Your Lizard Brain Could be Killing Your Organization

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantAs I prepare for the webinar I'm offering next week, Using Your Intuition to Work Smarter, I've been thinking a lot about our lizard brains. Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield write a lot about lizard brains - what they define as the part of us that wants to be safe, go slow, pull back, or lash out. It's resistance, fear, the instinct to survive, and it's the sphere in which most of our organizations operate.

In order for this to make sense, I have to talk about the Ego. Most of the wise teachers I know would say that the ego and the lizard brain are two peas in a pod. Your ego partners with your lizard brain to keep you safe - it's very good at picking up on potentially harmful situations and getting you out of them as soon as possible.

If you were caught in the middle of the ocean, your ego and your lizard brain are what would keep you swimming for dry land. If you're giving a presentation and feel threatened by a critical colleague in the room, they'll send "GET OUT!" signals like sweaty palms and a racing heart. Their sole interest is in keeping you alive and eliminating threats, which is really very sweet!

The problem is, they're running rampant and, ironically, killing off many organizations as a result. Here are some ways you know that ego and lizard brains are calling the shots:

  • Decisions are made out of fear: "Don't rock the boat...The shareholders will be upset if we don't do it this way...We need to tolerate her or else she'll sue us."
  • There's in-fighting: The loudest, most belligerent people succeed in these organizations, which means competition, under-cutting, and sabotage are rampant. Sensitive people who want to collaborate burn out quickly.
  • There's never enough: Scarcity runs the show in this organization. There's never enough money, resources, time, talent - everything is urgent. The top line in everyone's job description should be "Putting out fires."

Now, nothing is ever all bad - we do need our egos to help us stay alive and get things done in the world.

megan leatherman career coach and hr consultantBut the ego has to be balanced, and it's balanced with Soul.

Your soul is what pushes you to make changes in your life even though they're scary, like switching careers, going back to school, or falling in love. Your soul helps you transcend your survival instincts so that you can live out what you're on this earth to learn and do.

When our souls inform our lives and organizations, there can be trust, openness, and a sense of abundance - like we know that our needs will be met. Some signs that an organization has a healthy balance of ego and soul are:

  • Decisions based on trust and love: People are given the benefit of the doubt. Policies are in place, but minimally, and they're never a substitute for a human conversation. When making decisions, the leaders of the organization seek what is in the highest good of all stakeholders - employees, their communities, and even the earth itself.
  • Everyone has a place: Each member of the organization is valued for their unique set of gifts and diverse backgrounds. Community is intentionally formed through trust-building, collaboration, and mutual shows of respect.
  • There is enough: Leadership isn't stingy about salaries, vacation time, or employee appreciation. They trust that there is enough and are generous with the money that flows through the organization.

One major way that we can tap into our souls and the wisdom they hold for us is through our intuition.

Intuitive knowing is becoming more accepted in mainstream business culture, but it's still out there on the fringes - largely, I believe, because it's been denigrated through our obsession with "rationality" and other more intellectual ways of knowing. The tide is shifting, though. I see other professionals waking up to their own inner sense of knowing and using it to guide their careers and their organizations.

When we bring our souls - through our intuition - into the conversations we're having, the content we're producing, or the art we're creating, we integrate our lizard brains and have a chance to thrive instead of merely survive. We get grounded and make decisions that are based in trust and openness instead of an obsession to stay safe and never change.

using your intuition to work smarter webinarIf this topic resonates with you, I'd encourage you to sign up for my free webinar on April 28th called Using Your Intuition to Work Smarter. In this live 60-minute session, I'll be talking a lot about how to actually tap into your inner sense of knowing so that you can be one of the brave few who are ready to work beyond the world of the lizard brain.