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Developing the Power of the Wise Brain for Sustainable Success

Developing the Power of the Wise Brain for Sustainable Success
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The emotionally reactive, fear-avoidant primitive brain protects us, but we need our strategic, empathetic wise brain for the insights and Purpose essential to achieving our Vision.

Last week, we shared the power of those who seek to understand others’ perspectives. Letting go of our ego and our need to win— a lifelong battle—is necessary for team effectiveness. The shift from me to team begins when leaders seek to unleash the dormant greatness that resides naturally in each team member, rather than prove how smart they themselves are. They help each one to thrive and unleash their personal best self as their brain shifts from a me focus to a team focus, thereby opening the door to the natural human desire to achieve sustainable greatness together.

Access the Wise Brain to Become Your Best Self

In Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser shares that all mammals possess a primitive brain that is emotionally reactive and fear-avoidant. It is there to protect us and is where we go when stressed. We fight, flee, or freeze when we are fearful or in an unfamiliar place. We resist change, are skeptical, and go inside our own heads for decision-making. When threatened, we secret the stress hormone cortisol, which prepares us to fight tigers, but is unhealthy to live with for long periods. For example, the first few public speaking experiences can be frightening, and they may generate an out-of-proportion stress response.

Fortunately, we have a wise brain that thinks about the longer term. It uses reflection, creativity, strategy, and empathy to gain foresight and insight, and to build trust. It starts with trusting that together, we can be better tomorrow. It is about co-creation and partnering together for a better outcome, and learning from past experiences. In this state, we secret oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that is good for us. Repeated experiences of speaking publicly, which initially can cause a lot of anxiety, permit the wise brain to teach the primitive brain that there is little to fear.

As we get out of our primitive brain and access our wise brain to help others, our best self surfaces. As we open up to others and learn to be more vulnerable, we become more of the person and the leader we are meant to be. It is natural for us to gain confidence in ourselves by being open to what those we respect see in us. We become much more effective leader and doers utilizing the wise brain, and life begins to flow more effortlessly.

The clarity of our deep, meaningful Vision for a better tomorrow generates the positive feelings to live the purposeful life we desire today. These feelings reside in our primitive brain, and with the practice of living purposefully, they guide us even under pressure to react purposefully in the best interest of our team. Our wise brain helps train our primitive brain to be aware of feelings that emanate from purposeful actions for sustainable success. The threats we face are not of the same magnitude as those confronting our ancestors, but we process them with the primitive brain developed for those threats; therefore, new, more purposeful habits that utilize the wise brain can take time.

The way we treat each other impacts how we feel. How we feel affects our decision-making, which then leads to our actions.

Reflections on a conversation with Bob Sutherland of Cherry Republic on a compelling Purpose and Vision 

I had just finished speaking to a Vistage/TEC Group in Petoskey, Michigan, and was about to drive to Traverse City when Bob Sutherland, the CEO of Cherry Republic, asked to join me. As we drove, I asked about his business. In explaining why he had started the Cherry Republic thirty years earlier, Bob said, “People did not appreciate cherries and the cherry farmers that work so hard to provide them for us.”

To secure the future of this important Michigan commodity and the livelihoods of the cherry farmers, he felt he had to do something. Bob opened a store that sold only cherry products—everything from jams and pies to barbecue sauce and cherrywood cutting boards. As of 2022, Cherry Republic has six stores and a mail-order business that ships 100,000+ orders annually, powered by 600 passionate employees who care about sending the world a message about the goodness of cherries.

Bob tapped into his primitive brain, which felt something had to be done for the cherry farmers, and used his wise brain to build a very successful business.

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