Do we too often scare people into mediocrity in the workplace? New York Times bestselling author and applied neuroscience expert Christine Comaford thinks so. In her recently released book "Smart Tribes," she says we consistently say and do things that spark unconscious fears and keep people stuck in their "Critter State." This primitive fight, flight, or freeze mode distills all decision mak­ing down to one question: What will keep me safest?

Comaford says too many employees waste time lying low, sucking up, procrastinating, and doing a good enough job. Obviously that doesn't make for a very vital organization.

How do you do that? By not immediately answering every question asked of them. Comaford claims that trains employees to constantly ask questions instead of trying to solve problems. As for company leaders, she says they have to get their people unstuck, replacing their old, limiting mental patterns with new patterns that foster optimal performance.

"Most leaders give orders all of the time, and then they complain that they have a culture of order-takers," the author told Business Insider in this post. "Well, they created that."

So where does the Smart Tribe piece come in? Here is her definition of the "smart" place:

In this state we're able to access all of our internal resources and respond from choice instead of reacting impulsively from fear. We're able to envision an existing future and feel drawn and compelled by it, as we eagerly anticipate the exciting rewards it holds.

The latest neuroscience research shows that our very sense of survival depends upon a sense of belonging. When that sense of belonging isn't there, even in the workplace, fear kicks in. And our primal survival "fight/flight/freeze" brain takes the driver's seat and kicks our innovative brain to the curb. A tribe is all about collaboration, connection, shared goals and emotional engagement.Now here is the "tribe" part from the book:


Comaford says Smart Tribes are essential if you want to:

  • Navigate rapid growth
  • Increase accountability, communication and execution
  • Resolve conflict or improve alignment
  • Improve the communication skills of company leaders
  • Execute a new business model

In the book, Comaford presents the five qualities that define top-performing teams, the three essential keys to starting your Smart Tribe, four factors of a sustainable team, six meta-programs that impact outcomes, and so on.

She also has sidebars, anecdotes, and end notes covering “Stuck Spots."

I first heard about the book from the HR manager at a small start-up. She says the company is in a constant cash crunch and simply can't afford any dead weight. She used the book to help her tell the subtle difference between disenfranchised and disengaged employees and even make a personnel decision in one case.

Have any of you among our Staffing Talk readers read it? If so, we'd love to hear from you. If not, we'd also like to learn what you think about what you read of the book here so far.

Tags: News, New York Times, Business Insider, Christine Comaford, Smart Tribes, Critter State, Flight or fight