The bounce-back quality pops up again.

April 29th, 2011

Remember resilience? Your ability to cope successfully in the face of change or adversity and spring back with renewed energy and confidence. The PsyCap quality named when describing highly effective leaders. The “state of mind” I championed on 1/21/11.

Well, further support for resilience as a skill that can be learned and developed appeared this week in a Harvard Business Review blog post titled “Resilience for the Rest of Us.”* Becoming more resilient to life’s minor setbacks and irritating upsets, according to author Daniel Goleman, is a matter of retraining your brain.

Goleman, co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University, cites University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson’s findings on the brain circuitry that brings us back from distresses and stress to “full energy and focus.” Davidson you may recall specializes in the study of positivity and how the brain handles emotions.

Whenever we get upset enough to lash out, Goleman says our brain’s amygdala – the region that processes emotion – has hijacked the logical-thinking executive centers in the prefrontal cortex. He tells us the neural key to resilience lies in how quickly we recover from that hijacked state.

Davidson found that when we’re distressed, there’s heightened activity on the right side of the prefrontal area, and when we’re able to respond to a situation without over-reacting, the left side of our prefrontal area is more active. It’s that left/right activity level that predicts our daily mood range.

To develop more left-tilt activity in the workplace, Davidson teamed up with the CEO of a high-pressure biotech startup and Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School to offer employees at the biotech firm instruction in mindfulness, a self-administered, attention-training method that teaches the brain to register anything happening in the present moment with full focus, but without stress.

The instructions are simple:

  1. Find a quiet, private place where you can be undistracted for a few minutes — for instance, close your office door and mute your phone.
  2. Sit comfortably, with your back straight but relaxed.
  3. Focus your awareness on your breath, staying attentive to the sensations of the inhalation and exhalation, and start again on the next breath.
  4. Do not judge your breathing or try to change it in any way.
  5. See anything else that comes to mind as a distraction — thoughts, sounds, whatever — let them go and return your attention to your breath.

After practicing mindfulness an average of 30 minutes a day for eight weeks, employees had shifted their prefrontal activity ratio to be tilted to the resilient left side. There were real-time changes in the brain.

Here’s my favorite part of the results: The employees said they remembered what they loved about their work; they got in touch with what had energized them in the first place. In other words, they had tapped into their own potential. Their own impetus, or energy, for success.

Davidson has been a proponent of daily meditation for almost a decade, and his research on brain plasticity maintains we do have the power to control thoughts and emotions at a deeper level than ever realized and develop attributes like confidence and resilience that contribute to our effectiveness in the business world.

I’m encouraged and excited to know the application of neuroscience to management and leadership continues to gain momentum. I’m hopeful Qinomics will be an important contributor to this dynamic and growing field.

*If you’re unable to access the full article, please contact me and I’ll email you a copy of it.


What it takes to succeed.

April 22nd, 2011

“Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s” was the headline on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times’ business section. And it pulled me right in to great satisfaction.

The article was adapted from “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed,” by Adam Bryant, who has interviewed more than 70 chief executives over the years for his weekly NYT “Corner Office” column. This piece shares some enlightening knowledge from which I think anyone can benefit, regardless of industry or role.

Bryant zeroes in here on five qualities that the CEOs he interviewed share and look for in the people they hire. He calls these qualities the “five essentials for success.” Beyond the expected intelligence, strong work ethic, good communication skills and positive attitude, all five of these essentials are attributes that can be learned and developed. All are within your control.

The five essentials are: passionate curiosity, battle-hardened confidence, team smarts, a simple mindset and fearlessness. Here are the points under each that jumped off the page at me.

Passionate Curiosity

·      An infectious sense of fascination that some people have with everything around them.

·      There’s an energy from people engaged with the world and wanting to know more.

·      It’s indispensable no matter what the job.

·      They can marshal the collective energy of their employees by asking the right questions.

Battle-hardened Confidence

·      People who embrace adversity and have a track record of overcoming it.

·      The kind of person who takes ownership of challenges.

·      A belief in the ability to shape events and circumstances by making the most of what they can control.

·      A positive attitude mixed with a sense of purpose and determination.

Team Smarts

·      Understanding how teams work and how to get the most out of the group.

·      Sensing how people react to one another, not just how they act.

·      The ability to recognize the players the team needs and how to bring them together around a common goal.

Simple Mindset

·      Be concise, get to the point, make it simple.


·      Calculated and informed risk-taking.

·      Seeing an opportunity even though things are not broken.

All of these traits can be developed. And I think you’ll agree that they can make you a better employee, manager or chief executive.






60 seconds of creative vision.

April 15th, 2011

It was Wisconsin buddy Jay Filter’s annual stopover in the city, so our dinner Saturday night was savored with lively conversation of the year’s most exciting people and events.

Exhilaration over the Green Bay Packers’ thrilling Super Bowl win naturally segued to Aaron-Rogers-as-hero talk. Then the topic switched to disappointment over the lack of memorable television commercials aired during the game. Maybe it was our shared decades in the wild world of advertising, but we remembered when more people watched the Super Bowl for its commercials.

We agreed that Volkswagen’s pint-sized Darth Vader and animated black-beetle ads were Super Bowl Sunday’s best. I was critical of’s commercial that, at first blush, I thought was as ad for Hooter’s. And Jay admitted his first thought after the game was, “Doesn’t anybody get embarrassed anymore?”

We reminisced about Apple’s forever famous “1984” ad introducing the Macintosh computer that aired only once ever during that year’s Super Bowl. Now that was a commercial that changed people’s lives. A decade later, Apple continued to inspire with the debut of its “Think Different” mantra.

So I’ve been thinking about the companies today that stand for innovation. For ideas that improve people’s lives and change the world for the better. Companies that use marketing to communicate their “what,” and also their “why.”

Here are my two top winners currently in “the why” category, whose campaign themes and messages, like Apple’s, also show leadership and inspire.

Toyota’s “Ideas for Good

Toyota asked companies how they would use their technology for good. For example the Pittsburgh-based engineering firm Deeplocal created a model disaster-relief tent that uses the Prius’ solar-powered ventilation system technology to help keep workers and those they serve more comfortable in the field.

AT&T’s “Rethink Possible

“Expand your boundaries of Can. See what’s on the other side of too far. Play the angel’s advocate. Outsmart can’t. Put a restriction on your limits and expect to be wowed. Explore, try, do. Because before it could be done, it couldn’t. These are indeed amazing times. Rethink possible.”

Okay, dreamers. Please, assert yourself. Unleash your imagination. Organize your thoughts. Be constructive. Succeed.



Leadership can come from anyone.

April 8th, 2011

“In an age of obesity, our current concept of leadership is the most bloated idea in town.” – Mitch McCrimmon

Mitch McCrimmon recently has written some of the best critical thinking I’ve read about leadership. He’s a principal at the consulting firm Self-Renewal Group, Toronto, and has ideas that challenge conventional leadership theory. I was introduced to his paradigm-shifting concepts in the article he authored for the Jan/Feb issue of Ivey Business Journal, titled “The Ideal Leader.”

This is an energizing read that convincingly busts a few myths. In the context of brain food, it’s a meaty piece of solid protein. It trims all the fat from the culturally idealized image we have of leaders and zeros in on the core meaning of leadership: providing direction.

In much the same way that “a good idea can come from anywhere,” McCrimmon champions the concept that leadership can come from anyone. In our fast-faced, ever-changing, innovation-driven world of business, the ideas that rule are the ideas that show a better way of doing something.

McCrimmon makes the point that leadership is not a role or a type of person. Rather, he defines it as a process of influence where content – ideas, direction – is king. I see this as highly evolved thinking. Thinking that should empower anyone with an idea on how to improve something to speak up and take a leadership role in the needs and future success of his/her organization.

These are exciting ideas for any business. If you have the important role of CEO, you can be an ideal CEO by encouraging all employees to promote new ideas and show leadership. As McCrimmon states so well: Anyone with a better idea can influence change.


Wiring yourself for success.

April 1st, 2011

Neuroscience, the mind/brain connection and ideas about the nature of reality are topics I believe hold tremendous potential for both individual and organizational success. I’m interested in any scientific discoveries that link how the mind and brain work to a professional or business result. In other words, how the electrical energy of thought shapes our world.

So when I discovered “The Neuroscience of Leadership” issue of the Ivey Business Journal (Jan/Feb 2011), the table of contents read like a menu of all my favorite foods. And I feasted. There are two standout articles that I think you’ll agree are quite remarkable. I’m going to write about one today and the other next week.

The first enlightening piece is titled, “Leading Minds Instead of Managing Behaviour,” by Charles S. Jacobs, founder of 180 Partners, Boston. The article is based on his book, “Management Rewired” (2010). Here Jacobs presents a transformational approach for managers who want improved organizational performance. He asserts that by embracing what recent advances in neuroscience tell us about the nature of reality we can become far more effective leaders. He starts by explaining three fundamental discoveries about how the brain works.

1.     We don’t all perceive the same objective reality. Based on how vision really works, what we each “see” in the physical world is unique to us as individuals, according to our beliefs and emotions. All we can “know” are our ideas about the world.

2.     Our reasoning isn’t objective. We assume that to be objective all we have to do is think logically, because it eliminates emotion. But that’s incorrect. Our reasoning and emotions are linked physiologically. There is a reciprocal relationship between the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for logical thinking, and the amygdala, the region that processes emotion.

3.     Ideas change our experience. Ideas are neural networks that, when activated, fire the networks in sync with them that are responsible for thinking and behaving. Ideas cause physical changes in brain structure, and thereby change the experience of the world it creates.

What follows these scientifically based, monumental ideas is Jacobs’ business-world-shattering set of new best practices for improving organizational performance and results. I think these are some of the most provocative business management principles I’ve found in print in recent years. And I think the implications are significant for both organizational and individual success.

What is our mind – our brain, our thoughts, our energy – if not our capacity to create? What do you think?