Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

5 Behaviours Successful Brain-Aware Leaders Practice


The following is a guest piece by Amy Brann.

Most leaders we work with are passionate, committed, intelligent and dedicated. They want to make their organization the best it can possibly be. They want to support their employees and enable them to do their best work. They also want to reduce their stress levels and have a good life.

Every leader, and every person you work with, has a brain. Over the last 20 years fascinating insights have come from the field of neuroscience to help us better understand this organ that drives so much of our behaviour. Neuroscience isn’t the only piece of the puzzle, but it lends a wonderful lens through which we can see even more clearly.

1. Illuminate Contribution
We’re starting with the concept that, as a leader, you have to build everything else around. Neuroscience tells us that our connection to contribution activates our neural reward networks (which is a great thing). So as leaders one of our most important challenges is to illuminate contribution.

If the organization is set up well then this shouldn’t be too hard, it just requires an investment of attention and potentially some systems to be set up.

Remember the story of President Kennedy’s visit to the NASA space centre in 1962? He noticed a janitor carrying a broom and walked over to the man saying “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?” The janitor responded “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President”.

The level of engaged brains you achieve is dramatically different if people are aware of the contribution they are making on a daily basis. So how can you do it? Hopefully you have already started. Every way you communicate internally and externally is a potential opportunity.

The one-one approach means that every time you meet with someone Click here to continue reading »”5 Behaviours Successful Brain-Aware Leaders Practice”

Understanding The Power Of Our Words


If I were to ask you what you thought was the greatest invention in human history, what would be your reply? I imagine for some of you, your answer would be the personal computer and all the technological marvels that now make up our digital world. For others, I could imagine hearing the invention of the light bulb being our greatest invention.

The interesting thing about this question is that there’s no right answer and that, if anything, it reveals more about the respondent and their perception and relationship to the world around them. For myself, I would say our greatest invention is language and our use of words to communicate with one another.

Granted, this might seem like an obvious answer from someone who regularly writes and speaks about leadership. But what really sparked my thoughts on this has more to do with something I heard in a talk and what it reminds us about the critical nature words play in our ability to successfully lead those under our care.

The talk in question is one given by Mohammed Qahtani, a security engineer from Saudi Arabia, which won him the 2015 Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. In his speech, “The Power of Words”, Qahtani shares a number of personal examples of how the words we use can have a dramatic impact on how others understand and view the relationships we have with them.

But what struck me the most about his talk was this comment he made about how our words can influence those around us:

“Words when said and articulated in the right way can change someone’s mind. They can alter someone’s belief. You have the power to bring someone from the slums of life and make a successful person out of them, or destroy someone’s happiness using only your words. … A simple choice of words can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.”

Listening to Qahtani’s words, I was reminded of two leaders and how their words served to shape how others viewed and responded to their leadership. The first leader was Click here to continue reading »”Understanding The Power Of Our Words”

Learning To Focus On What Matters Most


One of the things that I enjoy about speaking at conferences and at various organizations is the opportunity to meet new people. In the case of the MHLC conference I spoke at last week, it was being able to meet up with friends I made from speaking at this conference for three consecutive years, as well as meeting colleagues in the leadership sphere who I had previously only connected with by email and on the phone.

Being able to spend time with these good friends was certainly one of my personal highlights from this conference. But there was something else that I came away pondering about, and it wasn’t my now infamous encounter with the drummer from ZZ Top (that’s a story for another time).

Looking back at the numerous conversations among those attending this conference, there was a couple of times where people told me how impressed they were with how well I remembered people’s names.

Now the reason why this caught my attention is because remembering names of people I just met is something I’d hardly say I’m good at, a fact I’m sure my wife will be happy to attest to given the number of times she’s had to remind me of the names of the people she works with.

The problem is that when I meet someone new, my sense of curiosity takes over and I become focused on asking questions to learn more about the person in order to develop that connection. Consequently, I end up remembering many details about the person’s life and their work – while their name tends to be a bit fuzzy around the edges.

As such, whenever I meet someone new, I do have to work at making sure I grab ahold of their name so that it sticks in my mind for more than a few minutes.

And yet, in thinking about those moments where people were impressed with my ability to recall the names of people I met a year ago, I realized that the common thread connecting them together had less to do with remembering their names and more to do with something more significant.

Something that leaders need to adopt if their are to be successful in tapping into the collective talents and experiences of those they lead.

Now to be clear, remembering a person’s name is important, but it’s only the first step in the bigger process of Click here to continue reading »”Learning To Focus On What Matters Most”

Are You Creating Purpose Through Your Leadership?


Over the past few months, I’ve been noticing a common thread in my work with various leaders and organizations, as well through my various speaking engagements with audiences in Canada and the US. Regardless of whether it’s the private or public sector, there’s a clear desire out there among many leaders to understand how to better engage their employees in the work they do.

No doubt a key factor behind this drive to better understand how to get employees to fully commit their discretionary efforts to their organization’s shared purpose stems from the realities of leading today’s organizations. Faced with increasing demands on their time, attention, and limited resources, it’s very easy for leaders to lose sight of what their employees truly need to feel inspired and empowered in the contributions they make to their organization.

Certainly, there are numerous studies out there which help shed some light on just how far organizations and their leaders have to go to improve employee engagement and productivity in their workplace.

From Gallup’s finding that only 13% of employees in 140 countries surveyed were engaged in the work they do, to Salary.com’s multi-year findings that 20% of a typical workday in US organizations is spent on non-work related tasks because employees don’t get a sense of value from what they do, it’s clear that this is a critical issue for every leader to consider and address.

Of course, when faced with such findings, it’s easy for leaders to either assume their organization is the exception to these findings, or that to address these issues requires some large-scale transformation in terms of the type of work they assign to their employees.

Regardless of how leaders choose to react to such findings about the realities found in today’s workplaces, one thing that’s clear is that in order to truly improve the way we work, leaders need to shift their focus from Click here to continue reading »”Are You Creating Purpose Through Your Leadership?”

Bringing Out The Best In Those You Lead

Image © Wharton Magazine

Image © Wharton Magazine

Of all the seasons of the year, summer is without question my favourite. From attending the various outdoor festivals that Montreal has become renowned for, to the annual summer vacation breaks with my family, there’s no question that summer is a time for renewal and rejuvenation.

Of course, renewal and rejuvenation is something that summer has also brought to my garden which, after several years of trying to grow various flowers and shrubs, is finally the kind of garden I had hoped to grow since we moved into our house many years ago.

The process of testing out what plants work best where, which ones failed and why, and how to replicate the past season’s growth successes brought to mind parallels in how organizations and their leaders also have to learn to adapt and evolve in light of changing conditions in order to successfully achieve their shared purpose.

To that end, I’d like to share these three steps leaders should take to bring out the best in their employees in order to drive the collective success of their organization.

1. Connect the changes you make with the vision you have for your organization
When I first started to build our garden, one of the things I had to learn along the way was adapting my vision for what I wanted to grow with the reality of what grew best in my garden. In some areas, low-light plants were needed; in others, pest resistant plants were the best to grow.

Naturally, this lead to a lot of trial-and-error in choosing plants for the garden, which also meant a lot of money wasted in those first years. As a gardener, I was willing to accept these losses, but for my wife whose not a gardener, this was money that could’ve been spent on other areas of the house.

After a few summers of some successes and more failures, my wife was understandably getting frustrated with the amount of money being wasted on plants that lasted for a few short weeks. As much as she wanted to make improvements to beautify our home, she began to feel our money would be better suited to other measures.

In order to get her on board with my vision for what I wanted to create around our home, I realized I needed to invest in more of the plants that were doing well to help her see how buying similar types would ensure repeated success going forward.

Sure enough, in time as our gardens began to fill year after year with the blooms of different varieties of the same kind of plants, she began to understand what I was trying to create, and she became more willing to accept the purchase of different plants that would accentuate the others.

Similarly, when looking at implementing changes in your organization, it’s important to Click here to continue reading »”Bringing Out The Best In Those You Lead”

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