Dandelion Effect Podcast - Creating Connection in the Workplace with Don Rheem

Creating Connection in the Workplace with Don Rheem

The landscape of work has shifted dramatically in the last several years. From layoffs and furloughs during the pandemic to record numbers of people quitting jobs in the United States—to the tune of 4 million people per month—people are engaging with employment differently than ever before. And many people have seemed to reach a threshold, saying enough is enough when it comes to low pay, poor treatment and unfair conditions. They’re seeking meaning and purpose, flexibility, mutual respect and safety, and they’re paying attention to how they feel at work, rather than just collecting a paycheck.

It’s a new era, and today’s guest Don Rheem sees this shift as an opportunity to bring more love and relationality into the workplace, to teach leaders and managers how to provide safe and secure work environments where employees can thrive, and as a result, business can thrive. After all, most of us in the western world do spend a majority of our waking hours engaging with work in some shape or form. Wouldn’t it be nice if that time was spent feeling valued, appreciated and celebrated?

Don draws on research based in attachment theory to understand human behavior, making the case that humans are biologically hardwired to connect with other humans. He explains how our limbic system, the system that detects threat, is always searching for safe and secure attachments, a mechanism built deep within our brains since the days of hunting in groups and helping raise children with the support of small villages. It’s not that we want these connections; we need them in order to function and thrive.

Translated to the workplace, employees will never be able to produce at optimal levels if their primal instincts perceive danger, which can happen with inconsistent bosses, unfair treatment, cliquiness, and many other situations common in workplaces around the world.

In this conversation, we hear how Don’s company E3 Solutions assesses businesses for “employee engagement” rather than “satisfaction,” we discuss the conditions that support trust, fairness and emotional safety in the workplace, and we ponder the personal awareness process that helps managers provide consistent and predictable environments where our brains can relax and focus.

Don is the author of The Neuroscience that Drives High-Performance Cultures, and has done two TedTalks: How Can Work Save Our Relationships? and How to Stay Ahead of the Future of Work. He’s been involved in this engagement process around the world for 20 years, and is passionate about helping more people feel seen, heard and connected.


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Episode Transcript

Don Rheem (00:00:00):

We’re all born hardwired at birth to have safe and secure connections with others. And when we have those kinds of connections, we thrive because those are the conditions the brain is literally designed to thrive in. When you don’t have those conditions, something that’s referred to as emotional isolation, the brain and the body malfunction, and the limbic system, which is where we process emotion, it has no idea whether it’s at work or at home. And it just hit me. And it was so simple that, that the same things that create healthy couples are going to create healthy relationships in the workplace.

Andy Vantrease (00:00:53):

Welcome to the Dandelion Effect podcast, a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never-ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that help them blossom into their unique version of this human experience. This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community, and empowerment.


The landscape of work has shifted dramatically in the last several years, from layoffs and furloughs during the pandemic to record numbers of people quitting jobs in the United States—to the tune of 4 million people per month. People are engaging with employment differently than ever before. And many people have seemed to reach a threshold saying, “Enough is enough,” when it comes to low pay, poor treatment and unfair conditions. They’re seeking meaning and purpose, flexibility, mutual respect and safety. And they’re paying attention to how they feel at work, rather than just collecting a paycheck.


It’s a new era. And today’s guest, Don Rheem, sees this shift as an opportunity to bring more love and relationality into the workplace, to teach leaders and managers how to provide safe and secure work environments where employees can thrive—and as a result, businesses can thrive. After all, most of us in the western world do spend a majority of our waking hours engaging with work in some shape or form. Wouldn’t it be nice if that time was spent feeling valued, appreciated, and celebrated?


That’s the work that Don does. He draws on research based in Attachment Theory to understand human behavior, making the case that humans are biologically hardwired to connect with other humans. He explains how our limbic system, the system that detects threat and processes emotion, is always searching for safe and secure attachments. A mechanism built deep within our brains since the days of hunting in groups and raising children with the support of small villages. It’s not that we want these connections; we actually need them in order to function and thrive. Translated to the workplace, employees will never be able to produce at optimal levels if their primal instincts perceive danger, which can happen with inconsistent bosses, unfair treatment, cliquiness, and many other situations common in workplaces around the world.


In this conversation, we hear how Don’s company, E3 Solutions, assesses businesses for employee engagement rather than satisfaction. We discuss the conditions that support, trust, fairness, and emotional safety in the workplace. And we ponder the personal awareness processes that help managers provide consistent and predictable environments where our brains can relax and focus. Don is the author of The Neuroscience that Drives High-Performance Cultures and has done two Ted Talks: How Work Can Save Our Relationships, and How to Stay Ahead of the Future of Work. He’s been involved in this engagement process around the world for 20 years and is passionate about helping more people feel seen, heard, and connected. Without further adieu, please help me welcome my guest, Don Rheem on the Dandelion Effect podcast with me, your host, Andy Vantrease.


We have a lot we’re gonna cover between your personal life and your professional life. And an interesting thing about this connection is that your grandfather owned the land and the property that the Feathered Pipe Ranch sit on. I mean, that’s essentially why we are connected. And you came to visit this past summer. How long had it been since you had been back to Helena, Montana?

Don Rheem (00:04:48):

Oh my gosh. Uh, I think it had been, I don’t wanna date myself anymore than is already obvious, but maybe 50 years.

Andy Vantrease (00:04:55):

Okay. Wow.

Don Rheem (00:04:56):

Um, I think I was 11 the first time and 13 the second time. I was just allowed to walk, you know, anywhere I wanted in the woods. But I really looked forward maybe the most to the hikes up Black Mountain. For that you’d have to go out to a place owned by some folks called The Budaball’s, who lived outside the gate and up to the left. Anyway, that’s where the trailhead to Black Mountain started. And it was a lot of fun. So there were two things happening… my grandfather was RS Ream, Richard Ream, he was the founder of Rheem Manufacturing, which is still today I think the largest manufacturer of water heaters in the world. It was number two or three in heating and air conditioning, big brand where you are in Mexico and and around the world.


So it was a combination of this industrialist, uh, and entrepreneur, but who also loved nature. And I got bitten by both bugs. My time in Helena and at the Ranch did have a long-term impact on me, and love for the outdoors. So immediately as a young man, I got my first back backpack and started backpacking in the closest mountains to me, which were the Santa Sento Mountains in Southern California outside of Hemet. And then I tried to find as many friends as I could to go up with me, cause it’s more fun to do it with people than not. And we developed a group that would go out regularly doing rock climbing work and rescue of people. Ice training, you know, get pushed down an ice slope and using the ice axe, and digging snow caves to survive. You know, it was just great stuff.


And I also found in high school that I was excelling, getting my best grades in biology and loved that. So I decided to be a bio major when I went to college and started as a bio major. But then as I saw alumni coming back and visiting the department that most of the bio majors were, uh, high school biology teachers, and that’s not what I wanted to do. So I added environmental science, but then I traveled internationally. I did an ecological program in East Africa. I did another one through Southeast Asia. And it was really in Southeast Asia that I realized that the environmental problems weren’t solved by environmentalists. They were solved—or worsened—by politicians. So I came back and added poli sci. I graduated as a triple major in biology, environmental science, and political science.


And that really set my direction. As things happen in life… literally I had just received my funding to go to East Africa to do my research when I was offered a job with the House Science Technology and Space Committee and the House of Representatives to be a science advisor to members of the Science Research and Technology Subcommittee, which is the basic science arm of the US government. It funds NIH and a host of other federal agencies. So I was advised to take that. I’m not sure it was good advice, but…

Andy Vantrease (00:07:48):

Who were you advised by?

Don Rheem (00:07:50):

It was a vice president of a very large international firm, well-known firm. And he was, like, I don’t know, a second cousin, but my father had passed on when I was 17, and I really didn’t have any other place to go. And I’ll still remember the conversation. He said, “Don, there are lots of people with PhDs, but not many people have been a science advisor to Congress. Yeah, take that job.” So I did.

Andy Vantrease (00:08:15):

That’s such a fascinating track, and I am glad that you added in there like, you know, the, just the personal bits of what was going on in your life: That your dad had passed away. So, you were getting advice from this other family member and kind of thinking, okay, well, given where I am in my life and given that I’m 17, 18 years old, and invited by life to then become adult very quickly. When we talked last, you were mentioning that because of the industrial family you grew up in, this career path, or even really just like your personal interests, you felt a bit like the black sheep of the family. Especially when a family has a large, very successful business, I know that for the children there can be some pressure to follow in your father’s and your grandfather’s footsteps. So was there any of that as you were just, you know, individuating and deciding like, who am I and what do I wanna do in the world, and what am I interested in?

Don Rheem (00:09:19):

Yeah, some of that decision had been made for me at a young age. My grandfather sold the company and it was no longer within the family, but there was always the notion early as a young man. I thought I was gonna be a business major and to be an entrepreneur like my grandfather. And the other thing about pressure is that essentially everybody died. My grandfather died six months before my father. And with both of them gone, that was really the last of the Rheem family. My great-uncle, whom I’m named after, he died as well. So I was really kind of on my own and just had to make decisions for myself by myself. And so that made it a little more challenging.

Andy Vantrease (00:10:00):

Yeah, I mean, one of the things that you mentioned to me just even about the work that you do today, was really having this drive, this passion for wanting to make sure people aren’t alone and that people feel seen and valued and heard. Why is this so important to you? Because it’s not important to everybody. So I’m curious if there’s a link between just your own experience and then how that has translated into the work that you do and that we will dig into in a minute.

Don Rheem (00:10:34):

You know, I don’t see myself as a victim, and I certainly don’t want to complain about how I was raised, but the reality is that I was essentially alone. There was really not much connection with my parents. Certainly at an emotional level, there was not much there. Everything I did, I essentially did on my own. I didn’t have a dad that would like, you know, take me out to regular baseball games or do anything like that. I had to create my own environment and activities, and I just got used to that. But it was also pretty quiet. And then when I was, uh, a young boy, I was very precocious and I was making what was supposed to be a rocket that was gonna soar into the sky and be very impressive, but instead it turned into a hand grenade.


And instead of rocketing away, it just blew up in my hand. So at a very young age, I didn’t have the normal hands that people have, and when you’re young kids just make fun of you. But it did just instill in me this notion that, wow, other people feel like this, and this isn’t a good place to be. And as I grew and matured, I thought, wow, wouldn’t it be great to be someone who counters that sense of, I don’t know, of being alone. And this isn’t like, there aren’t people around. The research around this is called, Attachment Theory, and this is the work that I do now in companies.

Andy Vantrease (00:11:58):

Let’s slow down a bit before we get into E3 solutions and thanks for sharing all of that. What I do love to hear about from people is how their personal experiences lead them to the work that they do today. Because in all the interviews I do and all the conversations I have with people doing just fantastic work in the world for others, it typically does stem from having had an experience at some point in their lives that really moved them in a deep way or changed their perspective or opened their eyes to how the world works and to the ways that they wanna serve others. So talking about connection, it makes me feel more connected to you as we have this conversation. Thanks for going there and answering that question.

Don Rheem (00:12:46):

You’re welcome.

Andy Vantrease (00:12:47):

Okay. So it sounded like you were starting to frame up some of the research that is the foundation of your work. Do you wanna continue with that flow and tell us a bit about that?

Don Rheem (00:12:59):

We’re all born hardwired at birth to have safe and secure connections with others, and when we have those kinds of connections, we thrive because those are the conditions the brain is literally designed to thrive in. When you don’t have those conditions, something that’s referred to as Emotional Isolation, the brain and the body malfunction. And one of the things that certainly contributes to a high degree to emotional isolation is feeling that we’re not seen, that we’re alone.

Andy Vantrease (00:13:27):


Don Rheem (00:13:27):

Something ironically that has been exacerbated by social media, which feels ironic because we’re connected to more people than ever, but we’ve never felt lonelier.

Andy Vantrease (00:13:39):


Don Rheem (00:13:39):

So that’s just something I tried to do personally in my life for others. But then I realized there was an opportunity to do this professionally. And so I started a company that is designed and based on creating healthier relationships in the workplace, because when people have them, they outperform others that don’t.

Andy Vantrease (00:14:00):

Do you have any insight and memory on what that switch was or what led to understanding that that’s a possibility? Did you have a mentor or a teacher or read something?

Don Rheem (00:14:12):

Because of the direction my career took, I ended up with a business doing consulting on communication. I’d been a journalist, I’d been a White House correspondent. I was a bureau chief of a television news bureau in Washington. And when I left that work, uh, I started doing consulting. A lot of it in crisis communication. I managed the, the communication campaign for the largest consumer product recall in history. It involved children and most people never knew it actually occurred. It was all about managing messages. And I realized one day I was helping people communicate things that just weren’t healthy. And I didn’t want to be in the position anymore of helping people simply do a better job at communicating things that I didn’t agree with and didn’t think were right. And I went to a conference with my wife, who was a marriage and family therapist, and it was a conference with other therapists and great luminaries in, in that world who were speaking.


And I had the pleasure of meeting a brilliant neuroscientist and clinical psychologist by the name of Dr. Jim Cohen at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Jim is, I dunno, at least in my mind, uh, the most prolific writer on the role of human emotion. And I heard him talk about how the, the science that he pursues and he’s demonstrated is referred to as Social Baseline Theory. It’s very similar to Attachment Theory, but through a different lens. And Jim’s work led him to understand that the social baseline for homo sapiens is being together. And I opened the third chapter in my book with a quote from him, “The ecology of human beings is other human beings.” That may sound sort of simple, but I thought, okay, this is important in couples therapy, for example, because it helps us understand why couples are healthy and others aren’t.


It rips through decades of cognitive behavioral therapy and gets right to the quick of what the brain needs in order to thrive in a relationship. And I was also sitting with another leader in this field by the name of Dr. Sue Johnson, who’s the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. And we were sitting talking at her cabin with her husband up in Ontario. We were talking about the limbic system and this need for attachment and connection. And the thought that occurred to me is the limbic system, which is where we process emotion, has no idea whether it’s at work or at home. It’s just not what it does. It’s not that smart. And it just hit me, and it was so simple that the same things that create healthy couples are going to create healthy relationships in the workplace.


And so I started doing research on the research around what is referred typically to adult attachment at work, and found some really interesting researchers and had conversations with them about their work. And what essentially they found is that adults are attaching at work and there are four areas of where they demonstrated empirically that adults attach at the workplace. And I thought, okay, I’ve gotta create a company that talks about this. Because when we can create these healthier relationships at work on the surface, the business case is productivity goes up, retention increases, the accident rate declines, profitability goes up, all of these wonderful things happen. But what struck me at its essence was if we could use business to create conditions where human beings have healthier relationships, yes, that’s at work. But if we can create these healthier environments at work, those employees will go home as better parents and better partners, more emotionally attuned and just healthier. And that is why we do what we do at E3 Solutions. It’s really focused on families, but we’re doing it through business, which is a win-win.

Andy Vantrease (00:18:13):


Don Rheem (00:18:13):

Because if employees have healthy relationships at work, they’re gonna have healthier relationships at home, without question.

Andy Vantrease (00:18:21):

Yeah. And, and even just thinking about how much time most people are at work, you’re spending more time there awake than you are at home. I mean, it was a big aha moment for me listening to your first TED Talk. Just really reframing the workplace as an opportunity to create these safe and secure connections using the different research, like the attachment theory research that you just mentioned. And I’ve always seen it as like potentially a negative that we spend so much time at work. Do you know, like I would like to see more what we, you know, how we call it, work-life balance. Well, work is a part of life. And what it takes to exist in the modern world, it’s a really big part of life. And so you reframing that to be an opportunity to feel seen and heard and appreciated in this place where we spend a majority of our time. I mean, my whole body was like, yes to that idea. <laugh>.

Don Rheem (00:19:27):

Well, thank you, Andy. When we look back at the conditions where homo sapiens developed, all of the evidence indicates that it started in East Africa. Virtually all of the DNA evidence says that that’s where we started. So you go to East Africa and you look at those conditions, thousands of acres of open grasslands and savannahs in Kenya and Tanzania and Uganda. But you think of the Serengeti, for example, where if you’re in a group, your chances of survival went up exponentially. If you were out there on your own alone, your chances of survival were deminished. They were just very, very small. It sounds odd to say it this way, and I’m not trying to be funny, but one of the leading sources of success and survival for early man was your ability to outrun just one other person in your group <laugh>, and you lived another day.


Also to build defenses and to nurture and raise children properly and actually learn how to cultivate and preserve food, for example, build shelters. But these conditions for us as a species, that to be in a group was tantamount to succeeding. And having your lineage continued was so ingrained in us over tens of thousands of years that social neuroscientists now say very plainly that every corner of our brain, every fold of our cerebral matter is dedicated to being in a group. That’s what attachment theory is all about. It’s not like someone says, oh, I think we need to—this is how we evolved socially. And these social conditions impacted our biology, our brains, and our bones. And, people wanna be members of things, bowling clubs, church, political parties, sports teams. We’re born with this desire to have what clinicians would call safe and secure connections.


This isn’t something that we were socialized to learn after we were born. It’s in the human genome. And an earlier part of my career, I had the pleasure of training about 150 scientists at the Human Genome Institute at the National Institutes of Health. And one of the things that I learned from them is everything that’s contained in the genome. It’s literally a blueprint for how brain views successful life. And it includes a genetically encoded signal to be in a group.

Andy Vantrease (00:21:43):


Don Rheem (00:21:43):

And we don’t grow up now in tight-knit tribes, but to your point, Andy, where do we spend most of our time when we’re awake with other adults? It’s at work. And so what struck me is at work is the new tribe for the 21st-century homo sapien. The challenge for business is when the brain gets there, it doesn’t find the conditions that it thought it would get.


It’s not getting the advantages. For employers, their employees will never be able to work at their full capacity if they don’t have safe and secure connections, what we would typically call trusted colleagues. We are just not designed to work in isolation.

Andy Vantrease (00:22:23):


Don Rheem (00:22:23):

We’re not designed to work remotely. Doesn’t mean that we can’t do it, but it’s not ideal. The brain actually codes isolation as threat. We watched this unfold during the pandemic. Employees were starting to implode when they were sent home to work. For many people it was a disaster. Spousal abuse went up. Child abuse increased. I suspect pet abuse increased too, but no one’s really measuring that, that I know of. Suicide ideation went up. The actual completion of a suicide attempts were up, especially among young people. It’s a disaster. A pervasive sense of feeling alone is a bigger pandemic than Covid 19.


I believe it’s almost tripled over the last 15 or 20 years. The number of people reporting to be pervasively alone and isolated in their life, amidst the most prolific communication technology mankind has ever experienced. And that actually is kind of the opposite of what most social media does. You know, the cancel culture is not about supporting people and making them feel connected. It’s in many cases to destroy them. Where these keyboard warriors, they feel better by making other people feel miserable. It’s a dangerous social phenomenon that we will be reading about probably for the next three or four decades when we sit back and look back and see what happened.

Andy Vantrease (00:23:47):

Mm-hmm. Yeah. And to your point, it’s not just being physically alone. I think that’s a huge distinction. It seems to me, you know, what we really wanna look at is people are physically with other people when they are at work. They’re showing up, they’re clocking in, they have their coworkers, but it’s the sense of feeling alone among other people who you are hardwired to want to connect with. And I’d love to kind of start there to dig deeper into some of the markers that the research has been guidelines for you. Like, I know that you talk about like safe and secure attachments, or safe and secure relationships, um, you know, showing up to work. Your limbic system is scanning for this safety and security. Can you just kind of take us a little bit deeper into that, setting the stage of like how this is playing out in a human being while at work? And then I would love to hear about, you know, the ways that you’re then going in and tangibly working with people.

Don Rheem (00:24:53):

So one of the things about the limbic system that is hyper-vigilant for threat, as an example, it favors what is referred to as false positives. Let’s say we’re walking in a meadow and the grass is about, I dunno, 15 inches high. And we’re walking across that meadow. And in my peripheral vision, I pick up an object in the grass that’s about three feet long, narrow and black. What resonates through my head? It would be a snake. And so what happens is, and everyone’s familiar with the notion of fight, flight, or freeze, that process takes place in about three-one hundredths of a second. The way it’s mapped out clinically is Cue – what do I see? Tone – what does it mean? Action – what do I have to do? Cue, Tone, Action. All of that occurs inside the limbic system, not the prefrontal cortex. Cuz the prefrontal cortex is just too slow to a assess and respond to immediate danger.


But anyway, so I freeze and I turn my head and I look down at the object and my eyes see the object. The eyes don’t see anything. They just throw the image to the back of the brain, which tosses now tosses it up to the prefrontal cortex. It’s like, what am I dealing with? And the prefrontal cortex says to the limbic system, dude, it’s a stick. Don’t worry. Keep walking. You guys are headed someplace. Nice. Go. Now that stick is an example of a false positive. Why does my limbic system have to assume it’s a snake? What if I didn’t?What am I?

Andy Vantrease (00:26:18):


Don Rheem (00:26:19):

Dead. Yeah. <laugh>, I’m dead. And so the, the limbic system is rewarded by favoring false positives in order to stay alive. What does that mean in the workplace? The key thing to understand that I try to explain to CEOs and leaders is that when the limbic system triggers threat, it starts hijacking resources from other parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex.


Because it wants to deal with the threat immediately. Whether it’s getting the heart to pump faster, to get more oxygen in the blood, more adrenaline into the blood, cortisol into your saliva is doing all of these things. So it is hijacking energy to do those things. So what happens to the employee who doesn’t feel psychologically safe? They’re IQ drops. They’re dumber. They’re more likely to miss a step in a process. They’re more likely to have an accident, their peripheral vision implodes. So their ability to be attuned to the needs of others around them, including customers, is diminished. So if we want employees to have their full mental faculties available to them to get the work done that employers are paying them for, we have to create work environments that fit with what the limbic system considers safe. And, and the primary determinant of safety, uh, aside from just being physically safe, is having safe and secure connections, is having reliable, trustworthy relationships. And that’s what is missing in many, many cultures, workplace cultures.

Andy Vantrease (00:27:48):

Mm-hmm. And when you say reliable, trustworthy relationships, what are the ways that you are measuring that, whether or not people do feel valued and what the steps are to make people feel valued?

Don Rheem (00:28:03):

Sure. Uh, so we, we do have a 28 question, hard-coded survey that every employee in the organization takes. Most employee engagement surveys that are out there that are actually employee satisfaction surveys, they literally ask employees, how satisfied are you with this, that, and the other? Um, we don’t ask any questions like that. We don’t ask people to self-assess, essentially, are you engaged or not? I think that’s a fool’s errand. Um, what you wanna be measuring are drivers of engagement, that is drivers of human behavior that are not sentiment based. Uh, and they’re just statements. They’re not questions. They’re statements we make. And then we ask the employees, to what extent do you agree or disagree with this? But the one statement that stands out above them all in terms of a predictor of someone being what we refer to as actively engaged a true A player, is this statement, “I feel valued for more than just the work I produce.”


The A players, what we call the actively engaged, are 89% more likely to agree with that statement than the disengaged. It’s, it’s the highest differentiator – I feel valued for more than just the work I produce. Uh, what this reflects is that a manager, for example, who has taken the time to talk to them about their life and what has happened and what’s going on for you. And it can be simple questions like, you know, how is your weekend? And then, and then having a conversation about that. When an employee feels seen as a whole person whom they actually are, their tendency to be engaged goes up exponentially. Um, we ask two trust questions. And trust really is reciprocal. It it, well, when it’s best, it’s reciprocated. So we ask an up question and a down question. The up question is, I respect and trust my supervisor.


The down question is, my supervisor trusts and respects me. And we simply ask them to what extent you agree with that. I love it when those two scores come in very, very close. Um, and that tends to correlate with highly engaged cultures. We ask two fairness questions because the brain looks in a couple of places to determine fairness. First it looks in – how have I been treated? Then what the research shows is the brain looks around – how have other people, uh, been treated in my organization. And so we, we want to get at both of those. And what’s interesting is that typically in our global data that I feel I’m treated fairly by my supervisor, is, is a fairly high score. But the question about this in general, this organization treats people fairly, is generally a much lower score. So we’re, we’re looking for those kinds of insights.


And here’s the key thing, Andy. You really have to look at the engagement data by manager.

Andy Vantrease (00:30:49):


Don Rheem (00:30:49):

70% of the variance and how engaged an employee is, is directly attributable to their immediate manager supervisor. 70%. Wow. The fact is, employees join companies, they quit managers. We wanna look at it through that lens. And because engagement pivots around managers when we show the data about that. So for example, I just debriefed a manufacturing company yesterday on their survey, and they had three or four managers that were a hundred percent engaged, and they had three or four managers that are a hundred percent disengaged. It’s the same company, it’s the same culture, it’s the same pay scale across the boards and titles. The biggest differentiator between the a hundred percent engaged, and this is the manager.

Andy Vantrease (00:31:30):

Is the manager of those managers?

Don Rheem (00:31:32):

Well, sometimes those managers with low scores are in one department as it was in this session yesterday. But sometimes they’re spread out. It’s just they’re as managers, uh, typically they’re technically brilliant, but their ability to form healthy relationships with other adults is, um, pretty bereft of, of skillsets. They just, and they’re probably not doing it at home well either. And you said, well, so what’s the remedy? The, the remedy is to give managers better relational skills. And most work environments traditionally, you know, leadership and management has been top down, hierarchical and punitive. And it just won’t work going forward because it’s not a natural condition for people to work in that environment day in and day out. So a large part of what we try to do is show managers, for example, how to hold people accountable without being negative. How to get the negatives outside of their microculture.


And let me just say one other thing to sort of tie this together if I could, Andy. In the popular leadership literature, which is almost all anecdotal, you know, there’s all this talk about is king and culture, trump strategy every day. And, and I do believe that, but it’s created a, a bit of a myth that the issue is the overall culture across the company. And it just isn’t. Think of culture through three lenses, and there are more, but there’s the culture across the whole enterprise. Then there are subcultures in each department or in each geographic location. But then there are microcultures under every manager. That’s the part of culture that matters. That’s the part of culture that impacts people’s daily behavior. And so you could have a really cool culture, and I won’t name any popular brands, but if I work for toxic manager in that company, I don’t feel like I’m in a cool place. I’m, you know, I’m, I’m in a nightmare every day. So we wanna focus on the microcultures because that’s where, where most of people’s behavior pivots.

Andy Vantrease (00:33:31):

Yeah. I think another thing that you say in your TED talk is something along the lines of this is the generation that is prioritizing how they feel at work over some of the other things that historically people would have jobs for.

Don Rheem (00:33:49):

Yeah. And this is something that was, um, accentuated by the pandemic. The, the mindset of employees today really in, in almost all the generational cohorts, even with some of the boomers, is that they’re, they’re much more interested in, in meaning and purpose, um, growth, personal growth, personal safety, emotional safety. This old method of management, again, the top down hierarchical, punitive type of management that is govern organizations for, you know, a couple hundred years isn’t working anymore. And the proof is in the quit rate. We have historical quit rates today. Since April of 2021, more than 4 million Americans have been quitting every month.

Andy Vantrease (00:34:29):

Those numbers are so staggering.

Don Rheem (00:34:32):

They’re staggering. It’s, it’s literally a third of the workforce has quit since the pandemic started. What you don’t read is about 40% of those people are already looking for new work. It’s not about just having a different job. They’re trying to find a place where it feels good to work there. And I don’t mean they’re coddled and they don’t have to work hard. We’re talking about now, more importantly than ever before, creating the conditions where employees thrive. So let me back it up and give one little historical piece. One of the reasons this hasn’t happened already in work is because of the nature of labor and labor availability. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution until about, I don’t know, five years ago, one of the key factors around labor in, in business, at least in the American economy, has been, there’s always been an abundance of labor.


There were always more people than jobs. And so, in an environment, in an economy where there are more people than jobs, if you were one of the people that had a job, your most important imperative was to keep it. Because if you lost that job, there were no guarantees about you getting another one, certainly in the near term. And that could put your whole family at risk. So for over 200 years, the only thing managers had to do to hold people accountable was to threaten their paycheck. And they did. And, and this made us lazy in terms of, of focusing on, well, what are the conditions where people actually work at their best? We never had to do that because if someone didn’t work out or didn’t like it, they’d be kicked to the curb and then there’d be 10 people at the door who want that position.


So what is different today? That labor abundance is gone and it’s not coming back? Um, well I, you know, most people haven’t noticed this, but you know, in 2021, the US population only grew by one tenth of 1%. That’s the smallest increase in our population since the country was founded. We’re slowing down, we’re probably gonna plateau out around 2030, and then the US population’s gonna go into decline. This, by the way, is an inexorable trend that can’t be changed because it’s the result of declining fertility rates. In, in any given geography, uh, the fertility rate that has to be maintained just to replace the people who are dying is 2.1. That is, every woman in America has to have 2.1 children in her lifetime. I don’t know what the 0.1 kid looks like, but that’s the number and the fertility…

Andy Vantrease (00:36:56):

I’m way behind <laugh>.

Don Rheem (00:36:57):

Yeah. Yeah. You better catch up Andy <laugh>. But if we’re below that, then we’re not replacing the people who are dying. Well, we’re at 1.66 today in the us we are well below replacement rate. And this is not gonna change. It’s just going, it’s going down. Um, and this, by the way, is not a US phenomenon. This is happening all over the globe. There’s only one continent on the planet that’s above replacement rate, and that’s Africa. Everywhere else it’s in decline. Is that we’re just short of people. It’s a talent crisis. It’s a people crisis. We have twice as many unfilled jobs as we have unemployed people to fill them. And in this environment, managers can’t hold people accountable to their paycheck because the employees don’t need their paycheck. They can get one anywhere they want.

Andy Vantrease (00:37:42):


Don Rheem (00:37:42):

And so, and then I’ll conclude, Andy, I’m sorry I’m going on for so long. But today, for the first time in most leaders lives and managers at every level in the organization, they have to learn how to create the conditions where people look forward to coming to work, because that’s the only way they’re gonna keep them. And most managers don’t have those skills. That’s what we’re teaching them.

Andy Vantrease (00:38:05):

Mm-hmm. Wow. That that’s awesome. How you just brought that bigger picture view. I was like, where’s he going with this fertility thing? But I understand now what you’re <laugh> what you’re saying. There’s a huge shift in the opportunity in what you can be asking for as an employee. And really like trying to stay in integrity with what you want, how you wanna feel, you know, the benefits and the perks are of working there. Having that sense of possibility of finding that and not having to stay at a place where you don’t have that. My dad always used to like, joke around and, and every time I would quit a job, I’m like a professional job quitter. And he would always just be like you know, worried for me that no other company would wanna take me if they saw, you know, how much was on my resume.


And I would always say like, it’s, it’s just a different generation. You know, like your generation was kind of conditioned to have to stick with a job. And now I really like to have experiences for a couple years. And, and once it really starts to feel like I’m not, um, challenged creatively, or I don’t feel like I’m really growing relationally with the people who I’m working with. You know, I wanna move states or whatever it is. Like I just have this sense of trust that I can actually go find something different. And that has worked. I appreciate you bringing up that huge shift in, um, I don’t wanna say like a shift in consciousness, but certainly a shift in, um, how we view work and companies.

Don Rheem (00:39:52):

Yeah. It, it really is. And I, and, and, uh, we have a masterclass for managers on employee engagement and retention. And one of the slides I use is I break that, that change in consciousness, and it really is pre-pandemic. Um, the perception and frame around work was primarily extrinsic. It was a paycheck, it was job security, it was benefits, um, it was office amenities, Whoa, free coffee. But post pandemic, those things have now fallen below indicators like meaning and purpose, emotional or psychological safety, professional development, flexibility. Uh, it’s just different. And so this huge, it really has been a huge shift in the mindset of employees is a, has occurred at a time when jobs were plentiful and wages are rising. <laugh> It was a perfect storm. And so now we have more than 4 million Americans quitting every month. And that data, by the way, is current all the way through November of, of 2022.


And essentially what what has happened to us is, I think at its simplest level, our resiliency is exhausted. Our emotional resiliency is exhausted. So many deaths, so much fear and stress about the pandemic and getting it and what’s happened to friends or relatives, how dangerous life feels like right now if you’re on a plane or anywhere else. And our resiliency is just exhausted. And so when we go to work and someone treats us in this way, we’re just done. It’s like the brain says, “Enough, I, I don’t have to live like this anymore, so I’m out,” and they should.

Andy Vantrease (00:41:23):


Don Rheem (00:41:25):

We’re now telling folks that their retention strategy is more important than their hiring strategy. And it’s interesting, you know, you ask a c o how much does it cost you to hire a new employee? And it’s typically, certainly in the five figures. Uh, some in the tech, it’s in the six figures. And then I say, well, what are you, what are you paying, investing to retain the employees you have? And then they look at me like, with a blank stare, <laugh>. And it’s like, well, uh, uh, nothing. Okay. So five figures to get a new person, but zero to focus on holding on to the people you have.

Andy Vantrease (00:41:56):

What are you seeing present in the companies that have the engaged managers, the managers who really do understand relationality and how to make people feel like they belong at work and like they are valued more for who they are rather than what they produce? Like what are the components of the workplace that you are seeing in the companies that do this successfully?

Don Rheem (00:42:27):

Uh, when we look at the conditions that create what we would refer to as a safe haven environment, but not a coddling zone, but a place where the limbic system feels safe. Uh, two conditions trump all the others, at least in what we’ve seen in the research so far. And that’s consistency and predictability. And those two things, even trump positivity. You can have a manager who is sometimes very positive and effusive and you know, slaps people on the back and praises them. But later that day or the next day, they’re treating their employees like scoundrels and their do wells and, and shaming them in front of their peers. Um, that kind of, uh, urial behavior, there’s a clinical phrase for that condition if you work in it. And it’s called crazy making. So what we’re encouraging managers to do is to think about how they show up.


Are you showing up in a consistent and predictable way? Or are you mercurial? And let’s figure this out and let’s figure out how you can be more consistent and predictable. The the end result is we want safe and secure connections and attachments. And how do you get those? Well, you get it in part through seeing people, validating them, and then going even further, recognizing them for a job well done. And then in the way we provide feedback. And so we show managers strategically how to do validation, how to do recognition, and how to do the feedback process to maximize, uh, both a felt sense of safety by the employee, but also maximizing your ability to change their behaviors in the ways that will help both of them. And, and the team. I guess if I step back, part of it is making the manager more self-aware of their own behavior, then making them more aware of the conditions where people thrive and asking them to create those, those conditions inside their teams.


But we also provide a website, which is a 24/7 leadership learning curriculum for managers. What we have found, if you want to change people’s habits, you have to give them what they need in the moment they need it. And a lot of managers need help on Sunday night before they go in Monday morning to have a feedback conversation with an employee. And so they’ve got to be able to get resources right then. So we have created this, uh, resource for managers. And then you said, which managers perform the best? One of the conditions is the managers that use these resources to improve their skills. Um, that is, they invest in themselves to shift from being a manager to being more like a leader.

Andy Vantrease (00:44:51):

Mm-hmm. Okay. I, it, there’s such a piece of personal transformation happening here. Right? The first thing you just said was, this manager has to first and foremost becomes self-aware. Their own attitude, their own actions and behaviors, the influence they have on people, the ways that their mood can affect other people when, when there’s a hierarchical system, or you know, even just when you’re in connection with somebody, we’re always kind of feeding off of each other. It’s so interesting to me cuz you’re talking about it from a business sense and there’s such a piece of it that is really in line with like a self-inquiry and contemplative practice process. I know you’re not saying that in technical terms to people, but I have heard you say that essentially what you’re doing is bringing more love back into the workplace. And I would even say, you know, that that’s starting with bringing awareness into the workplace.

Don Rheem (00:45:53):

Well it is. And we, we can’t use the word love, but you’re absolutely right. We’re, what we’re trying to bring is more love into the workplace. And when you said what are the conditions of a manager that does this the best, what I wanted to say is it’s the manager that loves their direct reports. And it’s just absolutely true. It’s a deep sense of connection, not just to the individuals, but to their success. Um, understanding them, empathizing with them, coming alongside them, helping them achieve their goals. But you really have to care for people to do this well. And that’s one of the biggest shortcomings, cuz we’re finding that most managers can’t even maintain healthy relationships at home, let alone at work. Uh, and a again, in 80% of relationships, one person’s a pursuer and one’s a withdraw. What does that mean? It means when, when stress occurs, uh, the pursuer actually leans in and steps on the gas. I gotta get at this. I got, I, you know, I gotta, I gotta nail this thing. Let’s find out what’s going on.


When the withdrawal feels, uh, stress, he slams on the brake. And nine outta 10 times the pursuer is the woman and the withdrawal is the man. Uh, this is not a personality assessment because you could be a pursuer at home and a withdrawal at work. This is simply a coping strategy for stress. And the two people cope differently. And that’s what creates the disconnect. And the point of that is actually let’s be aware of the patterns we’re in. And this is also true in business where patterns develop about how we’re going to interact with employees or how I’m gonna treat my employees. And the pattern often becomes the enemy. And so we just help them see that as well.

Andy Vantrease (00:47:30):

Mm-hmm. But I wanna give you a chance to talk about the inner brain synchrony because bringing it all the way back to the beginning of you teaching us that a human ecosystem is other humans, I think is what you said,.

Don Rheem (00:47:45):

Uh, the ecology of human beings is other human beings.

Andy Vantrease (00:47:48):

Yeah. That is something that I’m gonna like write down and stare at and think about for a while. Because this idea about the inner brain synchrony, it sounds like what happens when, when people who can come together, whether in a, in a business team, in a family, in a music group, in a friend hangout, whatever the group setting is, their brains actually become synchronized with each other. And the reason that this is so cool to me is because I’ve actually heard about it before when I interviewed Matthew Marsolek, who is a drummer and a drum teacher and a music educator. And he talks about this phenomenon as well. When people come together in a drum circle and you’re all working on the same, you know, you’re all holding the same rhythm. He called it entrainment. And your brains really start to link together and, and you are able to like, share thoughts, share feelings, you’re able to work together more efficiently. You’re able to have more empathy for each other. Um, so I wanna dig into that for a couple minutes

Don Rheem (00:49:06):

On this research that I talk about In the second TED talk coming out of NYU, uh, they have simply proved something that we have seen and your drummer talked about is having experienced directly, whether it’s in a drum circle or in what you would call a dream team in sports, where, uh, people can throw passes. And, and we see it a lot frankly in women’s soccers where they just knew where the player was gonna be and they would kick without even looking there. And the person was there. The technology finally exists to measure that. It’s called Hyperscanning. You put headsets on people in a group. And the research that I talked about, they deal in groups of four and they have four people, uh, sitting at a table facing each other. And then they play a beat. And then they simply asked them to clap to that beat, which is like what would happen in a drum circle, for example.


And what you can see in the data is that the brains synchronize to each other. The mental activity synchronizes. And it’s called inter brain synchrony. And, and we, we now can watch it and see it, but what was most interesting for me is that they also did a control group where they had four people sitting at the same, same size table, but they were looking away from each other and they tapped to the beat of the same music and then you didn’t get inner brain synchrony. But then even more importantly, they asked both of those groups to then do tasks. And on every task except for one, typing, the group that that had achieved inner brain synchrony performed better on the work they did. They just performed at a higher level than those that, um, were still working as individuals without having established inter brain synchrony.


This is really important in the workplace. If we can get inter brain synchrony at work, those teams will just outperform the teams that are working alone. And I would also point out that you don’t get inter brain synchrony when people work remotely. Um, I know we have to be more flexible in the workspace, but, uh, you know, the so-called gig economy, like what you do, Andy, is, is an anomaly. And I believe that the only way you can do what you do successfully is you have a very healthy concept of self and what it is you’re about and what you’re doing. Uh, but most people, um, could not live that independently and quit jobs, you know, every two to three years. They would find that would feel very, very risk risky. You by the way, will make a great entrepreneur <laugh>. Cause you’re…

Andy Vantrease (00:51:35):

Well, apparently I am an entrepreneur, but I didn’t even really realize it until a couple years ago. <laugh>

Don Rheem (00:51:41):

Yeah. You, you have become a very successful entrepreneur because, you know, your risk aversion is different than it is for most people. You’re just more willing to take more risk. And I know you’ve been through a lot, which can trigger that. But…

Andy Vantrease (00:51:55):

Well, and it has been challenging though, like everything we’re talking about, I’m really thinking of it, how it plays out in my own life as a freelancer and as a, as an entrepreneur because I am constantly looking for those connections that a lot of other people get through work that I don’t get through work. I have a team of people on the projects that I work on. We’re all over the world. Um, so it’s really important to have those like zoom calls, you know, every week or every two weeks where we’re seeing each other’s faces. We’re talking about, Hey, how’s life in India? How’s life in the Netherlands? I’m in Mexico. Like, we’re really touching in with each other and care about each other on a personal level, you know, outside of the productivity of this podcast. But I find myself longing a lot for in-person routine and connection with people.


And, and I would say it is the biggest challenge of being a freelancer, finding that sense of connection on a regular basis that I’m not getting because I’m not like part of a company. And that’s such a known thing, like when you meet somebody else who’s working remotely, if they’re not tuning in to, you know, work remotely for a company, if they’re another freelancer, we can all connect on that feeling of longing for connection, which is kind of funny. I’m meeting a bunch of other digital nomads down here and we’re talking about co-working spaces together. Like, I have another friend who’s a podcaster who I just met a couple weeks ago and she’s buying Starlink and we’re gonna do co-working days at her house because we’re like, Hey, you know, wouldn’t it be cool to kind of have that creative energy, that collaboration energy. We’re working on two totally different things. We’re in each other’s space. We can talk about our different challenges and things. All of us digital nomads are looking for that.

Don Rheem (00:54:04):

Yeah. We get some of our best employees that were working freelance and wanted to be a part of a community. Even though everybody does work remotely, um, we have a very close team and we’re, we’re talking with each other every day on a wonderful platform called Slack, which allows us to create these connections. And we have one Slack channel that’s really just dedicated to telling personal stories and that’s where we see the baby pictures and the vacation pictures. And it’s, it’s as if the people are really coming in and sharing with each other. It’s just fantastic. We love it.

Andy Vantrease (00:54:37):

It. That is, I’m always curious about the companies who like specialize in going into other companies and creating culture and deepening into some of these issues of relating and, you know, being openhearted and really seeing each other. How have you created that at your company and what are some of those things in addition to the Slack group and really being open to just sharing each other’s lives rather than just purely work talk. Like what are some of the pillars that you have put in place at E3 that are creating that atmosphere that you’re also helping others with?

Don Rheem (00:55:16):

I have to say one thing that, um, it helps that all of my employees are women. It’s not by design. They’re the ones that determine who we hire, not me. Uh, but we have hired men in the past, and it just never works out. So it, there’s just the emotional attunement that is really important for them to have. And the female brain is designed to do that more effectively, typically than the male brain is. Uh, so that’s part of it. But then the other part is we weren’t remote in the beginning. And so for a, like a lot of companies that worked in bricks and mortar and then the pandemic happened, employees went home with those legacy memories of the culture and that helped quite a bit. So we have some of that, but we work really hard for new hires, uh, to bring them on board.


We try to meet, uh, in person as often as we can. Not everyone can do that cause they’re in different parts of the country, but we really focus on understanding the whole person. And we wanna know about their children and their families and their vacations. It’s encouraged and everybody just likes each other, you know, it just really helps. There’s no empire builders, you know, trying to step over the other person. There’s just everybody’s really bought into the mission and that’s just what’s so important from my perspective that they understand why we’re here. Uh, and, and then maybe I’m just lucky, <laugh> <laugh>. Maybe some of it’s serendipity. Andy, I don’t know.

Andy Vantrease (00:56:37):

Is there research behind the difference between the male and female brain, or do you feel like it’s like also conditioning of, you know, men being, being like conditioned to like, you know, not very emotional? What do you think?

Don Rheem (00:56:51):

So the female brain and the male brain are different. Um, but the key thing is the female brain has, has more connections between the limbic system, which is where we process, uh, both threat detection and emotion, and the prefrontal cortex where we experience consciousness. It, it just has a more robust, uh, channel between those two functions more than the male brain has. And some of this is the result of conditioning. Uh, you know, men didn’t need to have a great deal of emotional understanding. Traditionally, when you think, you know, tens of thousands of years, you know, the role of women in raising children is one of the areas where it’s believed that so much of this emotional adaptation occurred. In fact, we have a, a workshop on communication. I give, and I, and I talk about the origin of communication. And it’s just interesting that there, there’s speculation that the origin of communication was, was with women, uh, who were carrying babies, but had to set them down on the ground to harvest edible food for the group.


So you had to set the baby down so that you could use your hands to do the work. And they started making, uh, emotional connection sounds, typically hums or, uh, or then tunes, and then music when the physical connection isn’t there. And that may in fact be the origin of communication. But it was the women typically who had to have empathy to successfully raise children, uh, had to have an emotional foundation. Whereas opposed to men, and this is just what some of the cultural anthropologists talked about, if a man was really sensitive and emotional, uh, if he had to go out, you know, and, and take down a large mastodon or something, it, it just wasn’t gonna be a very successful hunter. So the, the men that could go out and take re great risks and came back to, to camp with, you know, an antelope over their shoulder, were gonna attract a lot more women.

Andy Vantrease (00:58:40):

Mm-hmm. Yeah. That’s all really interesting to think about and, and how that was all shaped. I’m sure there’s different opinions from anthropologists and where it started and how it’s developed. And I have one more question for you, and this kind of came up when I was thinking about the limbic system being the primary focus of the research that you use to understand human behavior in the workplace. Like always looking for the safety and security. And I’m thinking about that like biologically, you know, one part of me is like, yes, we are animals. So much of our behavior still stems from those primal needs, those primal threat detectors. And then we’ve talked about a lot of shifts happening in the workforce, in consciousness, in conditioning. We are not running from sabertooth tigers anymore, but it is understood that yes, an email from a boss can still, you know, hijack that system and cause you to think that you are in threat.


My question is around how evolved you feel like we are in this sense of awareness. If you feel like our human behaviors are more and more governed by like our ability to be aware of the limbic system. So if we get the email that kind of triggers us, you know, if somebody has a contemplative practice or an awareness practice, they could say, wow, I’m feeling super triggered by that, but I’m gonna just do a quick assessment that this is not a life or death situation. And instead of react to it the way, you know, my primal system would, I’m gonna, you know, sit here and, uh, have a more healthy response to it. And I bring this up because I’m really thinking about like, the evolution of our species and, and kind of where we’re at today with the level of consciousness that, that some people are trying to achieve. And I go back and forth between, yes, human beings are at this point where we do have this awareness and we are able to change our behaviors, um, and we are able to learn how to communicate better and relate to each other better and, uh, not act on these instincts. And then sometimes I’m like, no, we’re purely animals. Like we don’t have any control over this system at all. So what do you think?

Don Rheem (01:01:25):

Well, a couple of things. Once you know what we, what we consider modernity, you know, modern technology and everything else. Just think about the last 200 years, 300 years of our human experience. And it’s just a drop in the bucket in, in the long continuum of our development. So to expect the brain to be like, you know, modern in its ability to see through these, uh, primal triggers is, probably borders on delusion. But I know there’s some people that think they’re so in touch with themselves, they can, and maybe some people can. Like, for example, meditation can be helpful to understand the self we’re diving in instead of out and, and relating, but maybe we’re better companions if we’ve meditated. That might be a good thing. But the limbic system has what’s called control precedence. And, and if it gets triggered, this is Nobel prize-winning research, when we realized how the limbic system exercises its control precedence and it, it by, uh, in a sense flooding the prefrontal cortex and preventing it from having, uh, action control, if you will.


Uh, again, push comes to shove, uh, fight, flight or freeze, the limbic system takes over. And I mapped out the process, I said, Cue-Tone-Action. But the fourth part of that process is making meaning. And that does involve the prefrontal cortex. The example I used earlier, we’re walking through a meadow and I see a stick and, and my system assumes it’s a snake, and I, you know, maybe I freeze, maybe I scream, maybe I jump away. But then when meaning is made, oh, that’s just a stick, then I might be more self-aware when I’m walking through that meadow to look for sticks and, and just I’m gonna be more aware of what’s on the ground instead of looking at the horizon. So I’m not saying we can’t impact these impulses, but the, the world’s leading researcher on the role of emotion, and the brain says it this way, the prefrontal cortex is the servant to the limbic system. That’s the way the brain is hardwired, and that’s the way it will stay. We can’t change that part of how the brain is wired. We can change other parts of the brain. It’s called neurogenesis. And you can change some fundamental things the way we respond to the world in as little as six months. But it takes a lot of, um, intentionality and reinforcement, uh, to make that happen. But it’s quite possible.

Andy Vantrease (01:03:37):

Mm-hmm. When you’re helping these managers, you’re, you’re just making them aware that these systems are in play and okay, here are some tools to work with our nature to be more harmonious?

Don Rheem (01:03:51):

Yeah. So when, when an employee acts out, for example, or make some mistake, don’t rush in to penalize them and tell ’em how awful they are. We show them how to go in and help that employee do better next time without them being put into what therapists would call a one down position, for example. How do we impact people’s behavior without being negative? It’s just essential. And I know this is, may sound like a provocative statement. There are a lot of people out there trying to understand human behavior, including psychologists, uh, and others. But you, you really will never understand the heart of human behavior if you don’t understand attachment theory. And the evidence of that is just overwhelming. But it’s gonna take this huge enterprise that helps people deal with mental health and other things, probably another decade or more before they come to that understanding. Because we’re, we’re moving from an environment where we made assessments about people in mental health from the outside looking in. That is observing behavior and try this and see if it works. Very anecdotal and cognitive on this parallel track. Neuroscience through brain imaging is providing incredible clarity on what the brain is actually doing that is going to make a significant difference in how we provide mental healthcare. Every single human being on the planet wakes up every morning in search of safe and secure connections. And that imperative drives just about everything we do.

Andy Vantrease (01:05:15):

Mm-hmm. You know, you, you set out to do this work so that perhaps you could be a, a drop in the bucket and have a ripple effect of other people feeling less alone. Has this work that you’re doing also had that effect on you?

Don Rheem (01:05:33):

Uh, it has. I’m, I’m much more aware of my, uh, emotional shortcomings and where my limitations are, and I’m trying to push those limitations in my work. I am definitely more self-aware. That isn’t the same thing as then living differently as aware of that as a result of that awareness. So I’m, I’m really working on the living it differently and how I interact with the people around me, especially at the most intimate level.

Andy Vantrease (01:06:15):

Don Rheem, a dynamic man on a mission to imbue our workplaces with more love without actually using the word love. I appreciate the necessary jargon that gets him in the door with businesses. He says, return on investment, employee retention, accident prevention, and the myriad other ways it’s worded and our actual side effects of his process. Based on this conversation, I believe that Don is serving people on such a powerful individual level that then carries over into thriving businesses, thriving romantic relationships, friendships, and families. With the massive shifts we’ve seen in our world over the last several years. I, for one, am super excited that more people are speaking up and out for bringing their whole selves to work,


Voicing the longing to connect with colleagues on a heart to heart level, and to ask more from life than to show up to a place day after day where we feel alone in a sea of people. We’re meant to do better. And it seems that there is a movement in a positive direction in this realm. Thanks to Don’s work and many others. For more information on Don Rheem, google his Ted Talks and visit his website, www.CultureID.com.


A special thank you to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how these ideas move throughout the world. This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a 501(c)3 dedicated to healing, education, community, and empowerment.


Help us support this project and donate at featheredpipe.com/gratitude and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Rate us on Spotify and share it with your friends. Text it to them, share it in family groups. Whatever you wanna do. Be sure to tune into our next episode in two weeks. I can’t wait to share another awesome conversation with you. Until then, have a beautiful day, People.

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