Navigate the Social Landscape of your Brain, Part 2

Maximise the performance of your corporate team by uncovering the barriers that get in the way of high performance.

– Jan Sky –

(Part 1 here)


How good would it be if someone could increase the performance of individuals within your team and also increase the strike rate of the entire team? Most of us are influenced by habits and their early warning signs; strength in your team can be turned counterproductive very easily. ESI™ (Executive State Identification) Teams will explore your team through multiple lenses to gain insights into overall team performance through creative and exciting yet simple frameworks.

It may be as simple as taking the right steps to identify barriers and supports within the team called inhibited and supportive cognitive states. Identifying how inhibitive cognitive states can impact upon the workplace performance causing negative actions and reactions, and how supportive cognitive states that drive peak performance, can accelerate advancement within teams and be a positive change in organisational culture.

These states associate with individual’s behaviours, habits and beliefs and are embedded in the neural pathway of the brain and form part of the brain’s social landscape. These beliefs and habits tend to shape our decisions based on our interpretation of that belief and how it equates in a given situation. Sometimes there is a difference between what we say or do and what we think or feel. Our feelings and thoughts can be masked by the right words or actions, but our feelings and intentions are always true.

Feelings and intentions relate to your ego and will cause you to feel a particular warning sign. Understanding these warning signs supports and enhances our primary emotions and attitudes. A feeling of ‘that’s about right’ will feel very different to a feeling of ‘the line has been crossed’.

An overview of the primary emotions or attitudes related to early warning signs that will support positive behaviours in teams

Early Warning Sign 1 – Being Comparative

‘That’s about right’ – ‘I want and expect to win’.

‘The line has been crossed’ – ‘I see everyone as a rival or feel uncomfortable when others receive recognition for their performance’.

Beliefs that could be tested:

  • Do all your team members value competition equally?

  • Will competition discourage talented but less competitive people?

Some primary emotion or attitudes exposed could be aggression, envious, demoralised and uncooperative

Early Warning Sign 2 – Being Defensive

‘That’s about right’ – ‘I feel good ideas are worth defending’.

‘The line has been crossed’ – ‘I feel I shouldn’t have to defend my ideas’.

Beliefs that could be tested:

  • If people challenge the idea, are they challenging me personally?

  • Will the challenge take away any credit I deserve for my effort?

Some primary emotion or attitudes exposed could be accusing, inflexible, evasive, and judgemental.

Early Warning Sign 3 – Showcasing Brilliance

‘That’s about right’- ‘I have unique perspective and expertise’.

‘The line has been crossed’ –‘I have all the answers and I give advice when not asked’.

Beliefs that could be tested:

  • Is my advice that is given true, or is there a bias?

  • If my opinion is given, do others always hear it and value it?

Some primary emotions or attitudes exposed could be patronising, superior, annoyed or insensitive.

Early Warning Sign 4 – Seeing Acceptance

‘That’s about right’ – ‘When people disagree with my ideas, it can be productive’.

‘The line has been crossed’ – ‘A disagreement on my point of view is a form of attack’.

Beliefs that could be tested:

  • If the idea is disagreed with, does that mean the whole idea is bad?

  • If the idea is disagreed with, does that mean they will have a better idea?

Some primary emotion or attitudes exposed could be embarrassed, rejected, offended or insecure.

A Case Study – using ESI™ Mapping Tool

A group of four senior ‘subject matter’ experts headed up a major function within an organisation, but they were having difficulty working together as a collaborative team.

The problems they were experiencing were disharmony, conflict, poor attitude, inappropriate workplace behaviours and a total loss of cohesiveness.

When I was called in I brought the team together to firstly debrief previous occurrences, and secondly, to develop a goal that focussed the way forward.

The developed goal was: ‘Modelling diversity by respectfully valuing differences within our team’.

Individual members were mapped to ascertain their drivers as well as to identify what was holding them back in relation to the goal. Whilst these drivers and inhibitors may appear common behaviours, without using ESI™ they are not always openly acknowledged.

We met again to debrief the collective outcomes, plan a way forward and curtail behaviours that were not supportive of the goal.

Some of the Cognitive Supportive Drivers identified:

  • Conscientious

  • Work Ethic

  • Committed

  • Respectful

  • Passion

  • Innovative

  • Driven Values

Some of the Cognitive Inhibitive States identified:

  • Disrespect

  • Childish

  • Judgemental

  • Shut Down

  • Frustration

  • Challenges


Disrespect was acknowledged as the major inhibitor within the team and behaviours identified were defensiveness, confrontation, disengagement and repetitive behaviours. These behaviours are associated with beliefs and attitudes evolving from disrespect and depending on the reason behind the disrespect, varying values can be challenged. It was thought that if this major inhibitor was addressed, other challenging behaviours could be rectified. Dialogue was identified as a problem for some team members both within and external to their own team.

Brainstorming identified several steps to move the team into an environment of respect:

  • Open, honest communication

  • Understanding

  • Boundaries

  • Accountability

  • Challenge the idea not the person.

A strategic plan was developed to address these issues and each team member was kept accountable for their actions through coaching. A future team meeting was set as a follow up to agreed actions.


Today’s business environment is complex and chaotic. Increasing the solution capacity of your organisation can be as simple as understanding the variables that present with difficult situations and with your workforce.


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