IT’S a Monday morning, and half a dozen people are engaged in light conversation about how they spent the weekend. They are either still “switched off”, or if they have got the motor started, the gear is still in park or neutral.

As their leader, you need to turn on their Reticular Activating System or RAS for short. This is the switch that helps them to be focused on what you want and what they need to be.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS)

At the top of the brain stem is a collection of nerve fibres known as the ascending reticular formation. The activation of this reticular system is necessary for higher levels of brain activity.

Think of the RAS as a radar that constantly monitors conditions which require a conscious response. Anything important or relevant will propel the brain into higher states of consciousness, even if you are in deep sleep.

The RAS is the part of your brain that has the role of attention maker. It filters the incoming information, decides what to pay attention to, and causes the listener to become “switched on” and alert.

The RAS also works in other ways. For instance, after you buy a certain model of a mobile phone, it seems as though every other person around you has the same phone as you. No, sales have not suddenly spiked. Rather, your awareness of that particular model has. You didn’t recognise the phone before, but now you do. Therefore, more people appear to own it.

The RAS is also responsible for causing you to wake up before the alarm rings in the morning when you have an important meeting. It is triggered by your subconscious mind, which has absorbed the message that you have to get up by a certain time.

The following can switch the RAS on:

* A story;

* A provoking question or interesting ideas;

* Listening to a song; and

* Watching a two to four-minute audio-visual presentation.

Let me give you an example: if I told you not to think about a “pink elephant”, your mind will automatically think “pink elephant”.

The RAS is activated by “programming” goals in our subconscious minds. Our subconscious mind is the “power centre” and it is the mechanism that explains why goal focusing and positive thinking are now being accepted as scientific methods for change.

Researchers are discovering that our brain is cybernetic in nature, literally like a computer, waiting for a program to be installed.

The subconscious is completely neutral and impartial — it will carry out any instructions you give it. To change the results, you must overwrite old negative programming and install positive new programming into your subconscious.

This can be achieved through techniques such as written goals, positive self-talk (affirmation) and mental imagery (visualisation).

Psychologists estimate that it takes 21 to 30 days to establish a new pattern in your brain. During this time, the focus on sticking with your practice and repeating your new thought patterns is critical.

Writing goals and affirmations together can switch your sales team on. Notice how the “half-time pep-talk” given by the coach can impact a game? Giving affirmation to your team is the same thing!

What happens is that positive thinking, affirmation and visualisation re-programme your brain, which in turn creates new behaviours that move you physically toward whatever you have been thinking about and focusing on.

So success is achieved through positive thinking and positive doing, action and attention.

If you want to “switch on” your team, then you have to get everyone on it to change on the inside — their minds — first. Then, everything else will follow.