Benefits of Strengthened Intrinsic Thinking

In a previous blog (Why Intrinsic THINKING Makes All the Difference), I discussed the three dimensions of thinking that guide our choices, how they are measured, and why having the capacity and ability to access Intrinsic thinking is critical to achieving meaningful and sustainable outcomes – especially when we’re working with people.

The hierarchy of best thinking (mathematically correct thinking) about people is:

Intrinsic (I) > Extrinsic (E) > Systemic (S)

This means that we are able to truly value the inherent uniqueness of people first, more than their function, roles, health risks, etc., and more than our limited ideas of who we think they are or should be.

Robert S. Hartman is credited with identifying and measuring these domains and patterns of thinking – the inherent capacity a person has. However, having the capacity and ability to activate Intrinsic thinking is a very different story. Christina Marshall is credited with “cracking open the Intrinsic” and figuring out how to activate I>E>S.

The Value of Activating I>E>S in Our Thinking

To date, the literature only substantiates one methodology that appears to be consistently effective in increasing intrinsic capacity and shifting thinking patterns so people can activate I>E>S. That methodology is Intrinsic Coaching®. People who learn Intrinsic Coaching® can increase and activate their intrinsic capacity – allowing them to fundamentally shift how they regard others and get better results.

This shift in how we regard others is critical to success. In the book “Leadership and Self-Deception,” the authors illustrate how our thinking about people will influence how others perceive our behaviors.

  • If we regard people as things versus people, the outcome will be different – even if the behavior is the same.
  • We can always tell when we’re being coped with, manipulated, or outsmarted – and we typically resent it.
  • It doesn’t matter if people use a skill they learned to be more effective; what we’ll know and respond to is how people are regarding us when doing those things.

I have been using Intrinsic Coaching® as a cornerstone for leadership development, culture improvement and employee well-being efforts for many years, and the benefits are truly profound. When you start from a framework of better thinking, a sustainable foundation is built on which other training and programs can be successful – because it’s all about how people are regarded and whether they feel valued.

And this shift in thinking can only occur via experiential development. Put it this way, you could read a book about how to be a great golfer, how to dance, how to ride a bike, etc. But until you fumble and bumble, practice, and become keenly aware of yourself and make fine-tuned adjustments, you can’t do any of these things really well. But when you invest the time to learn and practice – all along becoming more aware of yourself – eventually you can do these things with less effort; it becomes more automatic. So why do we think shifting how we think and regard others is any different and can be done by reading a book or going to a two-day intensive workshop? Because we want “quick fixes” and immediate gratification – even though neither usually leads to sustainable change.

I can’t tell you how many leadership teams I have worked with that tell of spending thousands of dollars on consultants providing one- to three-day workshops. They frequently say the same thing: They used the concepts for a while but then went back to their old ways of doing things. Why? Because our brains are designed to form habits and be efficient. When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making and diverts focus to other tasks; it becomes more efficient. The challenge is that these habits never really go away; all we can do is recognize them and create new habits by developing new thinking patterns. Much like a rewritable CD, we essentially need to write over old scripts in our brains with new ones. Otherwise, our habitual patterns will unfold automatically. So it makes sense that most approaches to improve leadership effectiveness, as well as health and well-being don’t work because they are still all about more information and do not involve developing new and better thinking.

  • Trying to “do” differently without thinking differently is doomed to fail because we will fall back on deeply rooted habits – period!

Examples of I>E>S in Action

What does best thinking (i.e., I>E>S in action) look like? In a nutshell, it is reflected in better listening, greater resilience, and truly valuing the Intrinsic when it comes to people.

  • My stress is lower because I realize it’s not my job to fix my people; it’s my job to tap into their good thinking and help them fix themselves, and this is a fabulous tool to start on that path.
  • I now have a greater ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes and a better way to handle life’s challenges – personally and professionally.
  • I now have more compassion and a better ability to really listen. I thought I was a good listener before but was wrong.
  • I’m a better manager, parent, spouse and friend.
  • I am finally finding balance in my life again through gaining greater clarity of what matters and what I’m wanting in my life.

One story that always sticks out to me involves a nurse who was brought into a situation in which a man was “stubbornly refusing” to put his mother into hospice care. By doing so, he was prolonging his mother’s suffering and depriving someone else of the bed. The other nurses had already labeled him as “difficult” because they could not change this man’s mind. Now, it was this nurse’s turn to work with him.

As she began talking to him, she started using the fundamental element she learned in her Intrinsic Coaching® development to see more than what was merely apparent (i.e., to value and see the Intrinsic) and disable the dominance of her Systemic (S) thinking. She asked him, “What do you want that is important to you regarding your mother’s care?” That question (and her ability to listen more fully and not interrupt him) brought out a story no one previously knew – because no one had asked the question. His mother had adopted him from an orphanage when he was little, and he felt she saved him and owed her his life. Now a team of healthcare professionals was asking him to give up on the woman who had never given up on him; he just couldn’t do it.

  • The nurse’s internal dialogue (her Systemic thinking) gave her the impulse to try to convince him that he wouldn’t be giving up on her. However, she recognized it as just that – her trying to get him to replace his thoughts with hers, which is what everyone else had already been trying to do, and judging him for refusing. With that recognition, she could stay quiet and listen.
  • She told him she was going to change his mother’s dressings and asked him if he wanted to stay and see the extent of her condition; he said he did. Before he had always been asked to leave, and now he had been asked to be a part of it (providing him with more extrinsic information than he previously had). As they talked, the man asked the nurse questions, and she answered them and also asked him what he wanted for his mother’s care based on what he was learning.
  • The nurse realized how limited she would have been by not leading with her Intrinsic thinking with this man. By activating I>E>S in her own thinking, she created a space for this man to have new thinking and clarity about what he wanted for himself and his mother. His mother had dedicated everything she had to protect him from pain and surround him with all the comfort that she, as a loving mother, could provide. Now, it was his turn to do the same for her – to protect her from pain and surround her with comfort, as only her loving son could do; it would be in a hospice environment that he could  give his mother all that he wanted for her.
  • By tapping into her Intrinsic thinking (as a result of having increased intrinsic capacity), this nurse provided a completely different experience for herself as well as for her patient and her patient’s son. The other nurses were amazed she “got through” to this man, but this nurse knew her shift in thinking made all the difference.

When people are more aware of their thinking and elevate the value of the Intrinsic dimension, activating I>E>S for themselves and others, they get better results in life. People describe being less frustrated with people, having less job-related stress and higher levels of job satisfaction. Thriving organizational and employee well-being requires building on a different foundation than we currently use; it requires moving away from controlling behaviors and focusing on “quick fixes” to developing better thinking – including activating I>E>S thinking when it comes to people.


Hartman, R. S. (1967). The structure of value. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Pomeroy, L. (2005). The new science of axiological psychology.  New York:  Rodopi.

Byrum, C. S. (2006). From the neck up:  The recovery and sustaining of the human element in modern organizations. Tapestry Press.

Rock D. & Schwartz, J. (2006, Summer). The neuroscience of leadership. Strategy+Business, 43, 1-10.

The Arbinger Institute (2010). Leadership and Self-Deception:  Getting Out of the Box.  San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Charles Duhigg (2012). The Power of Habit:  Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.  New York: Random House.

Ward, R. (2008). The relationship of individual intrinsic capacity with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and perceived life balance:  An exploratory study of the Intrinsic Coaching® (Doctoral dissertation, Capella University, 2008). ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (UMI No. 3329852).

Rosie Ward, PhD, MPH, MCHES, BCC, CIC®, CVS-FR Rosie is an accomplished speaker, writer and consultant. She has spent more than 20 years in worksite health promotion and organizational development. In addition to her bachelor’s degrees in Kinesiology and Public Health, and a doctorate in Organization and Management, Rosie is also a Certified Intrinsic Coach® Mentor, Certified Judgment Index Consultant, a Certified Valuations Specialist, and a Board Certified Coach. Rosie uses this unique combination to work with executive and leadership teams to create comprehensive development strategies centered on shifting thinking patterns. She is a contributing author to the book, “Organization Development in Healthcare — High Impact Practices for a Complex and Changing Environment.” She leverages these principles to help organizations develop and implement strategies to create a thriving workplace culture that values and supports wellbeing and the unique, intrinsic needs of employees. Contact Rosie at or

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