Trauma, Culture & Performance (chapter 1) | Unpublished

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Unpublished Opinions

Doug Smith's picture
Ottawa, Ontario
About the author

NHL Player, Author, Speaker

At 18 years old, Doug was drafted 2nd overall into the NHL to play for the Los Angeles Kings as their youngest player ever. The next 11 years were defined by hockey successes, hockey failures, his lack of awareness and the culture of a collision sport. His career ended suddenly at 29 years old when he shattered his spine in professional game #607.

Through his best selling story, workshops and books, Doug reveals a simple and repeatable process for continuous improvement. It is a process that he has used himself and a model he strives to share with others. Today his core work flourishes beyond the individual, cultivating collaboration in teams and agility in organizations.

For more information please visit Doug's website at:

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Trauma, Culture & Performance (chapter 1)

October 17, 2015

When “The Big Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” was posted there was an overwhelming amount of interest and questions about the impact of trauma & culture, how to stop the bleeding and how to improve workplace performance and happiness. My hope is that this short post will expand on "The Big Trauma & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."

To dramatically improve workplace performance, the understanding of two common, yet very misunderstood, words is required; Trauma & Culture.

I will break down Trauma in this post and then I will invite my colleague and co-author, Ron Wiens to breakdown Culture for you in Chapter 2.

The good news is that the working models for repairing the damage caused by trauma, or caused by a toxic work culture, are simple and repeatable. 

Trauma is defined as; a deeply distressing or disturbing experience and there are 4 types of trauma.

  1. Catastrophic Physical Trauma
  2. Catastrophic Emotional Trauma
  3. Cumulative Physical Trauma
  4. Cumulative Emotional Trauma

All trauma is bad but Cumulative Emotional Trauma is the most dangerous because it looks and smells like carbon monoxide to our brains. It is also the most relevant to workplace culture because it can be inflicted without notice and it spreads quickly from one person to the next. If undetected by leadership, this type of trauma can destroy an organization. 

Trauma Awareness 101 

  1. Injury is to the body as trauma is to the psyche.
  2. Trauma is the single biggest inhibitor of human performance.
  3. We all suffer from trauma in our life but few of us deal with it unless others can physically see it.
  4. Trauma causes a disruption between the conscious brain and the subconscious brain.
  5. This disruption can make us behave in ways but not know why we are behaving that way.
  6. There are no two trauma the same because each trauma takes into account everything we have experienced since one month after conception
  7. The way our brains recover from trauma is the same for all of us (discounting 10-15% of the population with a genetic predisposition)

Recovering or Improving Performance

The human brain cannot distinguish between Recovery and Performance. Your brain only wants to get better.

Your subconscious brain is like your 800 lb. gorilla. It controls you and it sits wherever it wants when it comes in the room. If trauma disrupts your conscious ability to keep your gorilla happy, it can become destructive to self, to others and to the organization.

The good news is that the subconscious brain has only 3 priorities ...

  • Meeting Basic Needs
  • Clarity of Thought
  • Helping Other People

  ... and there are 8 conscious behaviours feeding those 3 priorities

  • Belief in Self
  • Motivation
  • Focus
  • Trust
  • Awareness
  • Emotional Control
  • Asking for Help
  • Purpose / Legacy  

There are specific actions (intrinsic & extrinsic) which cultivate these 8 behaviours which, in turn, feed the 3 priorities. This model breaks down the disruption caused by trauma. Today there are many actions you can perform that are supported by scientific research. The key is that you use your brain to build these positive behaviours in yourself and in others. If you do, we have found that your performance will improve.

I hope this short explanation helps you, your family or your colleagues. Questions and feedback are always welcome. Look for chapter 2 of this series soon.

When Doug Smith Presents: The Impact of Trauma & Culture 

When Doug presents his personal story of performance and recovery along with the supporting research,  he shares the broken neck impact that seemingly ended his career and he reveals why and how the culture in the NHL actually destroyed his belief system years before he broke his neck. Doug elegantly defines which behaviours he needed to make it to the NHL and how they were cultivated inside of him from childhood. Then Doug demonstrates how the culture in the NHL dismantled his belief system in a few short years.   

"Little did I know when I wrote "The Trauma Code" Unlocking your Performance, that the book would be made available on the shelves of Canada's Parliamentary Library. See the picture of Ron Wiens and I in the Parliamentary Library above. You will notice my latest book ... The Trauma Code on the counter, just to my left. 

It was my dream that this core work on performance and recovery would spread and others of all ages would use it to succeed as well. Not only did people use the system successfully in their personal life but they wanted to apply the system to their business life somehow. Leaders wanted to follow this core awareness in search of a high performance work culture. Today, my work scales into a system designed to help organizations build extremely high performance work cultures or, if your prefer ... Predictable Transformation Systems. 

With that, I will introduce you to Ron Wiens my co-author, friend, colleague and author of "Building Organizations that Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound". 

If you are interested in reading our co-authored published paper called“Phenomenal Outcomes”, I would be happy to send you the pdf. Just e-mail me at or give me a call at 613.294.3766.