When Gina returned from a week with Richard Boyatzis at the Cape Cod Institute (CCI) for a deep dive into Inspiring Resonant Leadership in Yourself and Others: Using Emotional and Social Intelligence through Hope, Mindfulness, Compassion and Playfulness - she lead us through a process at Seven Stones. One of the three questions we explored was, when are we at our best? Among many answers, Shea said: when we get enough sleep and are well rested. 


It seems so obvious, but how often do we skimp on our sleep? Research exposed by Dr. Boyatzis declares we need at least 7 hours. Less than that and we lose effectiveness, memory, and stress hormones begin to flow. Not only that, he says, rest is not renewal, and we need renewal activities at a ratio of 3:1 to counteract our stressful modern lives. Learn more about renewal and effectiveness in Gina's blog


What was perhaps most interesting to Gina and to us, was the concept of Positive Emotional Attractors (PEA) - activities and conversations that activate our parasympathetic nervous system which opens us up to compassion, flow and thriving. 


While at CCI Gina and her learning group evaluated our 7 questions and discovered that at least one question will bring a person into a negative emotional state and that was by design. The question, what keeps you up at night? Allows for all of us to take a peak at our worries, doubts and fears in a lighthearted way. However, the question what is enough? Brought up an interesting conversation. The consensus at the time was the question was at a minimum neutral. When we look at the brain science neutral questions and moments stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and become a negative emotional attractor. The balance of our inquiry remains positive, and we continue to live in the question of how to serve our clients and develop leaders. Read here for our article on PEAs and Leadership. 


We wish for you that the remaining weeks of summer bring rejuvenation and moments of joy and laughter. 


Warmly, Gina, Jen and Shea  

Seven Stones Leadership Group
203-389-7645 phone
203-389-7561 fax  


The Power of Positive Emotional Attractors
by Shea Adelson and Gina LaRoche

As leadership coaches and consultants we are sometimes brought in when teams are deeply suffering. We have been finding that leaders and team members are feeling resigned, obligated, guilty, defensive and afraid. Scarcity abounds and the collective lower brain what in a General Theory of Love they call the "lizard brain," might be in high gear - locked in flight, fight or freeze. In some ways, our job at Seven Stones is to act as the frontal cortex for the group, the lobes of the brain that house higher functioning of thought, innovation and creativity, the part of everyone's brains that work just fine when we are rested, nourished and life is going our way.


Because we too get hijacked by our lizard brains, have families, colleagues and community commitments, we are constantly investigating our own triggers into what allows us to thrive in our relationships which leads us to be effective at work and to best serve our clients and prospective clients. When Gina returned from her week at Cape Cod Institute with Dr. Richard Boyatzis from Case Western University, she began a new inquiry for us personally and in our work: When we work with clients, are we activating the parasympathetic nervous system and stimulating Positive Emotional Attractors (PEAs) or are we dwelling in the sympathetic nervous system and stimulating Negative Emotional Attractors (NEAs)?


Since the demands of modern life already draw us into negative mental states - not enough sleep, time, money, available dates etc. - we are already often activated into a mode of survival. From this state, possibilities are few, stress is high, and we often lack the compassion and empathy needed to be inspired and to inspire others. This becomes problematic because effective and successful leadership depends on inspiration.


It is not that Negative Emotional Attractors are bad: Dr. Boyatzis says, we need the NEAs to survive and the Positive Emotional Attractors to thrive. So to thrive, we begin with attending to our moods - our emotional inner state and discover the trigger points for what causes us to lift or to tank.


Leadership research shows that most leaders are actually not adding value. Yet, we all desire to do so, why are we failing? There are a number of reasons one of the most prevalent is chronic stress. Stress has a profound impact on our brains. The sympathetic nervous system is the stress response - is what triggers our flight or fight response. 


On the whole, westerner's have 8-15 chronic, annoying stress episodes a day. For men this happens 5-6 days per week and for women is every day. The body is responding to these stress episodes as true trauma. The Sympathetic Nervous System wakes up and sends signals to the brain; hormones are activated. We automatically and unconsciously start to defend ourselves and in actuality we are cognitively and emotionally impaired.

  • Our peripheral vision drops.
  • Our ideas get limited.
  • We can't handle complex tasks.
  • We are not open to new ideas.
  • We can't think outside of the box.

Sound familiar? These are the complaints we hear from many leaders about themselves and/or their teams.


By the way, those of us who suffer from chronic stress are sick more, for example the onset of chronic diseases like lupus and MS are accelerated. Finally, chronic stress can bring about sleep disorders and sexual dysfunction. Ok you get the picture.


In coaching and consulting it can be easy to want to focus on the problem - what is wrong? - and how to fix it - and fix it fast? When we begin to investigate the power of the Positive Emotional Attractors and their ability to intentionally shift the mindset and capacity of leaders and teams to resolve their distress, we can instead apply a methodology that draws us towards a shared vision for the future, shared compassion and a shared positive mood. We can take the time we have with ourselves and our teams and begin to devote our attention to our vision, strengths and what moves us. Then allow a few minutes to address whatever is missing, irksome or stressful and then finally co-create our plans for moving forward.


Boyatiz's work states that as a member of a team we need three PEAs for every NEA event. That is a 3:1 ratio. Think about your work place do you have three Positive Emotional Attractors a day, no less in a 3:1 ratio with the negative? He also states that for our loving stable relationships, we need 5:1 PEA to NEA.


Whether you are leader, receiving coaching/ advice or the one offering the input, consider these inquiries for yourself and your team:


Questions for a Check-in:

  • What is my vision for the future of your team? My organization? My life?
  • Of the messages and communications you receive, how many activate a positive feeling? How many a negative one? What is the ratio?
  • What kind of mood and climate is present in my team, organization or family?
  • Where do I bring compassion and empathy to my relationships?

Questions to stimulate PEA:

  • What is working in the team? In the organization? In my life?
  • When am I at my best, at work? At home?
  • What do I wish for at work? At home?
  • Who helped me get to where I am today or helped me become who I am? What key moment do I remember? What did I take away from that person/relationship?

This assessment is the starting point for deeper investigation and learning.

On Our Reading List


A General Theory of Love
by Richard Lannon, et al.


Resonant Leadership
by Richard Boyatzis 



Related Blog Posts


Do I have to? Happily No.

What do you get to do today? See what happens when we make a slight alteration to our language.


Nourishing Ourselves as Leaders 

How do we renew? It is simple and yet specific. Here are the things known to foster renewal. 


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