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July 2024 Member Spotlight – Justin Reinert

Justin Reinert, Learning Effectiveness and Partnerships, Brain Aware Training

-A member conversation with Shannon Minifie, Box of Crayons, July 2024

SM: Justin, can you tell me a bit about your journey and how you came to be working with Brain Aware?

JR: I’ve worked in corporate L&D for 20 years, in organizations both large and small. I’ve had the most fun building teams and programs at smaller high-growth companies. I met Britt Andreatta at an ATD conference many years ago and started as a fan. Over time we started connecting more and developed a friendship. Then in 2019 when I was building out a team and programs in a new role, Britt was just launching her new Brain Aware Leader program and I was excited to be one of the first to become certified and roll out in our organization. Then over the following few years, I very organically started working part time on some small tasks continuing to build out the product (I promise, all above board). Eventually, I transitioned out to be working for myself and it was very natural to ramp up my hours and responsibilities with Brain Aware Training.

SM: Can you share a little bit about your role in particular, and what it is about your work that lights you up?

JR: So, Brain Aware Training develops brain science-based training programs that solve today’s workplace challenges. We harness the power of human biology to help people—and organizations—rise to their potential. My role in particular has evolved to be primarily focused on building out and expanding our partnerships and client base. I enjoy ideating and influencing the strategy of the business. I’ve probably always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, so having the ability to operate in many roles across the business and see my influence is what lights me up the most. If I look back on my career, the times I’ve been most excited and satisfied was when I could see my fingerprints all over the place, and that’s very much my work at Brain Aware Training.

SM: I saw this stuff on Brain Aware’s website about the life cycle of a team – tell me a bit more about that.

JR: In Britt’s 3rd book, Wired to Connect, she describes a model that helps us understand the brain science behind collaboration and inclusion. The bottom line is that we humans are wired to connect and collaborate – but there are conditions. It’s the Four Gates® model that describes those conditions and how to navigate them. I’m sure many of the members are familiar with Tuckman’s model of group development. And Tuckman had it mostly right – and it’s as we transition from storming to norming that the conditions play out. If we get it right we move into good norming and then performing; but get it wrong and we go into bad norming and then dysfunction and learned helplessness.

SM: I can definitely see that. I think I’ve struggled to really slow down and respect the need for recognizing and reliving these stages every time there’s a change in the team that precipitates this need. But I can see it’s so important.

JR: It is! In our Four Gates® training, we give individuals, leaders, and executives strategies to help their teams navigate the Four Gates® and move into performing, which is where innovation and transformation can happen.

SM: I saw on your website that your firm is really thinking about the needs of not only leaders but in particular, senior leaders—executives.  We’ve been thinking about the challenges unique to senior leader lately, too, at Box of Crayons. So I’m curious: in your work, what are you noticing or learning about the needs of leaders at this level?

JR:  Britt’s done extensive research on the changes that happen in the brain as a result of gaining power. There was an article that Britt wrote for CLO that talked about recent studies that show how power makes people more impulsive and less concerned with how their actions affect others. Power makes leaders more likely to project their own beliefs and feelings onto others, causing them to perceive signs of agreement that aren’t there. This can make executives less effective in the long run, and has helped us to shape our executive training programs.

SM: That’s so fascinating—I need to go find that article now. So, what’s on your mind these days? What are the biggest changes you’re seeing in the market in the past year or so?

JR: The #1 thing on my mind these days is how to close more business! But I think that’s what’s on all of our minds. Aside from that, it’s about the shifts that are happening in the workplace and how we continue to help leaders be effective at navigating them. I haven’t spoken with a single person lately who works for a larger company who doesn’t hate work right now.

Something has happened in the past four years that has made work just miserable for most. I think that we, collectively the talent development community, have an opportunity to help folks find light at the end of the tunnel.

SM: Wow. I mean, I’ve certainly heard the discontent, but when you put it in such stark terms. We recently partnered with the HarrisPoll to do some research on the challenges facing leaders and their organizations—we’ll be releasing this research in the next couple of months—and our survey results were definitely reflective of some deep strife and a desire for more connection.

What you said about the opportunity for the talent development community reminds me of something I heard David Rock say when he spoke at the 2023 ABR. He said: “the learning industry exists to create mental corporate athletes.” I agree with him, and think that organizations that partner with you and Brain Aware must just benefit so much from having what’s going on for their leaders—this disengagement and misery that you describe—validated at a scientific level. To be comforted by the knowledge that their thoughts, beliefs, behaviours are all explained by neuroscience—and that there are strategies for managing change because of that. What a relief and what an important resource you are.

JR: Well, I haven’t found all of the answers yet! But I do think getting back to basics and being kind humans with one another is the best path forward.

SM: Oh, well while I’m throwing out quotes, that also reminds me of something the American writer David Foster Wallace said. I wrote a whole dissertation on Wallace in my past life and he has this famous quote from an interview with Larry McCaffery; he said, “In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness.” It seems to me that you’re describing a similar aspiration for your work, Justin.

One last thing before I let you go: what’s been most useful for you in being a part of the ISA community?

JR: The community!! In such a short period of time I have learned so much! Everyone I have encountered has been so generous with their time and knowledge. No joke, I personally feel that having the opportunity to work with the ISA community has been a pivot point in my career. Being at the ABR as a peer with people that 10 years ago I looked up to as some of the most trusted names in our industry was humbling and exhilarating! Thank you all for being so amazing and giving!!