Instincts at Work is a neuroscience-based leadership development and coaching company based in Ontario, Canada, that helps leaders evolve their thinking to improve performance. With decades of expertise in training, teaching and coaching leaders, Instincts at Works’ team is leading the industry using neuroscience-based tools that produce practical results.
In an interview with Manage HR, Penny Paucha, Principal and Leadership Coach at Instincts at Work, shares insights into their programs, her team’s approach to leadership development, and the secrets to their clients’ success.
From uncertainty to clarity
Traditional ways of doing things no longer work. The world is changing rapidly, and the result is that people are constantly being pushed into new, uncomfortable circumstances that they don’t know how to deal with. When periods of uncertainty last for a long time, as they have over the last couple of pandemic-focused years, stress levels increase and compound, leading to a host of workplace challenges such as high turnover, increases in conflict, poor job performance.
To keep up, leaders need to figure out how to work at a different pace and in a different way. It is critical for leaders to help their workforce adapt to this uncertainty.
We train leaders to reduce this sense of overwhelm in themselves and in their team members because, in this state, the brain is not effective at problem-solving. Through neuroscience-based tools, we show leaders how to create conditions to foster creative thinking and reattribute stress to increase performance.
Training leaders to flip the switch on stress
Many leadership development programs focus on solving observable external issues, like workflows, processes and plans. We use an ‘all-quadrants’ approach that builds skills in the internal world of an individual. Addressing internal factors, such as emotional state, motivation, and psychological safety, are critical to creating sustainable improvements in team performance.
For example, a nurse leader who we worked with was struggling with staff shortage issues where people were using false sickness claims as an excuse to miss work during times of high stress. An automatic leadership response would be to control the situation with a policy requiring proof of sickness. However, this external approach to solving the problem, only left team members feeling more resentful and stressed.
In applying the tools from our programs, this leader instead talked with the team about the impact of their absence on patient care and on the rest of their teammates. Engaging the team in a common vision requires a sophisticated level of communication, but has a better impact on the culture because it aligns everyone to the meaning of their work. When aligned to purpose, stress can then be channeled towards positive outcomes, rather than fueling a negative work environment.
All of our programs offer evidence-based, practical tools to help leaders and their teams adapt and overcome challenges very quickly. Employing the science of learning and habit formation, along with coaching, we are able to help leaders make significant and sustainable improvements in how they practice.
Our commitment is to help leaders learn the skills to be both more adaptable and effective in complex environments, so we developed a certification process leading to a designation as a Certified Complexity Leader.
The first step is the Evolution of Thinking program, which provides leaders with neuroscience-based tools to build a team culture of high performance. Leaders learn about how to create clarity of vision, psychological safety, and foster a growth mindset.
The next step in the certification pathway is the Evolution of Performance program, which trains leaders to hold their teams accountable and gives them the coaching skills to engage them in higher levels of performance.
To complete the Certified Complexity Leadership designation, leaders also participate in 12 individual coaching sessions, followed by the completion of a case study of an improvement project where they demonstrate their mastery of skills and tools from the curriculum.
For leaders who want a brief overview of some of the core teachings and our neuroscience-based approach, we offer a mini-course delivered over 2 hours with 4 group coaching sessions, called the Leadership Bootcamp: Skills to Improve Your Team Culture Under Stress.
Instincts at Work’s expertise delivers client success
During the pandemic, staff turnover in healthcare was high, which put a lot of pressure on nurses and hospitals. Despite these challenges, a nurse leader who employed our approach of creating a common vision and then aligning the team to make meaningful change, increased employee engagement and reduced staff sick time; quite a remarkable feat for a hospital during the pandemic! This nurse leader was able to motivate her team and help them focus on their continual progress and improvement. Her story proves that when engaged with purposeful work, staff can be inspired regardless of what’s going on around them and demonstrates that well-developed leaders, who have the skills to thrive in uncertainty and complexity, can make a significant difference.
Another example of this success was with a mental health organization with a long waitlist for service. Using the tools from our program, this leadership team implemented a new service model which enabled quick access to services for those most in need.
“Leaders need to figure out how to work at a different pace and in a different way. It is critical for leaders to help their workforce adapt to uncertainty.”
Within three months, they eliminated their waitlist - a task they had been trying to accomplish for six years. Like the nurse leader and her team, the leaders of the mental health organization used alignment to a common vision and the tools to create psychological safety to accomplish what seemed impossible.
Forging the path to a new age of leadership
As our world becomes more complex, it is the leaders who evolve, adapt, and bring clarity who will make a difference.
Over the last decade, hundreds of leaders have commented on how impactful, relevant and applicable our tools and training have been. We are proud of the fact that we have validated our results with participants reporting significant increases in team effectiveness, as well as, speaking up in difficult situations, and connecting day-to-day activities with the broader vision.
The increase in enrollment in our programs is proof that leaders are hungry for these kinds of skills and results. We want to share this with organizations worldwide to make sure that as many people as possible can say “This is a great place to work, and we do work that matters.”