All Posts By

Scott Jeffrey

Five Tips to Hone Your Mentoring Skills

THE BIG IDEA: Mentoring is a cornerstone skill of any chief executive committed to fostering a learning organization with a culture of continuous growth. This article highlights five things leaders can keep in mind to improve this vital skill.


Before departing for the Trojan War, Odysseus leaves his son Telemachus in the care of his old friend Mentor.

Years later, when Telemachus is around 20, he is guided by Mentor in the search for his lost father and his true heritage.

It is from Homer’s mythological tale, The Odyssey, that we get the word mentor, which now means an experienced and trusted advisor.

The Mentor’s Role in Organizational Leadership

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, mythologist Joseph Campbell illuminates how the hero, reluctant to engage in his quest, often meets a protective figure with supernatural aid.

This important character—personified by Merlin, Gandalf, Yoda, Morpheus, and Dumbledore—provides a magical amulet or sage-like advice the hero will need along the journey.

This archetypal figure resides in each of us. Business leaders, in particular, are uniquely positioned to actualize this role for the benefit of the organization and individuals under their guidance. In fact, we identified the Mentor as one of the seven archetypal leadership styles.

Embedded throughout any thriving organization, you’ll find a healthy exchange of mentor-mentee relationships.

5 Tips for Becoming a More Effective Mentor

What are the keys to being an effective mentor to your team members and subordinates?

#1: Be a guide, not an instructor.

An instructor tells you what to do. A guide provides moral support, but only advises when appropriate—like when you know the person is going in the wrong direction.

#2: Give the mentee space.

Your role as mentor is not to keep the mentee from failing. Failure often represents the fastest avenue for learning and growth. Your supportive presence is often all that’s required.

#3: Become an active listener.

Avoid formulating your response while a mentee is explaining an issue even if you know what the solution might be. Learn to be with the mentee. Deep listening requires us to not just listen to words, but to pay attention to feelings too. Your mentees will be more receptive to listening and acting on your advice once they feel they’ve been heard and understood.

#4: Lead by example.

This might sound obvious, but it warrants emphasis: You earn the respect of your mentee not by what you say—or even your rank and title—but by how you show up at work each day. Your own commitment to improvement will inspire a profound willingness to develop in your mentee.

#5: Let go of your narcissistic ego.

There’s simply no place for ego within the mentor’s role. It is all too easy and seductive to project “specialness” into this role, like any other title. If you approach mentoring with humility and a sense of servitude to your fellow employee—like any good Level 5 leader—you’ll naturally become more effective. It’s not about you; it’s about them.

Mentoring is a role each of us plays in supporting and uplifting the whole of the organizations we represent. The more you sharpen your mentoring skills, the more effective and inspiring a leader you will become.

Happy Holidays from your Cult Branding team!

How to Give Feedback

Business people talking together
THE BIG IDEA: Giving feedback is an important skill for anyone managing people. This article highlights seven principles for providing feedback that gets results and explores ways of overcoming resistance employees have to receiving feedback.


A sports coach stands on the sidelines, peering over all of his players in movement.

When he sees a player doing something suboptimal, he pulls that player aside to offer feedback. The coach’s objective it to improve the performance of his players. He sees things the players on the field can’t see.

Outperforming chief executives likely have this coaching style of management in their repertoire. Coaching or mentoring is one of the seven archetypal leadership styles.

Offering feedback is a skill. Like all skills, this skill can be learned and continuously improved.

Seven Principles for Effective Feedback

Here are seven principles to keep in mind when offering feedback to your subordinates:

Feedback is continuous and in the moment. A good coach understands that the most effective feedback is given right at or near the time the issue requiring feedback is raised.

Feedback is honest and conversational. A good coach doesn’t talk down to his players, but he is real with them. This means no office politics and no backhanded comments.

Feedback is inquisitive instead of forceful. A good coach empowers his team members with self-directed questions. He guides with questions instead of instructing through demands. He looks to have team members take ownership for their own work.

Feedback is based on a larger vision. The team’s ultimate vision is what fuels the feedback, not a drive for personal gain or power over others.

Feedback is specific, not general. A coach offers specific feedback with clear action steps directed toward achieving an objective or increasing performance.

Feedback is descriptive, not critical. Critical and judgmental comments destroy performance as it reduces motivation. Effective feedback is highly descriptive and points to ways for improvement.

Feedback is mainly focused on building strengths instead of highlighting weaknesses. If your feedback is always focused around the person’s weaknesses, it’s going to frustrate both of you. A good coach knows how to work around certain weaknesses and capitalize on the player’s best qualities and attributes that ultimately serve the team.

How to Overcome the Feedback Barrier

Even if you master the above seven principles, the stark reality is that most people don’t like hearing about their flaws. Additionally, many of us in leadership roles don’t like telling people about their flaws.

The human ego is fragile. It likes to think it’s perfect; it hates hearing that it’s not.

How do you offer feedback in a way in which others will be receptive to hearing it?

To overcome our innate resistance to feedback, help your employees come to the necessary conclusions on their own. Whenever possible, allow them to take ownership for improving their own performance.

One way of accomplishing this is through the artful use of questions.

When you’re reviewing an employee’s proposal, for example, you might ask:

  • What’s the primary objective of the proposal?
  • Do you feel this proposal has achieved this objective?
  • Do you see places where the proposal may be improved?
  • If there was a primary message that needed to be clarified, what might it be?
  • What is the ideal response you’re looking for from this pitch?
  • How else can you help ensure that it will receive that response?

This line of questioning allows the person to become aware of areas of improvement and take ownership for the changes. Well-crafted questions circumvent the ego’s defense mechanisms.

Of course, your tone and intention in engaging your employees is another important factor. If you come across as arrogant, all-knowing, and impatient, it doesn’t matter how well-crafted your questions are.

If, however, you genuinely want to see the person succeed, he will intuit your intention and push for higher performance.

To overcome the feedback barrier: Don’t command, criticize, or dictate. Instead, ask permission. May I offer a few suggestions on this project?

Compassion, not criticism reduces people’s defense mechanisms. Ask questions with the intention of bringing out the best performance and best qualities in your people. If you do, everyone wins.

The Art of Effective Feedback

Finally, a good coach is always available and listens to his players. He owns his own feedback. Yes, you can ask for feedback on your feedback. If your team members trust you, they will feel comfortable giving you honest comments upon your request.

Players listen to good coaches not because they are authority figures, but because they respect their coach and know that the coach has the players’ and the team’s best interest in mind. If you genuinely care and want to support your employees, your feedback will be welcomed and received.

All effective communication comes from the heart. Business may be business, but people are still people. When people know you genuinely care, they will genuinely listen.

How Symbols Serve Inspired Leaders

THE BIG IDEA: Leaders throughout history have used symbols and metaphors to move people to action. This article explores the significance of symbolic imagery and how it can be applied in business for effective communication.


With wings spanning over six feet long, the eagle soars over the trees. Its powerful, flapping wings sound like the mighty wind. Its strong feet and curved talons comfortably grasp prey twice its size. Landing gracefully, it remains perched at the summit in all its majesty and glory.

The eagle—the king of birds—is a symbol of strength, vitality, power, and omniscience. Its greatness has inspired comparison to the sun, earthly rulers, and imperial nations.

The eagle appears on the United States Presidential Seal as a symbol of power. This eagle holds an olive branch in one talon to symbolize peace and 13 arrows (for the original 13 colonies) in the other, representing the willingness to defend the country.

Symbols and their Meaning

We question things. Our inquiring mind is the distinguishing feature that separates Homo sapiens from the rest of the animal kingdom.

We question our existence. Why are we here? What happens after death? What is the meaning behind the phenomena around us?

Through our questioning, we have developed systems of belief. At the core of these belief systems are symbols.

A symbol is a visual image that represents an idea. Water, for example, symbolizes the moon, the feminine life-force, and the unconscious. Fire symbolizes the sun and the masculine life-force that surrounds us.

Every image—everything you can see with your eyes and in your mind’s eye—has symbolic counterparts.

When you see a ladder, your conscious mind sees a tool for climbing to higher places. Symbolically, the image of a ladder serves as a reminder of a psychological climb toward self-awareness or a spiritual climb to a higher truth.

Most of us are not conscious of symbolic meaning. We see a ladder as a ladder. But that symbolic meaning lies deep in our minds, at subconscious and unconscious levels.
The caduceus is the symbol of the medical profession. The center is the mythical wand of the Greek god Hermes who used it to bestow sleep. The twin snakes coiled around the wand symbolize healing and poison, health and illness.
The five Olympic rings symbolize the union in sports of Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The colors represent competing nations. (One color was on each nation’s flag when the rings were conceived in 1913.)

Symbols in Modern Business

Brand logos is not a new phenomenon. The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese all stamped their goods, like bricks, pottery, and bags of herbs, with symbols to indicate who made them.

But in the 19th Century, trademarks became more than marks of origin, they became badges and symbols, representing the personality of the brand.
Southwest Airlines flies its passengers with a big red heart at the belly of their planes. The heart is a symbol of the spiritual and emotional core of a human being, widely associated with love. (Not surprisingly, love is one of Southwest’s superpowers. It’s also their ticker symbol: LUV.)
A few months ago, we  discussed the symbolic significance of Apple’s logo. The apple is a symbol of knowledge, awakening, creativity, and beauty.
The three-pointed star in the Mercedes-Benz logo reportedly came from inventor Gottlieb Daimler’s dream of building motor vehicles for land, air, and sea.

But the star itself is an ancient symbol. For thousands of years, stars have oriented humans wandering in the darkness. The star represents something inside of us that is visionary, starlike. It is a symbol of the Self—a higher part of us—of wisdom, guidance, and destiny. Mercedes owners are guided by this symbol whenever they get behind the wheel.

Symbolic Images and Feelings

These symbolic images of our collective nature are found throughout the world, in our myths, dreams, and fantasies. Polymath Adolf Bastian called them elementary ideas. Jung called them archetypes.

For Jung, archetypes aren’t just elementary ideas. They also represent elementary feelings, fantasies, and visions.

Archetypes are simultaneously images and emotions. An image becomes dynamic when it is charged with emotion. Without emotion, the image cannot speak to us.

Symbolic images act as doorways to the inner worlds of both your employees and your customers. This inner world is the home of our fantasies, imagination, and emotions. They are the source of life’s richness. Without emotions, life is, well, lifeless.

Archetypes, Jung explains, “are the pieces of life itself—images that are integrally connected to the living individual by the bridge of the emotions.”

Images tap into the emotions of our inner worlds and give life a sense of meaning. Symbolic images are powerful because they provide this shortcut to meaning.

How Inspired Leaders Use Symbols to Move People

Remember that human beings—both your employees and your customers—are not moved, persuaded, or influenced by thoughts and words. We are moved by feelings, emotions, and images.

Inspired leaders communicate with passion, purpose, and vision. They use metaphors, analogies, illustrations, stories, and anecdotes to convey their ideas. Metaphors, in fact, are how archetypes first express themselves.

A metaphor, if you recall, is a figure of speech that uses an object or idea to represent a specific meaning that is otherwise difficult to convey. A metaphor suggests a resemblance; it uses a symbol to transfer meaning from one idea to another.

A study on presidential leadership and charisma examined the use of metaphors in the first-term inaugural addresses of 36 presidents. Each president was independently rated on their level of charisma. The researchers found that charismatic presidents used nearly twice as many metaphors as non-charismatic presidents.

Metaphors intrigue cognitive scientists because they are so effective at changing the way people think and behave. Metaphors allow large amounts of information to be assimilated, retained, recalled, and applied quickly.

Lincoln and the Power of Metaphor

Aristotle writes in Poetics, “To be a master of metaphor is a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.”

Abraham Lincoln used the persuasive power of metaphor and symbols liberally in his speeches. His Gettysburg Address is a 270-word testament to his mastery of metaphor.

For persuasive impact, Lincoln used metaphors of birth, death, and resurrection in his address. It begins, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

In this powerful opening sentence, Lincoln calls forth imagery of birth in four places (italicized above).

Harnessing the Power of Symbolic Imagery

The right symbolic image or metaphor can evoke a powerful sensory experience in your team members, igniting a desired pattern of behavior. They can help establish a thriving corporate culture, infusing passion into your organization.

The right symbolic images can also become powerful attractors for a certain breed of customers: your Brand Lovers for whom your business is especially for.

Business leaders that harness the power of symbolic images can forge ahead with clarity, humility, creativity, and inspiration.

How to Avoid Killing Motivation

THE BIG IDEA: When you know what drives you, you have insight into what motivates your employees and your customers. Calling on the research and motivational theories in behavioral psychology illuminates the answer.


You didn’t get where you are by accident. You worked hard. You assimilate new information rapidly. You stayed on your toes, capitalizing on opportunities when they arose.

And, if you’re reading this, it’s still true of you today.

Even if you’re the CEO, President, and Chairman of a multibillion dollar enterprise, you’re not resting on your prior achievements. You’re still seeking better answers and bigger ideas, looking for new ways to improve.

So what drives you? What motivates you to continually improve yourself and push towards a bigger vision for your business?

To answer this question, we start with Maslow. Maslow, as you recall, gave us the Hierarchy of Human Needs.

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation

These needs are physiological needs (hunger, thirst), safety needs (shelter), belonging needs (connection to family, friends, and colleagues), esteem needs, and self-actualization.

When you think of the Hierarchy of Needs, you probably visualize a triangle. Although that’s how it’s virtually always depicted when people refer to the hierarchy, Maslow never conceptualized it that way.

Maslow merely said that, in a general way, these human needs are prepotent, meaning that lower level needs have to be met before higher level needs can become the focus of attention.

This is very logical: you’re not going to be too invested in what people think of you (esteem needs) if you’re starving or thirsty (physiological needs). Your pride eventually breaks down when your survival is threatened.

In daily life, however, most of us are pursuing all of these human needs simultaneously.

A Different Spin on Maslow

Another psychologist, Clayton Alderfer, proposed a related theory of human needs that turns Maslow’s model on its side.

He grouped Maslow’s five levels of needs into three categories:

  1. Existence Needs (including physiological and safety needs)
  2. Relatedness Needs (including belonging and external esteem needs)
  3. Growth Needs (including internal esteem needs and self-actualization)

In Alderfer’s ERG Theory, instead of stacking the needs one on top of the other, he put them on a level playing field:


In terms of motivation, what’s important about Alderfer’s model is the direction you’re going. If your focus is progressing from existence needs to relatedness needs to growth needs, you feel satisfaction. This satisfaction will fuel your efforts in growth and self-actualization.

This assertion has been confirmed by Martin Seligman’s research. Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, has found that people feel more gratification (or lasting happiness) when they are pursuing growth while playing to their natural strengths.

If, however, your momentum is carrying you away from growth needs in the direction of relatedness needs and survival (existence needs), you feel frustration. Frustration diminishes your motivation to grow. (It also leads to the formation of bad habits.)

Motivation in the Workplace

How does this theory of motivation apply to your organization?

If you employees are not given the opportunity to grow, they may regress to satisfying relatedness needs and socialize more with colleagues (in unproductive ways).

Similarly, if the workplace doesn’t satisfy the employees’ need for social interaction, there can be an increase in focus on existence needs such as making more money or finding better working conditions.

Organizations like Google, Apple,, and Netflix are hubs for talented professionals because they support the higher needs of their employees.

Motivation in the Marketplace

Conveniently, you, your employees, and your customers are motivated by the same needs.

Any business can help customers meet their existence needs. Cult Brands go beyond existence needs by successfully creating a space for customers to belong (relatedness needs). These business also find ways to support their customers’ growth needs.

Apple creates tools for creativity and self-expression. Harley, Vans, and Linux promote freedom. The Motley Fool teaches financial independence. Personal brands like Oprah and Tony Robbins offer self empowerment.

In other words, Cult Brands capitalize on our human need for self-actualization by developing products and services that support higher-level needs.

3 Factors that Drive High Performance

Using 50 years of research in behavioral science, author Daniel Pink highlights the three elements that best motivate high performance:

  1. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery: the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us
  3. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves

Notice that money and external reward are not on this list. Notice that all three of these motivators are related to growth needs.

In the end, needs like creativity, productivity, meaningfulness, contribution, and personal development drive performance more than anything else.

This is true for you. It is true for your employees. And yes, it is true for your customers too.

The Archetype of Apple

THE BIG IDEA: Archetypes are at the core of effective marketing. They provide the most powerful way to attract the right customers. But archetypes are often misunderstood. This week, we examine the archetypal power of one of the world’s strongest brands.


A line of mindless drones in identical colorless uniforms march in unison through an underground industrial tunnel. The atmosphere is cold, lifeless, and gray.

They enter a large auditorium, sitting down in front of a movie-sized monitor. On the screen, Big Brother celebrates the anniversary of the “Information Purification Directive” that put an end to contradictory thought.

A woman with striking blond hair and an athletic build with bronzed skin charges toward the screen. Dressed like an Olympian in sharp red shorts and a white tank top, she is pursued by the Thought Police who wear riot uniforms and helmets.

As Big Brother declares, “We shall prevail!” our heroine hurls her Thor-like hammer at the screen, which explodes with a flash of light.

The voiceover reads: On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.”

Steve Job’s Vision

This famous ad that debuted as a 1984 Superbowl commercial alludes to George Orwell’s novel 1984, where a futuristic totalitarian government controls its citizens through propaganda, surveillance, and brute force.

This totalitarian regime represents the status quo, the convention, the suppression of new and different ideas. The blond Olympian represents the outlier, the Trailblazer, someone who defies the odds and dares to be different.

Apple isn’t for people who accept the status quo. It’s for Trailblazers and Luminaries committed to changing the world, just like Steve Jobs was.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

Apple’s 1997 Think Different campaign highlighted the same message with a different approach.

The spot highlighted footage of luminaries including Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon with Yoko Ono, R. Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Martha Graham, Jim Henson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picasso.

Richard Dreyfus’s voice-over pays homage to the Trailblazers and Luminaries:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Apple has become a symbol of creativity, self-expression, originality, and nonconformity. Apple’s marketing team has exhibited a masterful ability to communicate the company’s core idea through images and symbols.

To better understand why Apple is so effective, we need to first understand how images and symbols influence the human mind.

The Power of The Image

Images affect us in ways we don’t consciously appreciate. Images excite emotion. Images can bind us together. They can also tear us apart.

When you learn how to effectively use images in your business, you have a powerful means to influence your customers, trigger emotions, establish trust, and inspire loyalty.

If you don’t have this knowledge, it is all but guaranteed that you will dilute your brand and weaken your position in the market over time.

What is an Archetype?

For psychologist Carl Jung, archetypes are the fundamental units of the human mind.

He pointed out that every civilized human being is still an archaic man in deeper levels of his mind. And within this ancient level of the mind, there are archetypes.

Jung describes archetypes as the forms or images of a collective nature that occur all over the earth. These images find their way into ancient religions, myths, legends, and fairy tales.

Their symbols are everywhere in our daily lives. We find evidence of archetypes in our own dreams, fantasies, and behavior.

We can observe archetypes in the characters in the stories we read, the films we watch, and the plays we attend.

Archetypes are pervasive throughout the arts, media, advertising, and pop culture. They silently influence our relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.

Archetypes are everywhere, even if only a select few know how to identify them.

The Archetype of The Apple

It’s just a simple piece of fruit, right?

Even something as commonplace as an apple is ripe with ancient symbolism and embedded meaning. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist the pun.)

The apple has always been a symbol of knowledge and freedom.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This act of rebellion leads to their expulsion from the garden.

The moment that Adam and Eve bit into the fruit, “the eyes of the two of them were open.” They became aware of their nakedness for the first time. With the loss of innocence, they wake up, setting the evolution of humanity in motion. The image of a bitten apple symbolizes this acquisition of consciousness.

The apple is also commonly associated with teachers, the bearers of knowledge. A student gives an apple to the teacher as a token of gratitude for this knowledge.

Apples were also considered a food for the gods. In Greek mythology, it is a symbol for Aphrodite, the supreme goddess of love and beauty.

In Celtic tradition, the apple tree is a symbol of creativity.

How Apple Capitalizes on Archetypal Symbolism

Apple (the company) didn’t have to create the association of an apple to awakening, creativity, knowledge, and freedom. Its customers were already hardwired with that information (on a subconscious level).

Apple just had to link its brand with the symbol.

The 1984 commercial did this effectively by retelling Orwell’s classic story in 60 seconds, positioning Apple as the company for people who wanted intellectual and creative liberation.

In the Think Different campaign, Apple associated itself with existing symbols of Trailblazers and Luminaries by simply paying homage to contemporary recognized bearers of knowledge and creativity.


The Apple Logo Makes You Think Different

The Apple logo is now one of the most widely recognized images in the world, associated with creativity, self-expression, innovation, and nonconformity.

In fact, an empirical study published in the Journal of Consumer Research substantiates this association.

The researchers exposed participants to imperceptible images of brand logos for Apple and IBM. Prior to the exposure, participants reported feeling similarly about both brands except for creativity (Apple’s perceived strength) and competence (IBM’s perceived strength).

After the exposure, the participants were asked to describe as many uses for a brick as they could. Results showed that most participants described common uses such as doorstop or paperweight.

The Apple-primed subjects, however, gave an average of 30% more answers. Independent raters also deemed their answers as more creative. The IBM-primed subjects were strikingly uniform in their answers.

Overall, subjects exposed to the Apple logo demonstrated greater creativity compared to participants exposed to the IBM logo.

Through consistent messaging of its brand’s archetype, Apple has seeped into our collective mind. It has established itself as a harbinger of change, creation, and inspiration.

What’s Your Archetype?

Determining what archetype best represents your brand is a worthy endeavor that many national brands undergo. When you know your archetype, you can develop powerful messaging and product innovations that consistently attract the right customer.

Self-starters can begin the process by using a book like Mark and Pearson’s The Hero & The Outlaw. These authors provide 12 different archetypes to choose from.

Based on our research, we take a different approach. Although we maintain a database of over 3,500 active archetypes, we don’t select an archetype for a business.

A brand’s archetype already exists in the customer’s mind (even though they don’t know it). The goal is to probe your customers’ minds with questions designed to measure their unconscious associations to your brand.

Then, the archetype reveals itself.

How to Beat the Monday Blues


It’s Monday morning. Someone on your team enters your office. There’s a major problem with your new product release or your store opening or an interdepartmental conflict.

It doesn’t matter what it is; it only matters how you respond.

How well you respond all depends on your mental and emotional state in that moment.

Your job isn’t easy. Managing yourself is challenging enough, but you’re also tasked with managing others. It’s a great responsibility.

Below are three simple, fast, and easy things you can do right now to help you perform at your best during this week’s challenges.

These powerful, research-backed practices will help ensure this week is an extraordinary one.

#1 – Take a Slow, Steady, Deep Breath

Conscious breathing is a vital practice for every executive. There’s a substantial amount of evidence that demonstrates how breathing affects the body, mind, and emotions in profound ways.

In an age where most of us are in a constant state of stress and over-stimulation, conscious breathing provides a healthy means of reducing anxiety, restlessness, and stress. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, deep breathing promotes inner calm, relaxation, and mental clarity.

The short-term benefits are obvious: you become better equipped at handling difficult situations, managing conflicts, and maintaining focus at work. Because deep breathing improves your body’s response to stress, its long-term benefits include improved overall health and longevity. Dr. Andrew Weil calls breathing the “master key to self healing.”

To maximize the effectiveness of your breathing, make it slow and steady. Avoid straining. Breathe quickly without sucking air in or forcing it out.

Breathe in through your nose. You can breathe out through your nose as well, or out through your mouth.

Babies breathe from their bellies, not their chest. Breathe like a baby. Chest breathing produces anxiety and emotional imbalance; belly breathing massages our organs and promotes relaxation.

Try it right now: Bring your awareness and attention to your breathing. Take a slow, steady, quiet, deep breath in through your nose. Feel your belly expand on the inhale and allow the air to naturally escape your nose or mouth on the exhale.

Try it three times. Notice how you feel.

#2 – Give the Gift of a Smile

When was the last time you randomly stopped what you were doing, took a deep breath, and smiled for no reason at all? When would now be a good time? Come on, no one’s watching.

Try it right now: Put a big, silly grin on your face.

Notice how you feel. If you are smiling right now, you’re feeling a great sensation moving through your body, and you’re saying to yourself, “Hmmm, I should do this more often.” Well, go right ahead, smile for no reason at all.

Executives often hold a belief that to be professional in the office you need to look serious. Consider that research shows that play is fundamental to positive mental health and creativity. Creativity is the foundation of innovation. Innovation is vital for the growth of your business.

Smiling is contagious. If you smile more around the office, your employees will likely smile more often too. Smiling helps people relax their defenses; it promote a clearer mind; it improves moods; it makes people feel more content; it brings people back to the present.

Research also shows that the moods of employees at the start of the day affect how they feel the rest of the day. So smile in the morning—especially on Monday!

Can you imagine what would happen if your entire organization smiled more often? It can happen. And it starts with you. So smile! 🙂

#3 – Start the Day with Gratitude

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, reminds us: “When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”

It’s all too easy to miss out on the small wonders that are present in every moment.

Regardless of how great or troublesome your life and your business may appear right now, it is a miracle that you are alive—you are breathing; you have the ability to read and comprehend; you are above ground. At any moment, there are an infinite number of things you can be thankful for.

Life truly is a gift that most of us do not appreciate—we look for more without ever acknowledging how fortunate we are right now.

Each morning this week, as soon as you arrive at the office, smile and give thanks for the awesome power of today by saying these five magic words: “Thank you for this day.”

Try it right now: Close your eyes, take a deep breath, make a big smile, and say, “Thank you for this day.” Notice if you feel any different at the end of the week. You might be surprised.

Have a wonderful day!

Campbell’s Major Contribution to Consumer Insights


A long time ago, humans started telling stories.

Our first stories were drawn on cave walls. We started sharing stories even before we developed language.

Humans have been obsessed with stories ever since.

Stories teach us. They bring order to our lives. In many ways, story define who we are. Stories give us meaning.

Marketers and advertisers have learned that storytelling is a powerful medium for engaging and moving customers. Brands like Coke and Apple are masterful at winning the story wars with their competitors.

But the power of stories goes even deeper.

Stories hold the key to uncovering penetrating insights about your customers. These insights can help you not only generate sales, but build lasting relationships with your customers.

Our Brains Love Story

If you asked the average person why we love stories—in novels, films, or TV—she will likely point to escapism. Stories help us momentarily escape from the challenges and stresses of our lives.

But neuroscience reveals a different truth: if you observe a person’s brain as he watches a story in an fMRI machine, you’ll see that his brain doesn’t look like a spectator, but like a participant.

Even though we know stories aren’t real, the unconscious parts of our brains process them as if they are real.

Stories hook us because our brains make us experience what’s happening in the story.

The Grand Narrative of Storytelling

The great scholar Joseph Campbell loved stories so much that he made studying them his life’s work. His field is called comparative mythology.

He studied the stories of cultures around the world, from different periods in our evolution, spanning thousands of years of storytelling.

While most of his contemporaries focused on the differences between each culture’s stories, Campbell focused on the similarities.

He found many such similarities in various stories from around the world. He encapsulated these similarities in what’s become known as the monomyth, or the hero’s journey.

The Hero’s Journey

The hero starts out in an ordinary world before venturing into a special world.

He meets friend and foe. He undertakes quests. He faces challenges.

Winning a decisive victory, realizing his final goal, the hero returns from the adventure, transformed, bearing wisdom and new powers from his journey.

This hero’s quest is age old. It can be observed in many religions including the stories of Gautama Buddha, Moses, and Jesus Christ.

To better appreciate the commercial power of the monomyth consider: It’s the formula for every modern epic adventure including Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and Star Wars.

George Lucas, a good friend of Campbell’s, modeled the original Star Wars film precisely around the monomyth structure Campbell provided in his A Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Adjusting for inflation, Star Wars is the second highest grossing film of all time domestically (behind Gone with the Wind). The Star Wars franchise accounts for four of the top twenty highest grossing films of all time.

No wonder The Walt Disney Company announced the release of the sequel trilogy as soon as it purchased LucasFilms in 2012. Star Wars: Episode VII will be released in December 2015.

Most of the major film franchises in the top 50 highest grossing films of all time follow a similar story structure.

So what’s going on here?

The Power Behind the Hero’s Journey

Why is this monomyth so powerful and pervasive in ours and many other cultures? Why is this structure so effective in storytelling?

Remember that when we engage in story, our brains make us participants, not spectators.

The hero’s journey is ultimately about us. And we are fascinated with ourselves.

We identify with the hero, the protagonist, in the story. We are the hero in our own life adventure.

And your customers are the heroes in their own adventures too. They have their own stories to live and tell.

Your role is to support them in their quests, to provide aid when needed.

To do this effectively, you need to know what fuels the adventure.

The Primary Ingredient Behind Every Hero’s Journey

Compelling stories come down to one thing: problems.

The protagonist faces a problem and tries to overcome it. This is the essence of drama and the key to good storytelling.

Without problems, without troubles and tensions, there’s no story. There’s nothing to engage us.

The hero must face his problem, surmount his fear, resolve his tension.

Great Businesses Help Their Customer’s Win Victories

What’s your customer’s primary tension in relation to your brand, products, or services?

How can you help your customers win a decisive victory in their own lives?

Apple helps their users win the war against the mundane, arming them with tools for creativity and self-expression. Many humans are starving for this.

Nike helps its customers transform into warriors, allowing them to improve their physical conditions and master themselves.

Harley-Davidson helps free its riders from the tyranny of an oppressive, conventional world, if only for a Saturday ride.

Star Trek helps trekkies embrace a utopian, futuristic society, free from the insanities of mankind’s current stage of development, if only for a weekend convention.

Brands like Oprah and The Life is good Company counteract widespread pessimism and negativity with optimism and hope.

The Key to Penetrating Consumer Insights

The purpose of consumer insights is to understand the role your business plays in the lives of your customers.

Your goal is to understand their desires, motivations, emotions, and beliefs that trigger their attitudes and actions.

To accomplish this difficult task, decode your customers’ stories. Learn the adventures they are on and the tensions that drive them.

If you do, you’ll be better prepared to provide vital aid on your customers’ quests and become an unlikely ally to them.

And if you do, you’ll win a special place in their hearts and minds.

Maslow’s Simple Secret for High-Performing Business


Over seventy years ago, Abraham Maslow asked a great question.

While most psychologists of his era were focused exclusively on diagnosing and treating mental illness, Maslow inquired:

What does mental health actually look like?

This single question led to a new understanding of what it is to be human: what motivates us, how we grow, and what we experience when we’re at our best.

Maslows’ insights, when effectively applied to your organization, can improve the overall health of your business. It can, in turn, provide you with an unusual competitive advantage.

Let’s see how it works …

Satisfy Your Basic Human Needs

Maslow observed that all humans have a set of basic needs: biological, safety, belonging, and esteem. (You’re probably familiar with his hierarchy of human needs.)

He called these basic needs deficient needs because, in their absence, we feel like something is missing.

For example, when we don’t feel safe, we don’t feel like ourselves. Something feels off. We will go to great lengths to satisfy our unmet need for safety.

We all want to feel safe. We all want to feel connected to others. And we all want to feel good about ourselves.

Much of our daily behavior is driven by our pursuit of meeting these basic needs.

Satisfy Your Higher Human Needs

But here’s the thing: once you satisfy your basic needs in a healthy way, you can turn more of your attention to higher needs.

Higher needs include:

  • Cognitive (meaning, knowledge, and self-awareness)
  • Aesthetic (beauty, form, balance)
  • Self-actualization (personal growth and development)
  • Transcendence (spiritual values)

All of these needs are human too.

Maslow called these needs Being values because they motivate and inspire humans to grow and reach their fullest potential.

Consider which of the following Being values are important to you:


Satisfying your higher needs is important because it helps you live a more enriching, meaningful life.

It’s why we do certain things even though they are “unproductive.” For example, go to museums, play musical instruments, and read challenging books.

Harness the Power of Loyalty

Every business helps satisfy at least some of their customers’ basic needs.

A retailer like Walmart, for example, provides a safe environment to shop; products and apparel to make their customers feel good about their self-image; and hopefully, clean bathrooms (to satisfy those all-important biological needs).

But some businesses go further.

In 2000, when BJ Bueno began studying Cult Brands—businesses with hyper-loyal customers like Apple, Star Trek, and Harley-Davidson—he noticed that they all share something in common:

Cult Brands hit on higher needs.

Apple, for example, plays to intelligence, beauty, creativity, and self-expression.

Harley-Davidson and Star Trek bring out aliveness and playfulness; they support customer communities that celebrate lifestyles filled with youthful fantasy and adventure.

Supporting and celebrating specific higher needs for your customers helps you differentiate your brand from your competitors. But it goes deeper than that.

Your customers have difficult lives (just like you). If you can help them satisfy their basic and higher needs, imagine how much they will appreciate you.

This appreciation leads to loyalty.

Support Higher Needs Within Your Organization

Successful businesses like Southwest, Google, Zappos, The Container Store, and Netflix tap into basic and higher needs not just for their customers, but for their employees.

These organizations don’t just create jobs; they attract talented people looking for vocations where they can find greater meaning in their work.

They accomplish this feat, in part, by establishing core values and creating a culture that embraces specific higher needs.

For example, Zappos has a core value, “Pursue growth and learning.” This hits on a cognitive need. They support this value by maintaining the Zappos Family Library that offers free books to their employees.

Google’s culture pushes their employees toward self-actualization. They maintain values like, “It’s best to do one thing really, really well,” and “Great just isn’t good enough.” One way they support this value is through their Search Inside Yourself program that teach employees how to meditate to gain better focus and improve their emotional intelligence.

(For a comprehensive guide on establishing core values for your organization with over 100 examples, click here.)

Embrace Your Own Higher Needs First

The truth is that you can’t effectively support higher needs in others if you’re not first satisfying them in yourself.

This doesn’t make you selfish; it makes you human.

The reverse is also true: the more internally “full” and rich you feel from satisfying your higher needs, the more you’ll be able to give to others.

Maslow found that expressing higher values by satisfying our needs for things like meaning, knowledge, beauty, growth, and spiritual values is a sign of mental health.

It makes us more fully human. It makes us better leaders too.

Two Little-Known Skills Every Leader Needs

Vision Leadership

Sarah is two months into her new role as CEO of a fast-growing company in the casual dining market.

At least, it was fast-growing until recently.

The founder of the enterprise built his business by using only natural, GMO-free ingredients and providing a fast, comfortable dining experience.

The company achieved high double-digit growth for five straight years, had a successful IPO, and continued its aggressive growth trajectory.

Then the market tanked. And the restaurant chain’s higher-than-average prices became a major factor for many of its customers.

Trouble within the organization began bubbling to the surface.

Sarah was brought in as the first external CEO to adjust to the new market conditions and align the organization with a clear vision.

Two Common Problems in Virtually Every Organization

After accessing the situation, Sarah saw two major issues she needed to address immediately.

First, while her management team were all talented professionals, they were each working in different directions.

With the company’s prior rapid growth, the founder failed to keep the leadership team aligned to a unified vision. Instead, each department head had his or her own agenda.

Sarah had, first and foremost, to rally the troops under one banner.

Second, not all of the department heads worked well with each other. In fact, the more Sarah examined interpersonal dynamics in the office, the more internal conflicts she saw in her leadership team.

Will she be successful in guiding this company to a profitable future?

To turn things around, Sarah needs to be skilled in two key areas. These two areas, research shows, greatly define outperforming leadership.

How to Move People

Anyone can give orders, but only a skilled leader is able to positively influence others. The role of the leader is to move people, to inspire positive action in a desired direction.

A leader has a vision. She sees the potential of what the enterprise can become. Her job is to infect her organization with this vision, to sell the vision and excite consistent action.

And the vision isn’t sold unless the employees themselves are inspired to realize the vision. This is no easy task.

More than anything else, the key to moving people requires the ability to see the world from the perspective of others.

Perspective taking allows you to see the world from another’s viewpoint and speak to them from this viewpoint.

Luckily, perspective-taking is a skill that can be learned. (There’s a quick 2-minute practice at the end of this article.)

How to Handle Conflict

The second major area is conflict management.

Many leaders struggle in this area. A 2013 Stanford University Executive Coaching Survey of over 200 CEOs illuminated that handling conflict is the single biggest area for personal development.

Conflict resolution requires leaders to use empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings of another person.

The topic of empathy has received a great deal of attention in leadership literature from the work of psychologist Daniel Goleman, among others.

Goleman has found that emotional intelligence is THE key factor in outperforming leadership. Empathy is a core facet of emotional intelligence.

While perspective taking relies on our cognitive abilities, empathy engages our feelings.

Interpersonal conflicts cannot be resolved by “thinking through the problem” because the source of the conflict resides in our feelings (not thoughts).

While perspective taking allows us to see the world through another’s eyes, empathy allows us to feel the world through another’s body.

Everyone’s level of empathy varies, but empathy is also a skill. And therefore it can be trained. Goleman offers five steps to rewire your brain for emotional intelligence in this Harvard Business Review article.

And if you want to go deeper, we highly recommend going through Google’s Search Inside Yourself video curriculum and following the exercises.

Using the research of neuroscientists and psychologists (including Goleman), Google developed a highly popular program to train their executives on how to increase emotional intelligence and become better leaders.

How These Two Skills Help You Serve Your Customers Too

Being able to take the perspective of others and to feel what they feel are vital skills for leading and managing an organization or team. But the benefits go further.

An IBM study with over 1,700 CEOs and other leaders showed that engaging customers as individuals is a top priority.

How better to engage your customers as individuals than to take their perspective and feel what they feel?

These skills will not only help you align your organization and resolve interpersonal conflicts, it will open the doors to the hearts and minds of your customers.

Combined with big data, interviews, focus groups, surveys, and other market research methods, applying these skills can enable you to understand your customers as unique human beings. It will help you unearth authentic consumer insights.

Who would have guessed that the battle for customer engagement could be won through the effective use of perspective taking and empathy?

SIDEBAR: How to Build Your Perspective-Taking Ability

Learn to take the role of others:

  1. Decide whose perspective you’re going to take. It could be an employee, a board member, a peer, a customer, or a family member.
  2. Allow yourself to be curious and let go of wanting to judge this exercise.
  3. Imagine that you are this person. As fully as you can, step into their point of view.
  4. Look out at your environment. What does it look like? What do you notice? What do you see? What do you think? What do you believe?

Maintain this perspective for two minutes. To help integrate what you’ve learned, invest a few minutes reflecting on the experience: What did you learn about the other person? What did you learn about yourself? Did you pick up a new perspective?

Follow this procedure at least twice per day until perspective taking becomes effortless.

The Power of Cultural Narratives

Tobacco. It’s one of the most addictive substances on the planet.

Back in 1987, smokers were first told that it is easier to give up heroin than cigarettes.

Today, the CDC reports that nearly 20% of American adults smoke. Nearly one in five. That’s pretty bad.

In Thailand, the numbers are worse: 27% of the entire Thai adult population smokes and 46% of adult men. That’s nearly every other guy you meet!

Thailand’s government is very interested in reducing the numbers of people who smoke.  They used a video campaign that draws on one of the most important psychological forces that influences people’s behavior: cultural narratives.

Every Cultural Narrative Holds a Tension

The video begins with images of people standing outdoors, smoking. A small child, not even yet into his teens, asks for a light.

In every instance, the adults refused to light the child’s cigarette. In fact, the vast majority of the adults went on to tell the child why they shouldn’t smoke at all.

One woman told the child how cigarettes contained insecticide, while another man talked about diseases associated with smoking. Still another man talked about not being able to play and have fun if they smoked.

All of these adults, the ones who are refusing to light the child’s cigarette, are sharing a contemporary cultural story with them.

In this narrative, tobacco plays the ultimate bad guy.

Cultural Narratives are Alive Within Us

The adults take on the role of wise adviser or guru in this tale. It’s their job to prepare the child with the warnings and wisdom they’ll need to prevail over the looming peril of addiction.

When we watch the adults telling this cultural tale, we see that they’re really invested in telling the story. They feel compelled to not only share this story, but to share it in the most effective way possible.

Think about the man who talked about the child not being able to play any more.

He doesn’t tell this kid, “Someday you’ll experience decreased cardiac function if you keep this up!” Or “In 30 years, you won’t even be able to think of taking the stairs!”

These statements would be meaningless to the child.

Instead, the adult focused on the benefit that would matter most to the child. He did this intuitively and automatically, reacting to the child’s request within seconds.

Connect with Your Customers Through Cultural Stories

This is a powerful demonstration of the power cultural stories have upon us. These narratives surround us, making up the subtle cultural background of our lives.

The role of the cultural story that smoking is bad, especially for children, is so pervasive that these adults felt compelled to reinforce the narrative—even though they were smoking at the time!

As business leaders, we need to understand which cultural narratives affect our customers the most. We also need to know how our customers see themselves in relation to that cultural narrative.

And to see why, let’s go back to the commercial.

After hearing the adult’s reasons for refusing them the light, the children handed the adults a note, and then quickly left.

The note read, “You worry about me, but why not worry about yourself?” along with a helpline number.

Many of the adults threw their cigarettes away. All of the adults retained the brochure. The helpline experienced a 40% increase in calls.

Empowering Your Customers as Heroes of their Adventure

In Thailand, as in much of the world, the cultural norm is that we tell instructional, moralistic stories mainly to children, not vice versa.

By placing the child in the counter-intuitive role of the wise adviser, the subconscious mind of the recipient and the viewers are shocked into a new state of awareness and receptivity.

The adult who was not aware they were being taught, find themselves overwhelmed by the wisdom of the lesson they received.

This cognitive shift is accompanied by the realization that one’s role in relation to the cultural story has changed.

The adults who were, in the first version of the tale, the wise adviser, can now see themselves in the child’s role: as the hero-in-training, preparing to fight off tobacco’s addictive powers.

The call to be a hero can transform a life, especially if it comes at the right time. We don’t know how many of those helpline calls resulted in someone giving up cigarettes for good, but we feel safe in saying that it’s more than a few.

Understanding the subconscious mind and leveraging that understanding to create effective messaging can do amazing things.

If this knowledge can be used to break consumers free of one of the most addictive substances on the planet, what can it do for your business?  That’s something well worth thinking about.