Effective Behavioral Science In The Workplace Doesn’t Require A Degree

This is the second article in a three-part series on behavioral science and leadership. In this series we discuss how these concepts and practices overlap to create a positive impact on workforce development, business outcomes, and expanding an organization’s leadership potential. Here’s a link to the first article.

The corporate learning space has had a lot of exposure to behavioral science recently, especially as it pertains to leadership development. Why? Behavioral science is the study behind leaders’ behaviors in the workplace. These behaviors have considerable value as they can be predictors of success, failure, and indicate which developmental areas may produce the most favorable career and business outcomes.

Essentially, behavioral science can help us understand and influence change in the following areas:

  • Leader development: How leader development impacts unconscious decision-making, choice, and self-determination.
  • Leader effectiveness: How productivity measurements are contextualized based on the organization.
  • Leader agency: How autonomy of choice shapes motivation and self-determination.

Through systematic experimentation and investigation of the impact of workplace coaching, when applied behavioral science can influence leaders, teams, and organizations. However, it’s important to note that behavioral science without context is useless.
Context is key for both behavioral science and leadership development.

An off-the-shelf template can’t address your organization’s leadership culture and needs. To find a solution that works for your company requires that you as a learning or talent leader ask: when, why, and how.

Effective Behavioral Science In The Workplace Doesn't Require A Degree 1

Further, leadership development likely won’t happen without a catalyst. Consider the following scenario: Your chief executive officer may want managers to hold their teams more accountable for business outcomes. You’re the chief human resource officer, chief talent officer, chief people officer, or chief learning officer who is tasked with making this happen. How can behavioral science aid you in realizing this objective?

Talent leaders don’t need a degree to adopt behavioral science in the workplace

Managers — everyone really — comes to work with different experiences and concerns that impact them outside of the workplace. This can make working in teams challenging. While it may seem easy to encourage people to leave things they’re struggling with at home, the pandemic has taught us it’s not that simple anymore — especially in a hybrid or remote workforce.

For instance, when we began developing our group coaching for leaders program at Sounding Board, we knew we wanted our coaches to be able to address not just how someone leads and performs at work, but how their life outside of work impacts their ability to do their job effectively. This became more important as we all began to experience the long-term, permanent effects of COVID-19, such as:

  • Decreased in-person human interaction
  • Feelings of disconnect from the business and the workforce
  • Decreased motivation
  • Confusion and concern over career advancement opportunities 

Behavior science is about developing
better people and better results. Everything Sounding Board does — and everything our coaches do — is influenced by behavioral science. It helps organizations, leaders, and their teams work better together to:

  • Conduct rapid assessments of operational challenges, and isolate issues faster
  • Solve complex challenges, and get a better return on investment 
  • Educate everyone about best practices, and better support the entire organization
  • Improve working relationships, and improve team and organizational performance

While the focus for our discussion today is leadership development, behavioral science can also impact other related facets of talent management, such as recruitment and workforce planning. For instance, recruiters and interviewers might have certain biases around values, education, age, etc., that influence how they evaluate candidates; these are often unintentional. Being aware that these biases might affect the process and leaning into data-driven recruiting can help solve this issue. Yet, many leaders might not even know where or how to start if it weren’t for behavioral science.

But let’s circle back to how behavioral science can help address work challenges by encouraging and planning future talent development, especially as it relates to leadership. It can show us why and how leadership works, what to do when it fails, and how to change what we do in organizations in order to help our talent lead better.

Instilling trust and inspiring motivation

Leadership is most successful when there is a base level of trust. If your team doesn’t trust you, you can’t lead them; it’s that simple. Behavioral science can support this facet of leadership development, as it ensures the habits that instill trust and psychological safety are embedded in a manager’s leadership approach, for example. It also helps to create their teams’ climate, mindsets, and behaviors, all of which can lead to a more positive and supportive culture, where every employee can perform at optimal levels.

Behavioral science can also help you determine how to inspire and motivate your leaders, and nudge them towards behavior changes that make them better. Motivation is an essential element to achieve goals and move things forward. When leaders are effective and motivational, in turn, it inspires their teams to become motivated — to do more, be more productive, and to innovate. In turn, this circle of power inspires their leaders to find ways to better support their efforts. It becomes an infinite loop.

You don’t need a graduate degree in social sciences to use behavioral science in the workplace. As a talent leader, if you can think critically about how leadership development interventions like leadership coaching can enable the behavioral changes you want to see your leaders exhibit, and you can take the time to consider how changing certain variables might alter leadership development interventions, you can use behavioral science every day. By observing, understanding, and promoting behavior change, you can easily see how your leaders and their teams respond to the leadership development programs you implement.

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Niall MacGearailt

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Niall MacGearailt leads Sounding Board’s finance division as the SVP of Finance and Operations. Niall earned a solid track record of improving P&L and operational expense management for leading companies such as Whirlpool, Logitech, Avaya and most recently Soraa, where he prepared the business for acquisition by leading hi-tech lighting company, Ecosense. In his role, he is responsible for building and leading the finance & relevant operations functions for the company.

Ron Buell

VP of Engineering
Ron Buell is the VP of Engineering at Sounding Board and an accomplished software professional with extensive experience in leadership, software engineering, project management, and product management. Ron has led the development of highly scalable systems and applications across a variety of technologies for companies including OpenFeint (acquired by GREE), Rdio (acquired by Pandora), Lyris Technologies, and Lotus/IBM Software Group. In his role at Sounding Board, Buell is responsible for all engineering efforts in developing, deploying, and maintaining the enterprise software platform and team for the company.

Tommy Perkins


Tommy is at his best helping clients think through complex challenges in order to create a positive impact on their organizations. He thrives when interacting with others whether helping his team succeed or working with clients to build long-term partnerships. He has extensive experience consulting with organizations on driving their employee experience, guiding organizations through change, and working to ensure organizations are moving the needle when it comes to their results.

Most recently, Tommy was a Client Services Leader overseeing some of GP’s most prized accounts on a global level. His responsibilities included overall client growth strategy, retention, and satisfaction. He represented all of GP Strategies’ major business lines including leadership, coaching, and engagement, digital transformation, outsourced services, and technology implementation solutions.

Before GP Strategies, Tommy spent several years with TTEC Digital (formerly rogenSI) where he led the sales team,  eventually becoming the regional Learning & Performance practice leader for North America. While managing the P&L and sales team he also led the largest global relationship for the firm (Deloitte Globally). During his time at TTEC, he focused on delivering blended learning solutions that incorporate technology and hands-on training. Before TTEC Digital, he spent several years dedicated to strength-based leadership disrupting the business landscape regarding performance management and employee engagement with thought leader Marcus Buckingham at The Marcus Buckingham Company / TMBC (now ADP).

Tommy has had the privilege of working with some of the most well-known global brands in professional services, retail, technology, and healthcare including Deloitte, Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Novartis, Gap Inc., lululemon, and Intel. Several projects he led for Deloitte were Global GNPS, New Partner Pivot, NextGen Partner Program Deloitte China, Present to Win, the RPM project on performance management, and Unconscious Bias.

Tommy holds a BS in Health Sciences from Texas A&M University, and an MBA from Universidad del CEMA.

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Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & CCO Sounding Board, Inc.
Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.
Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.