Power Leads: Prime the Brain for High Performance
The way we start conversations predicts the level of success that follows. Begin with a power lead to set the ensuing social script to positive and raise performance.
Start with the Positive
The power lead is a positive, optimistic, inspiring beginning for a conversation or other communication that sets the tone for the ensuing social script. Unlike a traditional negative or sensational lead from newscast, the power lead is a positive headline or story. The power lead motivates teams and fuels others’ potential; helps the brain focus on growth-producing areas; spurs others to be positive; and shows that our choices and mindset define our experiences within the world and, therefore, our happiness. The power lead is a technique that anyone, at any job level, can use as a positive broadcaster.
Prime for Success
What we’re exposed to first can influence our behavior, which we call “priming.” Research shows that priming with positivity leads to better results. We can only process 40–50 bits of the 11 million bits of information we receive each second. Because we are limited in the amount of information we can take in, we must make choices about where to devote our attention. By reorienting people’s attention to the fueling parts of reality, we combat the paralyzing effects of negativity and disengagement.
Too often negative people set the social script at work or home. Negative people are not bad people; their brains are just stuck scanning the world for threats in the environment. They need not win; what matters is who speaks first and who is most expressive. Being a positive broadcaster starts with using the power lead to refocus attention on the positive before the social script is written.
Flash Memories: Leverage Past Wins to Fuel Future Successes
Create an upward spiral of success by moving the brain past its natural focus on what we need to improve to what is already working. Leverage these stories of success to create and solidify positive flash memories, which act as evidence that positive change is possible and subsequently fuel motivation.
Flash Memories Shape Our Experiences
A flash memory is the first thought that our brain has in response to a stimulus, and it directly influences the way we process the world and operate within it. A negative flash memory about someone or something typically causes us to steer clear of it, while a positive memory pulls us toward it like a gravitational field. If our flash memories about our potential or success are negative (“failing grades at my school is normal”), motivation and results suffer. Flash memories can be rewritten even years after they were first created.
Rewrite Flash Memories
When recalling a memory, the brain experiences the same pattern of neural activity as when the event happened. If new information that relates to that memory is introduced at any point after the original memory was encoded, it can alter the memory and cause us to recall a different version the next time we think about that person, place, thing, or event. This means that every memory has the potential to be influenced and rewritten. You can help people rewrite neutral or negative flash memories into positive ones by adding new facts. This is known as creative reimagination.
The three keys for using success stories to rewrite a flash memory are summarized below.
- Spotlight the wins. If you want to motivate your team, spotlight current successes and put them in the right mindset for future achievement. When we perceive that we’ve already made progress, we accelerate toward growth.
- Select the package. We cannot simply tell success stories; without a personal emotional connection to a success story, it’s useless as a motivator. Emotion can be invoked through the content of the message, who delivers the message, and how it’s conveyed. For example, have a client talk directly to your team about how their work has helped him or her.
- Choose the frequency. Oversaturation is rarely the problem. Most of the time, people don’t see or hear a message the first time they’re exposed to it, which is why repeating our success stories often is key. The more frequently we give people positive information about something in new and different ways, the more we strengthen their positive flash memories and lessen the chances that they’ll come to negative conclusions.
Fact-Check: Move from Paralysis to Activation
When faced with a stressful or seemingly hopeless situation, fact-checking the current story to uncover a new set of equally true facts can shift the brain from a paralyzed state to an activated one, spurring positive action.
Activating the Brain
It’s all too common for our brain to feel stressed by a thought or story, and the result is often poor decision making or feelings of paralysis. If a story is causing us stress, it is imperative to investigate it to make sure it is accurate. The best way to get ourselves or someone else unstuck is to actively question the story we believe in search of a new one that will propel us to take positive action.
Fact-checking is the practice of ensuring that you have the right facts to accurately portray the present, but also the process of discovering facts that lead to alternative and more beneficial future outcomes. What’s important is to take a realistic assessment of the situation and spot the most valuable facts—fueling facts, which are the pieces of information from our reality that give us hope and feelings of empowerment. The ability to walk others through the art of fact-checking is a signature strength of a positive broadcaster and a strong leader.
THREE STEPS TO HELP SOMEONE FACT-CHECK A STORY
- Isolate the stressful thought: Work to identify the simplest thought that’s causing the stress and problems (eg, “So tell me what’s stressing you out. Boil it down to one or two sentences”).
- List the known facts: Though seemingly contradictory, doing this gives someone a chance to express how he or she feels and why. It allows the person a chance to vent and allows time to understand the experience better. At this stage, be sure to list only facts not emotions (eg, “I hear what you’re saying. Tell me some facts you see that support this picture”).
- List fueling facts that illuminate a new story: This stage can be challenging because it involves scanning the environment for fueling facts that support a different story. Work to find facts that are equally true and perhaps hadn’t been thought of yet (eg, “I can understand how you see it that way. I wonder if there is another way we can look at this situation that will help you to move forward. How else can we view it? What facts might support that point of view?”).
Strategic Retreats: Deal with Negative People
Negative people are a human problem, not just a corporate or cultural one, and dealing with them can be challenging. It is possible to improve communication with negative people by making a strategic retreat so that they are unable to shift your mindset into negative territory and, conversely, you are able to have a positive effect on them.
Negative People, Dire Consequences
Negative people can increase our stress and hamper our ability to choose the positive. It is important to protect ourselves against negativity because it can have harsh effects on our bodies, leading to headaches, exhaustion, anxiety, and shortened life span. Negativity in the workplace can dramatically lower productivity and engagement. And since social support—having strong, healthy relationships—is the greatest predictor of happiness, challenging relationships with negative people can detract from our sense of connectedness to others.
Retreat, Not Defeat
A retreat may be cowardly, but a strategic retreat is courageous and can help create conditions for a better relationship later on. Strategic retreats have long been used to win battles. In this sense, you can use it to defeat the ill effects of someone else’s toxicity. A strategic retreat allows you the chance to regroup and reenter the fray stronger than ever.
Sometimes the most effective way to deepen a conversation is to retreat from it. It’s time for a strategic retreat when you find the following:
- Your defenses are down: Your brain is foggy and you’re feeling stressed. If you’re HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, or tired), realize that these states hamper your ability to think clearly when dealing with a negative person and may lead you to become more impulsive or reactive.
- They’re deeply entrenched: If they’re too emotionally charged to listen or to be around, it’s time to step back.
- You’re outnumbered or surrounded: It simply might be the wrong time or place or the timing might go against the social script of the situation. Don’t engage if it will fuel more negativity.