Ashley Dafel Unblocks Performance – So What’s YOUR Trigger?

Ashley Dafel, MBA,(Read his STORY HERE) has done many impressive things, the least of which is to help deliver babies and resuscitate people on the brink of death. He has amazing stories and I could listen to him all day. What fascinates me about him more than anything though is how he blends a strong technical background with a keen awareness of how to unblock performance. Ashley is now the leader of one of Husky’s foreign subsidiaries where he is working to drive value using all his talents. In this instalment of an ongoing series, Dafel talks about the how understanding your emotional triggers and learning to work with them, can unlock your finance and accounting career. It’s well worth a read.

How were you introduced to the idea of emotional triggers in a business setting?
I was working for Anglo American Corporation, one of the world’s largest diversified mining and natural resources company. I had a boss, Danie Louw, who was years ahead of industry in terms of understanding people. Although we were internal audit, we had to charge for our services and we had to negotiate with clients on the scope of work and associated fees. The clients were then allowed to go and get competitive bids, so sometimes we lost, which meant we did not recover costs. We were essentially set up as an external supplier with our own company to keep us competitive. Anglo American would have had no problem shutting the department down if it wasn’t sustainable.

Although we were internal audit, we had to charge for our services and we had to negotiate with clients on the scope of work and associated fees. The clients were then allowed to go and get competitive bids…

Our response was to recruit the best of the best with the goal of looking at the bigger picture and bringing a strategic view to the business. Driving value was a constant imperative. You had to be a top performer to get into the department and it was while working in this department that I started to realize that interesting emotional traits revealed themselves in high stress situations and often impeded performance. The events or circumstances that would limit performance, most times at an unconscious level, were called “triggers”.

Our response was to recruit the best of the best with the goal of looking at the bigger picture and bringing a strategic view to the business.

Is this what you mean when you speak to me about emotional triggers?
What I am saying is that people are made up of two interconnected aspects, emotional and intellectual. If a person does not have awareness of his/her emotional triggers, they compromise their intellectual contribution. In essence, the emotional response will hijack the intellectual at a second’s notice and completely change the dynamic of a situation. I remember being in a training session and the instructor put a $20 bill “on-sale”. I then watched as two grown men became hyper-competitive with one another and bid it up to $1000. Through this exercise the instructor illustrated how our emotional hijackers, referred to as ‘unconscious subversive terrorists’, take our psyches on a wild ride.

What I am saying is that people are made up of two interconnected aspects, emotional and intellectual. If a person does not have awareness of his/her emotional triggers, they compromise his/her intellectual contribution.

Danie Louw is the boss you credit with showing you how to take the knowledge of emotional triggers and apply it to the business world, correct?
Danie Louw was the Global Head of Audit and he understood emotional triggers and brought in a clinical psychologist to work with each of us individually. This psychologist would actually interview people before they were allowed to join the department – if your psyche profile was not congruent with that of the department you were not hired. She would identify your emotional hijackers or triggers, provide awareness training and a toolkit to extricate you from those hijacking moments to enhance intellectual performance.

She would identify your emotional hijackers or triggers, provide awareness training and a toolkit to extricate you from those hijacking moments to enhance intellectual performance

Once someone got into the department was there any additional emotional training that he/she would undergo? Absolutely. Each member of the department entered a mentoring program with someone who had been specifically trained to help him/her see how these triggers manifested themselves in the work environment and limited performance. The whole idea was to make you aware of when you were being hijacked by a trigger. You could then make a choice as to whether you would be pulled into the spiral. The psychologist we worked with called these triggers ‘rackets’ and she trained me to work with other team members, develop them and identify their rackets or triggers. I work with team members, help them understand their “rackets” to help them get past what limits their potential. Fundamentally, her training made me a better mentor and leader. When I do this with people it helps me develop trust and understand an individual better. This leads to higher levels of performance and better bottom line results.

I work with team members, help them understand their “rackets” to help them get past what limits their potential.

In the next instalment Ashley Dafel will explain how he took the training he had acquired and applied it more specifically to building a highly accomplished team. He will explore the five levels of thinking and how successful teams need to be comprised of people from each of the five levels to function well. This concept, coupled with identifying each individual’s emotional triggers, was what produced such tremendous growth for Ashley’s team and allowed them to achieve such impressive results.

Read Part I of Ashley Dafel’s STORY HERE.