Issue No. 35 January 17, 2018

If you're like me, you start the New Year by resolving to be a better leader. However, this resolution -- like all resolutions -- is nothing more than a lofty idea without a specific goal and a plan of action.

This year, resolve to become a better leader by increasing your ROB.

What's ROB?

Return on Brainpower: Getting the absolute best from your team's mental abilities. When you increase your ROB, your ROI rises accordingly.

Read below to learn more.

Leadership that triggers employees' emotions reduces ROB

Watch this video to see how the "feeling" system of the brain works.

Watch more CfHP videos.

Engaging environment unlocks workers' potential

Imagine there's a P&L statement in front of you. Scan through the costs. Look for the biggest expenditure. What is it?

Human capital.

Every great leader knows that attracting and retaining the best possible employees is well worth the cost. We invest heavily in recruitment and onboarding, followed by continuous performance management, leadership development and succession planning. And then, in far too many cases, we fail to capitalize on the carefully chosen and trained brainpower we have assembled.

How do I know?

I begin almost every lecture or focus group by asking two questions.

First I ask, "How many people in this room feel your intelligence is fully utilized at your current job?" In conference rooms all over the globe, few raise their hand. Overwhelmingly, people feel underutilized.

Then I ask, "How many of you have ever worked in a job where you were allowed to really use your brain?" Most hands then go up. So what makes the difference?

The work environment.

Research conducted by the Center for High Performance found that a work environment that drives innovation and yields measurable results is distinctly different from one that does not. The difference is in how people are treated.

Our research uncovered that the overwhelming majority are not engaged at work. Instead, they hide their questions, mistakes and ideas, eventually becoming unmotivated.

The self-starters and high performers will leave for greener pastures where they are energized -- not just by their leaders, but by their colleagues who are thriving.

Simply put, an environment that underutilizes brainpower drains the collective energy (let's call it a brain drain), while an environment that nurtures brainpower creates more and more energy and catapults results.

It's the principle of inertia. Energy yields energy. Bodies in motion stay in motion. Brains engaged become more engaged.

The question is what kind of environment are your employees operating in? One that drains, or one that nurtures?

The worst part is that many leaders don't realize any of this is happening. With the pressure of quarterly results, continuing global uncertainty and lack of delegation abilities, they fall into their comfy, old standby: micromanagement. It's a huge and costly mistake. Micromanagement rips ROB to pieces and thereby bleeds ROI.

So how do you boost ROB?

Five Ways to Boost Return on Brainpower

1. Treat smart people like they are smart. Tell people what to do, not how to do it. Trust that people want to do the right thing, then get out of the way and let them do it. There are different ways to get a good result, and since your workers are closer to the problem, they may have better ideas on how to solve it. Also, when people feel they "own" the idea, they try harder to make it work.

2. Look for what's right. Instead of dismissing suggestions you don't agree with, ask what's right about that "wrong answer," what's smart about the "bad idea." Innovation always looks strange. Did you ever think you would be taking photos on a phone?

3. Listen to the contrarian voice. Groupthink can kill high performance. The person with an idea that goes against accepted thinking may be able to see what others don't. Remember Steve Jobs was fired for wanting to put more money into the Mac.

4. Reward behavior. Thank people and reward them for results. But when you applaud their accomplishments be sure to tell the story not only of what they accomplished, but what specific behaviors achieved the results. It's not just about what they achieved, but how they got there. Thank and reward the proactivity, creativity, learning from failure, the courage.

5. Remove barriers to success. Spend time with your best people to figure out what is preventing employees from using their brainpower effectively, and eliminate those barriers. Otherwise, your high-performing employees will waste time removing obstacles -- time that could have been spent productively. So spend the time, ask the questions, and expect to hear the unexpected and you will find the barriers. Remove the barriers, wherever and whenever you can.

Creating an environment where people are encouraged to use their brainpower improves performance by stimulating them to be more creative and productive. That's good for morale and the bottom line. The best way to increase ROI is to increase ROB!

Here's to a prosperous New Year!


Don't retreat, ADVANCE™

CfHP is a forward-thinking organization. The team-building experiences we design help senior leadership teams and boards of directors move their organizations ahead. We refer to these experiences as ADVANCES™, not retreats. Learn more at our web site.

We can help you develop great leaders

The ability to cultivate individuals who can lead a company to sustained high performance is critical for success. The Center for High Performance offers customized leadership-development programs including courses on modeling high-performance behaviors, leveraging your personal leadership brand, leading a high-performance senior team and strategic leadership for women. For more information, please visit our web site.

Center for High Performance

950 N. Michigan Ave. #2505 • Chicago, Illinois 60611 • T 312.867.7710 • F 312.276.4256
New site, new insights. Visit