Brain Coral Workplace Trust

Best-Self Management Podcast, Episode 3: A Shared Experience Of Workplace Trust

By David Hassell

We’ve all heard the phrase “follow your heart,” and you’ve probably even shared advice to “go with your gut,” when helping a friend make a tough decision. These clichés are often used as colloquial terms for empowering others to trust themselves.

Most of the choices we make in a day aren’t driven solely by logic. Problem-solving also involves emotional elements that can help us arrive at the right solutions. We make these decisions more easily when directed by our own intuition, especially in offices that have developed high workplace trust.

But what do our hearts and our guts have to do with it? It turns out that science is saying a lot about how we think with these parts of our bodies…

Welcome back to the Best Self Management Podcast series! In episode two, we discussed how 15Five facilitates transformational experiences through annual company-wide retreats, and shared steps to help your organization do the same.

As for episode three, Shane and I interview Joe Mechlinski, a New York Times best-selling author, speaker, social entrepreneur, and founder of SHIFT. SHIFT is a collective of businesses united by a common mission to create a more engaged workforce. Like us, he has a strong desire to revolutionize the workforce and drive engagement to levels many would think impossible.


During this interview, we unpack the topic of workplace trust as an essential part of any highly functioning organization. We also explore the research around the intelligence of our hearts and guts, and what scientists are saying when it comes to listening to these vital parts of ourselves. Joe shares how he has applied some of these concepts into workplaces, and the results are incredible. 

In this episode, we also talk about:

• How we can build a culture and organization that encourages us to leverage the intelligence of our hearts, guts, and brains

• What many companies inadvertently do that discourages their employees and how to avoid making the same mistakes

• Establishing mutual workplace trust within a company or organization

Thinking with three brains

Shane: To kick things off, in your book you talk about the idea of the three brains: the head, the heart, and the gut. That is a radical idea for most of the business world. Can you share what led you to this central idea in your work?

Joe: You bet. Coming off of Grow Regardless, it was a pretty pivotal moment for me from a career standpoint. Up until then, we had only worked with small to midsize businesses. We were really passionate about creating workplaces with equitable and fair environments. As much as that sounds good, I think we can all agree that’s not a common practice, even against some of the more progressive companies. 

So, as I was on this mission, I forgot to be a good husband and a good father at the time. My wife had just had our second child, James, and was having a terrible time with the pregnancy, and even afterwards with a bit of postpartum, and James was not well. Meanwhile, I’m being interviewed by every major network, and flying all over the country. In one part of my life, I feel like I’m living large and scared to let go of that. And on the other side, I’m going home at the end of the day, and it just doesn’t feel like I wrote that script.

Some of the questions I was asking myself was “can you have it all? can you really be the best dad, husband, person, all while being a successful entrepreneur?” I was caught up with losing that. At the time, I had a talk coming up for one of our big corporate clients because of the book, and instead of doing the talk on Grow Regardless, I just spent two weeks immersed in figuring out why I feel this way. I had studied psychology, philosophy, and sociology, digging into science, but never really in earnest. 

As I kept digging, I got into the biochemistry, microbiome, and how we make decisions. Then I stumbled upon some science that was developed, and found that in the late 50’s, scientists discovered that we had a neuron network, not the billion that we know in our head, but 40 million in our heart, and over 100 million in our digestive tract, or our gut.

Establishing Workplace Trust

Joe: We have all heard of neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, and most people know that those three drive decision making in a more constructive way. But from a destructive lens, most human beings walk around in a constant state of stress all day, hopped up on cortisol. So, I gave this big keynote address with nearly 500+ people on a topic that I hadn’t really developed in full yet, but I was just done with Grow Regardless, and I was looking, frankly, for answers myself.

I stumbled upon it, and I started thinking that metaphorically, it’s not a bad analogy for how workplaces are designed. When you think about your heart, or trusting your gut, these are cliché sayings that we’ve all said at one point, but what does it really mean? When you think about the practices within HR in organizations, learning and development, or general leadership philosophy and process, it’s generally not around the heart and the gut. It’s the brain, if you will. 

It’s not bringing the best out in people or establishing workplace trust, it’s trying to control people. It’s trying to put them in a path to compliance, and at best, they’re using compensation as a carrot to step out of the dark ages of the way we used to live. All of that is fine in terms of progress, but we thought there could be another way. 

We took this logic and framework and built a methodology around it, and scaled it to major corporations like Microsoft, Kaiser Permenente, and other organizations that want to think about their people differently. The single greatest lever of their company’s potential is a more engaged workforce, people who don’t dread Mondays, people who don’t have the Sunday scaries, people who aren’t watching the clock tick every single day. 

I don’t think that anyone has ever talked about neuroscience in this way. We may not be the first, but as it relates to corporate America, and the way that we’re trying to redefine a better criteria of engagement, that’s how Shift the Work was born…

One major theme woven throughout episode three is psychological safety at work. Psychological safety is paramount to building workplace trust between employees and leadership, and without this mutual trust, there will always be limits to what the workforce can achieve. 

According to experts, trust can be broken down into three components: competence, sincerity, and reliability, each of which opens up direct pathways to access the intelligence of your heart and gut. If a company fails to balance these three facets of trust, employees won’t have the opportunity to be their true selves, let alone their best ones. 

Don’t forget to listen to this episode of the Best-Self Management Podcast here!

Stay tuned for episode four of the Best-Self Management Podcast series where we interview Anese Cavanaugh, founder of the IEP method. IEP is a methodology that helps people work better together, show up as their full selves, and creates a meaningful impact. Anese also talks about her upcoming book, Contagious You: Unlock Your Power to Influence, Lead, and Create the Impact You Want, releasing November 2019! 

David Hassell, CEO of 15Five

David Hassell is co-founder and CEO of 15Five, industry leading continuous performance management software that helps leaders and managers drive high performance by bringing out the best in their people. David formerly served as President of the San Francisco chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and was later named “The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley” by Forbes Magazine. David has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Entrepreneur, and Wired. Follow him on Twitter @dhassell.

Shane Metcalf, CCO of 15Five

As 15Five’s Chief Culture Officer, Shane Metcalf understands what fundamentally motivates people, how to architect high performance, and which principles and rituals create “self-organizing cultures”. Shane has been featured in XConomy, Fast Company, and the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash


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