Suzanne Kryder: The Mind to Lead

Oct 24, 2016 by


An Interview with Suzanne Kryder: The Mind to Lead

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Suzanne, first of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your education and experiences?

My first job was as an English teacher in northeast Georgia. After becoming interested in adult fitness, I got a Masters at George Washington University in exercise science. While working in adult fitness, a man in a smoking cessation course said something like, “I can do deep breathing all day, but my boss is still a jerk.” His comment made me realize that I was focusing my energy on employees rather than on leaders who impact so many people.

So, I got my doctorate in Health Education with a minor in Organizational Behavior at the University of New Mexico, later started my own consulting business, and got certified as a corporate coach.  I’m currently the Outreach Coordinator at the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council located in Albuquerque, NM.

2) What led to you writing this book on coaching and leadership?

I wanted to share the positive results that happened with leaders who used this three-step model. The book gives both hope and a plan to all leaders who have challenges with their work and employees. The book addresses how normal it is to have difficulties and how the brain can help to end that suffering.

3) Is there one single problem that leaders have, and how do you confront it?

Everyone, including leaders, has a naturally negative brain that is both judgmental and usually either in the past or the future. The three-step model in the book confronts this negativity.

First, it describes multiple ways to practice bringing the brain back to the present moment instead of letting it be in the past or future. I prefer sitting or walking in silence to do this, but my coaching clients were creative. One leader would sit alone in his backyard and smoke a cigar for 20 minutes savoring the taste and smell in the present moment. He experienced all of the positive results that sitting in silence can bring such as calmness, clarity, and concentration ( ).

Second, the brain’s negativity is confronted by investigating judgments, for example, “She’s a jerk.” In trainings with leaders, someone always volunteers to investigate a negative judgment aloud.

By the end of the investigation, the leader is saying something like, “She’s not a jerk. I’m a jerk for thinking that she is.” We don’t want to simply move the judgment over to ourselves, because the action that we take as a result of investigating is important. At the end of this investigation, I saw the leader immediately call his employee who he had called a jerk, tell her how valuable she was, and offer an assignment that she wanted.

The final step to confront negativity is displaying power in a positive way. The book enumerates multiple ways to talk with employees that will often result in the behavior that you want to see in them.

For example, I coached a boss who told me that he was talking with an employee every morning for 60 minutes to “calm him down.” Over a few weeks of talking honestly about the situation with the employee, the boss shortened the conversations to 5 minutes a couple times a week. This saved a huge amount of time for both people.

4) Listen, Inquire, Affirm, are three key words that permeate your book. Why are they important?

We should Listen to two kinds of people:  employees and ourselves. Often, we don’t listen to employees, because our brain already has a pre-set idea or judgment of how those people are. Instead, it’s helpful to Listen to employees in a fresh way, because they may have a good idea or perspective to share. We should also Listen to our own thoughts in order to hear the judgments that come up naturally; for example, “He’s a loser.” Inquire is important, because we don’t want to only Listen to the judgment. We also want to ask if it’s really true all of the time. Is he always a loser? Probably not. That’s why Affirm is important. Once we Inquire into the judgment, we can Affirm or state what is really true. It might be, “Sometimes, he is not a loser; for example, when he fixes computers so quickly in the office.”

5) Your book also describes the brain- why do leaders need to know about the various parts of the brain?

As the editor of my book said, “Readers don’t need or want to know much about the brain. They are more interested in learning about their own specialty.” She was right. Leaders do need to know a little about the brain, because it helps them understand that their behavior is both normal and changeable. It’s very normal to judge people. Judging is an evolutionary tool that kept us alive; for example, cave people wondered if something behind that boulder would eat them. However, we usually don’t need that high level of judgment in order to stay alive today.

But, most leaders still have it. I want leaders to know that when they even look at an employee, they often interpret that person using each of the three layers of the brain.

First, the lowest part of the brain, the Territorial brain, may judge if the employee is in or out of their space, physically or vocationally. The middle or Emotional brain may interpret the employee’s reaction as good or bad.

And, the highest part of the brain, the Executive brain, may mentally interpret what the employee said or did. Leaders need to know that brains are naturally negative and judgmental in each of these three areas.

But the good news is that behavior, and to some extent the brain, is changeable. Using three tools, awareness of the present moment, investigation of thoughts, and concise statements can change not only the leader’s behavior. Sometimes, the employee’s behavior will change in a positive way, too, based on new leader behavior.

6) Mindset- and mindfulness- are they two sides to the same coin or do each impact leaders differently?

Mindset is a leader’s approach to a situation. If a leader’s mindset includes awareness, investigation of thoughts, and concise statements, or even just one of those tools, a leader may be able to influence a situation in a positive way. Mindfulness or awareness is one of the tools that can create a positive mindset.

7) Let’s delve into the thinking of some leaders–some are rational, reasonable, logical, systematic, appropriate, sane, realistic, and other leaders are irrational, unreasonable, unrealistic, chaotic, inappropriate and insane. How do these thinking styles or mindset impact one’s ability to lead?

Most employees prefer a leader to display the first type of behaviors, because being rational and reasonable usually leads to good outcomes and higher morale. Some leaders already have a base of rationality that my book’s tools can augment. Other leaders may display irrational behaviors that may or may not be changeable. There are many reasons why a leader displays behaviors that appear irrational or unreasonable. I don’t have a background to deal with those types of behaviors. My book may help a person change their behavior to appear more rational and reasonable. Or, the tools in the book may not impact the leader.

8) Some see it as a nasty word- but why is accountability an important part of leadership?

Leadership is about getting things done. Some people say that leadership is about vision, strategic thinking, image, and the future. That’s true. But, all of those aspects eventually rely on getting things done responsibly. Accountability is getting things done well, either on time or earlier than expected. If an organization has a reputation for not being accountable in holding people to their job description, their leadership is probably lacking.

9) Do you have a web site and where can interested leaders find your book online? Amazon has the book online.

10) What have I neglected to ask?

Concise honesty is important, but often lacking in the American culture. In coaching, we call it laser messaging. Many people talk too much. They often talk too much particularly when they feel uncomfortable or are afraid to be honest. People often talk in paragraphs, pages, or even chapters; however, all an employee needs, can listen to, and remember, is one sentence.

Instead of giving a long explanation or holding back the truth, it’s better to say, “This job, and the job description that you agreed to, requires that you be at work at 8:00 am.” My book explains how to get to this kind of concise honesty by asking good open-ended questions and making laser statements.

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