Several years ago, I worked as a consultant for a Fortune 500 high-tech company. I was part of a team of consultants hired to help this company make significant changes. Specifically, I was hired to assist with the human side of change, which meant building strategies to ensure buy-in and adoption. I was part of a team of other successful consultants. I remember one particular moment when our team gave each other feedback at the end of the project. One colleague commented that I was accountable. I remember being very flattered and validated. Yet what did this mean?
I have been closely following the news about the invasion of Ukraine with horror, and like so many, have been in awe of President Zelenskyy’s leadership. As an Associate Professor, I oversee a Master's of Leadership program at Golden Gate University and designed most of the courses. Because of my fascination with neuroscience and its application to leadership behavior, I've included that information in many of our courses.
One of the topics that we cover is emotional contagion. We start that discussion by describing mirror neurons. Mirror neurons were discovered quite by accident by Italian researchers. The story goes that they were researching Macaque monkeys. The monkeys' brains responded not only when they picked up food but when they saw a researcher pick up an ice cream cone. The experiment was replicated in humans. Researchers further discovered that the mirror neurons fired even before observing a specific action.
I coined the "Two-Faced Backstabbing Tangle" after experiencing a particularly painful personal interaction. Naming it led me to reflection and discovery and the recognition that this is a common phenomenon. I also discovered some ways to mitigate its impact. In my capacity as an executive coach and consultant, I have seen this nasty tangle snarl teams. Here's the story of its origins, its biological underpinnings, and how to not get snarled in the emotional pain this nasty tangle can inflict.
A few years ago, some of my Silicon Valley executive coaching clients asked me if I had seen the Bob Newhart “Stop It” video. It was making the rounds in their company. When I saw it, I understood why they wanted me to watch it.
I have been learning about and teaching basic neuroscience principles for the past three and a half years. I use a brain-based coaching approach in my executive coaching practice. I have come to appreciate how much a basic working knowledge of our brains can help leaders function more effectively.
I first wrote this post in early 2011, just after I began teaching in the MBA program at Golden Gate University as an adjunct professor. Since then, I have become a full time graduate level professor and still maintain my practice as an executive leadership consultant and coach. This continues to force me to stay current with leadership research and weave that research into a pragmatic solution for clients and business school students.
Last fall, I was privileged to be included in the first group of global executive leadership coaches certified in My Brain Solutions (MBS). The Academy of Brain Based Leadership sponsored the certification training. MBS is the only scientifically validated assessment that truly measures brain performance and has been used effectively by clinicians for several years. It was developed by an independent consortium of over 200 neuroscientists, led by Dr. Evian Gordon. It was redesigned in 2014 to improve the effectiveness of business leaders.
In late June, 2015, I had the opportunity to visit the charming town of Kolding in Denmark. There, nestled atop a scenic city, we visited a ecently restored old castle. As we got to the top of the castle, we were delighted to see an exhibit of student work. We found out that the Kolding Design School offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in design. The exhibits were from their most recent graduates.