March 2020

Intentional Intentions: How to Use Mantras to Build New Skills and Habits

"We all live mostly by habit "
Ann M. Graybiel, Professor of Neuroscience at MIT

Innovative research by folks at MIT has further uncovered how our brains build the habits that we rely on every day. The implications of the research apply beyond routine behaviors like riding a bike or brushing your teeth. For me, the exciting thing about this research is that it adds to our understanding of how leaders can develop complex skills, how leadership development can become more effective and efficient and how simple "mantras" can be used to develop all kinds of new leadership skills.

It turns out that there is a straightforward, three-part neurological process central to the formation of every habit - a cue, a practice and a reward. Our brains basically work to optimize rewards by analyzing the cost-benefit of an action and storing the rewarding behavior as something to quickly recall when the associated cue is perceived. In this way, forming habits that become second-nature may free up the brain for more creative endeavors; the habit/skill is something on which we don't have to waste precious brain energy.

For examples, let's take the skill of delegation. Leaders that are not effective at delegation often have learned the habit that, rather than take the time to properly delegate, it's just easier to do the work themselves. From a habit forming perspective, this means that somewhere in their past the leader perceived a greater benefit from NOT delegating than from taking the time and effort to delegate . . . their brains analyzed the practice, saw the reward and locked in a behavior that became second-nature. All their brain needed to replay the habit the next time was a cue that was associated with the behavior and reward. The MIT research has shown that the cue can be as simple as a single word for the established neural pathways to fire.

How might this neurological knowledge apply to developing or enhancing leadership skills? 

Accepted as a Member of the Forbes Coaches Council

I'm excited to announce that I've been accepted into Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Throughout my career, I've leveraged Forbes and to stay on top of business trends and opportunities. It's exciting to now be able to contribute to that valuable resource and to continue to learn from thought leaders in the Forbes Councils ranks.

Strategy-Driven Leadership: The Book

 "This book is a welcome sign of the times, addressing globalization, coaching, technology, and the integration of strategy. It is not, thankfully, a book of labels, and behavioral predictions, and cute descriptors of one's demeanor, which I find degrading and useless. Instead, it's a very thoughtful book for the mature leader to assess future conditions, needs, and new, potential leaders. It doesn't replace human judgment but rather augments it with solid methodology for assessment and selection.  . . . Couch and Citrin have certainly gained my respect with this insightful work."
Alan Weiss, PhD
Author, Million Dollar Consulting and more than 60 other books
Hall of Fame Inductee: National Speakers Association
Lifetime Achievement Award: American Press Institute

Coming Attractions

Check our Michael's interview about all things leadership and leadership development on Pittsburgh Technology Council's Tech Vibe Radio with Host, Jonathan Kirsten and Tech Council CEO, Audrey Russo. Wednesday Night, April 1 (no fooling) on Pittsburgh's KDKA 1020 AM . . . or stream the interview from PGHTECH FUSE after April 1.


If you are planning to being the Long Beach California area on September 1st, Richard Citrin and I will be presenting at Professionals in Human Resources Association California HR Conference.



The theme for the 2020 Annual Maryland State SHRM Conference is HR Vision for the Future. Richard and I will be presenting a workshop at the conference being held in Betheseda MD, October 11 - 13.




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