Home Professionalisms Primal Teams: Defying The Modern Myths Of Business Leadership

Primal Teams: Defying The Modern Myths Of Business Leadership


by Jackie Barretta, author of “Primal Teams: Harnessing the Power of Emotions to Fuel Extraordinary Performance” 

group colleaguesYou see detrimental team norms in business everywhere.  The practices of most teams contradict basic human nature. They deny individual team members’ emotional needs and disregard the fundamental wiring of their brains.

There’s a better way. It is better to build teams that nurture the human spirit and thereby spark the sharpness and creativity that lead to unprecedented levels of performance. Here are some of the ways these primal teams literally defy the myths of modern business:

Myth #1 – Always Be Positive.

Business environments are often rife with stress and anxiety. Most team members think they need to look cool, calm, and collected, even in the most trying situations. However, facial expressions, body language, and other physiological signals reveal negative emotions, no matter how hard a teammate tries to hide them. When others see those signals insufficiently masked by feigned positivity, they lose a bit of trust in the authenticity of their teammate.

Reality: Expressing negative emotion is beneficial.

People can learn to express negative emotion in ways that help them process and work through the negativity. This keeps them engaged and can spark the entire team from lifelessness to alertness. It also helps engender trust on the team.

Action: Let people express their true emotions.  Channel this energy in ways that help rather than hinder the team.

Myth #2 – Relationships Should Be Kept Professional.

Most teams believe it’s best to keep relationships at a surface level, where members are cordial and collegial, yet they can make tough business decisions without being hindered by personal attachments.

Reality: People have a primal need to personally bond with each other.

When teammates relate to each other with genuine feelings of care and emotional concern, they satisfy a basic human need. In fact, when people interact regularly with others with whom they don’t feel a strong sense of belonging, they often end up with potent and even toxic negative feelings, including fear, anxiety, and depression.

Action: Help people in teams build emotional bonds. They can personally relate to each other while learning to avoid the pitfalls of close bonds in a rough and tough business environment.

Myth #3 – Leaders Should Set the Rules.

Many leaders believe they need to establish extensive rules for their teams, to ensure that everyone works hard, takes care of customers, and is a good team player.

Reality: When people are given the latitude to do the right things they act more trustworthy.

When people feel trusted the chemical oxytocin surges in their brains.  They naturally become more confident, more cooperative, more generous, and more conscientious. Performance, collaboration, creativity, and productivity all increase.

Action: Empower your people.  Resist the urge to impose restrictive rules. Trust your team to do the right thing.

Myth #4 – Efficiency & Expertise are the Holy Grail.

Most teams focus on increasing their productivity and efficiency and they encourage their members to become experts at their jobs.

Reality: These practices actually make them less adept at solving the challenging problems faced by most teams today.

The human brain has evolved for efficiency and will easily get stuck in the ruts forged by the constant repetitions that it takes to perfect a process or become an expert.

Action: Help every team member approach each situation with freshness and novelty.  Promote curiosity and exploration and learning so your team can avoid mental ruts and come up with better solutions.

Myth #5 – Big Data Holds the Answers.

Teams are increasingly turning to huge stores of computer-based data to inform their decision making.

Reality: The collective knowledge of the team members is most often the best source of data.  They are constantly exposed to valuable details, such as customer reactions to products and services, which can never be codified in a computer’s bits and bytes. These details are stored in the members’ subconscious minds, often without their conscious minds even being aware of them.

Action: Encourage people to use their intuition. When people use their intuition to read the data in their subconscious minds, it’s not just a hunch or guess, it’s based on real data. Embrace practices to engage this data in creative problem solving.

Myth #6 – There is No Place for Love.

“Love” is still a foreign word in most business environments.

Reality: Teams need heartfelt emotion to deal with today’s challenging problems. This is not  the gushy love you feel for your partner, but rather the sensation you feel in the area of your heart when you are inspired by doing something meaningful. These heartfelt emotions are the ticket to sparking their highest levels of energy, insight, focus, and creative problem solving.

Action: Embrace love as a must-have. Help team members find and experience deep meaning in their work.


jackie barretta

Jackie Barretta has a 25-year history as a successful Fortune 500 C-level executive and Big Four consultant in the Information Technology industry. She is a Founding Partner of Nura Group, a consulting firm dedicated to enhancing team innovation and performance. The author of “Primal Teams: Harnessing the Power of Emotions to Fuel Extraordinary Performance“, she is also a Practice Director at Virtual Information Executives, where she provides technology consulting to higher education institutions.