“How To be An Effective Leader” with Felix Cao

The most important thing is to be optimistic but realistic — this current crisis is something no one in our lifetime has ever dealt with before. We are humans with feelings and emotions, not robots. So, as a starting point, it’s important for leaders to continue to treat their members as the human beings they […]

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The most important thing is to be optimistic but realistic — this current crisis is something no one in our lifetime has ever dealt with before. We are humans with feelings and emotions, not robots. So, as a starting point, it’s important for leaders to continue to treat their members as the human beings they are. This will make all members within an organization feel included, appreciated and respected especially at a time when uncertainty and working remotely can make individuals feel isolated, alone and unsupported.

As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Felix Cao.

Felix has accrued over 15 years of business experience, in which nearly a decade of those years were dedicated to the tech & mobile space.

He has been featured in major media outlets, such as the HuffPost, Adweek, and AppAdvice, and has also appeared on a major Canadian morning radio show, to talk about neuromarketing and the 2019 Canadian election.

You can find him on numerous top podcasts where he shares neuromarketing insights on how businesses can grow and thrive in 2020.

Today, at his neuromarketing company called Happy Buying Brain, he is combining his 15 years of business experience with his educational background in biological science and psychology, to help businesses truly understand what makes their customers’ brains tick when it comes to better achieving customer brand loyalty over their competitors, through the power of implementing neuromarketing into their own marketing campaigns.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Sometimes the best way to explain how we got to our current situation is to reminisce on our past. A lot of these times, the journey forward from the starting point is not always paved in complete clarity. As many people would acknowledge, especially in business, things typically go differently from what we had initially envisioned. But in hindsight, all the experiences coupled with the surprising twists and turns along the journey, still add up in a sensible way to take us to where we are all currently in our lives today. I could say that my journey is a typical representation of these surprising twists and turns, but the dots still miraculously connect to bring me to where I am at today.

20 years ago, if we were to meet — you would find someone who had zero interest in business. The allure of science and psychology were the main points of interest at this stage in my life during the university years. All efforts were directed towards attending optometry school. However, an unexpected twist happened a few years down the line.

This is when the world of business entered the picture, which would change the trajectory of my vocational thoughts forever, from the medical field to the business world. From here, I was first introduced to the concept of self-employment in the investment, finance, and insurance industries. Skills that I thought I would never acquire or become a part of my daily life, such as sales and marketing, were now at the forefront of my craft to develop and hone.

After a few years in the self-employment world, I decided to get a taste of the technology space. In the early 2010’s, the mobile and apps industry was just starting to take off. I would spend nearly the next decade in this space creating everything from games to emoji apps to social networking platforms.

As I observed the trends in the past, such as how the 2000’s brought about the internet, followed by the flourishing of mobile phones in the 2010’s, I began to notice another technological revolution unfolding, and fast gaining relevance in the form of AI and VR. What is fascinating about AI and VR is that at the core of these and similar innovations is neuroscience.

At this moment, my mind started to connect the dots concerning the role that neuroscience will play in the business world. This connection had a lot to do with the belief that as AI and VR gain more popularity, so will concepts that are associated with this trend will also become more mainstream as well.

Since neuroscience is at the core of these technologies, I also believe that neuroscience can be applied to industries outside of technology and the popularization of AI and VR will be a boosting catalyst for the public to more rapidly adopt similarly related concepts.

One of the major industries that I see neuroscience disrupting is the marketing universe. Upon making this discovery, I decided to dedicate my focus to bringing neuromarketing into the conscious stream of thought and practice of the business world.

Today, it just happens that the current economic and health crisis places an even heavier emphasis on the importance of understanding the new consumer on a much deeper level, which involves evaluating the core values of the consumer on a subconscious level. This is of great importance, since up to 95% of consumer’s buying behaviors are influenced by their subconscious mind and consumers’ buying behaviors have changed drastically from what they were prior to this crisis.

I truly believe that neuromarketing will play a big part in empowering companies and brands with the insights to more authentically connect with their customers as they get accustomed to this new normal. By leveraging neuromarketing, companies are able to gain an exponentially deeper understanding of the true needs, desires and aspirations that are influencing a consumer’s buying behavior on a subconscious level. For example, brands must be even more cognizant of how they handle the current societal issues on equality, since this will have a major contributing force impacting brand loyalty as the new consumer looks to align themselves with brands that share their re-evaluated core values, due to the challenges created by the current crisis.

I feel that today’s new circumstances, combined with my educational background in science and psychology and coupled with over 15 years of business experience, provides a platform to help lead and propel neuromarketing as a winning force in business growth. This will especially appeal to companies looking to gain the competitive edge in differentiating their brand in the new marketplace moving forward in this new normal.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

All mistakes should be taken seriously and as a learning experience. However, it’s also important not to take mistakes too personally, to the extent of emotions clouding sound and fair judgement, on how to approach the remedying process of correcting these mistakes, in order to prevent future recurrences in such situations.

With that said, the most memorable learning experience happened about mid-way through my business journey. Even though I had robust experience leading a team, sometimes we can forget what we learned when our egos get in the way.

It is quite common to hear that if “you want something done correctly, then you have to do it yourself”. However, in the business world, this piece of advice can be debilitating and a big hindrance to growth. There are too many areas to understand and become specialized in, that have an impact on the ability to successfully accomplish goals. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way like so many entrepreneurs, who believed that they must do everything themselves due to the fallacy that entrepreneurs are virtually invincible and should be able to do all things at an extremely high level. This image of perfection can lead to levels of overconfidence and overestimation of an entrepreneur’s true abilities, and lead them to take on roles where other people possessing the required skills are a better fit and would perform more proficiently.

So, when we got into the tech space, this is exactly what happened. Having no technical experience, we wanted to control all aspects of the coding development process of our app projects. The results were disastrous because we had no idea what the workflow for app coding entailed.

As we became more experienced, we learned several important lessons.

#1 — Trust, Delegate, Support and Verify

This means surrounding ourselves with talented and dedicated people who are a good cultural fit for the company, who share similar values and vision for the company, and whose strengths complement our own set of skills. We learned to trust our teammates to complete the tasks and delegated tasks that landed outside of our area of expertise to teammates that excelled in those areas. In addition to this, it’s essential to provide the necessary support and resources for them to succeed. Finally, verify to make sure that the tasks are completed as planned by holding high standards for performance and accountability.

#2 — Teamwork always eclipses individual work

Working together as a team can accomplish goals and tasks magnitudes larger than any individual can finish alone, and at a much quicker rate too. When objectives are handled on an individual basis, we found that people felt overworked, they underestimated the time needed to finish tasks which resulted in past-due delivery times, and consequently, the ROI often fell short when compared to accomplishing the same goals together as a team.

#3 — Keep our egos in check

Failure to do this can lead to past mistakes resurfacing, especially when there have been previous successes. It’s best to have an open and curious mind to be able to fully explore the possibilities and options, in order to make the best and most informed decision at that point in time, otherwise it will be easy to default back to unproductive behaviors.

Now that we look back and realize our mistakes, it’s sometimes healthy to smile and have a good laugh, since we know that failure is only temporary and most importantly, we were able to learn, persevere and improve as a result of these challenging times.

Ultimately, the knowledge gained from these mistakes is a major part of why we are a better version of ourselves today, due to the obstacles we encountered and surmounted by taking the time and effort to learn from them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many people that have impacted my journey in life and in business, ranging from incredibly smart mentors to extremely talented colleagues, and of course everyone else that I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. However, my parents are my biggest source of inspiration and support. I truly believe that the foundations of success and happiness start at home and at an early age. There are scientific studies that show that most of our subconscious behaviors are learned within the first few years of our lives. The world is a really complex place, so just think about the many rules and standards a child needs to learn just to operate as an efficient member within their own family to begin with.

During these early years, we are primarily observing and recording the actions and behaviors of others around us, and for most people, we are learning these behavior patterns from our parents, which we will later exhibit in our adult life whether they are present or away from us. So, what we observe during early childhood becomes recorded in our subconscious minds to form the foundation of a blueprint in terms of how to behave in society.

This is not to say that people cannot change, (if their childhood is less than ideal or missing essential parental guidance early in their lives), since other factors such as experience and culture also play major roles in molding an individual’s behavior. However, in order to have a long-lasting change in behavior, it is important to understand the potential sources of certain behavior traits.

My parents were forced to flee for their lives when the Vietnam war started. They came over as immigrants in their teens to a foreign country with only the clothes on their backs in the middle of winter, and without any connections here in Canada. They had no comprehension of English, and they were pregnant with their first child. Despite all these challenges, they were still able to provide a loving home as well as all the necessities their growing children needed. When I compare the challenges that my parents had to go through and conquer starting at such an early age, it’s truly inspirational to see that they were still able to accomplish so many great things, despite living in a foreign country. I am definitely grateful for their work ethic, wisdom, and sheer will to make things happen in spite of challenging times. Attributes like these are contagious and worth emulating.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Our company mission is “Delivering Happiness To Your Customer’s Buying Brain Using Neuromarketing”. This means using neuromarketing to empower brands with the knowledge to create a much more accurate and ideal customer avatar where companies can begin delivering products and services that genuinely fulfills the true wants, needs and desires of their customers. They achieve this by understanding their customer’s deep aspirations to become the best versions of themselves on a subconscious level.

Up to 95% of people’s buying behaviors are influenced by their subconscious mind. This has huge implications on how a company can position their brand to impact the buying behaviors of their consumers.

Our vision at Happy Buying Brain is to show brands how they can use neuromarketing to exponentially understand their consumers better, so that they are able to build stronger, more authentic and meaningful relationships with their audience. This is accomplished by enabling brands to craft their marketing so that it speaks to the subconscious minds of their consumers.

With all the changes happening in today’s world, the growing success of a brand will greatly depend on its ability to connect with today’s generation of shoppers on global issues. Companies that are able to do this effectively, will be able to form renewed trust and the emotional connections with the socially conscious consumer during a time of massive disruption, so that they gain the consumers’ brand loyalty.

Today’s ideal customer avatar for many companies looks drastically different from what it was a few months prior to the current crisis. This means that companies need to take a proactive approach in understanding how their consumers operate under these changing and uncertain conditions, in terms of what they truly value living in this new normal.

At Happy Buying Brain, our vision and mission is to show brands how to connect more authentically to the modern consumer on a subconscious level, so that they can deliver the best products and services that propel their consumers to become the best version of themselves. This reality can be achieved when brands are empowered to deliver happiness to their customer’s buying brain using neuromarketing.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

The last few months have probably been the most difficult and uncertain times that the vast majority of businesses have ever experienced. There is no blueprint on how to successfully navigate a business in waters that include such seismic changes, involving the intersection of dire straits in finances, health, and social issues all occurring at the same time.

This is the biggest test that we all have ever faced up till date, and it defies all levels of experience or expertise a leader may possess. Today’s crisis tests us in every facet of our lives — emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. So, as a leader it is absolutely crucial to deeply understand the pulse of our organization and consumers on these levels.

The first step towards effective leadership, is to learn to take care of oneself in all these areas. When leaders are in a sound and stable state of mind, they are able to operate with their full potential in optimizing their full support to those around them. It is not uncommon to find leaders letting certain aspects of their lives become greatly neglected. However, performing at a high level over a long period of time is not sustainable, especially in unprecedented times like these where all the disruptions and rapid seismic changes will quickly zap the creative juices from an individual.

Once a leader is in a sound and healthy state of well-being, the next step should be focusing on guiding members within their organization to achieve this same healthy state of mind. Team members are more likely to take the initiative to make these changes, when they see their leaders as living examples of courage and inspiration to evolve in order to be effective in this new normal.

Leaders should encourage members to take care of as many areas of well-being as possible. On both a personal and professional level, this will help restore a sense of balance and help them gain control of their lives back during these difficult times. Wherever possible, the leadership team should provide the necessary resources to help their team members achieve these goals.

Another important aspect for leaders to address today that will certainly have an impact on work performance, is to minimize the isolation gap resulting from the challenges of social distancing. This means facilitating the evolution of the company to adapt the company’s culture to thriving in a remote work setting.

Most people are under a lot of stress during this time, so it’s important for companies to help their workers acclimatize to the new normal, by offering trainings on how to navigate online tools required for working from home, as well as utilizing communication software that strengthen the dynamics of collaboration among team members within the virtual workspace. This proactive approach will help alleviate a lot of the anxiety that many people may be experiencing as they transition to the work-at-home environment.

Outside of the workspace, leaders can help facilitate improvements in other personal areas of their co-worker’s lives that will ultimately have an impact on their professional performance. Examples of such events to improve personal areas of their lives, can include dedicated video conferencing calls where team members can converse freely among each other about the challenges they are facing working from home, and while they are social distancing.

Leadership teams can also offer the option for staff members to participate in virtual group exercises or meditation activities, as a way of improving mental health and physical fitness.

By integrating these types of conversations and activities into the company culture, members of an organization will bond and experience first-hand stronger feelings of inclusivity, consequently becoming valued members of a unified community.

The leadership team should reinforce in the minds of their team members, that their work is meaningful and that their contributions matter. One way to overtly display this show of appreciation is to keep everyone updated via a weekly newsletter, highlighting and acknowledging team members for their achievements and progress.

Most importantly, leaders need to be empathetic towards people in their organizations, knowing that they are human beings facing challenges both inside and outside of work. Be kind, and show that you care about them. At the same time, make sure that everyone is on the same page on the professional stage by providing the guidance to lead them through this time, while instilling confidence in the team that the new normal can give birth to new opportunities and a brighter future for the company. When the organization moves forward together as an inclusive group, all members feel inspired, engaged, and intrinsically motivated to persevere and continue delivering results through these challenging times.

This is the ethos we adopt at Happy Buying Brain to help guide our company through turbulent times, especially in today’s crisis.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Life and business are full of challenges, some of which can be quite overwhelming at times. However, in order to combat a quitting attitude, I believe that developing the mental fortitude that takes place in a growth and resilient mindset is crucial to winning. Sometimes, the difference between winning and losing is choosing to continue rather than quitting when taking into account all other factors, such as talent. Granted that it is important for someone to finish what they started, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the journey comes with twists and turns and being able to pivot at certain points can be the best thing to do at certain times. So, the curve to successfully solving a challenge may not always be linear.

Life and business is a marathon, not a sprint. Great accomplishments and continued success take time and consistency. So, see every failure as a learning experience rather than a stumbling block, that can be used as a stepping stone towards success. Celebrate the small victories along the journey because that will be the propelling force for people to create a snowball of momentum to help reach the end goals. Plus, knowing that everything you and your team does will have a major contributing effect on improving the lives of your consumers is extremely rewarding.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to be the source of inspiration and empowerment to the co-workers in their company. People within the organization are looking for guidance, support systems, and a solid but agile strategy plan to navigate themselves through difficult times.

On a neuroscience level, it’s important for leaders to understand what’s happening on a subconscious level, in the minds of their staff members that makes up the company culture, as well as the subconscious drivers that are influencing their consumers’ buying decisions when they are affected by the stresses of challenging times. This involves leaders taking a strong interest in understanding people on a primal level.

With all the disruptions occurring today, the primal part of the brain (better known as the reptilian brain) is in its heightened state of fear, anxiety and agitation. This causes people to lose their critical thinking skills, act highly emotional and subsequently make irrational decisions. So, the primary role of a leader is to bring stability back into their organization, by being the calming force that restores that balance and sense of control back into the heartbeat of the company culture. It is a top priority for leaders to be the leading example in spearheading change, and showing that the company can adapt to the rapidly changing times, while at the same time empowering their team with the support and resources required to succeed in this evolving environment.

The ability for a leader to create and maintain a winning company culture during challenging times, will ultimately have a significant impact on ensuring that the organization delivers the highest standards of service and products to the brand’s audience. During turbulent times, leaders need to see themselves as the architect for shaping a brighter future for their company.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

The most important thing is to be optimistic but realistic — this current crisis is something no one in our lifetime has ever dealt with before. We are humans with feelings and emotions, not robots. So, as a starting point, it’s important for leaders to continue to treat their members as the human beings they are. This will make all members within an organization feel included, appreciated and respected especially at a time when uncertainty and working remotely can make individuals feel isolated, alone and unsupported.

Sometimes the best way to boost morale and inspiration is to provide opportunities that allows members within the organization to give back to the community. This creates a collective experience where people feel connected to a bigger cause and life purpose when they are helping out others in need.

As a generation of leaders in this new normal, we don’t have all the answers to all the questions or concerns, since what is happening is the first time for everyone. However, we certainly can assure our people that we will work together as a unified team to solve problems, and help lift each other up to do the best that we can to make it through this together.

Most people give up when there is a lot of uncertainty. They panic, and the fear and anxiety they experience, can be too overwhelming that they quit. As a leader, show that you have the courage to march forward when most have chosen to forfeit. Today’s leaders need to show their team members that progress and success can still be achieved during turbulent times. You may not have all the answers, but you will do everything you can to find the answers, and serve your company and your customers. The resulting effect is an inspired team, willing to follow your lead.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

The standard of life is NOT perfection. It’s progress and improvement. Craft your news to this tone and frame the failures as learning opportunities. Give your team the support and resources to receive and adapt to the changes that can result from the difficult news, so that they can become the best versions of themselves, which will allow them to be the best contributors to your company in the long run as well.

When it comes to conveying difficult news to customers, it’s important to acknowledge the news, then communicate a clear plan of action to remedy whatever situation may have risen as a result of the news, and most critically follow up with over delivering on the results to ensure customer satisfaction and strengthen brand loyalty.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

There are several things that a leader can do to make plans when the future is so unpredictable:

#1 – Focus on what you can control and don’t waste time and energy on things you cannot control.

#2 – Be forward-thinking. This means, do your best to anticipate changes with all the possible outcomes, and have as many plans as possible in place, to deal with these potential challenges.

#3- Talk to people you respect, such as mentors, colleagues and co-workers, to gain insights into current and future circumstances. This will allow leaders to gain new perspectives on the various possible ways to deal with issues that will move the needle for the organization.

Leaders that are able to tap into their inner creativity and welcome innovative ideas to solve problems, are in the best position to be nimble, yet make informed and calculated decisions to navigate their organization through this rapidly changing landscape.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Trust and support are the foundations absolutely crucial in guiding a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times. This will open channels of communication within the organization, which will enable all members to feel valued as contributors to the company’s success. When communication is open, clear and the conversations across all levels within the organization are authentic, all team members tend to have a clearer understanding of the goals and expectations for moving the company forward. Every member becomes even more motivated to perform, when they adamantly believe that what they do plays a critical role in the success of the company.

When all members of the team are onboard, feel supported, valued and respected as human beings, this facilitates effective execution of company plans and strategies, in a cohesive manner rather than leaving members feeling isolated and alone in the pursuit of achieving their own work objectives.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

#1 – Making Impulsive Decisions

From a neuromarketing point of view, the primal brain takes over in fight or flight response and preferential glucose allocation occurs, where blood flows from the higher cortical areas of the brain, into the primal brain and to the rest of the body to prepare it to deal with threats and danger. This allocation of resources causes the logical brain to go offline, which can lead to illogical decision making and irrational behaviors that are counterproductive and even harmful to the company.

When the primal brain is in an intensified state of fear and anxiety, it resorts to cognitive biases and heuristics to make quick decisions. This is the situation today, as a lot of companies are in survival mode. When fast and uninformed decisions are made, they are often to the detriment of the organization. A typical example of an uninformed decision during times of survival, is when companies hire too fast in an attempt to do a quick fix, but the people they bring onboard are not in alignment with the company in terms of cultural fit or competency.

Solution: Turn the logical brain back on by slowing down and taking the time to identify and evaluate the sources of the problems. Then weigh the pros and cons of the possible solutions before making a decision.

#2 – Being too objective and performance driven, forgetting that the people in their company are the real reason for the success of the company.

The last thing that an organization wants to do is make their people feel neglected, undervalued, unappreciated, and treated like irrelevant individuals that have no feelings and emotions. Ultimately, this leadership approach backfires and will certainly reflect in the company’s performance when the culture is broken, and there is a chasm between the leadership team and the rest of the members within the organization.

Solution: Companies need to take a dual approach that accommodates providing acknowledgement, recognition and support for their workers, while at the same time ensuring that the work environment continues to be positive, focused on achieving results and constantly performing at a high level.

#3 – Failing to properly prioritize goals and wasting precious time and resources over activities they do not have control over or will have minimal impact on moving their company forward.

In cases such as these, companies may be channeling their resources in certain activities that are irrelevant to the issues that are hindering the growth of the company, just to give themselves the feeling of progress and a sense of control during hard times. But the reality is that they are not dealing with the true issues that will solve their current problems and empower their organization to get ahead.

Solution: Come up with a list of the top priorities that will move a company forward, along with the expected outcomes when each of those priorities have been accomplished. Then list all the resources available and start matching what resources and the amount of time that will be needed to accomplish those priorities.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

The best way to answer this question is from a micro and macro point of view.

On a micro level, I believe there are several factors that are essential in ensuring that the direction of a company is forging ahead, in terms of establishing financial stability during difficult times.

It starts with company culture. The success of the company is only possible if the right people that possess the required skill set to execute their roles proficiently are onboard. In addition, the employees also need a positive and supportive work environment to operate in, that is driven by the company’s purpose and mission.

Once a healthy company culture has been set, it’s up to the leadership team to focus on allocating resources and time towards activities the organization can control and not waste time and energy on things that fall outside of their control. This means identifying key issues and actively working to solve them in a prioritized manner, using the resources the organization has access to.

From here, the emphasis should be on clear goal-setting that include the plans, protocols and support on how to achieve these goals.

As the team members carry out their work, it’s very important to check in regularly to see if they need any help or support that would make accomplishing their tasks smoother. Being result-oriented is imperative, especially during times of difficulty since every bit of resource needs to be maximized. Therefore, leaders need to verify that the work has been completed and then check to ensure high quality performance. The data and feedback from the team and their results can be used to make adjustments, by removing ineffective work patterns while focusing on how to further improve the strategies that are working. So, timely improvement in the company’s performance will involve modifications to the working environment that can be accomplished through efficient testing.

Lastly, it’s vital for leaders to set clear expectations, hold the organization to a high standard of accountability, continue to be results-driven, lead with trust and integrity, and treat everyone as human beings in order to fully optimize the potential of their team members. For example, one way a company can tap into the inner genius of their people, is to hold virtual expos where staff members can present new and innovative ideas.

From a macro point of view, the organization needs to keep in mind that challenging times calls for innovation. This can include revisiting the organization’s vision and mission statements and making sure they are updated to be the ethos that empowers a brand to authentically connect with today’s workforce and the present consumer, to ultimately guide the organization to successfully evolve.

Organizations should also be open to exploring new opportunities that are presenting themselves as a result of the crisis. Examples of these opportunities may include working with industries that have experienced an increase in demand during challenging times.

As we all become acclimated to the new normal, a fundamental trait for a successful company will be to embrace change. This means that the modern company will have to adopt a winning attitude towards fostering sustainable work-from-home success, and begin to see remote work as an important pillar in their business strategy moving forward.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

There are so many leaders I have spoken with, that say that they are “Leading On Empty”. So how do you become energized to lead? Below are the 5 things from my research and experience, that contribute to becoming an energized and inspirational leader especially during turbulent times:

#1 – Be Resilient.

Solving problems when times are good is already hard. But, being able to successfully find solutions to pressing issues when everything seems chaotic can be overwhelming and seem almost impossible for the most experienced leaders. That is why it is so important to be as grounded as possible, and summon courage from within to continue moving forward. Fear should not be entertained, instead seek help from people you respect who have the skill set and knowledge to help you become a stronger and more astute leader.

#2- Consistency.

When times are tough, one of the first things to go out the window is consistency. The frequency of work behavior tends to decrease if there is no clear outcome or reward in sight, as a result of believing that the efforts being channeled into the work is futile. As a leader, it’s vital to be cognizant of this behavior cycle and instead make the conscious decision to double up on their efforts to ensure consistency is maintained. Without consistency, there is no chance that a strong and effective leadership style can be produced to lead the company through difficult times.

#3 – Team Support

Leaders should be kind and empathetic towards members within their organization, since they do not know what disruptions and challenges are happening in the lives of their staff on both a personal and professional level. One thing clear is that disgruntled workers are rarely a good thing to the company’s success in the long term due to feelings of underappreciation created by the leadership team.

#4 – Demonstrate a clear vision of the company moving forward

This means setting clear expectations and goals for the company, making sure that accountability for performance is in place, then taking the necessary steps to help each team member improve in specific areas of their work, which can be measured in KPI’s and other suitable metrics. Show recognition and reward achievement and progress made by your team members during challenging times too, since this will make your staff feel appreciated and motivated to persevere.

#5 – Most relevant to today’s crisis: Foster camaraderie to minimize the isolation gap that people may be experiencing due to social isolation.

There is a popular hashtag that says that “although we are apart, we are not alone” #ApartButNotAlone. To create a high level of inclusiveness, leaders need to promote open but respectful communication, so that team members can open up about issues affecting both their personal and professional lives, to bridge the great overlap in work-home balance at the moment due to social distancing.

Providing dedicated channels either through video conferencing calls or communication apps, and participating in these open conversations with your team members about their fears, anxiety and the current events taking place in their lives, will show them that you care.

This will help teammates cope and persevere through difficult times when they know that there are people around, to support, listen and understand the new set of challenges they are experiencing due to the current crisis. By genuinely asking the simple question of “How are you doing?” can open up doors to building a much deeper relationship with your team members.

Another effective way to foster camaraderie among team members within an organization, is to create a buddy system where employees regularly schedule a virtual coffee date or lunch with other members of the organization. This is a great way to foster structured, casual connections between team members, which can lead to increased trust, improved working relationships, and a healthier well-being for the organization as a whole.

Despite being in different locations geographically, leaders can still create feelings of “closeness” and elevate connectedness with consistent communication, encouragement, empathy and recognition among members of their team.

On a neuroscience and evolutionary terms, belonging to a strong and supportive tribe increases the chances of survival for the members within the tribe. Most people are in survival mode during challenging times. So, the role of the leader is to create a unified community that gives their tribe members a sense of security and support. When people feel safe, connected and supported, they will be more receptive to your leadership style and cooperate as a unified team to do their best work in accomplishing their tasks. Overall, they will feel more connected to each other and to the company’s success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is one inspirational quote that has always resonated with me and it’s by Walt Disney – “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

This quote is more relevant today than ever before, because it embodies what it will take to succeed in this new normal. The message highlights the importance of showing resilience, determination, clear goal-setting, and having an “All-in” attitude needed to make our dreams a reality.

If we apply Walt Disney’s quote to today’s crisis, it would translate to having the courage to persevere during these uncertain times, and doing whatever it takes to figure out how to successfully navigate oneself on all the different dimensions of well-being to become the best leader they can become, and in turn, inspire others to become the best versions of themselves. Together, through this display of courage and determination by the members within, the organization as a whole is in a better position to solve challenges and provide a stronger sense of stability towards evolving as a dominant player in the new normal of doing business. At a time when disruption and turbulence is so pervasive, the ability to be courageous is definitely a key ingredient in turning our dreams into a tangible reality.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn @FelixCao where I share the most recent news on the latest trends, as well as insights on neuromarketing that businesses can use to advance their marketing efforts and boost the ROI on their campaigns.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to our blog on our website at

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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