Interview with the Author of Activator – Dr. Jason Jones

Leadership is more than just getting the job done. We have to be an Activator to lead our employees beyond what they believe is possible. Dr. Jason Jones is our special guest today. Dr. Jason Jones is the author of Activator, which is about understanding the brain science in unlocking high-performance leadership. We look at the core elements of activating others. Dr. Jason Jones shows us simple ways to connect, coach, and culture in the process of being an Activator. You will learn new elements of leadership through this interview with Dr. Jason Jones.

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About: Dr. Jones is a workplace psychologist, best-selling author, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He has spent more than 20 years studying human motivation, performance, and engagement in the workplace. Jason is a recognized expert in the areas of employee motivation, engagement, and leadership development. He is the author of the book “28 Days to a Motivated Team” and “Activator: Using Brain Science to Unleash the Best in Your People.” (February 2021 Release)

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Jason Jones, Ph.D.
Something that I really felt that I wanted the world to know about what really effective leadership looks like to take it to the next level. And not not this type of leadership of what a lot of people call influence, which I think is a good concept. But taking your leadership to the next level, to being much more active, and being able to essentially activate the people who are around you.

Intro [0:24]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:40]
How do you activate those around you as a leader? Well, activating the people in front of you to be leaders to really have the spark and purpose with their work is something that you want to learn as a leader. If you want to level up, then you’ve got to learn to be an activator. Today we’re with the author of activator. And his name is Dr. Jason Jones. Jason’s a friend of mine, but I brought him on here, not because he’s a friend, but because he has specific expertise inside of leadership, specifically, with activating those around you using brain science. What we talked about today will help you unlock something very powerful in you if you get it. When you think about your up leveling of leadership, you’ve got to learn new things and learn how to apply those specifically to those in front of you. And that’s what we’re talking about today. On my interview with the author of activator, Dr. Jason Jones. Now, here’s the interview with my friend, Dr. Jones.

Gene Hammett [1:38]
Jason, how are you?

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [1:40]
I’m great. How are you, Gene?

Gene Hammett [1:41]
I am fantastic. excited to have you on Growth Think Tank.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [1:46]
Awesome. Great to be here. Thank you for the invite.

Gene Hammett [1:49]
Well, it wasn’t really hard. You’re a good friend of mine, and really admire what you’ve done in the world of research. And you know, you’re one of my few friends that has that doctor that you really earned the title. But before we go into this whole-brain science stuff, I want to go back and say writing a book is not easy. So why did you have to write this book Dr. Jones?

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [2:13]
Well, I tell you, this is a book that literally is it took 20 years to write. So I began working on my doctoral dissertation and research around engagement, employee motivation, motivation, actually did this working with the US Postal Service of all organizations, right? What a challenge that is. And as a graduate student, this is, you know, year 2000 2001. And over the years, going into the corporate world, and then doing more research and sharing ideas through whether it be speeches, or coaching, or leadership training, sharing and getting feedback on different ideas. This is a concept that has, it has taken literally 20 years to develop, and for what I felt would be ready to be put on paper and then shared with the world. So while it took about a year to write, it really was developed over about 20 years, something that I really felt that I wanted the world to know about what really effective leadership looks like to take it to the next level. And not this type of leadership of what a lot of people call influence, which I think is a good concept. But taking your leadership to the next level, to being much more active, and being able to essentially activate the people who are around you.

Gene Hammett [3:34]
Well, that’s a good question there. You’ve titled The book activator, we see a picture of it behind you. I would hold up my picture, but it’s apparently in the mail, as you said, well, that’s the early beta readers book. Yeah.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [3:49]
Yeah, you have to.

Gene Hammett [3:51]
That’s the size. I was one of the beta readers. So I got to read it a few months ago, when you were true, you know, shaping this and crafting it. And I know, it’s even improved since then, through all the work that we do to put out books in the world, but I have to ask you just straight up what isn’t activated.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [4:09]
So an Activator is a leader, the leader who can have any seat so that they have employees or not is irrelevant, but an activator is a leader who knows and understands how the brain works. And then seeks to turn on to stoke that Ember inside people, to bring them to life to bring the best out in them. And so while a lot of people look at leadership, how do I create an outcome related to a number or to some type of goal that they want for themselves, or their or their organization wants for them? an activator is different in that they don’t work from a place of influence. They work from a place of action, how do I help spark the brain in other people in a way that It brings out the best in them that raises their game to reach their potential. And so activators built on the idea of our brain can be activated literally, there are studies that show and Case Western Reserve has as a study and several other researchers there have looked at the brain and seeing how the brain literally lights up in multiple areas when we interact with people in certain ways.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [5:31]
So one of those ways we know is Richard boyatzis, at Case Western Reserve University did a study around this area of how are we coached, and how we interact with our supervisors. And we literally can see on fMRI studies, where if a coach or a supervisor coaches in a way that’s more positive, that is goal oriented for that person, it literally lights up their brain, in multiple areas, 16 areas, in fact, while whenever an employee is subjected or coached by a leader who is being more demanding, or coercive, it literally shuts down many of those areas of the brain. And so really, this idea of the activator is how do we turn on and light up the brain?

Gene Hammett [6:19]
You know, you’ve talked a lot about brain science here, you’ve used some words that I don’t even understand the different things that you’re measuring, and all the work and you’ve you’ve done this work over 20 years. But what do we as leaders need to really understand about brain science as it relates to being the best leaders? We can be?

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [6:39]
You know, there are, there are a number of different applications here. And I’m often asked, you know, what do I need to know? And I then asked, Well, how much time do you have? That’s why I wrote a book on it, right. But I think there are a couple of things I would say any leader should know right off the bat. The first thing is what I just mentioned, just related to the capacity that we all have within us, if we learn some specific activator skills, we can have a bigger impact on people’s lives, we can literally like you said, light up the brain and help them to become more engaged, more motivated, and in their lives more impactful to the people around them. I like to say Imagine if you lived in a world in a family, if you were in a team or in a workplace, where everyone was activating each other, where we were fighting each other up, imagine the power of that, where we’re all helping each other, to reach our potential and to live our greatest that would be I think we’d all love to be in that type of atmosphere.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [7:37]
So the first and foremost thing is, is that leaders, there are skills to be learned that will help you to create this in other people. The other thing I think is important to know is that we are all walking around like a, in many ways, a ball of chemicals to say, for lack of a better way to say that of neurochemicals that impact other people. So how you wake up in the morning, and how you bring yourself to work is going to impact brain function. And essentially the chemical makeup of people who are around you, there are studies that show this, that how you show up and what you do that energy you carry with you that’s based on your, your chemical makeup at the time can impact others. So if you have literally more in your body flowing more oxytocin, which is the bonding chemical, a chemical that really is responsible for whether someone will want to trust you or not. If you have more dopamine, that’s the feel good chemical, if you have more of that in your bloodstream. Because of things you’ve done to prepare yourself for the day or the people you’re around or what you’re listening to those inputs, you can literally give that to other people around you.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [8:57]
They can feed off of that for you. So gene, you know what I’m talking about. If you ever been, you know, somewhere and someone walks into the room, and they actually are carrying with them negativity, and it just kind of sucks the life out of you, right, they’re negative, they have the expression on their face, the way they carry themselves that literally rubs off and can bring down and can really hinder positive neurochemistry of the people that are in that room. What’s the same way with being able to do this with positive neurochemistry, if you walk in the room, you can actually change a person’s perspective change their feeling, and help them to up their game just by how you interact with them, and what you bring to that environment with them. So that’s a huge piece of this. We know this is also about communication is a big part of this as well. And now how we are communicating with one another. We don’t even realize that we’re communicating in certain ways through our hormones, how we smell things. We don’t even know that we are smelling them, it’s subconscious. All of this has to do with our neurochemical makeup, and how we interact with other people with a verbal nonverbal. And, you know, sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re the ways that we communicate. But we pick up on that.

Commercial [10:17]
Hold on for a second, Jason just talked about communication. We can’t talk about communication without talking about the power of listening, because everyone thinks communication is about what we say, and how we say it. But don’t underestimate the importance of listening to your people. When you think about becoming a better leader. And I do all this 360-degree feedback with my clients to help them understand where they’re lacking and need to expand their capabilities and skills. One of the things that come back to surprise them is they could be a better listener. Now they look at me and going, Wow, how would I actually do that? So here’s the one thing I would give you to be a better listener, you’re not listening to respond, you’re listening to understand, if you really step back and say, am I listening to respond here? Or am I listening to understand that, you will be able to slow down your thinking, and you will be more deliberate, intentional, and people will feel more connected? And the next thing you can do is pretty easy. But to be a better listener is to remove all of the electronics, make sure you shut your laptop, make sure you physically move your phone, into your bag in your pocket, not even visible on the table because it will improve the way people receive the message that you’re saying, or that you’re listening to. So remove those electronics, those are two ways you can improve your listening to be a better communicator. Back to Jason.

Gene Hammett [11:41]
You know, one of the things I think your research really puts a spotlight on is the fact that engagement is a tool that we use to measure how someone is. I don’t want to say engaging with our work engaging with the culture. But it’s not the end all be all tool to really measuring the effectiveness of the people. What are your thoughts on measuring engagement?

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [12:05]
Yeah. So measuring engagement is indeed what you’ve just said, it’s measuring a data point, right? Or maybe it’s multiple data points, that give us an overarching engagement data point. But engagement in itself does not guarantee a certain level of performance for an organization, engagement by a multitude of people does not guarantee organizational performance, revenue generation, or profitability, it also doesn’t guarantee someone’s going to stay with you. Right. And so now it is a data point that allows us to better understand that, that this might, it’s an indicator for us. But instead, I think what we have to look at taking a step back as leaders and look more broadly, at what type of culture are recreating and the people that we’re bringing into that culture, do they match what we’re trying to do and what outcomes that we’re after? And so, engagements, not about taking a bunch of people and doing trying to figure out how do we find the gaps? And then we’re just going to close those gaps. That’s traditional engagement, organizational development.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [13:15]
Now we have research that shows us there are these micro factors, and micro factors are a number of things like a person’s personality, right, that’s a micro factor that you are not going to change in someone. Right. So it’s important for us to understand what that is, how about economic headwinds, that’s a micro factor, right, a person’s sense of what is meaningful to them, and purposeful for them. That’s a micro factor. And these things are much more important. And what we see from the data is more impactful for overall engagement and performance within a person’s job and their enjoyment and their loyalty than just looking at and saying, Oh, we’ve got an engagement score for them.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [13:58]
So I think any leader, what you want to do is think of this and much more broadly, and about how we go about understanding people and their individual differences. And then matching this what I call the activator approach, the activator approach is how we’re having these conversations that match a person’s sense of meaningfulness values, even their personality. align those, how do we have conversations that help them align those with what their work is. And when we are able to do that, that then really activates and sparks this connection between what a person does every day and their in their job and who they are as a person and creates that that glue that will obviously help them with motivation, engagement, and then also performance.

Commercial [14:47]
Now, hold on for a second, we’ve been talking to Dr. Jason Jones, about his new book Activator. I was one of the beta readers behind this and I really want to support him because this message is very important. He simplifies many of the key aspects of You becoming a better leader using brain science. But you don’t need a brain science degree, because he’s the one with the degree. And he’s simplified it for you as a leader. If you want to go ahead and take advantage of this special offer, he has just gone to, you have to put the, you can not only buy the book, but you get bonuses to help you become a better leader. There are six specific bonuses and a quiz that was specifically engineered to help you be the leader that you can be for your people. Just go to support my friend, Jason, learn new techniques and leadership. And as always be the leader that you really want to be. Now back to the interview with Dr. Jason Jones.

Gene Hammett [15:48]
I love you so much inside there, Jason. So thanks for sharing that breaking it down for us. You’ve also talked a lot about motivation inside the book, you actually give four different styles. Not that I’m going to try to test you on this. But I really like the section of really looking at how we’re motivating others. Can you walk us through those four styles of motivation?

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [16:08]
Yeah, yeah. So when you look back at motivation, and how we motivate, and by the way, this is core to management, right? It’s how do we get what we want from people that are following us or in our atmosphere. And this goes back these four core ways of doing this goes back to the beginning of what we even know of mankind, and how we got what we wanted from other people. And so probably the one that was used the most that we have the most data on related to just stories and history. And that sort of thing is, is this coercive, forceful type of motivation or management of people? And that is, if you don’t do what I say you do, I have power over you and I will take your life, I will take your livelihood, right. And that’s what dictatorships monarchies, you know, these large organizations have used for many years to threaten you and get what you want.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [17:10]
The next level really is more of a hierarchical level. Okay, I’ve got a position. This was big and became a big thing during the Industrial Revolution, we got to have leaders and managers over groups of people and one person can’t oversee, you know, 2000 people. So what do we do, we’re going to go ahead and put these layers of leadership where we have a title, and we can threaten using those titles. So if you don’t do what I say and how I can get how I can use my leverage of title and power, I will then let that cascade down through other managers and leaders. But there are still threats with that. And that if you don’t do what I say you do, I will take your paycheck away. I’ll take your livelihood away, I’ll blacklist you whatever it might be. Well, those first two have done really well up until the 19th, or the 20th century, where now we have competition, we have a lot of organizations. And if someone’s being like that it’s either against the law or someone will go somewhere else. Right. So that’s where the last two levels of motivation have been very popular over the last 30 to 40 years. And the third level, the third area of motivation is reward incentive. BF Skinner, a lot of psychological research is all about reward incentive, right, you reward something, you’re gonna get the same type of behavior that is good to some extent. But it levels off and actually can become a de motivator.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [18:37]
Because we have this thing as humans called satiation, we’re not animals, we were humans. And if I give you $5,000, to add in a promotion, and you’ve got more stress in your life, Jean, that $5,000 looks really good this month, but next month, the month after that, that $5,000 is not looking so much, you’re gonna want more, right? Because I hate this, I’m worth more, I’m more valuable. So we satiate the same way with all kinds of different rewards and incentives. That works to some extent. And there’s a way to use it well, but it’s that fourth level that we’re seeing more research around and that we’re seeing that it’s really more of a stimulator of the brain. And that is this motivation, of purpose of meaningfulness, and how do we better understand what is in alignment with our values, and with what we see as our purpose in life, our mission, and when we can create that alignment, that’s where we have a much more intrinsically motivated employee. And then we can also that becomes more sustainable over time. It actually becomes cheaper for an organization because you’re not constantly having to throw money at people to keep them happy or try to get the behaviors that you want. Instead, you’re working to create an understanding and the mindset of alignment.

Gene Hammett [20:04]
I want to kind of redirect us just a little bit. You’ve worked hard to come up with a book. And I know what it’s like to put everything into it. We’ve had many conversations around, you know, What color should the cover be? Or how do I change this? How do I because you really do want to impact others. But at the core of your new book, Dr. Jason Jones, is you want to help people become activators. So what would you say we need to be paying attention to if we want to become activator so that we light up those around us so that they really are living out their fullest self?

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [20:38]
Yeah, you know, right now, one of the things that have been, and I’ve got a number of clients that have mentioned this, to me, where they say, we’re kind of confused because there are so many different leadership models. And there are many good ones, right. And they said, there are so many competencies, and they kind of get overloaded. If you look at any competency model, you’re going to see 20 3040 different competencies. And as a leader that can become overwhelming. As a leader of a business, when you’re looking at trying to create a culture where you’re developing your leaders, and you look at it, it can be overwhelming. And what I’ve done is in this book, I’ve outlined what I call three core, what I call these core activator competencies, these are for leaders, and really what activator is becoming an activator is a method of leadership.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [21:30]
Yeah, you know, certainly be a servant leader, and Situational Leadership, these are really good models that we can utilize. And becoming an activator is not different than that, or anti to that, instead, it’s a method that can fit within it. And it’s this method that says, we’re going to cut and trade on three core competencies or skills every day, if we can just really, as a leader focus on these three things, we’re going to be a better leader. And we’re also at the same time going to be developing other what I’d call sub competencies. And so those three competencies are three core skills are connecting, so how do I connect and build relationships with people. And this is the area that really earns you the right to connect well with people earns you the right to get to the next to, if you think you’re going to come in with a title and just give someone constructive feedback or coach someone, well, you’re remise, you’re going to get defensiveness, you’re going to get people who rebel from you.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [22:31]
Connecting is important because it is about how we communicate how do we care and in our character, as a person, then then, so that so that’s the first one connecting, the second one is coaching. How do we coach people in this is facilitating the high performance, high performance is no longer dictated. High Performance isn’t even delegated. High Performance has to be coached. And it is at every level from the front line all the way to the executive. And so there’s a model I teach in this I call the goal model that helps and in some skills that go around this around how do you ask good questions, and how do you give feedback, constructive feedback? But overarching, every day, we need to be thinking about are we connecting? And how are we coaching, facilitating high performance? And then the third piece of this is culturing and culturing is how do we build and uphold standards of excellence within our team within our organization.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [23:30]
And this is something that you don’t just demand, dictate, create a statement, and put on the wall is co-created with the people within your team within your organization, co-creating standards, and then making sure you’re hiring and around those standards that you’re promoting around those standards. And that you’re celebrating the standards as well. And I’ve got a method I call a framed framework, and it’s built on research from solid research from Deci, and Ryan and self-determination theory, as well as the research of Stephen Reese. And his basic desires theory, which is one of the most contemporary, well-researched theories around motivation, and why people want to actually be motivated, and how they can be aligned with what their values are. So when you put those three things together, and you can look at them as a Venn diagram, right, so you can look at it as being how do we connect, connecting then gives you that right and earns you the right then to coach and then as you coach and you build this environment, that’s where the culture comes in. That becomes that this powerful activation skillset that anyone really can put into place.

Gene Hammett [24:50]
Dr. Jason Jones, you blow me away every time by sharing something in a very simple way organizing it for us so that we can be better leaders. So thank you for being here on the show.

Jason Jones, Ph.D. [25:00]
Well, thank you, Gene, I appreciate it. You’re doing great work here. I always enjoy listening to your podcasts. And I appreciate the opportunity to be able to talk to you and to those who are listening.

Gene Hammett [25:10]
So I just want to wrap up here for a second. What you’ve been hearing here from Dr. Jason Jones is his newest book about acting, becoming an activator. This is a book that I really recommend you checking out because there are a lot of leadership models out there and it can be confusing. But if you want something simple, you want something to really help you transform how you’re connecting, how you’re truly being able to engage and get the most out of someone that make sure you check out activator. I really appreciate having experts like this on the show. You’re leveling up as a leader, you’re probably reading all kinds of book, I recommend activator for sure. When you think about growth, you think about leadership, think of Growth Think Tank, as always lead with courage we’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Growth Think Tank with Jason Jones, Ph.D.



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