Jon Pratlett

Jon Pratlett has over two decades of experience, coupled with extensive study and on the ground action, supporting leaders and their teams steward their organisations to transform to their desired state.


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Jon at the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon 2000 World Championships - 3.8k Swim, 180k Bike & 42k Run.


Leading with the Brain in Mind

Having a model to be able to better predict how people are likely to respond to change can serve to modifying a potential threat into a potential. Neuroscience reveals that at least five human motivational needs require consideration and meeting, in order to minimise threat and maximise reward. The importance of each of these needs will vary between individuals and may differ from situation to situation. For example, the need for a high level of certainty about your job, as compared with the unpredictability of a high risk sporting activity in your leisure time.

 The CARER Model, adapted from SCARF (Rock, 2008), is underscored by a mindset of self awareness and awareness of others, and a leadership identity as a CARER rather than a “scarer!”

The CARER Model

                    Minimise Danger                                      Maximise Reward    

Certainty (Predictable)

Autonomy (Discretion)

Relatedness (Bonding)

Equity (Fairness)

Reputation (Status)


Certainty – People generally need to be able to predict what's happening ahead of time. Familiar music is predictable, we anticipate what is coming next and the brain likes that certainty. Leaders can provide certainty by being transparent, providing updates on management decisions, being clear on their expectations and ensuring their team understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance? In most situations, uncertainty creates a threat state.

Google’s HR team have learned from their measuring management performance just how effective certainty, created by consistency, can be.

“We found that, for leaders, it’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.” Laszlo Bock, Human Resource Executive (Bryant, 2013).

Take an organisational restructure, for example, people need to know what's going on. It is important to give people even a small amount of certainty, such as, “I'll get back to you tomorrow morning at nine”. Even if by 9am you have no news, letting people know that gives them more certainty than saying, “I don't know anything, but I'll let you know when I know something” It lets them at least think, “My manager will update me tomorrow. I can let that worry go for now.”

Kevin Rudd announced on July 8th 2013, proposed changes to rules to allow all labor party members a vote to determine the leader of their party. “Today, more than ever Australians demand to know that the prime minister they elected, is the prime minister they get. The Australian public requires that certainty. These changes will give them that certainty.” (In the process, increasing his level of certainty too, no doubt).

Be clear, reassuring, routine, consistent, predictable, regular, transparent, honest, reliable.

Autonomy - Leaders can give people autonomy very simply by allowing people to make choices wherever they can, such as flexibility in work design - in the 'how to' of projects – instead of explicitly explaining how to do things. Even when it comes to a performance review, giving someone a choice of time or venue can may reduce the threat response.

Relatedness – Our evolutionary wiring predisposes us to be social. We can’t do without food, water, shelter and social connection. Mammals are born immature relative to most other animals. Fundamental needs not being met cause pain. Social disconnection activates the brain’s pain circuitry and causes social pain, which on brain scans, shows up in the same area as physical pain. The pain of rejection or exclusion is as real as physical pain and our language reflects that – hurt feelings, broken heart, gutted! 

To minimise pain and maximise reward as leaders, taking a genuine interest in your people, in who they are, their goals and dreams, increases empathy and understanding.

When faced with an in-group and an out-group under your leadership, failure to address such a situation has consequences beyond productivity. As one executive once told a McKinsey consultant, “I have never fired an engineer for bad engineering, but I have fired an engineer for lack of teamwork.” Fail to appreciate the social impact of change on the individual and team, and expect disengagement and disciplinary issues.

Equity (Fairness) - The brain requires fairness both in how the 'self' is treated and how 'others' are treated. The brain quickly puts someone into a threat space if they perceive they are being unfairly treated. It is all about perception, as perception is reality.

Be balanced, consistent, transparent, open, honest, generous.

Reputation (status) – Giving recognition where its due, asking for someone’s opinion, seeking permission on when to provide feedback, providing opportunities for learning and growth, all contribute to meeting this human need and inspiring engagement.

“The acquisition of one’s good reputation robustly activated reward-related brain areas, notably the striatum, and these overlapped with the areas activated by monetary rewards” (Izuma, 2008).

There is both a multiplier effect when more than one of these domains are impinged upon, and an offsetting effect, when one or more are enhanced to make-up for a know deficit in other. “I am wondering whether you would consider becoming a contractor, which means less security, but more money and autonomy.”

Be willing to be wrong, open to correction, generous with acknowledgement, strong on developing others and delegating, flexible.

Don’t put people down, ignore them, be condescending, aloof, arrogant and impatient.


When a number of these 5 social needs are violated, such as an organisational restructure, there is a multiplier effect in terms of increased threat. This can be mitigated in part by engaging people in the process early and asking for, and taking into account their input; acknowledging the potential social impact; keeping them up to date etc. By anticipating the potential CARER impact, a leader can also offset a violation of one or more needs by increasing the fulfilment of another. Although the CARER needs are pretty generic there will be differences in their individual importance.

In summary, this article has hopefully, stimulated your thinking and provided some tips to assist you in collaborating, influencing and persuading those you lead, in more effective and brain friendly ways.


Bryant, A. 2013. Available from: [Accessed June 19 2013].

Izuma, K., Saito, D.N., & Sadato, N. 2008. Processing of Social and Monetary Rewards in the Human Striatum. Neuron, 58, 284-294.

Rock, D. 2008. SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others. Neuroleadership.

" Working with Jon, the results were amazing. Moral, attitude, mutual respect, understanding and cooperation all improved. Tensions eased. We achieved our stretch income and operational growth objectives. Jon far exceeded my expectations" Mike Parsons. CEO. GE Capital Finance Australia.

Jon is running a two day seminar "Collaborative, Engaging and Influential Leadership - Insights from Neuroscience" in Sydney on Sept. 10th and 11th 2013. Details here.

Interested in learning more about how we can help you, your team and your organisation? Contact Jon Pratlett


Insight/Reminder 1

High performers consistently take personal responsibility for their actions (staying above the dotted horizontal line on the right).

How have you responded recently when someone challenged or criticises your work or actions?

An average or poor performer will attempt to justify their actions, blame someone else, deny it was their fault, or somehow avoid being confronted. I call this "below the line" Victim behaviour.

A high performer will inquire as to what they might do  to improve their performance.

So, notice your immediate reaction, to be "above" or "below the line", pause, and then choose your response rather than being automatically defensive. High performers make, admit and correct their mistakes quickly, and stop themselves going "below the line".

Neuroscience research findings suggest this doesn't take willpower but rather won't power in inhibiting the automatic tendency to defend ourselves, as the brain is wired to minimise danger and maximise reward (see blog below for more details and Dr Evian Gordon's Brain 1:2:4 Model).

Have a great week and practice your "won't power".


The New Leader - Insights from Neuroscience 2 - Handling an Aggressive Boss

Let’s take the example of Steven, now in his mid 30’s, and in a fairly senior leadership role. He has two goals; firstly he needs to improve his ability to relate to others in the workplace, some of who perceive him as cold and hard as evidenced by 360 degree feedback and some personal feedback; and second he wants to improve his ability to handle an overbearing and threatening boss, Tom. In regard to the latter, Steven describes how he feels goaded into an un-resourceful state on many occasions when he meets with Tom.

He describes to you, his reaction to his boss’s manner as often freezing and feeling threatened, leaving him unable to think clearly or speak coherently—not the most productive of states for a high potential leader.

Would developing a palette of emotional regulation strategies help Steven? You bet!

You talk to him about the fight, flight, freeze response and introduce him to Dr Evian Gordon’s Brain 1-2-4 model (Gordon et al., 2008) to provide a broader context.

So how does the brain work?

Neuroscientist Dr Gordon, one of the wise elders of neuroscience, distilled hundreds of theories of brain operation into this one model, that he termed “Brain 1-2-4” (Gordon et al., 2008).

Dr Gordon explains this in terms of the brain working off one key principle: it wants to minimize danger and maximize reward.

It has two modes of operation, Non-Conscious and Conscious, with most of its operations occurring at the non-conscious level, which is far quicker and more energy efficient than its conscious mode.

It involves four methods of processing: “Emotion, Thinking, Feeling and Self Regulation”.  You can view Dr Gordon explaining the model in his own words at It runs for 8 minutes.

In this model, emotion occurs automatically (non-consciously), by basic signals of danger and reward (feedforward), e.g. a car backfires and you jump.  At around 200 milliseconds (1/5th second) thinking and feeling emerge in conscious awareness providing “feedback” from the body and brain. You might notice your heart thumping or your palms sweating. Thinking allows for the initiation of voluntary actions and selective attention to significant input, which can then be communicated to longer-term memory. Long-term memory confirms “It’s OK. It was just a car backfiring!”

The new-generation leaders will have learned explicit emotional regulation strategies that enable them to have effective control over their emotions.

Back to Steven and as you explore the circumstances leading up to his freezing, he says he became aware of experiencing a dry throat initially and of feeling his heart pounding in his chest.

Although quite experienced and in a relatively senior role, Steven describes becoming incapable of thinking clearly and feeling threatened, embarrassed and inadequate when in this state. As empathy and trust built between you through careful listening, gentle probing and acknowledging, he reveals that as a young boy, he had been sent to a strict boarding school where the teachers were very aggressive, as were some of the prefects.

He describes how he learned to cow-tow to those in power to survive and to try and ignore the taunts of the other boys. He did his best to hide any outward signs of his inner feelings.   

As Steven talks it through, he has an “Aha” moment. He realises that since that time whenever someone (particularly his boss) becomes aggressive and loud, he freezes. He acknowledges that this response might have also contributed to his being perceived as cold and hard. His face now softens, his eyes fill with tears and a smile emerges.

You mention to Steven that empirical research is showing that the capacity to make decisions, solve problems and collaborate with others is generally reduced by a threat response and increased under a reward response (Elliot, 2008, Fredrickson and Losada, 2005, Fredrickson, 2001).

The brain treats many social threats and rewards with the same intensity as physical threats and rewards (Lieberman and Eisenberger, 2009, Eisenberger and Lieberman, 2004, Eisenberger and Lieberman, 2005).

Steven acknowledges that Tom’s manner often evokes a stress response in him where he finds himself unable to think or speak coherently.

Professor James Gross at Stanford University’s Psychophysiology Laboratory is a leading researcher in the field of emotion and emotion-regulation. He has proposed a model that provides a framework within which to appreciate emotional regulation strategies and you bring this to Steven’s attention. It may help in meeting both of Steven’s goals.

Emotion regulation, is the process by which people influence their emotional experience and expression (Gross, 1998).

The Emotional Regulation model is a way of examining a range of strategies, in time sequence, that you can adopt where you are anticipating or find yourself being emotional challenged, for example, a performance appraisal or conflict situation.

Emotion may be regulated at five points in the emotion generative process. The strategy of reappraisal, (also known as reframing) comes in at point four, and is about changing the meaning of the perceived threat. In the case of a performance review, as the leader, you may have wanted to avoid having one with a particularly difficult individual, and utilizing the model, you reframed at as a great opportunity to clear the air.

At each of the five points there are strategies you can adopt to decrease  the emotional impact and regain your brain’s executive functions. Another strategy, suppressing emotion, comes later in the emotion generative process. It consists of inhibiting the outward signs of inner feelings to hide, for example, embarrassment. Some strategies will be more effective than others. I will simplify the model to suit our purposes.

A Process Model of Emotional Regulation (Gross, 2002)

Wow! What is all this. Well, let’s first divide the model in two, based on emotional response –

Emotional Regulation Strategies - Proactive and Reactive

For ease of recall I am going to call Antecedent-focused Emotional Regulation strategies, Proactive strategies - ways to regulate emotions before you experience a full blown emotional response, such as anger or frustration e.g. you begin to experience the emotion building steam and have strategies available to adapt appropriately. These strategies are potentially available to you at about half a second after the initial stimulus and you have a window of around 0.2 of a second to veto your habitual emotional response. Given the brain is driven by evolution to conserve energy, anything that is done repetitively, will become a habit.

Response-Focused Emotional Regulation Strategies I will call Reactive Strategies and these come into play once an emotional response is fully underway inside you, from around an 1/8 of second following the initial stimulus.

Proactive strategies come under each of the following headings and the time progression is from left to right with Situation Selection, happening at the planning stage of a facing a challenging situation.  Situation Selection   S1 - S2       

Working from left to right, you begin to explain Situation Selection.

Situation selection refers to approaching or avoiding certain people, places, or things so as to regulate emotion. Steven acknowledges that there are some occasions when it is easier to talk to Tom than others, and that he could actively choose to create more of these opportunities. He identifies three, such as “Friday afternoon around 4pm”, and makes a note for himself of this and other times.

Situation Selection  Situation Modification  (S1x, S1y, S1z)

You next look at Situation Modification; this involves strategies to change the situation. Steven comes up with some ideas, e.g. meeting in a café, rather than Tom’s office. The public environment might stunt any overtly aggressive behaviour by his boss and allow him to speak up.

Situation Selection Situation Modification Attentional Deployment A1 - A5

Attentional Deployment

Steven hears next how choosing where to place his attention during a conservation with his boss can alter how he responds emotionally. Steven suggests he could try to distract himself immediately when he got a hint of trouble. How you ask? Pinching himself, he replies.

Distraction gives some distance from threatening social cues such as an angry facial expression, as it helps modulate amygdala activity through engaging other brain networks. The amygdala plays a key role in the processing of emotions and forms part of the limbic system. In humans and other animals, this subcortical brain structure is linked to both fear responses and pleasure, and might be termed the “Uh Oh!” centre.

Another useful strategy, in terms of redirecting your attention, is known as position shifting.  You tell Steven that he probably already uses this strategy at times, unconsciously. The strategy involves taking perspectives other than your own by imagining, for example, the other person’s point of view (second-person), or that of a neutral observer (third-position), a fly on the wall or video camera. 

Both strategies—distraction and position shifting—have been shown, in experiments and in practice, to reduce activation of the amygdala and, in the process, calm one’s emotions.

You suggest to Steven that he could, if necessary, use another strategy of physically distancing himself from his boss: this would allow any “Uh Oh! Response (limbic response) to ease and his executive brain functions to regroup to inhibit self-perspective (thinking about self). Self-perspective creates that internal chatter about how well you are going, or not. This chatter is more often than not negative, further stimulating the Uh Oh! response and further clouding thinking.

Another handy strategy that helps any Uh Oh! Response and calm down and allow your executive functions to regroup is to physically distance yourself from the individual or situation – the “back-off strategy”

Another emotional regulation strategy that fits here in Attentional Deployment is known as affect labeling.

You explain to Steven that affect labeling simply involves putting feelings into words. Labeling or naming the emotion that you are feeling appears to also assist in calming the amygdala, allowing you to move out of the fight/flight/freeze mode, and thereby free up energy, helping your prefrontal cortex (PFC), your executive functions for thinking, deciding, planning, a high energy user with very limited capacity, to regain its strength.

As a result, you will be able to think more clearly about the issue at hand. When used regularly, this strategy also appears to lead to long term improvements in mental and physical health, in part due to increased conscious awareness of what you are feeling, giving you a short opportunity to choose your response instead of merely reacting.  

Steven has a go at labeling how he is feeling in the here and now. “Optimistic,” he says. You then speak of emotional distancing and, from the look on his face, this resonates.  

Further strategies for Attentional Deployment.  

This next one concerns taking conscious control of your emotional state through being aware of your breathing. The first step in this strategy is to check in with your breathing. e.g. “Am holding my breath -  breathe” To test this out, breathe fast and shallow and notice how you feel; now breathe deeply and slowly and notice how you feel. Start to become aware of when you are holding your breath, most often than not it is when you are under some form of threat.

To review, the strategies under attentional deployment include:

  • Distraction.
  • Position Shifting – 3 different views of a given situation - Self Perspective, the Other Person’s      perspective, and the "fly on the wall" perspective.
  • Physical Distancing – Back-Off!
  • Labelling the emotion.
  • Breathing - focus on it with 6 counts in, 6 counts out.


So far you have you have shared with Steven the tactics involved in Situation Selection, Situation Modification and Attentional Deployment to assist him in better handling his emotions. Keeping his emotions in check will allow him to access his memory and thinking, better decision making, better planning and enable him to speak normally.

In Part 2 you will take Steven through the remainder of the model looking at cognitive change or reframing and suppression.

Best wishes in apply these strategies to your existing repetoire. Drop me an email at and let me know how you go.


Gordon, E., Barnett, K., Cooper, N., Tran, N. & Williams, L. 2008. AN “INTEGRATIVE NEUROSCIENCE” PLATFORM: APPLICATION TO PROFILES OF NEGATIVITY. Journal of Integrative Neuroscience,, 7, 345–366.

Gross, J. 1998. Antecedent- and Response-Focused Emotion Regulation: Divergent Consequences for Experience, Expression, and Physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology., 74, 224-237.

Gross, J. 2002. Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281-291.

P.S. The potential benefits of applying insights from neuroscience to leadership (Neuroleadership) include improvements in thinking; learning; making more effective decisions; overcoming negativity biases; finding more creative solutions; increasing the capacity for attention to key tasks and goals; dealing more effectively with stress; having a positive attitude, optimal motivation, engagement, teamwork and outcome focus in the workplace.

To learn more about other key competencies that form the foundations of new leadership and the new leader, invite Jon to come and speak at your organization. Call 612 93694120 or email


The New Leader 1 - Insights From Neuroscience - Creating Meaning and Engagement.

The intention of this article is to share with you a summary of a tiny portion of the latest research in neuroscience as it applies to both leadership and culture, and outline some practical ways in which you can apply insights from this field to your leadership and organisation. Many of the competencies that underpin these insights are becoming imperative now, given what is happening around the world.  You can’t afford to wait.

It has been said that people judge their leaders by their behaviour, and the organisation by its systems. Think about that for a moment. If this is even half accurate, then both leadership behaviour and organisational systems require the leader’s attention. Organisational systems are for another article.

Leadership and culture are key foundations for an effective quality management framework and support increased productivity at an organisational and individual level.

A progressive leadership style is essential to fostering a supportive culture in which people’s productivity is developed and is underpinned by specific leadership and culture attributes, which are essential for an organisation to achieve their stated outputs.

“What will the leader of the next decade look like? What competencies will characterise the Quality Manager or Practitioner?”

If you want your people to go the extra mile, be highly engaged, contribute their discretionary effort and take pride in their work, then having a meaningful bigger picture, or vision, that is positive, compelling and relevant is crucial.

You have probably heard the story of the stone-cutter.

In the days of misty towers, distressed maidens and stalwart knights, a young man was walking down a road when he came upon a labourer fiercely pounding away at a stone with hammer and chisel. The lad asked the worker, who looked frustrated and angry, “What are you doing?” The labourer said in a pained voice: “I’m trying to shape this stone and it is back-breaking work.”

The youth continued his journey and soon came upon another man chipping away at a similar stone; he looked neither angry nor happy. “What are you doing?” the young man asked. “I’m shaping a stone for a building.”

The young man went on and before long came upon a third worker who was singing happily. “What are you doing?” the young man asked. The worker smiled and replied, “I’m building a cathedral."

Survey after survey, year in year out, show a high percentage of staff that report not being engaged, or even feeling actively disengaged (Gallup Consulting, 2011). Recent research from Palladium Consulting highlights that people embrace accountability when their job and their role, is clear and has meaning for them.

However, having a clear vision isn’t enough. It needs to be communicated in a way that challenges people but avoids over-challenging them. If you are not engaging your people, then either the vision is off, not relevant or poorly thought through, or it isn’t being communicated effectively. Neuroscience confirms that our brains vary from person to person, and that our attempts to influence, inspire and engage may work for one and yet fail with someone else.

Almost all of the leaders I have worked with find the following statement sobering and a call to actionThe brain is a meaning-maker. It works by association. What does that mean? Well, it has now been well established that “Neurons that fire together, wire together” known as Hebb’s Law.

When an engaged team member is asked “What motivates you to work so hard?” typical responses include “I love my work.” “Few things are more interesting to me than piecing this huge puzzle together.” “I have a lot of freedom to decide how I do it and I love the autonomy.” “ I work with great people, Even when it’s crazy, it’s still fun!”

These positive associations between our job, and being challenged; feeling capable; having autonomy (within limits); and relating well to others, demonstrate that we are engaged and willing to “go the extra mile” on a consistent basis when our basic psychological needs are being met.

When negative associations are made such as “ The work is boring. My leader couldn’t give a damn about us. I’m only here for the money”, it is not hard to predict the level of commitment and outcome.

So when you, as a leader, can consistently explain how the actions of an individual or the team contribute toward the vision, or your meaningful version of it, your staff’s brains are then able to associate the two and, with repetition, the same neurons keep firing together and form neural maps. People are able to associate their work with the vision, and thus make meaning, hopefully positive meaning, from this. An association of “increasing shareholder value” is unlikely to truly engage someone.

Finding an authentic way to help each individual make an appropriate association is part of a leader’s role. You, as their leader, provide the context, the reason, behind what is to be done. It gives people a bigger picture in regard to each piece of work they are given, and therefore it is critical that leaders, in assigning tasks, ensure that putting a task in context is a key element.

Sometimes, as leaders, we have to challenge our teams to do what might seem impossible, given the available resources. The context, makes all the difference in terms of engagement.

If I placed a plank of wood on the ground and said I would give $50 to anyone who walks the length of this plank, who would do it?

Almost everyone will... it's an easy $50!

What if I took this same plank and placed it between 2 buildings, up at the twenty-fifth floor. $50 to anyone who will walk across the plank.

Would you do it? No one will.

Okay... now the other building is on fire and your child is laying unconscious at the other end of that plank and the flames will reach them in just a few moments. Would you go across the plank?

Most of us say yes.

So what is the difference? It's the same danger, the same variables pretty much, but the difference is ... why.

If you provide a good enough reason, your team members really can achieve things that they may not have thought possible. It all comes down to how strong and relevant that WHY is.

In over two decades of being involved in developing leaders, I have found that context, is often missing, or is thin at best, in many task assignments.

Without providing the ‘why’ or the context, you may consciously or unconsconsciously be encouraging your team members to:

 a. become dependent on you because you are withholding vital  information, without which they cannot satisfactorily complete their work.

 b. reduce their autonomy and motivating them not to think for themselves.

 c. contribute to their stress levels unnecessarily, impairing their judgement in the process.

Without context, you might be encouraging them to either “plow on”, and do the best they can, or come back to you seeking more information. If they plow on without context, they will probably not provide the outcome you were looking for. This could result in either poor work quality, rework, extra cost and having to performance manage them. This will likely undermine trust, encourage disengagement, and increase the amounts of stress you are both experiencing.

High levels of stress show up in our attitude and behaviors, as I am sure you have experienced. Neuroscience has demonstrated how contagious such attitudes and behaviours can be. This, known as emotional contagion in the literature, spreads rapidly, particularly when coming from a leader due to their perceived importance. When emotional contagion is negative, it is perceived as a threat; this perception, whether consciously or non-consciously, releases cortisol and adrenaline and sets up the fight/flight/freeze response initiated by our limbic system.

Oxygenated blood, the energy source for the brain and necessary for clear thinking, is automatically shunted away from the neo-cortex as well as the digestive and reproductive areas to our arms and legs, readying us for action. This system is highly appropriate from a survival perspective. Confronted by a hungry tiger, it prompts us to respond rapidly and provides our muscles with the energy with which to do that. If we survive, cortisol levels return to normal.

However, today, we are faced with so many situations that can be interpreted as threatening—being ignored by the boss in a meeting; not making budget; an upcoming performance review; being late for work; poor work/life balance; strain on relationships; interrupted or lack of sleep; poor diet; lack of exercise etc.—that our cortisol and adrenaline levels can remain chronically high.

This can reduce our resilience, in turn heightening our perception of threat, creating a vicious cycle that has been associated with damage to the hippocampus, where new neurons are produced (through neurogenesis) and memories are stored.

Reduced memory function, risky decision making, impaired relationships, poor well-being and a reduced lifespan have all been linked to these chronically high stress levels. Given the growing number of research findings confirming such negative health outcomes, organisations will need to address such matters to mitigate potential liability claims in the future. Think asbestos and James Hardy Industries.

By understanding your mind, you increase your capacity to change your brain. By better understanding the minds of others, you increase your capacity to support, influence and engage others.” Let's start with the mind. The mind is the director and is active, focusing attention and making decisions (not in all people!). The brain receives input from the senses and puts out a call - the mind decides what to listen to.

Neuroscientist Dr Gordon, one of the wise elders of neuroscience, distilled hundreds of theories of brain operation into this one model, that he termed “Brain 1-2-4” (Gordon et al., 2008).

Dr Gordon explains this in terms of the brain working off one key principle: it wants to minimize danger and maximize reward.

It has two modes of operation, Non-Conscious and Conscious, with most of its operations occurring at the non-conscious level, which is far quicker and more energy efficient than its conscious mode.

It involves four methods of processing: “Emotion, Thinking, Feeling and Self Regulation”.  You can view Dr Gordon explaining the model in his own words at It runs for 8 minutes.

Emotion occurs automatically (non-consciously) by basic signals of danger and reward (feedforward), e.g. a car backfires and you jump.  At around 200 milliseconds (1/5th second) thinking and feeling emerge in conscious awareness providing “feedback” from the body and brain. You might notice your heart thumping or your palms sweating. Thinking allows for the initiation of voluntary actions and selective attention to significant input, which can then be communicated to longer-term memory. Long-term memory confirms “It’s OK. It was just a car backfiring!” The new-generation leaders will have learned explicit emotional regulation strategies that enable them to have effective control over their emotions.

“What seems likely to prove essential is having a rich palette of emotion regulatory response options that can be flexibly employed, with a clear appreciation of the relative costs and benefits of using any given regulatory strategy in a particular situation” (Gross, 2002, p.289).

A systemic exploration of key strategies with which to make up this rich palette of emotion regulation response options, with a case study, follows in Article 2.

Interested in learning more? Jon Pratlett is a high performance coach and leadership specialist. He facilitates workshops, on-line training, one-on-one and senior executive team coaching, applying the latest neuroscience findings, amongst other insights, to personal, team and organisation effectiveness.

Email to set up a meeting to learn more.



Effective Delegation - Doing More With Less. Part 3

Today, we will look at what we need to consider in regard to "To Whom" to delegate the task. So, assuming you have a team, be that employees, volunteers, family etc. you can choose based on the following:

  1. Who can do it? In other words, who has the appropriate skill, knowledge & experience, and the time & motivation to do it. As well as no personality querks that would get in the way.
  2. Who is the best person to do it?
  3. What else do they have on their plate?
  4. Who would benefit developmentally, from doing it?
  5. What help would they need?
  6. Who has the time and expertise to provide that help?
  7. What level of direction or support would they require?

In our leadership programs we delve into these questions in depth.

Next, we need to communicate the task, and our preparation using the 6 Step Formula from Part 1, now comes to the fore. Putting that in writing and giving it to the person assigned the task ensures greater probability of success and forces us to provide the necessary resources to get the job done. How often have you been given an assignment without the appropriate resources? When we incorporate all 7 steps there are "No Surprises".

When we, as leaders, are clear about what we want done, and we provide this clarity to our direct reports, the work gets done correctly the first time. And, since the quality standards and deadlines are elucidated up front, there are no surprise on the back end.

Initially, you may feel that the gain from delegating is not worth the pain and you would rather just 'do it yourself". Hang in there. The investment of time now, will reap sustainable rewards. Having looked at who to assign a task to, next time we will consider how best to engage the assignee. Until then, keep Going For It!