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Don't Make Your Brain Dumb

Season 4, Ep. 6

What makes a person successful?


Having a growth mindset? Being a visionary? Being born into the ‘right’ family?


These may help, but a healthy brain is foundational. Without it, success is going to be far harder to come by. So what is a healthy brain, a successful brain? It’s one that has high blood flow and high activity.


The Amen Clinics perform brain imaging called single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), which assesses at blood flow and activity patterns in the brain. Since 1991, they have performed over 135,000 brain SPECT scans on patients from 120 countries. The data from SPECT teaches us the four crucial aspects of a person’s brain-based success.


Daniel Amen


Here are the 4 crucial aspects of ensuring your brain stays strong and doesn’t ‘dumb down’:


1) Protect your prefrontal cortex (PFC). You’ve heard me talk about this key region of the brain before. It’s behind your forehead and it governs the development of your personality as well as complex behaviors. In humans, it accounts for 30% of the brain’s volume. That’s a lot. Cats weigh in at 3%, dogs at 7%, chimpanzees at 11% of their brain’s volume. The PFC is involved with executive functions, such as strategy, visioning the future, planning, focus, judgment, impulse control, and empathy. It’s your internal CEO. Low PFC activity = bad decision making. That’s why protecting it is crucial. In a study, Amen published they found that 91% of traumatic brain injuries involve the PFC.


Preventing brain injuries is easy (phew!):

  • Wear a helmet when doing any type of sport where a head injury could occur. Avoid tackle football, hitting soccer balls with your head, any sports that often result in your head being hit.
  • Sleep 7+ hours a night. You’ll see in one of my blogs that less than that decreases PFC function, which compromises a host of executive function behaviors from decision making even to thinking clearly.
  • Reduce alcohol and marijuana use as they too decrease PFC function.

Daniel Amen


2) Protect your brain’s pleasure centers. The nucleus accumbens (NA), in both the right and left hemispheres of your brain, are involved in pleasure and motivation. You’ll remember blogs I’ve written about the neurotransmitter dopamine. Well the NA is lit up by the dopamine your brain releases from sex, chocolate, video games, cocaine, stimulants like coffee, high fat and high sugar foods, and fame. Most of us are familiar with the connection between dopamine and addiction, which we’ve been seeing with excessive video gaming for many years now. Not to bum your high, but intense pleasure actually results in substantial drops in your levels of dopamine. When repeated over time (like with heroin addiction, for instance) the NA becomes less responsive, which leads to needing more of these behaviors. That’s how addiction happens, be it to chocolate or methamphetamines.


Protect your pleasure centers by:

  • Reduce or limit thrill-seeking activities like racing, excessive video games, pornography, scary movies, drugs that could wear your NA out.
  • Increase the behaviors that protect your brain, such as exercise (ideally outdoors), meditation, listening to music you find pleasing, enjoying the company of friends, hobbies, doing things you are passionate about. All these and more help activate— and not overload—your pleasure centers in healthy ways.


3) You can make your brain better. Amen Clinics is well-known for running the first and largest brain imaging and rehabilitation study on active and retired NFL players. Needless to say, they witnessed high levels of brain damage to players, many of which had been hit in the head thousands of times. They were thrilled—and surprised—to see that 80% of the players showed improvement in as little as two months on their Memory Rescue program. Since most of us have (thankfully) not been repeatedly hit in the head, there is hope for all of us to have better brains—and better lives.


The Net-Net

  • Protect your prefrontal cortex by protecting your skull, getting 7+ hours of sleep each night, reducing alcohol and marijuana use
  • Protect your nucleus accumbens—your pleasure centers—by dialing down addictions (we all have them—even to coffee or chocolate) and over-stimulating forms of entertainment (watch excessive video gaming)
  • You can indeed make your brain better by getting help if you need it. Amen has helped pro football players

How does a person become successful? That’s a long answer. For starters, you can stack the deck in your favor by having a healthy brain!

More Episodes

9/23/2021

The Surprising Link Between Customer Experience And Employee Engagement

Season 4, Ep. 11
How would your customers describe their experience with your firm?Please take a moment and rate the Customer Experience (CX) that you believe you deliver:Better than all companies in any industryThe best in our industryConsiderably above average in our industrySlightly above average in our industryAverage for our industrySlightly below average in our industryConsiderably below average in our industryNow, what CX would you like to deliver within 3 years?[Credit: Temkin Group Q1 2017 CX Management Survey]Data: Q1 2017 CX Management Survey of 180 organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenuesAccording toAimee Lucas, Customer Experience Transformist and VP atTemkin Group, 55% of all the companies surveyed want to be best in their industry or better than all companies in any industry when it comes to the level of CX they deliver they deliver within three years. That’s a big crowd wanting to get into a small, small slot.As Aimee and I caught up at the recentNorth American Employee Engagement Awardsit became crystal clear: it’s time to stress the connection between Employee Engagement (EE) and CX. Now.Customers today have a louder voice (think Yelp and other rating sites), have access to more information on you and your competitors, and as a result expect an increasingly awesome experience. And they should.Meanwhile your competitors are launching new products and services faster than ever before, and are consistently raising the bar on CX. And they should.So what’s an organization to do?Arm yourself with these 3 CX-Boosting Strategies!3 CX-Boosting Strategies1) Become A CX Leader—By Focusing First On EmployeesCX leaders (companies whose CX is significantly better than their competitors) have more engaged employees. Here’s whatTemkin Groupfound:[Credit: Temkin Group Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, 2017]Base:5,552 U.S. consumers employed in for-profit organizationsHow exactly does engagement work? What happens in the brain when we are engaged?Engagement comes from feeling good, from passion for the company, from meaningful work, from attaching part of one’s identity with their job. And this comes down to some neurotransmitters and a hormone. As leaders when we intentionally help the brains of our employees to generate dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin we create good feelings for the organization. Dopamine (anticipation of reward) and serotonin (feeling good, well-being) and oxytocin (bonding, feeling connected to others) can be created via a number of programs in yourCultural GAME Plan.So how do you become a CX leader and get engaged employees? This is where HR comes in…2) Get HR To Connect EE And CXHR owns the cultural programs, so it’s key that they are first looped into Employee Engagement (EE) so they can help support CX. First a strongmission, vision, valuessets the tone for your tribal purpose and code of conduct (oxytocin). Next,acknowledging employeesfor being models of your values creates social validation (dopamine and serotonin). There are many more ways that you can read about in my many blogs onemployee engagementand in #3 below.Next, when HR runs regularSBM Indexes, you can easily diagnose and cure and engagement dis-eases so you can continuously raise your engagement bar.It matters, it’s a reflection of them and what they believe in, who they are, how they show up in the world.According to Temkin Group’s research when HR is significantly involved in CX the organization is 50% more likely to be a CX leader. Wow.Is HR involved in CX at your organization?Credit: [Temkin Group 2016 HR Professionals Survey]Which brings us to the next item to check on our list, specifics for creating EE and CX.3) Clarify Exactly How/Where HR Can Support EE And CXHere are some ways that HR can forge the EE-CX link…Employeecommunications– rich in safety, belonging, mattering and boosting positive feelingsEmployee training & new hireonboarding– see my blog on how to ensure key emotional touchpoints in the onboarding processPerformance motivation– learn how to create intrinsic motivation in this blogAwards, celebrations, incentives– learn how to celebrate and incent in these blogsEmployee listening programs– learn how to be a better listener in this blogMiddle manager engagement efforts– learn how to engage leaders and the cost of low leader engagement in this blogRecruiting & hiring processes– learn the latest way to recruit with self-revealing questions hereAll of the above examples and blogs will help you keep the brains of your employees in theirSmart State, which will in turn help your customers spend more time there too! Smart State = Engaged, Aligned, Tribal, Together.
9/9/2021

Right Person, Wrong Role?

Season 4, Ep. 10
People get into the wrong roles for a number of reasons.Perhaps there was a reorganization and the company didn’t want to lose them, so they were reallocated without consultation or training. Maybe they were promoted beyond their capability without a training plan. Or maybe they were hired to do a project that’s now irrelevant and they’ve not been redeployed to produce meaningful results elsewhere. And then there’s our all-time favorite, the Untouchables.Do you have Untouchables? Also, known as Sacred Cows? These are people who were hired because they are related to (or friends with) the CEO or other powerful team members. Even though their performance is sub-par, they get promoted or allowed to stay on for emotional reasons.[Shutterstock]Case Study: Company XCompany X was a tech consulting firm with a $37 million in annual revenue and approximately 270 employees, about two-thirds of whom were consultants. They were tracking at $137,000 in revenue per employee… ouch! The company was run by a married couple, John and Sarah, who initially contacted us about perfecting their sales process. They felt that their salespeople could be performing much better. What we found was amuchbigger issue.Assess: What We FoundThe findings were grim: a fear-driven culture with 53% employee turnover each year. Company X did an exceptional job of technical training for new hires, only to see them leave for higher pay within a year.The two owners of the company had virtually oppositeMeta Programs, and this was causing chaos. Sarah (Active, Toward, Options, Difference) would proactively start an initiative, rally the troops to move toward the new goal, then jump to the next option/project. John (Reflective, Away, Procedures, Sameness) would want to analyze before launching the new initiative, so he would kill it or block it, minimize exposure, and set up a procedure to handle the proposal through testing, no matter how much or little, the cost associated risk. The resulting chaos was confusing to the team and sending them deep into Critter State.The glaring gap in the consultant’s training curriculum was in sales. Even though their role was heavily client-facing, the consultants weren’t trained in the basic selling skills and had no incentive to do anything but fix technical problems. They also had no interaction with the sales team — which was sequestered in a different area of the building. The consultants were the right people in the right role — but with no support to perform their best.Harry, the new sales manager, had been with the firm for three months. Shortly after hiring Harry, the company had reorganized to close a failing business unit. Sarah and John had moved their niece, Toni, the VP of the failed unit, into a new role as the VP of sales and marketing —wait a sec! What? Did we read that right? Yep, the niece was given one of the most important roles in the firm after killing an entire business unit. Sounds like a sacred cow to me.There were three problems with this scenario:Harry (who now was sales manager) had no sales expertise — his entire background was in Internet marketing)Toni was an experienced sales manager but wasn’t strategic and had no marketing expertiseThe two disliked each other — Toni was threatened by Harry and Harry thought Toni should have been fired for her lackluster leadership of the failed business unitTo make matters even more fun, Toni’s boyfriend, Taylor, had been hired as director of client care. He had solid experience, but a perpetual mocking smirk when interacting with anyone but Toni.Act: What They DidThe first thing we had John and Sarah do was to create a clear and compelling mission, vision, and value statements. This would help everyone know why they were coming to work, and where they were going together, and how they agreed to behave. They posted these statements in the lobby, and the managers worked with smaller teams until everyone was on board.Next, we establishedNeedle Moverstogether (first for the executive team and later for everyone) in line with the new mission, vision, and values, and radically increased accountability using weekly reporting and theAccountability Equation. We created a reporting process for the sales pipeline and marketing effectiveness metrics and set up an incentive plan for the consultants to source future sales.We also redefined the roles and responsibilities throughout sales and marketing to get the right people in the right roles. Some people were reallocated, and one or two were let go respectfully. Since the company had a history of high employee turnover it was key to minimizeCritter Statevia thoughtful communication.John, Sarah, Toni, and Harry worked on their on key challenges. Toni got the tools to turn her department around. Harry was moved out of sales management and into the right role — marketing —where he is brilliant and a perpetual learner. He still reports to Toni, who now manages the sales team directly. Harry’s initiatives have made Company X top of mind in their target market. Now that John and Sarah communicate more explicitly, they are no longer creating chaos, and Toni and Harry have developed a mutual respect for each other. Taylor had to be let go. He didn’t want to uphold the company values and had burned too many bridges to be salvageable.ROI: What They GotAbout six months into the change process, things got pretty scary. The consultants became resistant and didn’t want to work on internal projects for which they had no billable hours, and John and Sarah almost pulled the plug and reverted to chaos. Instead, they appliedenergy managementtools, worked through their own resistance, recommitted, and held their team accountable to the direction they had chosen together. The results were not all immediate — patterns occasionally resurfaced and to be readdressed — but overall the results have been phenomenal. They zoomed through the $50 million inflection point and are preparing for $100 million. Their employee retention is now normal for their industry, and employee surveys show that engagement and satisfaction continue to improve.
8/26/2021

Special Episode: Inside Leadership with Guest Cheryl Farr

Season 4, Ep. 9
Cheryl Farr, Founder & Chief Brand Officer of Signal.CSK, is our special guest for this insightful episode of the Crack the Behavior Code podcast where we discuss the importance of finding opportunity in times of crisis and much more.Who is Cheryl?Cheryl builds accessible, exciting, audience-engaging brands and brand-driven marketing programs that strengthen brand power and drive real marketplace results. She founded SIGNAL.csk in 2009 to help organizations of all kinds realize and exercise their true brand power. She empowers organizations that value fresh creative thinking, purpose, alignment, and the strategic pursuit of excellence to be strong stewards of their own brands — and their people to be passionate brand leaders and evangelists. Cheryl and her Denver-based team work side-by-side with their clients to expertly align visual and verbal identity, products and services, organizational decision making, and marketing initiatives to meet brand and business goals. Their proven True, Meaningful, DifferentTM and Brand SignalsTM methodologies build brand value by illuminating what their clients can uniquely own in the hearts and minds of their target audiences and reinforcing it across all touchpoints. Hundreds of successful client engagements include Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, where Cheryl helped positon the then-fledgling brand for expansive worldwide growth; Taylor Morrison, the nation’s largest regional homebuilder, for whom she developed its first award-winning active adult brand; and PetSmart, where she led the sensory branding work that innovated the total in-store experience.Find Out More About Her Work Here:LinkedIn: Cheryl Farr | LinkedInWebsite: Home - SIGNAL.csk (signalcsk.com)Facebook: SIGNAL.csk Brand PartnersTwitter: SIGNAL.csk (@SIGNALcsk)