Many people have the wrong idea about business leadership. They think that if “their people” do as they are told, they must be great leaders. Anyone who deviates gets attacked. Never mind that “their people” are walking around stuck in fear.

Or, they may feel that they are the shining light that rescues everybody from a terrible fate. Unfortunately, this paradigm tends to have people feeling used up and burned out really quickly.

We’ve Seen The Enemy–And It’s Us!

The problem in either case is that both types of leaders require a victim. In the first case, the leader becomes the persecutor and is willing to target one of his own people as a victim and “throw them off the island.” In the second case, the leader is making the rest of the world act as victims and persecutors.

Do you see the problems with these scenarios? Neither is really attractive to potential customers. Both keep not only the organization itself, but also its stakeholders stuck in the tension triangle.

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Both keep the organization rooted in “Critter State.” “Critter State” happens when people are so concerned for safety—their own, their team’s, their organization’s, the world’s… that they cannot take the kind of chances that successful people take to grow.

But there’s good news. Fresh evidence for the problems “Critter State” creates and the benefits “Smart State” produces have been researched by Heartmath Institute.

“Of the many new scientific perspectives that emerged from the 20th century, one of the most profound is that the universe is wholly and enduringly interconnected and coherent. “

Coherence: Bridging Personal, Social, and Global Health, by Rollin McCraty, PhD

So if your people are living in the Tension Triangle, in the fear and helplessness of the victim, in the overwhelm of the rescuer, or in the anger and hopelessness of the persecutor that’s what they’re bringing to the party, and that’s the type of customer you’ll attract. And that’s the energy you’ll perpetuate across your company.

Heartmath Institute has taken a scientific approach to proving what has long been held as truth in the realm of spirituality. Heartmath measures what happens when we are aligned (“coherent”) versus when we’re running on fear or as I call it, “Critter State.”

They have defined a state of “coherence” that is measurable and supports optimal health and well-being. It’s remarkably similar to what I call the “Smart State” and the benefits are profound.

So how do we move ourselves and lead our organizations to a state that is more coherent? The first way is to practice. Mindfulness meditation practices have been correlated to reduced stress and increased alignment.

Another way is to stay in “inquiry mode.” As Steven Covey said (and St. Francis of Assisi before him) “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I’d like to add that if you truly seek to understand, if you stay in “inquiry mode,” much of the time the answers become apparent to yourself and the team. So you never need to worry about being understood.

Focus Everyone On What They Want

Here’s a quick reminder of one of my favorite tools: the “Outcome Frame.” This is incredibly useful for situations when someone is determined to stay in the tension triangle either as a victim, a persecutor or a rescuer.

First question: What would you like? Variations on this question include: “What are we really trying to achieve here?”; “If I could wave a magic wand in this situation, what outcome would we get?”) This question takes the focus off the fear, off of the problem and onto solving. Training the brain to solve problems is a great way to increase coherence.

“What will having that (the outcome from above question) do for you (or for ‘us’ if we’re talking about the organization)?” Variations on this question include: “What would be really great about doing/having that?”; “If we were really successful and achieved that outcome what else would be better?” This question, when repeated, trains the brain to think at a higher or more global level and to think about consequences. We don’t just want to increase sales, we want to grow the company. We don’t just want to grow the company, we want to achieve our mission and solve X problem.

“When, where and with who do you/we want this?” This question takes the outcome from the lofty land of the big picture produced above, down to our everyday reality. I usually ask the question in pieces based on what information might be missing from the discussion so far. For example, if the organization’s mission is “world peace” that’s a pretty lofty goal. The team member you’re speaking with will need some questions to bring it down to small achievable steps. And we need small achievable steps to get out of victim. So, I might start with the question: “What’s the smallest part of creating world peace (or whatever outcome is being discussed) would you be able to achieve and have it still be meaningful? Then I’d ask some more questions to understand the specifics of the “when, where, and with whom.”

“How will you know when you have it?” Like the previous question, this question also brings us into day-to-day reality. How will you know that the outcome has been achieved? Sometimes it’s obvious, but often the proof is a bit elusive, it might be a feeling or a noticing. It helps us to achieve goals when we can clearly name some tangible way we’ll know it’s done.

Lastly we want to know a little about what’s under the hood. So the question you can ask is: “What of value might you risk or lose if you achieved that outcome?” Variations include “So what might go wrong if you got that?”; “What would you need to give up in order to have that?” This helps us get present to the cost of the outcome, the investment we may need to make in time, money, energy, heart, to get what we want.

The “Outcome Frame” is rich and complex. I’ve talked about it before and will again.

And heck, maybe even one day to achieve world peace!

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