higher education.  He has worked in marketing, sales, and corporate development at Cornerstone since the early days of the company more than a decade ago.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )

Do we have the heart to lead?

Posted on April 3, 2014. Filed under: Interesting Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Chris Phillips, the Manager for People & Performance at Gladstone Regional Council and an expert on human capital management, looks at the neuroscience behind leadership and why it takes emotional courage to lead well.



Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 3.14.04 PM

We know all the skills – we did the course, read the articles, and got the latest email. There’s nothing new about leadership – at least in theory.

Why is it, then, that we all talk about leadership like breakfast cereal but rarely do people demonstrate quality leadership? Why is it easier for us to recall the leadership flaws and failings than the inspirations? When discussing leadership with the participants of my Leadership Academy Future Leaders Program, a common response is, “I was taught what not to do!” And, while the answer is simple to identify, it’s complex in terms of how the brain affects the outcome.

Leadership requires emotional courage

Plato once said, “All learning has an emotional base”. He died in 347 BC, so we’ve known about the connection between emotion and leadership for a little while now! If emotion is as important as all that, we are in real leadership trouble – particularly those of us leaders who are male, because we are taught from an early age that emotions are bad and being emotional is worse.

A few years back, David Rock came up with the SCARF model to explain the basic areas the brain experiences motivation: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness.  If we consider that the brain has two primary stimuli being threat (risk) and reward, and we apply the SCARF Model to our actions and reactions, we start to understand the “why” behind our lack of emotional courage to lead.

The basic principles of threat and reward, of course, colour our interactions daily. We subconsciously move away from anything we consider to be detrimental to our overall well being, and we welcome what we perceive to be rewarding. Does this mean, then, that even if we are often highly skilled at the theories of leadership and can rattle off principles and core competencies with ease, we are not necessarily wired to put them into practice?

As individuals we have a series of radars that apply to perceptions of risk and reward with the radar changing regularly. Our radars are affected by all sorts of influences and can vary each and every hour; however, we do have a base measure that constitutes our ‘point of truth’.

Do we have the heart to lead?

Looking at the SCARF domains is instructive as a tool to show us the inherent problems with the courage to lead.

Let’s take a look at two of the areas of motivation: status and fairness. As a CEO, you may find that your radar regarding status is basically clear: you’ve achieved the status you were chasing for so long and your reward stimuli is satisfied. However, others around you may not feel the same in terms of their own ambitions, something that can colour your relationships and affect how you work together.  At the same time, with all the things that can affect your business, you may find your ‘fairness radar’ is buzzing, and the incoming missiles are not necessarily friendly fire. In fact, there are all kinds of fairness threats that can influence you and your business. It makes sense that your threat stimuli is heightened in this area, something that can blindside your balance.

When we have a heightened radar for parts of the SCARF model, our sliding scale of threat and reward is also skewed, which means our actions and attitude can be affected. Of course there are a number of other things in play, including our own biases, past experiences and memories that influence us.

As we gain self-awareness, we can start to manage our ability to lead and apply those core competencies we know are pivotal to leadership success.

To enable improvement in the leadership of our organisations, we look for reiteration of the good bits of leadership or exposure and forced rectification of the not so good bits. This takes courage, but it’s well worth the effort.

The 3600 Feedback Example

3pfs13600 feedback has been used traditionally to force an awareness of individual weaknesses in order to design a plan to improve behaviors. This, of course, is inconsistent with the idea of strengths-based leadership, identified by Tom Rath and Gallup. They claim there are three keys to being a more effective leader: knowing your strengths and investing in others’ strengths, getting people with the right strengths on your team, and understanding and meeting the four basic needs of those who look to you for leadership.

A 3600 feedback format can trigger a considerable threat response and turn the radar on in a negative way for all elements of the SCARF model. If we believe Plato, this means we have little chance of learning, since the brain will make every effort to move away from the threat (in this case the threat is the negative connotations of being exposed for weaknesses).

According to Phil Dixon, David Rock, and Kevin Ochsner in an article they wrote for NeuroLeadership Journal entitled “Turn the 360 around”, this feedback format affects people in the following ways:

  • Status is threatened because you are being questioned now even though you’ve used this same behavior to achieve success
  • Certainty is threatened because there is now a question about what you have been doing all these years
  • Autonomy is threatened because your peers are publicly judging you
  • Relatedness is threatened because you perceive friends turning into foes as they comment on your performance
  • Fairness is threatened as you think, Why should I be under the spotlight?

Unfortunately, when it comes to enabling people to use the competencies they have been shown, we sometimes use the very tools that narrow the brain due to the pressure it places on it. This, in turn, prevents us from embedding the thinking and transforming it into action.

From threat to reward

Real leadership means that we need to stand apart from all that is happening around us — in effect, we need to stand out from the crowd. That can be scary! No wonder many leaders appear to lack emotional courage and no wonder their leadership is floundering. We are often stuck in the ‘freeze phase’ of threat.

That is not to suggest that we should be elitist or egotistical — far from it  — we simply need to learn to be out of our comfort zones and love it. To have the heart to lead, to be able to have those ‘difficult conversations’, we need to turn leadership from threat to reward. Maybe leadership should be renamed “chocolate”!

As leaders ourselves, we must maximise the rewards that leadership brings. Read any leader’s bio and there will be a reference to enabling others to grow and be the best they can. This is an immense reward by itself but consider the exponential effect it has on an organisation and an organisation’s resilience.

Now is the right time to consider Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, which, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of you work that is really important. Don’t just “work smart”, work smart on the right things. in order You can apply the principle however you like to accommodate the situation you are in, even saying 20% of your staff create 80% of your work but the principle is the same. It’s the 20% that is the most challenging yet, at the same time, the most rewarding.

Managers tend to aartworks-000037686520-8gs0zt-originalvoid the 20% that is important to getting results. The leaders who do invest in that 20% get unashamedly positive results. That 20% is people. This makes perfect sense –after all, if it wasn’t for people we wouldn’t have anything worth leading.

If we are to turn leadership back into the reward end of our continuum, we need to reinforce the positives in order to enable our brains to re-wire the behaviors. Our courage to lead, our emotional courage, cannot be built from a threat base, so it is time we re-thought our approach to building leadership.

Do we have the heart to lead? Maybe not, however, we do have the brain to change that!




Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 11.25.19 AM

Chris is currently the Manager for People & Performance at Gladstone Regional Council, where he is building and ‘driving’ his leadership and mentoring framework and creating meaningful change in culture, attitude, and performance within this ‘dynamic’ organisation. He has previously been recognised for his contemporary leadership by being named the Professional Manager of the Year (Rockhampton) by the Australian Institute of Management . Chris is a passionate student of neuroscience and believes in the potential the field has to revolutionise our thinking about leading people. His goal is to help and support others to successfully become the best they can be through coaching, mentoring, and empowerment.





Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )

Brain Bites: Transform the way you perform

Posted on February 13, 2014. Filed under: Practical Strategies, Tara Neven, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Tara Neven, co-founder and director of neuresource group and an expert on human capital and organisational change, sheds light on how using neuroscience in small bites can build a brain-friendly organisation, enhance productivity, support innovation, and bring about lasting change.



Our knowledge of neuroscience and its application to practical business practices and leadership is fast evolving. Some would even suggest we are living in a neuro-revolution. The question becomes: So what?  How can we tap into emerging insights about the brain and apply them to the everyday work environment? How can we use what we’re learning to address the engagement and leadership crisis also regularly featured in the media?

We know, for example, that the brain is a social organ.  We also have discovered that the key organizing principle of the brain is to minimise threat and maximise reward. However, for many, the practical application of such notions remains a mystery. It requires some rethinking of old, deeply-embedded management and organisational practices.

‘Brain Bites’

So just how do we apply new insights about our brain to the everyday work environment?  The best way I’ve found is to proceed is to institute small incremental changes — what I call  “brain bites” —  and, in this way, to slowly transform the way the organisation performs.

I like this term for another reason.  One of the strategies employed by the ‘neuro-savvy’ is the idea of chunking.  Since it’s easy for the brain to get overwhelmed, setting off a cascade of stress hormones and associated reactions that lower productivity, it’s better to break tasks down to manageable chunks. That way, there’s a greater likelihood of success and more opportunities to celebrate small wins along the way, both of which flood the brain’s reward centres with dopamine (also known as the feel-good hormone). 

Strange new world

This neuro-revolution opens us to a strange new world that takes a bit of getting used to. Not only does it challenge many of our basic assumptions about people, it even occasionally compels us to question the nature of reality. At times we need to act against our basic biology and recognise when the oldest part of our brains, in the quest to keep us ‘safe’, may be getting in the way of appropriate risk-taking or in supporting innovation.

It can feel as if we’ve landed in Alice’s Wonderland, but in a world of science rather than fiction. It may help to recognise that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift, something that is usually felt to be disconcerting, particularly if it challenges old assumptions. As leaders, we’ve been taught to structure our organisations in particular ways. And now, the wisdom of these ways is not only being questioned but shown to be wrong. (Another thing about the brain: it hates change!)

But if we embrace this new lens (what I call the “neuro lens”) to review and reinvent leadership and organisational practices, we stand to be far more effective managers, leaders, CEOs, executives, and supervisors. The best organisations and the wisest leaders intuitively know how to create ‘brain-friendly’ environments, and they are reaping the rewards in  productivity, staff retention, and engagement levels.

Srinivasan Pillay, author of The Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders, writes:

It is one of my favorite times in teaching a class of managers, leaders, and coaches: those first five minutes when executives and leaders from a variety of personal and business backgrounds—small businesses and Fortune 100 companies, male and female coaches, “in-your-face” and “one-step-at-a-time” personalities—are all united by a single question lurking at the back of their minds: What the heck does knowledge of the brain have to do with business?

While his article is specifically about neurocoaching, Pillay also argues that brain science has been proven to support to organisations, employers, and managers find alternate explanations for behaviour, which has led, in turn,  to the development of strategies for bringing about change that is different to what has been done in the past. Using brain science in business helps us look at the anatomy of all the things in business that go wrong between people and provides practical tools for changing them.

Re-structuring old structures

collaborateIn the last fifteen years, there has been unremitting neuroscience research that reveals fundamental insights about how we humans function.  This information is not arbitrary — it’s factual.  These studies impact everything to do with how we structure work. They show how brain functions affect perception, emotion, and conscious thought.

While the growing body of neuroscience must stand the scrutiny of further research, we are beginning to see increasing applications in the workplace. We are more fully understanding how the oldest part of the brain, the limbic system, influences our behaviour in the social world of work.  When we understand how the brain functions, there are significant implications  for how performance management should be approached, how we manage change, how we engage and motivate people, how we support innovation and insight to flourish, and how we maintain focus in a distraction-rich environment.

Organisationally, neuroscience has implications as well. We are now seeing emerging organisational structures that are put in place to support more collaborative and purposeful approaches to how a business performs. In reality, while the people in the business need to be educated and supported to apply the principles of neuroscience, the organisation also needs to have a framework to support the development of a ‘brain-friendly’ environment.

Traditional hierarchical and paternalistic business structures provide limited availability for collaboration or free-flowing decision making and problem solving. New methods for structuring organisations are critical in the wisdom age, where many workers are employed to think. We need to be reviewing our governance structures, how decisions are made (and how transparent they are), as well as how power is distributed to support organisations to be agile in a time of constant change. In an earlier post we referred to holocracy as one approach being adopted by organisations, which provides a good example of this move to new, wiser restructuring.

Head + heart

The beauty of what we’re learning is that, in spite of the brain being a complex organ, understanding basic brain biology can support individuals and organisations to behave differently and to operate more consciously with the brain in mind — for the benefit of both individuals and organisations.

Taken in small bites, with practice new behaviours can become new habits. Once the ideas are embedded in the mind, little by little you’ll know both what to do and what not to do. It takes discipline and practice, like any physical or mental exercise, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it easy and you’ll notice measurably improved results.

head v heartI’ve learned in my studies that ‘you are not your brain’ and there’s no reason to let it boss you around. Your brain is a flexible and fluid organ that can be retrained to do anything you need it to do.  Only small actions are required: with focused attention, it’s possible to prune undesirable neural pathways and thicken up the ones you want to maintain.

And it works the same way in organisations. Simply being aware of how the brain works can be enough to set these small changes in motion. Over time, this new way of doing things becomes embedded in the practices of employers and employees alike.

It isn’t just the brain that’s involved. Social connections and emotional intelligence are two of the highest predictors of a successful — and wise — leader. Scientists have even discovered there are neurons in the heart. I guess that proves we don’t just process and respond to stimuli with our head — something we should take to heart.


Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 9.23.30 AM.

Tara Neven is the co-founder/director of neuresource group.  As an entrepreneur, business strategist, facilitator, learning and development, and collective leadership specialist, Tara has over 15 years experience in corporate learning and development, education, business growth and organisational development. The last 10 years of this experience has been in remote and regional areas of Australia. Tara’s primary industry experience has been in the mining and resource sector, construction, local government and medium to large organisations.



Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Top posts: the ways neuroscience will transform how you work

Posted on January 30, 2014. Filed under: Our Leaders Say | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

We thought it would be fun to look back over the past 12 months and revisit the most popular Brainwaves for Leaders posts.  Please let us know if you’ve tried any of the ideas explored below. We’d love to hear anecdotes of your successes!



ways-to-eliminate-distractions2Attention Matters: Taming Distraction By Developing Attentional Intelligence

Linda Ray is the Managing Director of NeuroCapability and the co-founder and co-director of neuresource group.  During the past seven years, she has been interested in building ‘neurocapability’ using insights from neuroscience.  In this article, she turns her attention to the subject of ‘attention’—more specifically on ways to build productivity through ‘Attentional Intelligence’.

…Think for a moment on your day to now. Where has your attention been focussed? Given the average worker spends around 2.5-3 hours per day on distractions, I suspect for many attention is not always focussed where we want it to be or where it is most productive….  




Fish jumping out of waterChecklist For Brain-Friendly Change Management

The participants in the 2012  Diploma of the Neuroscience of Leadership program join together to offer their solutions for brain-friendly change.

…In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Walter McFarland states that the way to effectively engage the support and creativity of a company’s employees during an organisational change lies within the field of neuroscience. After spending nearly a year studying how the brain works and the ways this new knowledge may be applied to the workplace, the 2012 NeuroCapability ‘thought-leaders’ participated in an informal survey about their ideas on the best ways to implement organisational change…  




golden-circleThe Three E’s Model Of Neuroleadership: Energy, Effort And Engagement

Adair Jones, a Brainwaves for Leaders staff writer, investigates how leaders can direct energy, effort, and engagement by connecting employees with intrinsic values and meaningful purpose.

…One of the central challenges in learning and leading is the ability for people to connect, to collaborate, and to find the common ground needed to work out the intense polarizations that lead to so many of the terrible headlines we see. While humans have a fierce independence, we are actually social animals, and mirror neurons are evidence of this interdependence. It’s our organisational leaders who set the engagement climate, and they also set levels of energy depletion and energy restoration. It’s a delicate balancing act, and one that’s difficult to achieve…




abstract-conversationBusiness Leaders Agree: Empathy Is The Single-Most Important Skill In Business Today

In a recent workshop on The Neuroscience of Collaboration, undertaken as part of theDiploma of Neuroscience of LeadershipAdair Jones was inspired by the significant role empathy plays in human relations and how it can be effectively utilised in the business realm.

…Empathy is the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly. We need to think of it as valued currency. Empathy allows us to create bonds of trust. It gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking. It helps us understand how and why others are reacting to situations. It sharpens our “people acumen”.  And it informs our decisions.  All of this is too important to ignore…




??????????????????Linking Emotional Intelligence To Neuroscience

Nick Mills, a Neuroscience of Leadership graduate and the Principal Consultant at Eureka Training, shares his thoughts on emotional intelligence and what learning about the brain can do to help you link the heart with the head.

…neuroscience and emotional intelligence can be complimentary tools for effectively managing engagement and those that believe that EI is all based in black magic and hoo ha!…



Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

The Three E’s Model of Neuroleadership: Energy, Effort and Engagement

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Our Leaders Say | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This week, Adair Jones, a Brainwaves for Leaders staff writer, investigates how leaders can direct energy, effort, and engagement by connecting employees with intrinsic values and meaningful purpose.



In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek presents The Golden Circle model, which he convincingly argues “codifies the three distinct and interdependent elements (Why, How, What) that makes any person or organisation function at its highest ability.” Sinek bases his ideas on the biology of human decision-making and explains, “The function of our limbic brain and the neocortex directly relate to the way in which people interact with each other and with organisations and brands in the formation of cultures and communities.”

The critical importance of cultures and communities is central to a new area of neuroscience led by Marco Iacoboni, who a few years ago accidentally discovered mirror neurons, a new class of brain cells that “map one person’s actions into another’s brain”—in other words, brain cells that serve as the “neural basis of empathy”. Iacoboni will give the keynote address in June’s NexusEQ Conference at Harvard. In his address, he will discuss how imagination and empathy are “the doorways to personal—and therefore societal—transformation”.

image by Cohesian.

image by Cohesian.

In a recent article for ForbesJoshua Freedman, the chief operating officer of Six Seconds, The Emotional Intelligence Network and a change leader teaching the skills of emotional intelligence around the globe, writes:

One of the central challenges in learning and leading is the ability for people to connect, to collaborate, and to find the common ground needed to work out the intense polarizations that lead to so many of the terrible headlines we see. While humans have a fierce independence, we are actually social animals, and mirror neurons are evidence of this interdependence.

Writing about conscious capitalism in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project, takes these ideas a step further.  He argues that, at the most basic level, consciousness simply means being ‘conscious of more’, something that begins with self-awareness and the willingness to take responsibility for our actions. Additionally, Schwartz asserts that “consciousness is also about being socially conscious—recognising and taking responsibility for the needs of the larger community”.  Ultimately, he says,

it’s not necessary to choose up sides between consciousness and capitalism, self-interest and the broader interest, or personal development and service to others. Rather, they’re each inextricably connected, and they all serve one another.

karl wabst image

image by Karl Wabst

Linda Ray and Geoff Grahl at NeuroCapability have combined Schwartz’s ideas about conscious capitalism with Iacobani’s discovery of mirror neurons, focusing specifically on the implications this discovery has for the central role emotional intelligence plays in our relationships—both personal and professional. They’ve devised a model known as “The Three E’s—Energy, Effort & Engagement”,  a tool that can be used both to evaluate an organisation’s current state and to establish the direction of its future state.

Motivated by recent research that found that most leaders and employees are bombarded with sky-rocketing pressures in our increasingly ‘hyperkinetic work environment’, Ray and Grahl examined the effects this kind of overload is having on employee happiness.  In many organisations, because of the stresses and uncertainty of the Global Financial Crisis, employees are increasingly seen as commodities with an  endless supply of energy. Even when common sense tells us this is not true, employees are still asked to do more with fewer resources.

Ray says it’s our organisational leaders who set the engagement climate, and they also set levels of energy depletion and energy restoration. It’s a delicate balancing act, and one that’s difficult to acheive.  A 2012 Gallup study estimates that worker disengagement accounts for more than $300 billion annually in lost productivity in the U.S. alone. In Australia, a recent survey by AON Hewitt examined workplaces in which managers were required to compete  on how well they engage staff, along with the traditional metrics. These managers were forced to reverse the current course of short-term employment, requiring them to foster bottom-up innovation and collaboration—the best long-term economic drivers of any business. The results were startling.

image by UCTV

image by UCTV

According to Jackson Hewett in an article for Business Spectator, one of these companies, Atlassian has a staff engagement level of 87 per cent compared to an Australian average of 54 per cent, a significant reward for its dedication to employee ‘happiness’. Atlassian uses this engagement to drive innovation. Every quarter, they give staff time to create their own teams and to experiment with new ideas. The result?  They’ve launched nearly 50 product extensions, the very innovations that have helped them “grow from two blokes in a garage 10 years ago, to a company with 18,000 customers and $100 million in revenue today”.

Ray and Grahl understand that streamlining systems and processes is not enough to drive innovation. Even an engaged management yields modest results. They investigated what it was that created the difference between employees who replied “It’s okay” when asked about their jobs and those who said “I love it!”. They discovered that the workplaces that viewed energy as a valuable resource had an edge. They also learned that employees who felt they had a voice and an opportunity to explore new ideas were more engaged and reported greater happiness. Trustworthy leaders and managers also scored high on the list. However, most of this was  to be expected. What was really interesting in their investigation was the alignment of employee and company values and the sense of meaningful purpose—being part of something that made a difference for others—emerged as the two most significant factors in workplace engagement.  While this may seem counter-intuitive on the surface, it echoes Schwartz’s thinking about conscious capitalism.

 The Three E’s Model: Energy, Effort, Engagement

3Es copy copy

The beauty of The Three E’s Model is that it aligns with Sinek’s simple and elegant Golden Circle concept. Employees need to know not only what they are doing and how they are going to do it but why it matters. They need to feel intimately connected both to organisational processes and to the purpose of their daily effort. The leaders with enough clarity and consciousness to be able to effectively communicate this stand to gain a workforce that is not only engaged and innovative but also happy–no small accomplishment, but a hugely valuable one.


For anyone who hasn’t heard Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on the golden circle, it’s not to be missed. We welcome your comments on how you are finding your “why” and utilising The Three E’s in order to lead your organisation.

Read the story about Atlassian’s Happiness Metre.




Adair Jones is a writing and communications expert with 20 years experience in a wide variety of content production. She has worked as a technical writer for industry, produced government tenders, and created promotional materials for clients across all sectors.  As a journalist, Adair contributes regularly to newspapers, magazines and online journals.  In addition, she has experience in academic and creative writing and editing. She possesses a fascination for the human brain in all its manifold aspects.




Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )

Attention Matters: Educating Our Future Leaders

Posted on April 11, 2013. Filed under: Attention Matters, Linda Ray | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In line with NeuroCapability’s commitment to support a new generation of thinking leaders, Linda Ray weighs in on how building attentional intelligence into our educational system is something we can do now to benefit the leaders of tomorrow.



We live in a world that doesn’t stand still. It’s more than probable that the frazzle we all experience will increase in the future. And while there is a lot of talk about “work-life balance”, the reality is that it proves very difficult to achieve with any regularity. A Galaxy Poll of more than 800 workers taken in 2011 found that 65 per cent of those working overtime acknowledged that additional hours at work were affecting their family relationships.

Adding to these pressures, there is the concern that Australia is falling behind in several key areas compared with other OECD countries. A UNICEF report from 2010 reveals that Australia “falls below the average on a large proportion of a basket of indicators including material, educational and health inequality.” Further, the report states that if these issues aren’t addressed, they are going to have an effect on a sustainable social and economic well-being far into the future.

Finding-work-life-balanceThe good news is that there is a cheap and easy way to alleviate much of the stress we experience daily–not only for ourselves in the workplace but for our children both at home and at school. Currently, there has been a push to use mindfulness-based techniques with young people, something that’s yielded excellent results.

In his research at Monash University, Dr Richard Chambers has taught young people to meditate and then showed them how to draw on these skills to improve their learning and study habits. Chambers says:

There is now a lot of research around mindfulness and performance, mindfulness and leadership, mindfulness and cognitive performance, and mindfulness and academic performance. Our findings show that as well as becoming more mindful and less stressed, they become better able to concentrate, their memory improves and their academic performance improves as well.

His claims are backed by a recent US study that found links between mindfulness training and better working memory and improved test scores in undergraduate students.

However, there is also evidence to show that we need to begin training mindfulness and building attentional intelligence much earlier than previously thought.


A new longitudinal study by Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, which followed almost 3,500 children from age four through to 11, found children with an onset of puberty by eight to nine years of age had poorer emotional and social adjustment from early childhood. In the case of boys, greater behavioural difficulties were observed. This pattern continued through to early adolescence. What’s most interesting is that these results could be tracked from as early as four to five years of age.

Lead researcher Dr Fiona Mensah says: “We think that the association between early onset puberty and poorer adolescent mental health is due to developmental processes that start well before the onset of puberty and continue into adolescence.”

The study supports a ‘life course’ hypothesis, something that turns out to be good news for those willing to apply insights from neuroscience research. Knowing that genetic and environmental factors in preschool children can trigger emotional, social, and behavioural issues later on means that we can break the cycle early by incorporating mindfulness and attentional intelligence at the very beginning of their school years. Educators have long been in the business of re-wiring brains. With what we’re learning from neuroscience, it’s possible to utilise strategies that children can draw on well into the future.

This is exactly what the Benevolent Society is doing with their Shaping Brains program. Understanding that most brain development occurs during the first few years of life, they use research findings about neuroplasticity to help kids improve attention, memory, and sensory skills. A big component of the program is focussed on assisting children regulate their behaviour and improve their social, emotional and attentional intelligence.

meditation-beachAs it happens, these are extremely cost effective measures that are simple to implement. We now have an ideal opportunity to support our kids from early childhood to develop attentional intelligence in order to manage stress, regulate their emotions and behaviours, and to be better prepared to adapt to a future that will only become increasingly complex. Through insights drawn from neuroscience, we can help them navigate this future more successfully. It’s time to be on the forefront of all we are learning about how the brain works in order to truly transform the next generation of thinking leaders.




Linda Ray is the Managing Director of NeuroCapability. NeuroCapability is playing a key role in developing a new generation of thinking leaders through delivery of their Diploma of Neuroscience of Leadership and NeuLeader programs both in Australia and internationally. Linda is gaining recognition as a thought leader in the NeuroLeadership field and is contributing to the body of knowledge that supports the building of individual and organisational ‘neurocapability’ (the capacity or collectively ability to use your brain and mind more effectively).



Share this:

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Building emotional neurocapability: Leadership expert Nick Mills

Posted on March 22, 2013. Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

NeuroCapability Breakfast Forums

NeuroCapability is committed to bringing the most engaging practitioners in the neuroscience of leadership to speak at our regular Breakfast Forums. On 21 March 2013, Nick Mills from Eureka Training presented a stimulating talk on the importance of developing greater emotional  “neurocapability” in the workplace and revealed how self-awareness and self-regulation can be enhanced to lead positive change.


business breakfast

Our Breakfast Forums present thought leaders
connecting neuroscience to their practice


Accredited in a range of contemporary leadership tools, including the Diploma of the Neuroscience of Leadership, Nick Mills is a devotee of lifelong learning. His approach to leadership learning is based on the fundamental idea that change begins with the individual and that being “your best you” is more than achievable.

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 2.27.32 PM

During the talk, Mills emphasised that emotional intelligence is nothing more complicated than using emotions intelligently for business, professional, and personal mastery. “As we’ve begun to understand more about our brains and what neuroscience can teach us about maximising our effectiveness, the interplay between these two popular behavioural tools is never more relevant than now,” Mills explained.

“It’s simple,” he added, “but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.”

Basing his talk on the elements of the Genos model of emotional intelligence, Mills explained how we can utilise the very latest in neuroscience research to maximise existing emotional intelligence tools. Having a basic knowledge of the brain and its functionality can serve as the foundation for an enhanced understanding of the effectiveness of emotional intelligence in the workplace and, in turn, for building a more emotionally aware and resilient workforce.

boat-wake“We express our emotions through our behaviour in encounters with others,” Mills said. “Being in tune with our moods and feelings means that we’ll demonstrate greater awareness of how our behaviour influences others.” Mills likens this behaviour to the wake of a boat moving through a harbour—depending on a number of factors, encountering others can either be smooth or choppy, either a positive or a negative experience. Self-awareness yields better self-regulation, which creates opportunities for more positive interactions.

We know emotions are contagious. Your mood as a leader matters. How susceptible are you to catching the emotions of others? In an article by Sherrie Bourg Carter, 5 Ways to Avoid Catching a Bad Case of Emotions, the author makes suggestions in relation to how to either learn to work around emotions or change them. In a related article, Carter suggests undertaking The Emotional Contagion Scalewhich contains a 15-item questionnaire to help you gauge how vulnerable you are to emotional contagion.

As Mills suggests, self-awareness is key.  Knowing your own susceptibility to catching emotions can assist you in “being your best you”.  Ask yourself: “What mood am I taking into a room?” and “What mood do I want to leave behind (emotional wake)?” These two simple questions are key components of tapping into your emotional intelligence. 


About our presenter

Nick_MillsNick Mills

Nick Mills is an experienced leadership facilitator and coach with a passion for learning and facilitating change. He has worked with senior managers in retail, corporate, not-for-profit and government agencies in Australia, as a leadership program facilitator, coach, trainer’s trainer and sales trainer. He currently facilitates many neuroscience and Emotional Intelligence related topics as well as accredited training. He has successfully managed and led management and leadership programs focused on building individual capability, with an emphasis on neuroscience, developing emotional intelligence and personal resilience.  Business leaders have described his coaching as insightful and transformative.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Want To Advance Your Career? Then Work On Your EQ

Posted on March 5, 2013. Filed under: Interesting Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Following on from last week’s post by Nick Mills linking emotional intelligence and neuroscience, we couldn’t resist re-blogging this article by Drake Baer for Fast Company on the role of emotional intelligence in job satisfaction and growth.



In case you don’t yet feel it, emotional intelligence—the ability regulate emotions in one’s self and identify emotions in others—is a predictor of workplace success, both for employees and managers.

Over at Black Enterprise, Amanda A. Ebokosia notes that high emotional intelligence—a topic we’ve been on for 13 years—leads to higher job satisfaction, better decision-making, and more ready goal-completion for employees, while managers lacking emotional intelligence have difficulty with social interactions and nurturing professional relationships.

“Emotions do matter,” Ebokosia writes, citing a pair of studies. “Dismissing them entirely can be detrimental to the workplace, hindering healthy interpersonal interactions and their positive outcomes.”

Emotional rescue

The first study, a meta-analysis, combines a range of research. In aggregate, emotional intelligence is linked with job performance, since “in almost all work settings, individuals have to cooperate with others and do at least some group work tasks,” so emotional intelligence, with its 360-understandingness, gives you a sense of what a social situation needs–and how to correspondingly act.

The second study, the adorably named “Feeling the Future: The Emotional Oracle Effect,” gets into gut feelings. In language familiar to Malcolm Gladwell fans, io9 recaps a gut feeling as “an intuitive summary of all our accumulated knowledge on a topic,” one that is “apparently better than what we could come up with if we tried to consciously synthesize this information.” But note: Your gut is an oracle only if you have prior understanding of the given domain.

Taken together, emotional intelligence—and its associated intuitions—may be helpful for leaders, teams, and companies looking to grow (and create). Drawing from Daniel Goleman’s landmark Emotional Intelligence, Ebokosia describes its five factors of Emotional Intellgience as such:

  • Empathy: The ability to shift perspectives and gain a better understanding of others, or, in fancy-pants language, “inter-subjectivize.”
  • Motivation: The driving force(s) of your actions. Your compass, north star, wayfinding. Your interior cartographic prowess.
  • Self-regulation: Being able to deal with your own emotions before they deal with you. Linked with delaying gratification and not eating the marshmallow.
  • Social skills: Knowing what to say in order to engage your team—and knowing how not to offend them.
  • Self awareness: Understanding your own emotions improves your interactions, since getting intimate with your feelings lets you better understand how they affect others.

So how to limber up your emotional intelligence? A little foible-self-transparency might be a first step.


This article first appeared on 28 February 2013 for Fast Company.



drake-baerDRAKE BAER

Once a backpacker, now a journalist. Longs for Kyoto, lives in Brooklyn, writes about business for Fast Company and other stuff for other places. Drake Baer+

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Linking Emotional Intelligence to Neuroscience

Posted on February 26, 2013. Filed under: Our Leaders Say | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Nick Mills, a Neuroscience of Leadership graduate and the Principal Consultant at Eureka Training, shares his thoughts on emotional intelligence and what learning about the brain can do to help you link the heart with the head.


Emotional Intelligence

“I don’t go in for any of that fluffy stuff at work. Feelings should be kept at home and kept out of work,” declared Steven, the head of Information Technology in Projects at a large well-known software organisation.

This was the first thing to come out of Steven’s mouth as Neil sat down to conduct a pre-arranged 360 degree Emotional Intelligence coaching session with him, arranged by Steven’s Manager.  Steven had made both his intentions clear and his feelings known about Emotional Intelligence.

481px-PhrenologyPixThe irony was not lost on Neil, at least he had something to work with.  Steven, a self-professed ‘facts, figures and stats’ kind of guy, was only interested in concrete concepts and ideas proven that have a dependency of outcome.  Unfortunately for Steven, and anyone else involved with human beings, the outcome you’d like isn’t always what you get when you deal with people on a day-to-day basis.

In its purest form, Emotional Intelligence as a concept has been around for thousands of years.  Plato articulated concepts such as these in his writings. More recently, Howard Gardner mentioned it in 1983 when he first conceptualised ‘multiple intelligences’.  The concept was further popularised in the early 1990s by John Mayer and Peter Salovey , who later went on to form the MSCEIT Emotional intelligence test. Daniel Goleman’s 1995 seminal book Emotional Intelligence: Why it matters more than IQ really put EI on the map and into our consciousness, so to speak.

Steven was about to sit down to have his one on one debrief of the Genos Emotional Intelligence 360 degree report.  Understandably, his nerves were on high alert as his brain grappled with the concept of the large threat looming in the debrief of this report.  Steven had been receiving several complaints per month from his staff and peers.  Complaints ranged from bullying to aggression, to overly unrealistic demands and rudeness, among others things.  Little wonder that Steven was feeling more than threatened by the concept of this coaching session.

Neil understood that Steven’s stance masked a deeper inner concern: What would his staff , his peers, and his manager say about him, and what would the impact be? Were they engaged or were they disengaged?  Suddenly, it mattered.

There is a wealth of literature linking high employee engagement and positive emotions among employees defining high performance workplaces. Steven was about to find out a little more about his team.

This is a common conundrum facing any coach, HR Manager, Manager, Team Leader, or Supervisor who has ever had to sit down and ‘coach’ someone through the impact of a 360 degree (mostly anonymous) feedback survey.  Naturally, the brain heads toward an automatic threat response in this kind of situation.  Having some understanding of neuroscience, as well as emotional intelligence, helped Neil.

BeingStatesModelLargerNeil chose the Genos model of EI, a popular Australian based EI tool because it comes with a raft of research and a wealth of helpful tools.  The Genos model focuses on seven key ‘skill areas’ of emotional intelligence, as it looks upon emotional intelligence as a ‘learnable’ skill, rather than a fixed narrative.  This is useful in several ways, particularly for those that eschew populist ‘consultant speak’ or ‘psycho-babble’.  It’s based on science and some pretty solid research. Being able to back it further with some simple, irrefutable brain-based facts can be even more helpful for the coach or the manager. For example, our brains core motivation underlying all behaviour and brain processing is to minimize threat and maximize reward. This motivation helps us to decide what is significant at any point in time and the brain is more highly tuned to detecting threat than reward.  Given the natural tendency toward actively minimizing threat, Steven’s position was understandable, from both a neuroscience and an emotional intelligence perspective.

Emotional Self Awareness and the Neuroscience of Mood

Emotional Self Awareness is the skill of perceiving and understanding one’s own emotions.  Knowing that stimuli that comes into our brain first is processed unconsciously and can activate one of six key emotions. This then comes into our conscious attention, and we begin to experience feelings that follow on from the emotions and thoughts. All of this happens in the space of about .5 of a second. Genos define this skill, when conducted effectively, as ‘being present’ rather than ‘being disconnected’.  Neil took the approach that by improving Steven’s emotional health at work the engagement of those he worked with would also improve.  He asked Steven to consider what kind of benefits would this bring to his own practice.

Steven was also asked about some typical interactions with those team members he found more difficult to engage with.  His response was that he worked harder to get ‘rid’ of those by being more ruthlessly efficient with their questions and their time, so he didn’t have to be around them as much as others.  He admitted that typical behaviour included ‘multi-tasking’, continuing to answer emails and type responses whilst having one-on-one conversations with his team members at his desk.  Not only did Steven not see the impossibility of being truly ‘present’ in these situations, he couldn’t see how his behaviour was making everything worse, as those he didn’t feel he ‘engaged’ with unconsciously knew that and felt a heightened sense of threat when dealing with Steven.

stress illustrationThis heightened threat response (or fear, as it might better be articulated) has many implications.  Fear activates the amygdala, an area in the brain that releases the transmitter glutamate, which in turn activates other regions in the brain stem and hypothalamus.  In effect, this kicks off the stress-response cascade. The release of cortisol into the bloodstream has a widespread impact on the system.

Cortisol helps the body fight the threat of immediate stress by releasing and redistributing energy to critical parts of the body, like the heart, and away from non-critical parts of the body, like the digestive system. According to Andy Habermacher, one of Europe’s leading speakers on neuroleadership, it will also immediately take away resources from the body’s immune system.  Over time, the combined result of too much cortisol in the system is increased stress, fatigue, lower productivity and effectiveness, and the subsequent effects of all this strain.

Helping Steven to understand this basic biology of engagement would help him to lead his people better, reduce their threat response, make them think more clearly and effectively had a powerful effect on him. This emotional intelligence stuff really does work.

This is but one brief example of how understanding both neuroscience and emotional intelligence can be complimentary tools for effectively managing engagement and those that believe that EI is all based in black magic and hoo ha!




Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 12.22.33 PM

Nick Mills is a current Neuroscience of Leadership student and the Principal Consultant at Eureka Training.  Accredited in a wide range of contemporary leadership tools, Nick is an experienced leadership facilitator and coach with a passion for learning and facilitating change. He has worked with senior managers in professional services, corporate, not-for-profit and government agencies in Australia, as a leadership program facilitator, coach, trainer’s trainer and sales trainer.  He currently facilitates many neuroscience and Emotional Intelligence related topics.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 12 so far )

Look after your brain – share this with your CEO

Posted on June 20, 2012. Filed under: Interesting Articles, Linda Ray, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

We loved this blog  by Tony Swartz in HBR Blogs .  The results of the ‘Energy Audit’ created a buzz in our office as we know how important looking after our brain is when it comes to energy levels.

The following interesting results shared in the “Share this with your CEO”  blog by Tony Swartz followed an ‘energy audit’ of 160 senior executives at a large bank. He found:
“• 77% said they had trouble focusing on one thing at a time, and felt easily distracted during the day.
• 80% said they take too little time to think strategically and creatively, and spend too much of their time reacting to immediate demands rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage.
• 54% said they often feel impatient, frustrated or irritable at work, especially when demand gets high.

The audit also revealed:
• 82% reported they regularly get fewer than 7-8 hours of sleep and often wake up feeling tired.
• 70% don’t take regular breaks during the day to renew and refuel.
• 70% eat lunch at their desks, if they eat lunch at all.
• 65% don’t consistently work out.
• 68% said they don’t have enough time with their families and loved ones, and when they’re with them, they’re not always really with them.
• 71% take too little time for the activities they most deeply enjoy.”

To the team at NeuroCapability these results  seem to point to a the lack of knowledge about how to look after one of our organs which impacts on our energy levels, our brain. Great leaders treat their brain as a precious resource and encourage their people to do the same. There is significant evidence to show:

  • Plug in the Brain for EnergyLack of sleep impacts on our capacity to encode memory, think clearly, focus attention and to access weak neural connections in our brain necessary to have those moments of insight or brilliance.
  • Regular breaks and refueling tops up the glucose levels in our blood stream. The brain is an energyintensive organ that needs breaks and refueling to make good decisions, solve complex programs and focus attention. We can do ‘heavy lifting’ thinking or deep conceptual thinking for short periods before we need a ‘brain break’.
  • Our capacity to self-regulate our emotions is significantly compromised when we don’t look after our brain and this has impacts on not only colleagues but on spouses and family members.
  • Exercise is key for looking after your brain and has been shown to contribute positively to increasing levels of mental health.
  • Spending time with people we have deep connections with is a key social need of the brain. Even small children can sense when their Mum or Dad is ‘not present’. Studies suggest that living in the moment is a key indicator of happiness.

The key message is look after your brain and the energy will follow! Let us know in the comments your top tips for looking after your brain.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

« Previous Entries

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...