Feed Your Need to Learn with 15-Minute Microlearning Bites

Feed Your Need to Learn with 15-Minute Microlearning Bites

“There is a big disconnect between what science knows and what business does.” So claimed Daniel Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. One of the three elements of true motivation, Pink found, is the deeply human need to learn.

Our workplace training typically takes place in multi-hour or multi-day group settings. The minute we finish the learning, our chances of remembering starts to drop. Ten days after the training, our retention falls to 60%. By Day 20, it falls to 25%. By Day 40, our chances of remembering drops to just 10%. That’s an incredibly expensive and inefficient way of learning.

So, how do you find the time for learning and sharpening your leadership skills when faced with the urgency of work?  The answer, according to the Journal of Applied Psychology and Harvard Business Review researchers alike, is microlearning. Microlearning is learning that has been curated specifically to take advantage of your brain’s natural tendencies. Your working memory can hold only four to five key concepts at any given time. Microlearning, then, is designed to share only a few key concepts in any given lesson. This makes the transfer on learning to the desk much more efficient.

What’s more, microlearning greatly improves retention. Although science tells us how our brains are hardwired for learning, our workplace training still typically takes place in half-day or full-day group settings. The minute we finish the learning, our chances of remembering what we just learned begins to drop. Ten days after the training, our retention falls to 60%. By Day 20, it falls to 25%. Just 40 days after the training our chances of remembering drops to just 10%.

That’s why we’ve partnered with awarding-winning Blue Ocean Brain® to bring microlearning journeys to your laptop or smart phone. The platform is used by trusted brands like MetLife, Siemens, and Panasonic to deliver microlearning to give their employees globally-relevant, fresh, on-demand content.

For the price of a cup of coffee a day – and in less time than it takes you to drink it –  you could learn how Appreciative Coaching works, or find out Why Saying, “Good Job!” Really Isn’t that Great and what to do instead.

Coaching Others

Need to have a difficult conversation? Check out How Effective Leaders Deliver Difficult News, or How to Name the Elephant in the Room.

Microlearning topics like these helps keep you competitive in today’s market. You can feed your need to learn the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and retain what you learn as you go.

Question: Where do your turn to get just-in-time solutions to your most pressing workplace challenges?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

3 Easy Steps to Rewire Your Brain  When You Feel Triggered

3 Easy Steps to Rewire Your Brain When You Feel Triggered

Power causes brain damage.

If you’ve ever had a former friend get promoted then develop a case of colleague amnesia, you know this to be true. Or, if you saw the sorry, not sorry, congressional hearing of now-former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf for failing to stop some 5,000 employees from setting up phony accounts for customers, you’ve seen it in living color.

At times like these, you may wonder, “What was going through his head?” Research suggests that the better question may be: “What wasn’t going through it?” Historian Henry Adams described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” According to research by Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, that’s not far from the truth.

My friend and CEE Co-Founder, Dr. Tony Baron, and I flew to Berkeley in the fall of 2016 to pay a visit to Professor Keltner, who had just published a book called The Power Paradox. Using MRIs to study the brain, Keltner and his students found that when a person experiences power, the brain gets a little surge of dopamine — the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, love, addiction, and psychotic behavior.

The paradox, Keltner found, is that dopamine can also suppress our ability to empathize. That’s not good news for the people we’re supposed to be leading. (Read more about Professor Keltner’s findings here.)

Dr. Baron and I also reviewed what Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, refers to as the “amygdala hijack”. If you’ve ever experience road rage, you’re familiar with this phenomenon. Here’s a simplified breakdown of how the amygdala hijack works.

Our brains are made up of three parts. The first and oldest is the brain stem. It’s responsible for the body’s basic operating functions like breathing and heartbeat. Next, comes the limbic system where the amygdalae are located. The amygdalae activate during times of stress. They are responsible for “fight or flight” responses that have helped keep us from over processing things since the days when cavemen crossed paths with saber-toothed tigers. Over the limbic system is the neocortex, which is responsible for logic and reason.

When the amygdalae are triggered by stress, they race into action. First, they signal the brain stem to release adrenaline and cortisol through the body. The heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, and breathing accelerates. Next, the amygdalae shut down the flow of blood to the neocortex, because using logic and reasoning could cause you to delay jumping into immediate action.

That’s the amygdala hijack. And though we’ve evolved from living in caves to condos, our brains don’t know the difference between a saber-tooth and a distracted driver. When someone cuts us off in traffic, we can lose the ability to reason. Our focus narrows, and all we can think is “I’m right and she’s wrong!”

We get triggered the same way when we are in a stressful meeting, or even when we replay memories of stressful events. Adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. What’s worse is that these stress hormones can stay in the body for up to 4 hours, which is why we may stay amped up long after the stressful situation has passed. There’s a term for that effect too – the amygdala hangover.

So, is there anything that we can do to avoid an amygdala hijack? Fortunately, yes.

1. Recognize when you are triggered. 

If you get easily triggered at work, especially when you’re in meetings with the same people each week, this is an excellent opportunity to practice avoiding an amygdala hijack. You might start by going to the meeting, getting upset, staying upset for a day or two before you realize that you were triggered. The next week, you go to the meeting, get upset, and stay that way until you get home that evening before you recognize that you’ve been triggered. The next week, you’re in the meeting and you start to feel your chest tighten and your blood pressure rise just before you get upset. You may still get upset, but you notice what’s happening in your body in the moment. Progress!

2. Fire up your neocortex. 

Once you can recognize that you are being triggered in the moment, you can move to Step 2. Thomas Jefferson once said that if you get mad, count to 10. If you get really mad, count to 100. This sounds simplistic, but it actually has the effect that you need to counter an amygdala hijack. When you count, you re-engage the neocortex that was shut off just seconds ago. Counting will give you the ability to re-access logic and will build the distance you need to see things more clearly.

3. Switch your attention. 

Take long, intentional breaths. Again, this sounds simplistic, but when you bring your attention repeatedly to each breath as you have it, you activate the parasympathetic system. That’s the part of your nervous system responsible for “rest and digest.” Taking deep, mindful breaths will have the net result of bringing you back into a calm state.

Recognize when you are triggered, reconnect with your neocortex, and take slow, deep breaths to find the path back to a calm state. Doing so over time will form new neural pathways to re-take control of your brain.

Question: When was the last time you got upset? Did you blame others for your response, or did you recognize that you were triggered?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

The 10 Most Popular TED Talks of 2021

The 10 Most Popular TED Talks of 2021

Want to get out of that “meh” feeling and start finding your flow? Interested in learning more about how mRNA works? Looking for ways to have constructive conversations and deepen your relationships? From speeches on education to the practice of mindfulness, TED Talks are the perfect source of inspiration and taking tiny steps toward showing up as your best self.

Here are the talks that most intrigued and inspired in 2021, including talks by Adam Grant and 7-year old Molly Wright.

10. The Counterintuitive Way to be More Persuasive by Niro Sivanthan

About the speaker: Sivanathan is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the London Business School. His award-winning research has garnered international press coverage and he is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including being selected as one of the World’s 40 Best B-School Professors under 40 by Poets and Quants in 2016.

What this talk is about: How our judgments, decisions and behaviors are regulated by the psychological experience of being cloaked with status and power.




9. The Cure for Burnout (Hint: It Isn’t Self-Care) by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

About the speakers: Emily Nagoski is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling Come As You Are and The Come As You Are Workbook, and coauthor, with her sister, Amelia, of the New York Times bestseller Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.

What this talk is about: In an introspective and deeply relatable conversation, the authors detail three telltale signs that stress is getting the best of you — and share actionable ways to feel safe in your own body when you’re burning out.



8. Meet the Scientist Couple Driving mRNA Vaccine Revolution by Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci

About the speakers: The German couple and founders of BioNTech teamed up with Pfizer on a vaccine that was found to be more than 90 percent effective.

What this talk is about: In this illuminating conversation, the immunologists share the fascinating story of how their decades of mRNA research powered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — and forecast what this breakthrough science could mean for the future of vaccines and other immunotherapy treatments.



7. Using Your Voice is a Political Choice by Amanda Gorman

About the speaker: Amanda Gorman is the first youth poet laureate of the United States. She is best known for her performance of The Hill We Climb during the 2021 presidential inauguration.

What this talk is about: In this fierce talk and performance, Gorman explains why poetry is inherently political, pays homage to her honorary ancestors and stresses the value of speaking out despite your fears.



6. How Your Memory Works – And Why Forgetting is Totally Okay by Lisa Genova

About the speaker: Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist and novelist whose fiction beckons us into the lives of people with neurological disease, making their worlds real and relatable.

What this talk is about: Genova wields her ability to tell a story and her knowledge of the human brain to discuss medical conditions like Alzheimer’s in warmly human terms. She explores how we remember, why we forget and what we can do to improve and protect our memories.



5. The 1-Minute Secret to Forming a New Habit by Christine Carter

About the speaker: As a sociologist, Christine Carter, PhD, inspires large-scale, systemic change in our most common and influential social structures: organizations, families, and schools.

What this talk is about: You know how resolutions often go: you set a goal and start strong … then the motivation runs out and feelings of frustration and shame creep in. The struggle is real — but what if it doesn’t have to be? Carter shares a simple step to shift your mindset and keep you on track to achieving your grandest ambitions.



4. The Science Behind How Parents Affect Child Development by Yuko Munakata

About the speaker: Yuko Munakata is a professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis.

What this talk is about: Parents, take a deep breath: how your kids turn out isn’t fully on you. Of course, parenting plays an important role in shaping who children become, but psychologist Yuko Munakata offers an alternative, research-backed reality that highlights how it’s just one of many factors that influence the chaotic complexity of childhood development.


3. How to Have Constructive Conversations by Julia Dhar

About the speaker: Julia Dhar is a partner at Boston Consulting Group, where she leads the firm’s behavioral insights and behavioral economics initiatives. She helps C-suite executives and frontline managers apply those same tools of communication and negotiation at the moments that matter.

What this talk is about: In this practical talk, Dhar shares three essential features of productive disagreements grounded in curiosity and purpose. The end result? Constructive conversations that sharpen your argument and strengthen your relationships.



2. How to Stop Languishing and Start Finding Flow by Adam Grant

About the speaker: As an organizational psychologist, Adam Grant rethinks how people lead, work and live. Among his guiding principles is to argue like he’s right and listen like he’s wrong.

What this talk is about: Have you found yourself staying up late, joylessly bingeing TV shows and doomscrolling through the news, or simply navigating your day uninspired and aimless? Chances are you’re languishing — a psychic malaise that has become all too common after many months of the pandemic. He breaks down the key indicators of languishing and presents three ways to escape that “meh” feeling and start finding your flow.



1. How Every Child Can Thrive by Five by Molly Wright

About the speaker: Molly Wright, a student from Queensland, Australia, is a passionate advocate for early childhood development. At just seven years old, she’s one of the youngest people ever to give a TED Talk.

What this talk is about: Breaking down the research-backed ways parents and caregivers can support children’s healthy brain development, Wright highlights the benefits of play on lifelong learning, behavior and well-being, sharing effective strategies to help all kids thrive by the age of five.



Question: Which of these remarkable TED Talks did you find most inspiring?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

How to Show Up as Your Best Self in 2022

How to Show Up as Your Best Self in 2022

Chances are, January has you thinking about how to be your best self this year. Doing so likely means taking stock of the rote habits in your life that are causing a drag on your energy. Simple enough in theory. Yet, simple is rarely simplistic.

19th century philosopher William James opined that all of our lives are but a mass of habits. Research published in a 2006 study found that about 40% of our daily action is habitual, which is still a good chunk of time spent in mindless behavior. And that was more than 15 years ago. How much more distracted, distant, and drained are we today by our digital lives and full-frontal political polarization?

If habits and distractions require little conscious thought, it may be time to do some self-evaluation. What is not working in your life? Where is there room to do better? How are you unconsciously sabotaging your own success?

Is it possible that you don’t have a definition of success that is truly meaningful? Does success mean dropping weight or having more Instagram-worthy moments? Or, does success mean showing up for people and committing yourself to social connection?

Maybe it means showing up for yourself first. Maybe you do that by switching one bad habit for one good habit. Not because your waistline is growing, but because, in order to show up as your best self this year, you need to get real about the cumulative effects of unhealthy habits.

There are plenty of resources available with tips and tools for how master the habits in your everyday life. But, before you pick up a title like Gretchin Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, try Rubin’s The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. If you want to explore your why on a more existential level, try this TED interview with David Brooks about his book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

There’s a reason why you made it to January 2022. Whether or not you’re into making New Year’s resolutions, don’t let bad habits and distractions keep you from showing up as your best self.

Question: What is one good habit that you could switch for one that isn’t serving you?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

3 TED Talks to Help Fill Up Your Gratitude Jar

3 TED Talks to Help Fill Up Your Gratitude Jar

This is traditionally the time of year when we start to shift our attention inward, to focus on family and on what we are grateful for. As we enter a transitional stage after a year of trauma and strain, more than ever we need ways to refresh our energies, calm our anxieties, and nurse our well-being. Here are three TED Talks that can help fill up your gratitude jar.

In 2008, Hailey Bartholomew, who lives in Queensland, Australia, was struck with a bone-deep case of the blahs. A visit to a counselor led to her to taking a photo a day for an entire year of the sights that stirred her gratitude.

What good things in your life would you see if you just took the time to look? This practice has an obvious perk: Whenever you need a reminder of what really matters to you , you’ll have your photos to look back on.


A few years ago, author A.J. Jacobs, who is based in New York City, set out on a quest to thank everyone behind one thing in his life that he couldn’t function without: his daily coffee. He noticed that people treated baristas like vending machines.

The next time you get ready to make eye contact with a barista or cashier and thank them, consider also doing one or more of the following: remove your headphones or earbuds, smile, offer a sincere compliment.


Benedictine monk and spiritual teacher David Steindl-Rast suggests that being grateful is as easy as crossing the street — and it consists of the same three steps: “Stop. Look. Go.” He adds, “But how often do we stop? … We have to get quiet. And we have to build stop signs into our lives.”

You can put up the kinds of signs that Br. Steindl-Rast suggests, are you could also stop to take photos of the things that provoke gratitude as Hailey Bartholomew does. Or, you might share a kind word with the person who gives you your morning coffee. Maybe you could set your phone to buzz during the day, and let that be your prompt to survey your surroundings and your life for what’s good.

Question: How can you fill your gratitude jar this month?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

3 Ways to Help Leaders Reflect and Refuel

3 Ways to Help Leaders Reflect and Refuel

During the 3 minutes it will take you to read this post, you’ll probably get an email, a text, a Slack message, a missed call, a social media notification, or some combination of all of the above. Let 30 minutes pass, and you could be swimming in unanswered inbounds. A steady diet of requests for your attention – both electronically and in-person – can leave you overwhelmed and intellectually and emotionally undernourished. You cannot lead effectively when your plate is full, but your cup is empty.

You cannot lead effectively when your plate is full, but your cup is empty.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to create a culture of performance. Research shows that your ability to do so will require you to carve out your most precious resource – time – for yourself to reflect. In his March 2013 Harvard Business Review article, JP Morgan Managing Director Chris Lowney suggested that leaders need to take a mental pit stop. As a former Jesuit seminarian, Lowney recalled that St. Ignatias of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, recommended a practice known as examen. Simply put, it’s the concept of examining your day and taking stock.

Before you move onto your next thing to do, make a commitment to yourself to refuel by practicing the 3 G’s for daily reflection. Find a notebook and select a time and place each day to examen, as follows:

Practice Gratitude. A 2013 survey of 2,000 Americans by the John Templeton Foundation found that people are less likely to feel gratitude about work than anyplace else. In fact, respondents tended to rank their jobs as dead last when asked to list the things they were grateful for. Yet, studies have shown that people who make a habit of recording what they are grateful for have more positive emotions, feel better physically and mentally, and feel more connected to others as a result. What or who at work are you grateful for?

Give Your Reserve. When your tank is low, the last thing you may think about is, “what can I do to help someone else?” But, research confirms that the warm glow you feel after giving someone else a boost can be mapped to neural hedonic activity (aka stimulate pleasure systems in the brain). So, pick up the check for the next person in the drive-thru. Call someone who needs it. Take the neighbor’s garbage cans in. It will brighten their day, and give yourself a lift as well. What little thing could you give today?

Extend Grace. There’s a saying that not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Remember when your colleague cut you off in mid-sentence on Zoom when you were trying to make that point about the new project? Drop it. Whether she did it to undermine you or because she was caught up in brainstorming, it’s over. She’s not burning up thinking about it. While you’re at it, give yourself some grace too. If you’re still punishing yourself for a mistake you made with the best of intentions, let it go. Who can you stop keeping score on?

Especially during these unpredictable days, you’re taking in more information than you ever have before. Make time for yourself to reflect and refuel so that you can turn that information into knowledge, and that knowledge into insight.

Question: What do you do when your plate is full but your cup is empty?



Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!