Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Are you worried about money?

It's tough out there.


Feeling stressed and under pressure? If so, this is the time to be emotionally strong and mentally tough, to control your amygdala rather than the other way around.

In most organizations we are under continual pressure to cut costs, reduce budgets, remain competitive, deal with your employees' uncertainty and stress as well as your own and still manage your team's performance for strong results.

And what about at home? Are you facing pressures and difficult actions and decisions there too?

Don't succumb to The Almond Effect®


It would be easy to give in to fear and alarm. That's what your amygdala wants you to do. That's what The Almond Effect® is all about. It's the  dominant emotional response - it's automatic but being calm and optimistic requires a deliberate choice.

Remember it is The Almond Effect® that causes people to react to events way out of proportion to the threat that exists.

For example I strongly hold the view that the GFS was the result of uncontrolled panic and fear reactions to perceived threats that in many cases were not real - but our reactions have now given those fears substance and reality.

I want him piloting my plane


In stark contrast think about the way Captain Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 18 2009 saving the lives of all 155 people on board.

Because of his training and experience, the pilot showed complete mastery over the potentially fatal consequences of The Almond Effect®. Using his pre-frontal cortex (PFC) he over-rode his amygdala - and focused on acting calmly and logically to get the best possible outcome to the crisis.

I am sure that the passengers and crew were also very happy that he also glided planes for a hobby!

Yes we can


The saving of Flight 1549 was an example of self-control in a life threatening situation. You too can do this and rule your amygdala - especially in challenging but not truly life-threatening situations such as the ones our bosses and the economy is creating right now.

Lack of confidence, fear about the future - you can teach yourself to think rationally and with hope about what this really means for you. Learn to ‘Flick the Switch'.

Flick the Switch


Here is an introduction to one of the tools we use when teaching the STAR method for mastery over The Almond Effect®. It is a simple process that we can use to respond thoughtfully rather than react emotionally.

I created the tool based on research from neuroscientists showing that a conscious act such as naming our emotions produces a decrease in amygdalic activity and an opportunity for the PFC to assert control. It is a clear example of STAR in action Stop - Think - Act - Rewire.

You'll learn to do this quickly in your head but do it on paper the first time and at any time when you want to really take the time to think through what's worrying you.

Create it as a flow chart for optimum visual impact.

What's worrying me most at the moment?

Can I control it?

If Yes, then ask yourself:
  • Best outcome?
  • How can I work towards this?
  • Physical actions? Now/future?
  • State of mind needed? Now/future?
  • What does the change and outcome look like?
  • Activate feeling or behavior!

If No, then ask yourself:
  • What can I do to manage my stress?
  • Physical actions? Now/future?
  • State of mind needed? Now/future?
  • What does the change and outcome look like?
  • Activate feeling or behavior!

Triggers/techniques to Flick the Switch!
  • Worst outcome?
  • How can I work to minimize this?
  • Physical actions? Now/future?
  • State of mind needed? Now/future?
  • What does the change and outcome look like?
  • Activate feeling or behavior!
  • Triggers/techniques to Flick the Switch!

We expand, explore and practice these steps in our workshops. If you want more information on our workshops and tools, let me know.

Stop reacting, start responding at work


A major concern I have about the resurgent increase in redundancies and sackings is the message it sends not just about the organization's lack of loyalty and compassion but its lack of leadership insight, courage, tenacity and strategic thinking. Not just to the retrenched but to all staff and customers.

We've been through it before in the 80's, 90's and the 00's. Mass redundancies and layoffs in a panic situation resulting in lowered engagement, innovation, teamwork and performance - everything that today's organizations are invested in.

So will organizational history repeat itself? In the past, these actions brought about the very things they thought they would avoid including increased costs, poor retention, low engagement and re-hiring on a more expensive basis.

Clever organizations and thoughtful leaders will react strategically at this time. They will not be frightened. They will see it as an opportunity to review, change and revisit the existing way of doing things. They will make hard but wise decisions with a view to the future as well as the short-term. They will respond not react.

And most importantly of all, they will stay the course back to prosperity and success. That will take intestinal fortitude on their part and yours.

Stop reacting, start responding at home

It's a similar message for home. If you apply the same thinking you'll insert a pause before acting, you'll consciously take time to reflect and plan your responses, you won't panic, fret and stress.

STAR tools can help you achieve that ability- based on neuroscientific research that is unlocking doors into the reasons why people behave the way they do - and what to do about it.


If you want to develop your managers' skills to lead people in difficult and challenging times, please email me anne@anneriches.com about the demonstrable upskilling we achieve through the workshops we offer.

Or if you are planning a conference and looking for a speaker, email me at anne@anneriches.com to find out my availability as I would love to work with you.


Email: anne@anneriches.com
Tel: +61 412 509289

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Do you bite back if someone barks at you? Or do you just cop it sweet?

Why is it that sometimes, people who are in the wrong or caught out doing something they shouldn't be, act really aggressively  back instead of just copping it sweet?

For example, someone does something foolish on the road eg is on their phone. You stare at them and tell them to stop using it. Next thing you do, you're being verbally abused or even worse.

What's going on here?

What's your earliest memory?

Mine is being smacked across the bottom by my father. I think I must have been about three years old. I have a clear picture in my head of walking with my parents along Cantilupe Road in Ross on Wye in the UK - past the school which would become my primary school - on the way to see my adored nana and grandad.

I remember asking my parents if we could cross the road so we could get to nana's house. "Can we cross over now?" "Please can we cross over now?" "When can we cross over?" "Why can't we cross over now?"

No response came from my mother or father. So, as any self-respecting three year old would do, I took control of the situation. I let go of my mother's hand and ran out into the road to cross it.

Clearly I wasn't killed but when my father caught up with me, I got smacked because he told me I could have been! That smacking didn't make a whole load of sense to me when I was three and still doesn't now - a pretty confused message isn't it? ‘We don't want you to get hurt but let me hurt you with a smack for trying!!'

What was really happening in my parents' heads?

The real truth of the moment lay in some other words I remember dad said: "you scared your mother to death".

And of course, as we know from The Almond Effect®, even though mum herself wasn't at risk, seeing me run into the road and place myself in apparent danger, was enough to trigger her amygdala.

And it is probably true that I could have frightened her ‘to death'. Her body would have reacted as if she was the one about to die. Adrenaline surged through her and she froze on the spot. Fortunately she didn't have weak heart! But I can remember her face when she caught up to me - just staring with her eyes wide open and tears running down the sides of her pointy nose.

Do you respond to fear with fear?

What do you do when people do something that gives you a fright? e.g. they take a risk; grumble and threaten to leave; don't do as they are asked; breach company policies; don't meet their deadlines; don't turn up for training; miss teleconferences etc etc.

Do you respond in kind by doing something to scare them - just like my dad did to me? Do you get angry? Do you ignore it completely? Do you make sarcastic or aggressive remarks?

Or do you face your fears, deal with them and produce an appropriate and effective response?

The impact

Here's the challenge. If you or any of your team members, experience fear at work - you may not be functioning at the optimum level. You may not be performing both individually and as part of a team, to ensure that all of you reach your goals and objectives

Of course, fear and apprehension can act as a wonderful motivator. People convert their ‘nerves' into the spark, energy and commitment that brings out the very best in themselves and others.

Why elite sportspeople 'lose it'

However reflect on what happens for example, when elite sportspeople, the best in their game, respond to their nerves (fear) during competition by letting nervousness take control rather than controlling it.

Naturally competitors feel anxious that they might not win. All their hard work, dedication and training is focused on winning.

But their competitive edge is in the mind game. Often it is their mind training that fails when they are in a winning position but lose. The loss is usually because they let their guard down too early (i.e. let their amygdala off the hook too soon).

Or they realized they were so close to their dream and then got scared that they could still lose even when that close - that's even scarier. Focus is lost as is the ability to perform at the level they clearly can.

You see this at work all the time. One of the clearest illustrations is in interviews and presentations or at press conferences. Enough has been said and nothing more should be said, the goal is achieved. But something (fear) in the silence or pause drives us to just add a bit more.....

The leader's role

Basically memory and imagination use the same neurological circuits and potentially have the same impact. So our amygdala doesn't ‘know' the difference whether fears at work (or anywhere) are based on previous experience or imagined.

Nor does it know whether these fears are justified or not. That's the job of the pre-frontal cortex (PFC). Our challenge is to ensure the PFC is given the opportunity to take control of the situation.

As leaders and team members, we have to accept, even though we may not understand the reason why, that we work with people who have fears, real and imagined. Sometimes it's impossible to know where they come from, how they are generated, why they stay with us, when, where and how they'll show up.

Controlling responses to fear

So what we must do is learn tools to control our fears and our responses to them. We also need to provide our people with these skills to ensure they are not in a state of fear when they are working alone, as part of a team, interacting with customers.

Your job is to build a relationship with your team so that you can understand where peoples' concerns may be coming from. Develop the trust between you so that your team members will share their concerns with you. I know plenty of examples where team members do not trust their managers or supervisors well enough to share their concerns for fear there may be retribution.

And teaching them STAR skills is a great way to start the conversation. Let me know if I can help you and your team develop and leverage the leadership skills to Stop-Think-Act-Rewire.

The impact of The Almond Effect, ANTs and STARs is enormous. The teams now have a common language to support each other and support our customer interactions." Michelle Bevan, General Manager, Customer Service Division, ICAA