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Brain Hacks 4 Leadership

Aug 2, 2018

Have you ever wished you could get that moment back when you let your emotions take over?  Do you want to make better choices and better decisions in the moment?  This is the podcast for you!

My guest, Dr. Marcia Reynolds, MCC, is fascinated by the brain, especially what triggers feelings of connection, commitment, and possibility. She draws on her research as she helps coaches and leaders make every conversation is a difference-making experience. She has provided executive coaching and leadership training programs in 38 countries.

Dr. Reynolds is a pioneer in the coaching profession. She was the 5th global president of the International Coach Federation and has returned to the board as a Global Director. She is also the training director for the Healthcare Coaching Institute at Virginia Tech, and on faculty for the International Coach Academy in Russia and Create China Coaching in China. She is recognized by the Global Gurus top 30 as the #5 coach in the world. She was one of the first to earn the designation of Master Certified Coach.

Interviews and excerpts from Marcia’s books Outsmart Your Brain, and The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs, and Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction, have appeared in many places including Fast Company, Psychology Today, and The Wall Street Journal.

Marcia’s doctoral degree is in organizational psychology and she has two master’s degrees in education and communications.

Highlights from the Podcast:

Information doesn’t change behavior, just because you ‘know’ something it doesn’t mean you will do it – there needs to be emotion involved.  The first step to being aware is managing your emotions and your energy.  Next you need to be curious because when you are with other people you need to think about how you are showing up with them.  For example, are you partnering with them and helping them move forward OR is your intention to just get them to do what you want them to do?

Emotions are just energy moving through your body and it is important information to pay attention to that tells you what is going on in the moment – notice it and accept it.  Don’t label it good or bad, just notice it. Where in your body do you feel anger?  Notice it – it is different for everyone.  One tip to start noticing your emotions is to set a reminder on your phone 2 to 3 times a day to just track what you are feeling at the moment.  This can help make you more aware.  This is how you can start to build Reflective Intelligence – noticing the emotions is the first step.

After you notice the emotion then you can go to what you want to feel instead – but you have to feel the shift.  You can’t just tell yourself to be patient – you have to do something to feel more patient.  For example, turn on some music or look at pictures to make you feel calmer.  You have to understand what your triggers are – what are people taking from you that makes you react?  For example, do you feel you are being respected, not safe or now being acknowledged?  The thing about triggers, (which she goes into much more deeply in her book and you can go to and search for emotional triggers to download the list) is that whatever has made you successful in this life is what is going to be your emotional trigger because you are protecting it.  For example, if you want attention, control, order or accuracy and feel that any of those are being threatened, you will go on the defense.  This happens really quickly and when you realize what is happening you have the choice of (1) asking for that or (2) letting it go.  Being aware gives you more control in your response if you understand your reactions and why they are happening.

If something is really important to you, the primitive brain kicks in because the brain is designed to protect you.  When we get defensive, it happens pretty quickly, and we react because we feel like someone is taking something from us or not giving us something we feel we deserve like respect or credibility.  It is a primitive reaction that happens quickly and we either react or shut down, we are either a flighter or fighter.  Now this could happen in the primitive brain, or if it bypasses the primitive brain, then it hits your social brain.  Then we have the social needs where I might feel embarrassed or disappointed or frustrated because I am not getting what I think I need.  This happens in the middle brain where you get defensive, you argue, you shut down or you feel embarrassed or sad.  This affects what you will say or not say and the actions you will take.

It doesn’t hit your logical brain until all this other stuff comes into play, which we use to give ourselves great reasons as to why we reacted that way or why we said that thing!  (There is a great example of this in Chapter 1 of Outsmart your Brain).

Once you start noticing these emotions – what can you do?  Well, first know that these never go away, just accept that you are human, and this is who you are and they will decrease.  You won’t stop being triggered and there will be certain people in your life that will trigger you more than others.  The more we acknowledge them the less power they have over us and we get triggered but it is not as strong. 

There is a 4-step formula to shift your emotions:  Relax…Detach…Center….Focus.

Relax – because it is biological, breathe and release the tension in your body, breathing is the quickest way to release the tension.  Do a body scan and relax your muscles.

Detach – clear your brain and wipe it clean. 

Center – Take a tip from professional athletes that are taught to shift their awareness to their center, which is at the bottom of your breath – the center of your body.  You take a deep breath in and notice the bottom of your breath – that is your center, your core.  When you can move your awareness there, you are more powerful. 

Focus – choose the one or two words that represent how you want to feel and then feel those emotions before you speak.

This is how you can make better choices in the moment – which leads to better outcomes.  The best part is this not only helps you at work, but it helps you at home.

Great resources that you can leverage to learn more about this: and her books Outsmart your Brain and The Discomfort Zone.

Last thing, people want you to be present more than they want you to be perfect.  Listen to what they have to say, this makes people feel valued and important without any words.

I hope that you have enjoyed this and can start using some of these great techniques to build more self-awareness and have better conversations.  Make sure to subscribe to be alerted to ongoing podcasts.  You can reach me, Jill Windelspecht, directly by email at and visit my website at