193: Neuroscience Insights on Survival, Belonging, and Growth at Work with Dr. Britt Andreatta

By August 16, 2017Podcasts

 

 

Dr. Britt Andreatta surveys how our brains are wired for optimal work and best practices for creating an environment for thriving.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why our brains are not built for today’s workplaces
  2. The fundamental conditions required for teammates to thrive
  3. Best practices for developing trust within your team

About Britt

Dr. Britt Andreatta knows how to harness human potential. Drawing on her unique background in leadership, psychology, education, and the human sciences, she has a profound understanding of how to unlock the best in people. Britt is the former Chief Learning Officer at Lynda.com and has over 25 years of experience consulting with Fortune 100 corporations, businesses, universities, and nonprofit organizations.
Dr. Andreatta is the author of several titles on learning and leadership. Her online courses have over 4 million views and her books are best sellers. Her latest book, Wired to Resist: The Brain Science of Why Change Fails and a New Model for Driving Success is available now and her next book on the neuroscience of teams, Wired to Connect, will be out Spring 2018.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Britt Andreatta Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Britt, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Britt Andreatta
Thank you, Pete. I’m really excited to talk to you and connect with your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. And I think we are of like mind with some of this good stuff so I’m excited to jump in. But, first, I want to hear about your jumping history on the ice. What’s the story with you and competitive ice skating?

Britt Andreatta
Oh, my gosh, I recently talked about this because when I was a kid I was a competitive ice skater from the age of 8 to 18, and I did triple jumps and I trained at the Lake Placid and Colorado Springs Olympic Training Centers, did all that, and then I had an injury so I wasn’t able to continue. So I went off to college and figured out my new life and blah, blah, blah.

Well, fast forward to two years ago, and a rink opened in our town here in southern California and so I bought myself a new pair of skates and have been skating. I just go out and skate for fun. And what’s funny is muscle memory is a real thing, people. Like my muscles remember how to do stuff. The problem is I don’t actually have muscles but I have muscle memory, so I’m out there doing spins and at least single jumps and it’s kind of fun to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is fun. Cool. Well, I never quite mastered the ice skating. I think I would always tie the laces too tight or not tight enough and then my feet would end up hurting. So kudos to you that you excelled and you’re back at it again. That’s really cool.

Britt Andreatta
Well, give it another try, Pete, because now ice rinks have these really fancy skates with memory foam and even heated skates. It’s come a long way since we were kids so maybe give it another chance.

Pete Mockaitis
Only the finest of heated of skates will be my standards. That’s good. Well, I’m so intrigued digging into your work and I like you mentioned that a lot of your work sort of stems from this thesis or core belief, which was very tantalizing for me, is that most of today’s workplace problems stem from trying to make human beings work in ways that we’re simply not built to do. Can you give us an example or two of that that you see all over the place?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, absolutely. It really comes down to a lot of issues we see in the workplace. But one of the ways I try to remember this is if you go back to how we were when we lived on the plains and tribes together, I mean, our body is wired to do three things. Survive, right? So there’s a bunch of our biology that’s dedicated to help us scan for danger, and fight the foe, and survive to live another day.

Right behind that is belonging, finding meaningful community, learning how to be with others, building meaningful relationships. And the third one, we can only get to when those first two are taken care of, and that’s become, become our best selves, grow into who we’re meant to be. And what’s funny is workplaces expect humans to show up every day and be our best selves and do our best work while at the same time messing with stuff that triggers our surviving and belonging needs.

So, for example, change is happening so fast in workplaces today, faster than human bodies can really keep up with it, and so we are getting a real thing called change fatigue showing up in the workplace and that can be addressed and handled if leaders understand biology and roll out change a little differently so we can work with the human body. But I see a lot of issues in the workplace where we don’t

Performance reviews is another way we don’t work well. The brain has certain ways that it’s motivated and marks reward and seeks reward and nothing about the modern performance management system realigns with that. So even how we onboard people, how we do learning and training events, the human brain can really only track about 20 minutes of content before it needs to process it to push it into short and long-term memory.

And yet I will go to events where someone is talking at people for an hour, hour and a half before there’s a break or an activity or discussion. So I could go on and on. I mean, I could give you a hundred examples. But, really, it comes down to kind of ignoring some of the ways in which we’re wired. And so that’s why I like to bring this message to the workplace because with some small tweaks, wow, man, you can start bringing out the best in people and that only helps the organization thrive.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is exciting stuff, and I love it when a small tweak makes a big difference. So, Britt, please stop us at about 20 minutes for an exercise or a question or something. We’ll try to walk our talk today.

Britt Andreatta
Okay. Sounds good.

Pete Mockaitis
Good. Cool. Well, so I want to dig, in particular, now into a lot of your work recently has been in the realm of neuroscience and the new discoveries and research that’s coming out and how that applies to teams, collaborations at work and such. So could you give us an overview of how you’re learning and understanding this new body of work?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah. So my fascination with neuroscience started with me doing some research into learning because my background is learning and development, even my Ph.D. is on learning, education, organizations and leadership. And so I started there because I was just trying to improve my craft and I learned so much that I ended up writing my first book which is on neuroscience of learning, it’s called Wired to Grow.

And then I was working for a company that went through a major acquisition, and in the middle of that I realized everything we knew about change was wrong so I studied change. And then the third area of research, which I just premiered in May and is going to be the subject of my third book, is all about teams, right? Because so much work is being done in teams now all around the world, and there really is some biology about how we work well in teams so I’ll give you a few highlights.

One of the cool things is that we achieve this thing called neural coupling, and when people work together our brains sync up, and they sync up in two key ways. One is, as we’re engaging and talking to each other and collaborating, the same regions of our brain light up at the same times. And then, in addition, our brain wave patterns, which can be very unique to us, actually align and you start to see that the brain wave patterns have mirrored each other and are almost identical when the team is working really well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s wild.

Britt Andreatta
Yeah. So the synchrony happens and we’re really on the front edge of this. Like the scientists don’t really understand how it happens but we can see that it does happen. But what we know is that it happens better and faster when there’s a couple of things in place, and one of them is psychological safety, which is a sense that people feel like they can take risks and be themselves and make mistakes and that they won’t be rejected or ridiculed by the group. So that makes sense, right? We’re going to work better if we’re not in some level of fear for our sense of survival or belonging.

And then the second thing is that we build trust, and trust is something that takes a little time to build. But when groups of people have time to start to build those relationships what we see is then those teams drop into this neural synchrony much faster and they are much more effective working together and it’s measurable. It’s measurable on brain scans.

And another couple cool things is that we naturally kind of scan for “us versus them,” sorry, not “us versus them,” but like “me versus we.” Like, “Am I working on my own or am I part of something?” So it’s me-we sort. But what’s interesting is that organizations sometimes play on that in the wrong way and they setup people in competitive situations and they turn it into an “us versus them.”

And me-we is a good sort but if you go to “us versus them” all kinds of bad things happen, and it ultimately harms people’s ability to work together and it can really bring down an organization’s effectiveness if they rely too heavily on competition.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, boy. Well, we’re going to have some fun digging into each of these right here. And so maybe we’ll just sort of go in turn with some of those, three of things you mentioned there. So, first of all, with psychological safety, I was struck. I first became aware of this term looking at Google’s research on what made an optimal high-performing team.

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, me, too.

Britt Andreatta
Project Aristotle was the name of it.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s striking. So Google, who really sure does want the best from people and invest big in order to make it happen, that was their conclusion is that this was the thing.

And so you defined psychological safety there based on the notion that folks can sort of freely say and contribute whatever they think they need to without any number of spooky fears of negative repercussions. Could you maybe give us some examples because I think this happens all the time? Sort of the tiny ways that people get the memo that, no, it is in fact not safe to say those sorts of things in this kind of environment.

Britt Andreatta
Yeah. So Google’s research was really interesting and they definitely found two key factors were at the heart which was empathy and then also it was called conversational turn-taking, but the best teams found the way to make sure everybody’s voice      got heard.

But what was interesting is they were hitting on this concept of psych safety, and the original professor who identified it is Amy Edmondson from Harvard, and her research is amazing. I really recommend that if you have not yet seen her TED Talk or bought her book Teaming it’s really well worth the read. And she defined it, so I’m going to give you the official definition of psych safety, which is it’s a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.

And what she found, and also what Google found, was that that’s a real differentiator and it makes sense, right? If we feel safe and we feel like we can take risks and make mistakes, that’s going to help us do our best work and it also is kind of a measure of trust. So it’s really a big differentiator and I’ve seen that in every work I’ve gone into, is psych safety is really kind of the core thing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so powerful and I’m glad that research has been done and also disappointed because I was going to formulate some similar syntheses in terms of, “Boy, it seems like it really boils down to what people share and what people don’t share and why.” And then they just took that to the very next several levels of depth and research and brilliance with the psychological safety considerations.

So I’d like to get your take then in terms of in the reality of organizations I think it’s much easier said than done, “Well, yeah, just speak your mind. I’m an open book,” or, “My office is always open. We want to hear your ideas.” But in practice it doesn’t feel like that’s the truth like there is that safety. And so what are some of the maybe little ways that leaders and collaborators undercut their psychological safety?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, that’s a great question, and I think we’ve all experienced that, right? Like, hey, most of us have the experience where we knew we had it and then we also see when we don’t have it. And it really comes down to the unspoken stuff, right? Someone can tell you they have an open door, or they really want to hear their views, but the truth lives in how they really act. And when you go to them, because you need the open door, are they available? Do they brush you off? Do they really listen?

I’ve been in companies where they have the most beautiful values painted on the wall you’ve ever seen and, in fact, thousands of dollars of art installations espousing those values, and yet that’s not how people treat each other on a day-to-day basis. So it really comes down to, and you’re right, it’s really in the hands of the managers and the leaders. They’re the ones that create the unspoken environment that creates psych safety.

And it’s really about being available and truly being authentic in your openness to receive feedback. So managers and leaders, if they’ve got a lot of ego, they’re not going to be as good at creating psych safety because they won’t be as vulnerable and open to feedback or questions or concerns.

And there’s this other thing called collaborative intelligence. There’s actually a book by that name which is also really good, which is there’s people who have strengths in this, knowing how to create an environment that allows people to come out and do this collaborative work, and oftentimes those are not the folks who are promoted into manager or leader roles. You often promote your strongest individual contributors who are able to, on their own, do really excellent work.

Well, that’s a very different skillset than being able to create the environment where others thrive. And I think this leaves us to how do you search for and promote the right people? And when you put people in leadership roles, are you giving them the right kinds of training? And I see a lot of organizations give training that doesn’t really teach people how to create environments for others to thrive, and that’s really the core of it. You can do it. It’s totally learnable, it’s totally teachable, but I don’t see that as the focus in a lot of orgs.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So much there. And so then when you mentioned big egos and defensiveness kind of really quickly puts the kibosh on psychological safety. And so could you maybe share, I’m wondering if there are maybe some non-verbals or very subtle things, like people don’t even know that they’re doing that they’re kind of unwittingly damaging psychological safety before it gets a chance to really take root and grow?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah. So, one, it’s turning your attention to creating the environment for others. So it’s really about, “Can you ask those kinds of questions that invite different views into the room? Are you constantly asking questions versus telling people what to do?” So it’s really about asking questions, and that means being able to ask a variety of ways so that you hit different people’s preferences or personalities.

And then once people are speaking, it’s what you do with that information. If you feel like you’re being challenged, do you shut it down or do you say, “Tell me more”? Or if someone offers a criticism, do you say, “No, that’s not true,” or do you say, “Thank for the feedback”? And so it requires a level of vulnerability on the behalf of the leaders and managers to really create it and then receive it once you’ve created it.

Because you can do a great job asking all the questions but the minute somebody says something tough, if you smoosh them down, everyone in the room goes, “Oh, guess we’re not doing that. I guess it’s not really safe to do that.” So it’s the walking the talk part. And I think a lot of managers and leaders are capable of it, but they are so busy trying to crank out their individual contributor workload, which didn’t go away when they got promoted, that they don’t put enough time and attention into how vital this environment is to create.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. And final point on psychological safety, conversational turn-taking, any best practices you recommend to do that well?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, what’s interesting is that it’s about making sure that everyone gets to contribute, right? So inherent in that is this idea like everyone on the team has something valuable to add and if we miss somebody we’re not going to be a strong or as good as we will be if we hear from everyone. So then it’s about, “How do you do that?”

Some groups do it by making it every meeting, you hear from everybody. Other groups do it by over the course of a couple of weeks, there’s lots of opportunities and everyone gets heard. That really kind of comes organically from the group. But the groups that have psych safety, and some of them kind of build it inherently, but if you’re trying to intentionally build it, it’s really about making sure that you’re hearing from everyone.

And so this requires awareness. You have to be tracking, not only all the times you raised your hand and want to say something, but you’re also noticing that a couple of people haven’t spoken yet, and either holding back your own comment or inviting them, “Hey, Joe, what do you think?”

And this also gets to some diversity and inclusion stuff because there are some cultural differences and we’ve been socialized in different ways of communicating that tend to make environments where men, for example, or people from western cultures feel much more comfortable taking all the airspace, and other folks have a deference in waiting, and if they’re not invited in they’re not going to assert themselves in because that’s seen as inappropriate or impolite. So it’s really about also having some awareness around you have to invite people or you have to ask people in.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. And it’s interesting how all these sort of norms are unspoken, and I’m thinking particularly for junior employees, like they don’t know if they’re allowed to speak yet or not, unless there is an invitation or an explicit confirmation, “Hey, when we go in there I really want you to chime in about this.” If that’s not explicitly articulated, just roll the dice, who knows what they’ll do but they likely won’t feel great about sticking their neck out.

Britt Andreatta
Yeah. And Dr. Edmondson talks about this, that you have to, as the leader you have to say things, like, “You, guys, I’m going to miss something. I need your help. I need you to be the extra eyes on this. We need all viewpoints on that.” Really, really saying, “To be a good member of this team, I need you to do this,” to overcome the power dynamic that’s in the room.

And what’s interesting is Amy studied that from a psychological perspective but then I’ve looked at the neuroscience underneath it, and it kind of goes back to that safety thing, right? In order to survive and belong in organizations that have a power structure, you then start to pay attention to, “How do you please the boss? What is the way that people get promoted or fired around here?” And then you make sure you do more of the promotion behaviors and less of the firing behaviors or demotion behaviors.

And so everyone is always scanning for that, and so we really have to, as leaders, we have to overemphasize the invitation to come in and really be mindful of creating that environment.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I dig that. Well, now, let’s hear about the second piece there – trust. How should we think about what’s going on in the brain when trust is present or not, and what can we do to get more of that trust?

Britt Andreatta
So I’m going to give you a prerequisite of trust first and then I’ll dive into trust. So, first, there’s entire parts of our brain that sort for belonging and kind of help us figure out how to be part of a group. So our brain does this instantaneous scan of faces, and there’s actually individual neurons that are assigned to different parts of the face. So we can do this millisecond look at a face and quickly identify whether this is someone we know or don’t know.

And then in the next millisecond, if it’s someone we know, the memory parts of our brain light up and bring up – it’s not conscious, we don’t feel this – but we bring up what we know of this person. So, quickly, it’s like, “Oh, I have a history with this person.” And then, simultaneously, our amygdala is kind of reading, “Is this person coming at me with intent to harm?” So we’re doing a quick body scan language thing, no, a body language scan to see if someone is coming at us with an attack mode. And all of that happens in a fraction of a second, and our brain is kind of making sure that we are safe.

And once we pass all those hurdles, “Okay, I know this person and they’re not coming to kill me,” then we can then bring up more information which is, “So I’ve done the friend or foe sort.” And then the next thing I do is kind of this “me-we,” “Are we just individuals who know each or are we part of a tribe?” And this tribe sort that we do is really powerful. But what’s so fascinating is that we found that how we define tribe is really malleable, meaning we don’t even see race.

Britt Andreatta
So, for example, our brain doesn’t even see race until we’re about five years old. Like the eye can detect, can see something but the brain doesn’t register as a difference so that’s why kids, literally, it’s like, “Are you cool. Alright, you’re my best friend.” And it’s about why, if you’ve ever had children, around five years old, that’s when they start asking the questions around why do certain people look different, or why are people’s hair different. That’s when the brain kicks in to see it.

And so what we know is our sense of tribe is kind of constructed by the people around us, and there’s even studies that show that if a company says, “We value diversity,” then issues around race or class or sexual orientation just really aren’t as big of a deal in the company because the company has redefined how we consider our tribe, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So just by saying it flat out, explicitly, directly, the mere statement in this case does make an impact.

Britt Andreatta
It does. And, of course, that needs to be followed by action, right? So if they say that but then don’t actually act that way then we believe the unspoken. But bottom line, find our tribe is an artificial construction, and so we can construct it however way we want to, and that’s why you can have completely synched-up teams that have tons of diversity on them, and you can have teams that are very similar and struggle with conflict and trust.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so powerful and it’s so interesting how I’m really resonating with that, that in certain groupings of people it’s like I just resonate powerfully, like, “You are my people and I am your person,” like on these dimensions, whether it’s matters of faith or if it’s matters of when I get together with some of my Bain colleagues.

It’s like all of us think about problems and optimizing them in extremely similar ways. And if someone pulls out an app, we all have the same questions about how they’re monetizing it and the strategy and all that. So that’s really powerful. And then, tell me, are there some ways that we can do some good moves to emphasize the tribal identity and get that working for us?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, absolutely. So certainly the messages that are spoken and unspoken around what we value and who we consider part of our tribe is really valuable. And you can definitely play with “we are we,” so defining we. Be careful not to take it to “us versus them,” and you can see this a lot in companies or sports fans, right? In fact, some of the studies are done on sports fans around what happens in the brain when you get this real “us versus them” tribal identity.

And that can actually not only the brain sees reward when your team wins. You brain actually gets reward when the other team fails, and it turns on a disconnect, like we have less empathy for the “them” than we do for us. So some bad stuff happens if you play too much with intense competition, but having a sense of tribal-ness and “we” turns on a lot of good stuff. And so definitely leaders can play a big role in this.

The other thing that I like to mention, as a backdrop though, is that we all consume a lot of media, and so our sense of our tribes is framed a lot by what television and movies shows us. And so, for example, it’s still true that African-American men are way overrepresented in media as criminals and dangerous elements of our society than is true in the population. And so all of us have to be wary of this implicit bias or unconscious bias that we have that has been kind of fed to us around certain groups because it’s been manipulated and overrepresented.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. So we got the tribe element, the association of similarity and belonging. And so you mentioned that that is one core piece of the trust pie.

Britt Andreatta
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
What else should we be thinking about when it comes to cultivating trust?

Britt Andreatta
So once you kind of have sorted that, and you’re like, “Oh, we’re a ‘we’,” then you can start building trust. And trust can actually be measured in the bloodstream by this neuropeptide called oxytocin.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah, we had Dr. Paul Zak on the show earlier. So good.

Britt Andreatta
Yes, I would point you to this research and he, in fact, goes into companies and does blood draws to measure trust. But what we know about oxytocin is that it gets magnified, so the more trust you build the more oxytocin you have and then the more likely you are to trust someone so you start to get into this reinforcement loop that’s really great.

And, in addition, we know that purpose, doing purposeful or meaningful work with people also puts out oxytocin. So like the sweet spot is you get to do really meaningful work with a trusted team, and then you see teams just crushing it, like they really are performing well. But the thing about trust, and this is where I see it shortchanged a lot in today’s organization, is that trust takes time to build.

In fact, Brene Brown talks about it’s like a marble jar, and you have to keep putting marbles in the marble jar, and when you have a sufficient amount of marbles in there then there can be a conflict or a tension, and you might take some marbles out but you’ve built up enough trust that it can withstand some stress.

And what I see with a lot of organizations is we re-org teams all the time and we expect people to work with each other, particularly now remotely and globally, but we don’t give them time to use their biology to build psych safety, build trust, build these connections that would actually make them able to go into that neural coupling and synchrony that we need them to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Okay. And so then that gets me thinking and wondering if that is a reality. There’s one message there to managers and executives, like, “Hey, maybe slow it down a little bit on the re-orgs and the team reshuffles.” But if you’re in the fray where you are being reshuffled and you, ideally, would like trust in a hurry, it takes time to build, so is there anything we can do to be intentional and, I don’t know if the word accelerate is appropriate, but get the trust going all the faster?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, absolutely. So it turns out that there’s two things you can do with teams that make a difference. One is team training and actually give teams some skillsets on how to build psych safety and how to collaborate and some of this stuff, there’s some how-to stuff they can learn. And then there’s teambuilding which is giving teams time to get to know each other.

And if you spend a little more time on the frontend of that with a group then you fast-track. So teams usually come into peak performance with each other in two to three years, but if you frontload some of these things and you pay attention to the neuroscience of it, you can fast-track them to six months getting to peak performance.

So I think what it means is, yeah, we’re going to re-org people, rethink it, don’t just do it willy-nilly, but when you have to build a team, spend a little bit of time having them do some team training and teambuilding together on the front side because that is not wasted time, that is not woo-woo, that is not fluffy. That is good stuff that will pay off later for that team to be able to get to peak performance a lot quicker.

Pete Mockaitis
Now when you say teambuilding, are there some quick do’s and don’ts you might offer? Like I’m imagining ropes course stuff. Does that have its place or is that a poor use of teambuilding time and resources?

Britt Andreatta
Well, I think the teambuilding and team training should reflect what the team has to do together. So if they’re going to be working in an intense environment and having to make snap decisions with each other like a firefighting team, for example, or a group that works on an oil rig then, yeah, the more intensive, you want the teambuilding to eventually help them get to this state of trust and working with each other.

But if you’re a group of knowledge workers and you’re working on some electronic projects together then it’s really about building trust enough to the level that you know each other, you know enough about each other, so there’s just some good old-fashioned getting to know you kind of stuff that opens up a little vulnerability and starts that psych safety on its way, and then some understanding of best ways to communicate and how do we clean it up if we have a miscommunication or a conflict, putting those things in place can really make a difference.

So I would say the teambuilding and the team training should mirror the work that they’re doing so you don’t have to haul a bunch of computer guys out on a ropes course, although I’m sure that they would enjoy that, but you’d want to spend some time helping them figure out how to do that work really effectively and mirroring that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got it. And I wanted to touch upon the point you mentioned when it comes to in this world of remote teams, that’s kind of throwing a little bit of a monkey wrench in some of this development and cultivation. Do you have any best practices or maybe even just an encouragement for the person who loves working at home? How should we be thinking about that game well?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, so I am one of those people, right? You and I have just met and so, yeah, there’s some things to do. One thing is to remember that biologically we are wired to see each other in people, in person, because technology and advancements have allowed us now to live all over the world and fly and do all the stuff, but when we go back to our hunter-gather selves living on the plains we learned in person, so our biology is wired for in person.

There are stuff in your brain that can read 3D micro muscular changes in your cheek, for example, that tells you an emotion has shifted, and we can’t even see that as well on a flat screen but certainly we can see more on a video screen than we can on just a phone. And on the phone we have more information than we do than a typed email message.

So I always tell people, particularly early in your interactions, if you can be in person, great. Your next best thing is video, and spend as much time on video as you can before you take away the visual, and possibly don’t take away the visual. Keep the visual as long as you can. And certainly if you’re on email and it starts to get wonky, don’t keep going on email. Hop on the phone, get on a video because you’re giving your brain more information that it can use to really understand and read other people’s emotions.

And then the other thing that I would say is a lot of this neural synchrony that happens, scientists aren’t really sure how it’s happening yet. I think some of it passes between bodies in invisible ways yet, on pheromones signals and electrical impulses that we can’t quite detect yet given our technology. So I suspect that we’ll learn more in the future that will give us more information about how to bring out the best in remote workers. But for sure spending time, and if you’re going to be working remotely do a little bit more of that get to know you stuff upfront so that you build a little bit of connection before you just go into work mode.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s so powerful. And, Britt, one thing that this is really kind of connecting for me here is given all of these micro expression millisecond facial things, and I’m thinking about a TV series Lie To Me right now as you mentioned it, is that it’s probably kind of hard to fake it. I mean, if you don’t actually care about people and what they have to say, and they’re inputting their feedback and their ideas, it sounds like you’re saying, “We have all kinds of communication going on that maybe even undetectable,” so it’s kind of like you’ve got to really care is something I’m taking away here.

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, it’s so interesting because all of us have had the experience where an interaction with somebody didn’t go well, or they ended up hurting us in some way, right? And most of us can go, “You know, I had a little gut instinct,” or, “Gosh, there was that little red flag.” And those things are your biology telling you, “Oh, God, something is wrong here.”

And yet we’ve grown up in a society that really believes in being in our heads and analyzing everything, and I think that what I love about neuroscience is it’s actually kind of bringing those two things in alignment. Like, yes, our biology matters and there’s some stuff that happens that we can just feel even if our rational self, logical self doesn’t totally understand. And so part of it is paying attention to that that you are getting a lot of information from people if you just learn to listen on all channels.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s excellent perspective. And, Britt, well, I think we can do this for hours and hours but, tell me, is there anything else you really want to make sure to highlight before we kind of shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Britt Andreatta
Yes, the last thing I would emphasize is we used to think that diversity was the thing to focus on, and I’m sure we’ve all sat through diversity trainings. But now the shift we’re really paying attention to is this idea of inclusion and what it means for someone to feel like they’re included or that they belong in a group. And that’s turning out to be super important, right? And, again, it’s because of our biology.

Here’s something really fascinating from brain science. When people are excluded, and they’ve actually set up experiments so that people are on an MRI machine and engaging with three other people playing an electronic game, and it’s three people playing. And then it’s set so that two people start playing this game excluding the third person, so the third person knows that they’re being left out of this little game. And the brain registers exclusion in the same place it registers physical pain.

So when we are excluded, even as something as minor as two strangers are playing a game that I’m now not allowed to play, we feel it in the brain as physical pain. And I think that that’s really powerful. Like I think we can all remember a time when we felt excluded and that can be a real place of connection, it’s like, “Wow, I know what that feels like and I know how hard that is. How do I make sure I’m creating an environment where people feel included?”

And then the second takeaway there is that it’s such a strong connection. You know, opioids work in the brain to stop physical pain. So even though you broke your arm and it still hurts, you can take a pain pill and you don’t feel the pain even though the bone is still broken so it disrupts the pain signal in the brain so you don’t feel it.

Well, opioids disrupts the pain of exclusion, and so I think this is what’s happening, is people get injured and end up on pain pills for legitimate physical pain reasons. And then as they’re trying to come off of it it’s been masking whatever social pain they feel in their lives, and I think that’s why they have a hard time weaning off of it sometimes is because it’s also addressing all the places in their life where they don’t feel included. And I think more of us feel like we don’t belong than we talk about.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that’s so true and there are so many little ways it happens. I’m thinking of some environments in which it’s like I didn’t feel hardcore excluded but I just definitely picked up the signal, it’s like, “Oh, all of you people like each other more than you like me. Not that you dislike me or hate me.” It’s like, “Pete, it’s forbidden to participate in this conversation circle,” you know? But it was just like, “Oh,” and it sure is unpleasant.

And so I think that maybe part of this is kindergarten lessons associated with smiling and opening up your body language and asking people what they have. But do you have any other kind of best practices that we should bear in mind to keep inclusiveness going?

Britt Andreatta
Yeah, I think part of it is to just be sensitive to it. I think one of the a-ha moments I had, I’m a white woman and I’m an educated white woman, and one of the a-ha moments I had was like, “Oh, wait a minute.” You know I had moments in my life where I felt excluded but I’ve had a lot more where I felt fine. And I can look to leaders and see people who look like me, and I can see police officers that look like me. There’s places where I feel a sense of safety, and I started to realize what a privilege that is, that I wasn’t counting, that I was like, “Oh, the world looks like this for everybody.”

So I think part of inclusion is just starting to kind of realize the places where you might have privilege and where you might feel more included than other people do, and that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start to tune into some things that you haven’t experienced. That was a really big a-ha moment for me and made me more sensitive to environments of, “Huh, can I start paying attention to how another might feel in this setting not just how I feel in this setting?”

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Thank you. So now, Britt, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Britt Andreatta
Oh, my gosh, there’s so many of them. I still always come back to that Margaret Mead quote about, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed individuals and what they can do.” I’m totally mangling the quote. But it comes down to like it’s really the only thing that ever makes a difference, is the small group of people speak up and say, “We need change.” And so I always value that as a call to action for all of us.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright. And how about a favorite book?

Britt Andreatta
You know, I read voraciously so I have to say I’m anticipating my new favorite book will be Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson. They’re pairing up. Daniel Goleman does emotional intelligence and Richard Davidson is like the guru on mindfulness and meditation, and their book is coming out soon, and I know I’m just going to love it. Another current favorite is Essentialism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah. We had Greg McKeown on the show. It’s so good.

Britt Andreatta
Yes. Oh, my gosh, it’s just really helping me stay focused in the midst of so many awesome choices so that one is being really helpful to me right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, absolutely. That’s so powerful. And you’re the first person ever to offer us an anticipated favorite book. I love it. It shows you’re really on top of what’s coming through the pipeline. And how about, and this might be extra hard for you, but if you had to choose a study or experiment or a piece of research that you have really connected with or thought about many, many times over, what would it be?

Britt Andreatta
You know, hands down it’s Richard Davidson’s work on mindfulness. This was a game-changer for me. He’s put Tibetan monks on an MRI machine and he’s put civilians on an MRI machine so he’s really studying from a scientific brain science way what happens. And not only does a 10-minute meditation change your brain, it changes it permanently. Ten minutes. Permanent change.

And if you get into a habit – the brain was built for mindfulness, it’s like it has receptors in it that make it just function so much better. So it literally turned me into a committed meditator, and I’m a tightly-wound person so honestly when I started reading this research I was like, “Oh, no, I have to meditate,” because I was so against it but it was so compelling I had to and I’m so glad that I did. It’s been a huge change in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Well, let’s merge favorite tool and habit then to hit the meditation point. So how do you go about doing that? Do you use an app or anything? Or is it simply paying attention to your breath? What do you do for meditation?

Britt Andreatta
I have two favorite tools. One is Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey have paired up to do this 21-day meditation challenges that you can get on your phone, and they’re literally 10 to 15 minutes and then they run for a theme for 21 days. And everything I know about how we build habits and all of that, it’s just like this perfect sweet little nugget that I love, so I have several of those on my phone.

And then the other tool that I love, it’s called Desk-Yogi, and companies can buy it, individuals can buy it. It turns your laptop or your desktop station into a wellness station. And so you can watch a five-minute meditation right in your cubicle. They actually have chair yoga where you can fit at your cube and do some yoga stretches. And so they’ve got all these amazing things on wellness and it just turns your device into a wellness station but it’s really bite size and easy to do.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a particular resonant nugget, something that you share whether it’s in your Lynda courses or your books or your workshops that seems to, time and time again, really connect with folks, getting them nodding heads and taking notes?

Britt Andreatta
You know, the thing that I end up weaving into every talk is this idea that we’re wired to do three things. Survive, which is in today’s modern day that’s like, “Can I have a job and make a paycheck? Because that’s how I buy the other stuff,” and followed closely by, “Do I belong? Is there a meaningful community that I feel like I can bring my full self to?”

And then that we all hunger to become, that we want to be our best selves, that we all want to learn and improve and grow. And, to me, once I understood that I was like, “You know what?” that everything else comes from that, everything else can be explained by understanding that’s who we are as a species.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And, Britt, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Britt Andreatta
I would send them to my website which is my name BrittAndreatta.com, and please link up with me on LinkedIn, and I also have Twitter, so follow me on those places, and I’d love to connect. I’d love to hear from you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?

Britt Andreatta
I would just pay attention, we all kind of know what brings out our best self, like how much sleep you need, or how much you can really concentrate before you need a break, or what kind of manager brings out the best in you. So once you know that about yourself, go find it. And if you don’t have it it’s not the right job, it’s not the right person nor the right role. So I really believe that we all slot into something that resonates with who we are and brings out our best. And if you don’t feel like you have that, you just haven’t found it yet but don’t sit there any longer and wait for it to show up. Go find it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Britt, this has been such a treat. Thank you for this. And best wishes for all of your speaking and travels and adventures. It’s been a treat.

Britt Andreatta
Thank you, Pete. And hello to your audience. I love talking to you and I look forward to connecting with everyone.

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