How to Bring in Physical Intelligence to a Team

Excerpt from “Physical Intelligence” by Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton (Simon & Schuster).

John, a regional leader, recently was assigned to a new team that needed a new strategy. John thought he had the answer. He gathered the team and with the chemistry of confidence—high testosterone (power/control) and DHEA (vitality), optimal low levels of cortisol (stress), well-managed dopamine (pleasure/reward), and plenty of available adrenalin (excitement) and acetylcholine (balance)—shared his ideas.

He had established trust with his new team and the team members trusted each other, so with lots of oxytocin (social bonding) across the team, several team members told John they thought he was wrong. Surprised but receptive, unthreatened and curious, John demonstrated high DHEA, and asked the team for their ideas, releasing dopamine.

Three new ideas emerged in addition to John’s, one of which was considered “crazy” by all but a few staunch advocates. They couldn’t agree on the best approach, so John suggested they divide into four teams, with each team using one of the four proposed approaches for an entire quarter. This solution gave everyone status and restored balance, releasing serotonin (happiness). They all agreed the approach that generated the best results by the end of the quarter would be adopted by the entire team. In the end, the “crazy” idea was the most successful and eventually was implemented company-wide, significantly improving performance.

What if, when challenged, John—new to his role and under pressure to make an impact—hadn’t trusted his team? What if he had dug in his heels and insisted that they adopt his idea, (demonstrating a mixture of high testosterone, high cortisol, high dopamine and high adrenalin, consistent with greed, entitlement, and omnipotence)? The team likely would have buckled under that pressure, adopting John’s idea, but grudgingly. Innovation would have been stifled, teamwork, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and business results all would have suffered. Instead, John managed his physical response to the feedback, eliciting a more positive physical response from the team and created an environment that brought about more significant change than he could have achieved on his own.

The approach taken by John and his team are excellent examples of Physical Intelligence in action. Hundreds of chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) racing through our bloodstreams and nervous systems dictate how we think, feel, speak, and behave. Most of us operate largely at the mercy of those chemicals—experiencing thoughts, reactions, and emotions—without realizing we can strategically influence them. Physical Intelligence is the ability to detect and actively manage the balance of certain key chemicals through how we breathe, move, think, and interact—enabling us to stress less, achieve more, and live (and work) more happily. When the balance of those chemicals is right, we call it “the Winning Cocktail.”

When teams commit to developing Physical Intelligence, they credit it with having a measurable commercial impact at the organizational, team, and individual level—increased profit, revenue growth, operating efficiency, customer and employee satisfaction scores, etc.—all within months of using Physical Intelligence. Based on neuroscientific research and those results, we believe Physical Intelligence doesn’t just sit alongside but underpins our Cognitive Intelligence (IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Physical Intelligence truly does power our performance.

There are more than 100 Physical Intelligence techniques—some only take seconds. Through training in four key areas, people learn to actively manage their own chemical cocktail, enhancing their—and the organization’s—performance.

1. Strength: Strength is the capacity to keep a cool head under pressure, act/speak decisively and wisely in complex, high-risk situations, without feeling threatened or threatening others. With Strength, we look and feel confident. Without strength, when threatened, cognitive function diminishes and we become preoccupied with fight, flight, blame, or saving face. Use posture, breathing, and grounding to build/maintain/regain confidence.

  • Pay attention to posture. Stand/sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor, shoulders back, head up, core strong, and bottom tucked under. Reduce nerves and increase confidence, by standing in a winner (starfish) pose for two minutes before key events (balancing cortisol and adrenalin).
  • Practice paced breathing to increase mental/emotional stability and handle situations with better clarity, balance, and control. Spend 10-plus minutes daily breathing diaphragmatically, smoothly, regularly, measuring the length of each in and out breath, finding the counts comfortable for you (in and out counts can be different).
  • Center yourself to put things in perspective and promote confidence and inner strength. Feel the weight of your body on the ground/in the chair—rooted, not “uptight.” Continue paced breathing; release tension; find your center of gravity (move your body forwards, sideways, and backwards to find the optimal point); breathe down to your center of gravity and focus. Repeat three times: Balance, Breathe, Focus.

2. Flexibility: Flexibility refers to collaboration, creativity, and innovation, breaking down silos, promoting agile thinking, instigating/adopting change, and adapting to different communication or behavior styles.

Changes in our environment lead to changes in our bodies. Because change brings uncertainty, we naturally tense up (leading to narrow thinking, inhibiting creativity) or collapse (leading to low self-esteem and loss of hope). Serotonin enables us to be flexible. Oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin together enable us to be socially responsible, creative, and happy. DHEA makes boosting the other three chemicals possible, helping us adapt and flex, better able to learn new things, improving versatility. With enhanced flexibility we can create cultures built on kindness, trust, and creativity.

  • Stretch to release “hot spots” where you hold tension.
  • Shake out your arms and legs.
  • Twist at the waist twice a day.
  • Spark creativity by taking a walk or looking at beautiful objects in art/nature.
  • Encourage a combination of convergent and divergent thinking across teams.

3. Resilience: Resilience is our ability to bounce back from adversity and conflict, remain optimistic and constructive in the face of failure, and adopt a learning mindset. The time to build resilience is before we need it.

  • Emotional, mental and physical fitness are resilience resources that help build a well-functioning immune system and are vital to counteracting today’s demanding pace and time spent in overdrive. Good food, hydration, meditation, massage, and sunshine all build resilience. Maintain optimal cortisol levels by writing the word, “REST” (Retreat, Eat [healthy], Sleep, and Treat) in blocks in your weekly schedule; guard those windows.
  • Increase transparency and build networks to foster trust.
  • Effectively process negative events. Dwelling on problems drains energy and raises cortisol. Learn to let go. Think of a setback or mistake you’ve made. Zoom in—see a “close-up” of yourself. Remember the intensity of feelings at the time. Zoom out—hover in wide angle over the scene. Know that you’re not alone, others have experienced/are experiencing similar situations. If you’re dwelling on something, talk to someone you trust about it, then commit to letting it go.

4. Endurance: Endurance is about mental toughness, determination, perseverance and planning, sustaining effort and maintaining peak performance over the long haul. When things are physically, emotionally, and mentally difficult, and extreme patience is required, we need endurance.

  • The executive function of our brains, (carried out by the pre-frontal cortex), is extremely energy hungry. Brain activity consumes up to 20 percent of the body’s energy—more than any other single organ. Breathing techniques, exercise, sleep, and diet are critical factors in having enough energy.
  • Motivate, encourage, and appreciate others to drive endurance. Motivation improves when we’re aligned with our values and core purpose, doing work that uses our strengths to the fullest. Becoming more conscious of these motivations increases the likelihood that we will persevere. Celebrate your own and others’ successes. Giving/receiving appreciation fuels dopamine, helping improve focus on challenging goals.

Use these techniques to manage your chemical cocktail and power your performance!

Excerpt from “Physical Intelligence by Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton (Simon & Schuster), available now in ebook and hardback formats.

Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton the authors of “Physical Intelligence (Simon & Schuster) and are directors of Companies in Motion, which offers Physical Intelligence coaching and training to industry leaders, including a global investment bank and a multinational pharmaceutical organization.

A British dancer and choreographer, Claire Dale founded the Claire Russ Ensemble, a contemporary dance company, which toured Europe for 15 years, before becoming a communications tutor at RADA Business, specializing in leadership training. She has spent a lifetime working with and researching the bodyfirst as a dancer and artistic director, then as founding director of Companies in Motion.

Patricia Peyton has spent 30 years working with Fortune 100 and FTSE 1000 organizations globally to help individuals and teams improve their performance. She is the managing director of Sphere International and has dedicated her career to helping individuals and teams enhance their performance through leadership, sales, and communications consulting and training. She sits on the Board of Trustees at Emerson College in the U.S., as well as being a director of Companies in Motion.