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Using psychology to become a better leader with Dino Signore | On Top of PR podcast

By On Top of PR

On Top of PR podcast: Using psychology to become a better leader with guest Dino Signore and show host Jason Mudd episode graphicIn this episode of On Top of PR, host Jason Mudd and guest Dino Signore discuss the brain and how to apply the SCARF method.



Our episode guest is Dino Signore, manager of entrepreneurial education at the Edward Lowe Foundation and president of Signore Group. Dino is an entrepreneur, educator, and business psychologist.


Five things you’ll learn from this episode:

  1.  What the SCARF method is and how it can be used to improve leadership 

S: Status: how we perceive our position in relation to others, such as our bosses, peers, etc. This can include job titles, salaries, and anything else associated with status

C: Certainty: how sure we feel about events, situations, or people that affect us 

A: Autonomy: the level of control we have over the decisions that affect us

R: Relatedness: the quality of our relationships with others and our sense of belonging

F: Fairness: our sense of justice and right and wrong

  1. How to influence others by using knowledge of how the brain works
  2. Why some past management techniques may no longer work
  3. How stress affects your ability to think clearly 
  4. How the limbic system and prefrontal cortex work together to influence our responses to the world around us


  • “Leadership can be defined a lot of different ways, and one way I like to define it is that it is an act of influence.” — @DinoSignore
  • “We use our prefrontal cortex to make sense of the world. But the challenge is that if somebody has their limbic system activated, and in some cases hyperactivated, it is almost impossible to be able to think.” — @DinoSignore
  • “What are the things that you're doing leadership-wise, management-wise, that could be pushing people away from you versus pulling them toward what you want them to do?” — @DinoSignore
  • “One of our accolades is that we went 63 months with zero turnover at our agency, and a lot of that had to do with listening and being collaborative, and giving autonomy.” — @jasonmudd9

If you enjoyed this episode, would you please share it with others and leave us a review?


About Dino Signore

Our episode guest is Dino Signore, manager of entrepreneurial education at the Edward Lowe Foundation and president of Signore Group. Dino is an entrepreneur, educator, and psychologist with a Doctorate in Business Psychology. He leads all of the learning events at the Edward Lowe Foundation. Through the Signore Group, Dino coaches and consults directly with second-stage entrepreneurs and executive directors on the management challenges that stem from growth.


Guest’s contact info and resources:

Additional resources

Episode recorded: Oct 28, 2021


Sponsored by:

  • On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
  • On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
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About your host Jason Mudd

On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.


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Episode Transcript


- [Announcer] Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.


- Hello, and welcome to on top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd, and I'm with Axia Public Relations. and today I've got a special guest, Dino Signore. Dino is the manager of entrepreneurial education at the Edward Lowe Foundation, he's also the president of Signore Group, and he focuses on entrepreneur, he's an entrepreneur educator and psychologist. I'm really pleased to have him on the show today. Dino welcome, we're glad you're here.


- Hi Jason, glad, glad to be here.


- So Dino and I have met through the times that I have attended the Edward Lowe Foundation, which is a beautiful facility, offering excellent entrepreneur content and even content for employees that work at entrepreneurial organizations. Dino, I'm going to ask you to share a little bit. Well first I want to tell our audience what the heck we're talking about today. cause I think they're going to be very interested in that. So we're going to talk about kind of the two main brain functions, and how we as leaders should apply the SCARF method. And before we get into that I want to give you an opportunity to you, Dino, to just tell our audience a little bit about the Edward Lowe Foundation.


- Okay, sure Jason. I've been with Edward Lowe Foundation now for 20 years, and during that timeframe we've developed a primary focus on a specific timeframe for the entrepreneur. We think all entrepreneurs are great. Edward Lowe was the founder of the foundation, he was the inventor of kitty litter. So he himself, as an entrepreneur, had lots of challenges as he was growing his business and he left us a gift that we work on into the future. But we narrowed our focus into what we call second stage entrepreneurs. Second stage entrepreneurs are those privately held firms that are already growing. So we don't work with startups necessarily, and first stages, we interface with those companies that have already done something successful in their markets and the business is growing, and they have a whole different set of challenges as those companies start to grow. They're important for a couple of reasons, they generate create wealth for their communities that they're in, and for the entrepreneur themselves. But most importantly, for us as a foundation, they are the source of new jobs in the economy. And so we see that consistently across all states in the United States, that if you're looking at where new jobs are created, we would point you right towards second stage. And they make up a small portion of the enterprises in the market, but create a about 40% of the new jobs each year. So that's our primary focus. We work with companies all around the country that it's their role to be helping create jobs in their community, so a lot of economic development organizations, a lot entrepreneur support organizations, that's what they're trying to do is create jobs for their state or local areas. And we have programs that we believe help them, help those entrepreneurs.


- Well, Dino, thanks for that, and hopefully towards the end of the episode we'll be able to talk about the wonderful facilities and programming that you have offered there. And of course, for our audience listening, if you may not fit that profile of second stage entrepreneur, or second stage company, I guarantee you're going to learn something and receive value from this conversation, no matter what stage the company you work for, the company you lead, might be in. Because the practices and principles we're gonna talk about today are relevant to all leaders, regardless of their organizations, for-profit, not-for-profit status, or their size and things like that, right Dino?


- That's right. This is applicable, I believe, to anyone in a leadership position, or in management position, trying to help guide an organization. I mean to me, leadership can be defined a lot of different ways, and one way I like to define it is that it is an act of influence. And this will give you some new tools and some new techniques to actually learn how to influence other people, if we know a little bit about how the brain works.


- I love that. That's exactly what we're here to talk about today. So we'll put that in the show notes for sure, as your definition. We'll probably even a post a tweet, or something like that quoting you on that, Dino.


- Okay.


- But let's talk about that.


- Sure. Well, the starting point would be to think about where this began. I mean as a business psychologist, which is what my PhD is in, and I was fascinated by things like human nature, and motivation, engagement, and how do we lead, and really there's a new era that psychology has entered into, it's based upon some cognitive psychology insight, but also, in the last 25 years, the emergence of a new technology called the FMRI machine. And so this is the machine where they strap individuals up to different electrodes, and they run certain stimulus in front of the individuals and they watch where blood flow, and oxygen flow tends to go in the brain, and the brain has certain patterns that it sees. So, based upon now being able to kind of quote unquote peer into the brain, we can see what actually causes certain parts of the brain to be engaged and light up. and other ones that maybe also reflect similar type of areas that cause a little bit more pain, and people move away from it. So it's great new insight, still at the very early stages of it. You say 25 years, but there's a lot more to learn about the brain. And all I want to do a bit of focusing on is really two primary systems that the brain, our brain, has but it has many, many more, and it's much more complex than what we're going to talk about today. But, I kind of boil it down to things that I know it does help us with.


- I remember when I first heard you present on this topic, if I could do anything, I'd go back in time and kick myself for not taking enough notes, because this is very valuable information. And it's very interesting as you were presenting it, I remember thinking "Why is he going in to all this detail?" and whatever, and then you started breaking it down later, and I go, "Man, I should have been taking notes "a long time ago and sticking with it," so. So I'm hoping we can unpack this topic today. And again just helping leaders influence, marketers influence, and communicators better communicate to have influence, so where should we start, Dino?


- I want to make sure I point out that there's been a lot of changes in the United States and how our economy works. And this is kind of where I got started thinking about is that, we started out modern management, let's just say, and of course marketing and public relations as part of modern management. A lot of it was designed about a hundred years ago, a little bit longer than that. And management at that time was based on how do we extract a lot, quite a bit of brawn from the employees, the industrialists of the early past century. They didn't want you to think, they did not want you to have a good time at the job and be engaged, just run the machine was pretty much what they wanted you to do. And a lot of the things that were designed around management were designed back then, and to a degree a lot of it worked, but they were extracting brawn. But it's changed, the economy has changed in our country over the last 100, 125 years, and we have a whole different kind of set of workers that are out there doing, contributing to the economy, and it is the age of the knowledge worker. And there's millions of people working in the knowledge economy. So now we have to step back and go a lot of the techniques that we probably learned back in management certainly worked in a very narrow band situations, but today if we apply those to the knowledge workers, all of a sudden we start noticing they don't have the same effect. Or in some cases they have the opposite effect of what we intend to have. And I think it's because of misunderstanding of how our brain, and how our minds work. And so we need a new set of tools, a new way of thinking, about how do we engage people? How do we bring people closer to us, versus pushing them away? And that's kinda where it came from, so I'm just encouraging leaders to rethink their management techniques, rethink their leadership techniques, and try to apply the stuff that neuroscience is starting to show that actually helps us understand human nature, which of course could be rational, and also very irrational sometimes, but having an understanding about what maybe actually works better than the old techniques is where I'm fascinated at.


- So let's talk about the limbic system, and how that applies to leading, influencing, and people's response and doing, basically.


- That's a great place to start. The limbic system is one of the oldest systems in our brain. You know I'm not a neurobiologist, I'm just a really big fan of neuroscience. And so, but I think when you boil it down to what the limbic system is, it's been around in the human brain for thousands and thousands of years. And what it's hardwired to do is to do a couple things, it either moves us towards something that feels like it's a reward, pleasurable, or it moves us away from something that might be a threat. It's located, if you put your right finger into your right ear, and then your left finger towards your right eye, about where those would intersect, it's about where it's at. So it sits just above where the brainstem comes into your skull, and your brain, but it's a very important part of our brain. It consists of three different parts, and each of those play a pivotal role in keeping us alive and keeping our species moving forward. And again, it's evolutionary, got a headstart on the other part of our brain that we're gonna talk about, but it's been working a long time. It actually shows up for us almost in sort of our unconscious, we don't really think about it that much it just works all the time. And it's really trying to keep us alive and away from threats. I like to say, it is hardwired toward threats, and that reason is basically because we look back at our ancestors from thousands of years ago, and they were running around in the Savannah hunting and gathering. I mean, they may have been in a tribe running after something they were looking for for lunch, they were chasing maybe rabbits into a high grass area of a field, and they see the rabbit go in the field. Now they get the rabbit, then they have a reward, they get lunch, they can continue to survive as a tribe, and as a human being, and that's a pleasurable thing. And they go into, but what they don't know is in that high grass, that maybe there's not just a rabbit, maybe there's a lion, or a tiger in that high grass and now instead of me getting lunch, I might be lunch. And that's a bad day if that happens, right. So we don't enjoy that. So, humans know that, and so that amygdala and that limbic system, is very much attuned to "This is a threat, this is a threat," and we move away from it. So the limbic system is made up of three parts, the amygdala is that alarm bell that goes up, it's that one you just get that creepy little hair standing on your edge of your arm, kinda "Ooh, this is a bad thing, maybe it's dangerous here." That's the amygdala working, that's alarm bell, telling you there's danger here. It's also got the hippocampus, which is located right near it, and that actually forms memories of different things and particularly threats. So if you've seen a snake one time, you don't need to think about it that long, you think "THat's a snake," it recalls it really quickly. And then there's a hypothalamus, and the hypothalamus actually produces neurochemicals. And these neurochemicals flood our bodies, as a psychologist we've been taught that we really don't have anything such as an emotion. There's no such things as emotions, we have neurochemicals, and neurochemicals are things that we label them as certain emotions. But what's your feeling when you have an emotion is a neurochemical that your body's producing.


- Okay, That's cool. And so I like how you said that it's not an emotion, it's a neurochemical, was that what you said?


- Yeah, yeah, yeah. So an example would be what are our brains like pleasure, and likes reward. Our brains do one to two things basically, moves toward a pleasurable thing, moves away from something that's threatening. So if you are with a group of people that you like, parents feel this way toward their children when they first have them, and give birth to them. Women particularly get flooded with a neurochemical called oxytocin. I say, it's oxytocin, it's not Oxycontin, that's a whole other story. But oxytocin, oxytocin is a feel-good neurochemical. We label that as love. Again, I wouldn't advise you to tell your spouse you have a great deal of oxytocin for them, I mean, they would probably not understand. But it bonds us, it bonds the mom to the child. It bonds the couple together. It makes people feel close. We like that, humans like that. And then the other side of the coin there, and that's produced, obviously, in the limbic system, too. The other one, that's a little more damaging, is cortisol. And cortisol is produced in your adrenal glands, right above your kidneys, but it runs in a cycle, it re-triggers your amygdala once it goes, and it's a steroid. If you've ever had a night where you were sound asleep and you woke up out of the blue, bam, you're wide awake, and you're laying there in bed, it's three o'clock in the morning and you're thinking about work, it's most likely cortisol woke you up. Cortisol we label as anxiety, sometimes as fear, so when you combine that with a heavy dose of adrenaline, that's preparing you to run, that's what your body's being told to do, run. And now we don't know, today we're not running away from tigers all that often, but we may watch something scary on the news, or on social media, something that feels like a threat and it wakes you up. And that cortisol is damaging, it stays in your body for about 48 hours, it takes a while to work its way through, and it's what wakes you up. And it's your body telling you there's a threat of some sort, you better run, even though probably don't have that same thing going on, but that's that feeling. So anxiety, I think that there's a lot of anxiety right now going on in the United States and the world, because of things like the pandemic. And I think that that causes a great amount of concern. So again, cortisol makes you move away, that's a threat, move away, oxytocin makes you move towards something that's a reward. Same thing like dopamine, and a few other neurochemicals that move you toward things.


- This is exactly what I was hoping we would get into during this episode, and I hate to interrupt you, but it's time for us to take our break.


- Okay.


- And so we'll be right back on the other side with more from Dino. Thank you for tuning in.


- [Announcer] You're listening to On Top of PR, with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show.


- Well, welcome back to On Top of PR, I'm your host, Jason Mudd, Thanks again to our sponsors for their support of this podcast of which without them it wouldn't be possible. I want to bring back Dino. Dino, you were talking about some interesting stuff and I am intrigued by it, and I always want to learn more about it. So speaking of learning more about it, if somebody's interested in what we're talking about here today, what are some easy, and quick resources you might point them to, to become more familiar about what you're talking about. Kind of at a high level, like a traditional entrepreneur, you know, operates?


- Well, I mean, where I would start would be there's an organization out of New York called the NeuroLeadership Institute, and working for them is Dr. David Rock. David Rock has been very influential in a lot of the thoughts that I'm having, and about this. He's written several books, writes a lot of articles, great organization. He is actually the person who sort of coined the SCARF model phrase, which we'll talk about in a few minutes.


- [Jason] Okay.


- So that would be a great place to start, and then there are people like, Dan Ariely, and Dan Pink, who do a lot more around behavioral economics. They have work that's really based upon how the irrational mind works as well. So those would be a couple I'd recommend at the top.


- Perfect. And for our audience, we'll be sure to put that in the show notes, and maybe links to those websites resources, and if they published some books we'll put some links there to that as well. So that's perfect. Thank you for sharing that, Dino. During the break, you and I were talking a little bit and it was interesting. So I loved what you said, I'd like you to share with our audience, which is, we were in an environment that was politically charged, then we had COVID, and then we had an election, and we had racial inequality issues, and just this crazy storm during 2020. Help us apply those events to our brain and the things we're talking about today.


- Well, you know, it's possible as you think about it, where we normally as human beings experience the world in a lot of different ways, but we're always on the lookout for threats. And I think we've had a difficult time the last couple of years, challenging to kind of stay mentally healthy about it. And so, we prefer, what we were just talking about was that we prefer to be with people that we like, and our friends, so you think about how we had to go virtual, and we had to be pushed away from offices, and we couldn't go out in public all that much, and there was the lockdowns, things like that. I mean, it probably generated a loss of oxytocin. Where we don't have that feel good neurochemical, we're not around people that we used to be around. So then that drops, and then of course, with all the other stimuli that seems to be more of a threat, COVID, possible downturn in the economy, political unrest, all those things are going on, and we just watch the news. We're ratcheting up our cortisol production. It's a bad combination. A lot of cortisol, a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, but we don't have that balancing oxytocin. So it takes a lot of work to begin to build that oxytocin piece back up. And that's what we were chatting about. It's like, I bet the world right now is seemingly full of cortisol, and that makes us a little bit on edge, a lot on edge in cases.


- And that can be dangerous in many ways, too, right? I mean, a disagreement can amplify very quickly between two people, two or more people, and next thing you know, you've got chaos. Chaos ensues, right?


- It can spark a lot of problems, and yeah, and so it takes a lot of work to get on top of that yourself. And again, we're only responsible really for what we can do, and how we respond to it. And that the brain is doing this kind of cognitive work, and then it has the emotional neurochemical work, and then we look at behavior that comes out of that. And it's that behavior, that's the part that we all see when somebody kind of loses their cool, or gets angry, and that's not a good thing. And we want to be able to persuade people to maybe act a little more civil, or to do something that we think is a little more positive, and so understanding some of these things that could be causing their own problems. And I'd look at it from a leadership perspective, too, that are people know able to do their work as productively and engaging as they can. And engagement is a major issue right now in business.


- Sure, sure. Well, and as we keep talking through these, and we're talking about the brain, and fears and things, I think it's good that we kind of turn that around and look at it from the person who's trying to influence, what they need to do tactically, or even strategically, to be more appealing to the audience they're presenting to, or trying to persuade. but let's go ahead and start, We're running out of time quickly. So I want to talk about the prefrontal cortex.


- Yep, Yeah, That's the other system that is closely, that is very important. And it's definitely interacts with the limbic system. I mean, so the prefrontal cortex is referred to as the executive function of our brain. It is the part that produces our consciousness. And it's located just behind your forehead here, it's a very thin membrane. It has not been around in human beings as long as the limbic system has been around. They estimate 65-70,000 years, and it runs out of energy rather quickly. So when you get that lagging drop-off at about two or three in the afternoon, it's your prefrontal cortex probably running out of energy. The prefrontal cortex provides our ability to think about the future, to be engaged and motivated. It allows us to basically control as much as we can, the limbic system, and it sorta is trying to make sense of things. So like we see a photograph of a Bengal tiger. your prefrontal cortex says, "That's a photo of a Bengal tiger, "that's not a real Bengal tiger." But the limbic system doesn't always know the difference, so it has to sort of help manage that process. So it's much like your cell phone, if you overuse it during the course of the day your battery will drain really fast. And so we use our prefrontal cortex to make sense of the world. But the challenge is that if somebody has their limbic system activated, and in some cases hyperactivated, it is biologically impossible to be able to think. The limbic system overrules the prefrontal cortex, because it's got a longer headstart, been at it a lot longer, and it's hardwired to protect us. And so no matter how much you try to think your way through something, it's not going to happen. So if we're scaring our employees, or we're scaring our society, they're not going to make good decisions. It's hard to make good decisions anyway, but it's difficult when you're limbic system is over-activated. So really if we take knowledge workers, and we do things that scare them, we're actually diminishing our productivity because they're not going to be able to think while that's happening. So our prefrontal cortex is very important. One last thing about it, it allows us to think about our thinking. What are you thinking about? Why are you thinking these things? That's coming out of your prefrontal cortex. By doing enough of that over a period of time, you start to reach an area that's referred to as metacognition, and you're able to self-diagnose those things better yourself, of what's actually happening in the environment, what's happening to you, and why are you acting a certain way? And if we are constantly overwhelmed with cortisol, constantly feeling like our limbic system is hyperactivated, where we're just not going to do a lot of good thinking. And knowledge workers will disengage really quickly because they can't stay engaged, they can't stay motivated, because that's the issue. And I think we're doing a lot of things in management that cause that hyperactivity of the limbic system, and that's the area that I tend to focus on in my practice. What are the things that you're doing leadership wise, management wise, that could be pushing people away from you versus pulling them toward what you want them to do.


- And Dino, for full disclosure, we're recording this on October 28th, it'll air weeks later. But right now in the current economic environment, the last thing employers are looking to do is push away workers. And for our audience, the person who's consuming this content is a knowledge worker, is a member of the creative class. They may be targeting through their corporate communications, marketing and PR non-knowledge workers, but their co-workers, at least, in their department are definitely not knowledge workers and creative class workers. And so if they're in a leadership position in that corporate communications or marketing department, they're definitely thinking about these things right now.


- Yeah, yeah, I would agree. I think that, they're probably trying to be as creative as possible, to be as productive as possible. And knowledge workers, I mean they get this, they're the ones that I think when you hear the phrase, the age of resignation, which is what we're just sort of hearing a lot more about these days, people are leaving jobs, and I think they leave bad managers. I think the only places that are not conducive to good thinking, particularly, the whole idea about virtual employees, they like autonomy. And then the SCARF model, the, a stands for autonomy. If that's pulled back too quickly, you could literally lose even more people, so you've gotta be super careful with how we talk with and lead our knowledge workers.


- Yeah, yeah. And, you and your organization thankfully enlightened me to a lot of these concepts several years ago, five or more years ago, not quite 10, but certainly that was just very enlightening and helped me pivot in my leadership style and prepare for really the environment we're in today I think in many ways.


- Good, good.


- And so, one of our accolades is that we went 63 months with zero turnover at our agency, and a lot of that had to do with, listening, and being collaborative, and giving autonomy, and other things. And so let's transition from there into the SCARF model and go through that as, just candidly we're quickly running out of time, but I think it would be very beneficial to spend some time on the SCARF model. And we've already identified that the A in it is for autonomy. What do the other letters stand for?


- Yeah, and it's interesting, this is from David Rock, and I like it a lot because it does give you a framework to think about your management practices, and your management techniques, and what either pulls somebody toward you or pushes somebody away. So the S stands for status, and it's one of the stronger psychological concepts. We care deeply about status as human beings, we're constantly comparing ourselves to other people. If we feel like we're comparing a lower status than somebody else, it triggers the threat response, people then push away from that. If we feel like we have higher status, people tend to live a longer, longer, they live a more productive live. So it's interesting, I call it like a teeter-totter. We have to be careful when we tell people what to do, we give them advice. And my least favorite thing to do is give somebody a performance evaluation, because all of a sudden now I'm pushing down to a lower status. And so we care deeply about it. And so, if we ask questions, if we use appreciative inquiry techniques, you'll raise the status of the other person, and they'll be more engaged. People are going to feel better when they have been, psychologically had their status raised.


- [Jason] So, I'm sorry, give me an example of that.


- The asking questions part? Well, asking a question is basically for the person who is doing the inquiry is, and even it's sort of something you kind of know a little bit about, you still ask the other person again, and get them to give you their view of what it is. And so psychologically, when I ask someone a question I'm temporarily being vulnerable and I'm lowering my status. "Okay, I'm going to ask you a question here." So I ask a question, you have to say it exactly like that, but you ask a question of the other person that shows that you're curious about them, you're curious about their response. And so they will feel it, and they go "Oh, okay," and then they'll say something back. Anybody that's having any kind of trouble or issues, quite often, we feel lower status because we can't fix it ourselves. So anybody who's in a helping profession typically goes at it with, I mean, "Let me ask some questions here at the beginning," versus, I just don't think giving advice is a good thing to do. We have neuroscience has shown us that the moment I tell you what to do, if I go, "Let me, Jason, let me give you a bit of feedback." Just saying the word, your brain will start to light up back here behind your right ear, and it'll stay red for a while. And what it is is the same area where you actually have physical pain, it's just called social pain. And the word feedback keeps it there longer, it stays longer. The social pain lasts longer, just using that word. So think about how many times we do performance evaluations, and how it could be harmful if it's not done right. And I know many companies these days have really abandoned the idea of the formal performance evaluation. They're doing something different, they're having conversations, they're having, they're setting goals, they're talking about progress, they're talking about servant leadership. Not me judging you, that's going to trigger the limbic system right away. So yeah, there's a lot to be gleaned from that status one, and so it's really important. Think about a lot of stuff too, like images of status, corner offices, employee of the month, parking spots, things like that all convey status. Some cases it's good, but a lot of cases it's not. And so we had to just really think some of those through.


- [Jason] Okay.


- The C stands for certainty. And certainty, our brains like to think about the future, and we prefer to think that we know what's coming, what we want it to be, what we think is going to be. But thinking about the future, well there's a lot of unknown things about the future, we don't know, it creates a lot of uncertainty, so that itself triggers the limbic system. So if we're a leader, even in times of challenging times, you have to give them some idea that you have a plan and then you're going to do something about it. So sharing business plans, being transparent as possible about what you know, and what you don't know. If you'd let things go where it's a little, it's constantly uncertain, you can create panic because people start to disengage and want to run away from that. During the pandemic last year, at the beginning of it I remember I kept saying to people that I reserve the right to be a lot smarter next week. It was just like, we don't know what this is, how long it's going to last.


- [Jason] Right. And so over time you kind of get your arms around it. So the leader needs to give clarity about what they know. Now I'm not saying they have to lie, but you've got to tell them what you know, and be as realistic as possible. Of course the A stands for autonomy. People love autonomy, especially knowledge workers. And that means that you have a lot, the employee has a lot of control about the work they do, when they do their work, where they do their work, who they do their work with, and all that really matters is that they get the work done. I mean, so as a manager, or a leader, all I'm thinking about is results, getting results done. That all that matters, and within a set of ethical guidelines, if you want to do it by working at Panera Bread all day, or you're working at home all day, it doesn't matter to me, it just matters getting things done.


- [Jason] Right.


- The last two is, are still interesting, the relatedness part is what R is. And so relatedness is the piece that human beings like, we're small group animals, we like to be with others that are like us and like the same things we like. When we're together with our families, we should be experiencing oxytocin, and that's that connection feeling, we like it, you know, love, joy, happiness, those kinds of things. And then in companies when they do a little internal branding, when they have their own, "This is our core values, who we are," having that social network at work is good. That was a big struggle this past year, because everybody got pushed out of all their offices in many cases. And so very hard to do social type of things when we were, during the pandemic, so we're probably missing a little bit that right now. People certainly tried to do more stuff virtually, and it has, it's good, but it has its own limitations as well.


- [Jason] Sure.


- So we need to be focused on that. And the last one is probably the hardest one, is F stands for fairness. And quite often sometimes in business decisions we make are not always seemingly fair, but human beings care deeply about justice, and what is perceived as fair. They will go, they will fight, they will fight to the death over things that don't seem fair. And hopefully we never get to that place in business, but sometimes, if you're making decisions in business that you might feel are good for the short term, but they may seem somewhat unfair, you've got to rethink that because that could damage your company in the long run. So no, all of these things have, if you look at the SCARF model, there are things you can do on the positive side to promote all of the status, to give more certainty, to give more autonomy, to bond a little bit more doing the relatedness, and also be fair, promote a reward kind of feelings, People will be engaged in it. Then if anything is happening on the other side of that equation, that could be producing the limbic system reaction, that's a negative. well, it's going to disengage people and that could be damaging for your company.


- Yeah, when you were talking about relatedness, it started, we're doing a lot, thinking a lot, and developing a lot of programming around diversity, equity and inclusion.


- Yeah.


- When you mentioned relatedness, is that a barrier to the ability for companies to embrace, and individuals to embrace, and how do you move past that?


- Well, yeah, if silos start to form in your company, and a lot of times they do, you can begin to see the triggering of that threat response. Like if our operations doesn't get along with marketing very well, that could create the threat response. Quite often human beings, we can segment human beings in a lot of different ways. So let's say young people are not allowed to be brought into decision-making by the senior leaders. Well, the young people may disengage because they're not feeling relatedness here. And it can happen with gender, women can feel the same way. That's what's been really damaging over the years with the glass ceiling, they feel that, and they move away from it. They don't like it, it disengages them, and it can be bad. So it's like, how do you build a company where it kind of goes, it is definitely diverse, and those groups do mix with each other really well, and they create a sense of a larger whole, versus their own little silos. Siloization is a form of the bad part of this, the negative part of it.


- Right, exactly. Dino, we are out of time, and I appreciate all you've shared today. I feel like you and I could continue this conversation for hours. And so if there's an audience member who wants to connect with you, either organizationally, or individually, what's their best way to reach you?


- Well, two ways. You can look me up on LinkedIn, I pretty much accept anyone who asks, and then my contact information is there. I've also got my own website, it's just the SignoreGroup.com, and all one word, I think it works both ways, but you can find me there. And of course my email address, if you want to email me, it's my first name, Dino, D-I-N-O at Signoregroup.com.


- Perfect, thank you. And I would just advise anybody listening to this, if you reach out to Dino, or anybody on LinkedIn, always do a custom invitation, tell them how you heard of them, so that they're more likely to connect with you, then just assume that they're either going to figure it out, or they recognize your name, or whatever the case might be. Because I know personally people just send me an invite and I don't know who they are, and I'd prefer the context and the background, of course. Yeah Dino, this was huge. As kind of an extra credit bonus thing here, for just a quick second or a quick minute, could you just give some background on the awesome facilities you guys have there at Big Rock Valley? Because I know I can't describe it well, but I'm sure you've been trained in a way to do it. But you guys have excellent facilities there, and I love visiting.


- Well, yeah, we love the Big Rock Valley experience. Edward Lowe, when he started his foundation, he was still alive, and he would put a little bit of money in here and there. And he had bought a lot of property over his lifetime. When he passed away in 1995, that's when he gave the foundation his financial gift he had planned on giving. And basically he also turned over, at what that time was about 2,500 acres in Southwest Michigan. He had built a small conference center out there with the idea of bringing entrepreneurs out. Now we've enhanced the conference center over the years, and it's a first-class meeting space. And it basically is, it's a beautiful wooded areas. We're very, very choosy about who gets to use it, though. I made sure I told this caveat, we only offer it to our partners, and we don't have, we're not like open for weddings and things like that.


- [Jason] Right.


- You need to be affiliated with a partner that we are affiliated with, and you need to be a second stage entrepreneur, of a privately held company. So like Ford Motor Company wanted to bring a group out for a retreat. We don't do that. We stay totally to the second stage entrepreneur. But if you are a second stage entrepreneur, and if you're involved with some of our partners, which we have some in Florida, and we have some in Louisiana, and Michigan, and a couple other spots around the country, then you may find yourself at some point out at Big Rock Valley.


- Absolutely. And I would recommend if you get that invitation, take advantage of it, you'll be very glad you did. Dino, thank you for your time today, and helping our audience stay On Top of PR when it comes to the limbic system, prefrontal cortex, the SCARF model, and other brain functions. I think that neuroscience is fascinating, and if we're not studying it yet, we certainly should be in order to best serve our clients, our employers, and advance the profession. So thanks to Dino for joining us. If you found this episode valuable, would you please do us a favor and share it with a colleague that you think would benefit from watching it? Or consuming it, whether they do it audio, or through video. Either way, this is Jason Mudd signing off from Axia Public Relations, thank you for joining us today.


- [Announcer] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd. Many thanks to our solo cast sponsor Burrelles for making this episode possible. Burrelles has a special offer just for On Top of PR fans, check it out at Burrelles.com/OnTopOfPR.

Topics: PR tips, On Top of PR

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