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Episode 206 | What Do Your Employees Really Need? with Melina Palmer

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WITH Melina Palmer

  • Episode 206 | What Do Your Employees Really Need? with Melina Palmer 00:00


Hey Group Practice Listeners! Do you hesitate before expressing your opinions or do you speak without thinking first? When communicating in a professional environment, we must be formal to avoid unnecessary topics or misunderstandings.

We have Melina Palmer, an Applied Behavioral Economics Teacher, who authored “What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You.” With her expertise in behavioral economics, she will share tips and strategies to understand and communicate better with everyone!


Episode Highlights:

  • Why do we act apart from our real intent? 
  • How do people agreeing to the Save More Tomorrow plan get more incredible benefits? 
  • What could an email of “Let’s talk.” bring the recipient? 
  • When could improvements arise when the brain is compartmentalized? 
  • How can behavioral economics be useful in becoming a better leader?


To connect with Melina:

Go to her website,   

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, & 

Subscribe to her YouTube, 

Check out her Facebook, 


This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

Do you ever wish for a financial therapist who could relieve you from the last few months of bookkeeping, talk you off the edge when you’re running into issues with Quickbooks, or help you work through a profit plan for growth? GreenOak Accounting does just that! GreenOak Accounting is an accounting firm that specializes in working with group practices. Their value goes WAY beyond bookkeeping; they can help you get on track for financial success. Schedule a free consultation by going to


Maureen Werrbach

Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Group Practice Exchange Podcast. This week I have Molina Palmer of the Brainy Business with us, and she’s an applied behavioral economist. So she’s gonna be talking about what behavioral economics is, why it’s important in our business, and how that translates into our business.

So, hi Molina, thanks for being on with us. Thanks so much for having. My audience most likely doesn’t know you yet. I know you do like our friend Amber, but for those who don’t know you, can you talk a little bit about who you are, and what you do, and then we can kind of segue into our topic? Of course. So I am a behavioral economist, and that means that.

I help people to understand how our brains actually process information and make decisions, and therefore to better communicate with people, whether that’s our customers, clients, employees, and team members. Anything in between really the psychology of why people act, choose change, and why is what? Focus on, I have my master’s in behavioral economics from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

And so I come in on the psychology side of stuff and while economics, I obviously care about as well. But you know, knowing the audience we have here, I’m really, uh, more on the true understanding of the brain and how. People don’t do what we think they should. We act in ways that maybe aren’t in alignment with what we want to do, what we intend to do, and what we thought we did, and we can’t really explain why we did something.

And that’s where behavioral economics comes in. It’s understanding the rules that the brain actually uses to make decisions. And I use that kind of on a front end to help people to better communicate with everyone. . That’s really awesome. And I think it’s not something that we as business owners often are paying attention to.

I know when I first started my own group practice, I made decisions just as a simple example around employee benefits based on what I thought was really important. Mm-hmm. . And so for me, and you know, as someone who’s in mental health, I should have known better. And I know this is something that all of us have done.

I assumed that when I first was offering, my first benefit I think was 401K or retirement match. I thought it was such an awesome benefit to be able to start giving because I really value retirement, you know, having enough money when I’m older, and I noticed that I don’t think any, in the beginning when I first had a handful of therapists, any of ’em took it and I thought, why would you not?

Put 3% down and get the business to be paying 3% more towards your retirement. And it was just something that wasn’t of value to them at that time, but sort of this like assumption that what we think is important is what, you know, everyone else is gonna think is important. Is not always true for sure.

And what’s really interesting and my favorite aspect of the work that I do is that things are not about the thing, the framework I use for presenting, whether it’s pricing, strategy, change management, it’s called, it’s not about the cookie. So price isn’t about the price. The change isn’t about the change.

It’s about the way we present information that can make a difference as to whether someone feels like this is a great idea or something that they hate, or that they don’t care about, or where they feel really overwhelmed is something that can happen very quickly. There’s been some really amazing research in behavioral science around actually 401k matching.

There’s a program called Save More Tomorrow, where it had people you would ask. Do you want to pre-commit today and say when you get a raise? We’ll just automatically increase that number for you, what you’re gonna be putting down. So you don’t even have to pay attention. So they commit in this cold state and say, yeah, that sounds good.

And then they ended up saving a lot more when the time came than those who didn’t. And there are people who will say they wanna change their allocations in the next, you know, 30, 60, 90 days that that is on their to-do list. They’re definitely doing it. And you look four months later and they haven’t done anything.

And it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because we just get hung up in a lot of. Things so you can set up the way you present the information to make it easier for people to do the things that they actually want to do, which is pretty cool. I really love that when we’re thinking about this. So I feel like there are so many different ways we can tackle this topic, whether it’s through us as therapists or how we find clients.

Mm-hmm. or us as therapist, and how we find therapists to hire or. Us as a business and as leaders and our leadership team and how we communicate with our employees. So because as everyone knows, my episodes are pretty short, I wanna focus this episode on how we as group practice owners and leaders and our leadership teams, cuz a lot of our listeners have teams of leaders, whether it’s supervisors or clinical directors, practice managers and things like that.

How. We can use behavioral economics to be better leaders for our teams. Can you talk a little bit about that point and how you help people with that and, maybe some things to consider when it comes to leading? For sure. So my second book is called What Your Employees Need and Can’t Tell You So very much in line with, what you’re talking about here, and it just came out last week.

Awesome. Well, maybe not when this airs, but you know, it came out here in October. So really in this way, More thoughtful about the information that we present. And you have, I mean, the audience that’s listening here, you know, a lot of the concepts that come into play, as I said, the psychology piece is a huge part of behavioral economics.

So you’re already, you know, leaps and bounds ahead of other people who don’t have that background. But just applying it to the way that we think about information in business. So getting away from the shoulds. Is one really big thing, right? So to say, everyone should be on board with this change. Everyone should want 401K matching and jump right in.

Everyone should like whatever. Mm-hmm. , when we are saying, should I, I would like to say that’s a four-letter word. That’s what we say here at the Brady business, right? So we want to be looking at what people actually do. And when you think about your teams and communicating stuff, often when we think about change, we think it’s just the big.

Right. We’ve got, we’re changing our name. We are, you know, having a succession planning. We’ve got a huge process change, or we’re moving people to a new building, but our brains are really focused on micro decisions. So the average person makes 35,000 decisions every single day, and we wanna be focusing on it.

Those little tiny moments and know that that is either building up to make it so people are ready to be receptive for change, or it is making them incredibly overwhelmed and they’re very much not ready and receptive for change. And so few tiny tweaks. you can make in your framing, in the way you set things up, in the emails you send, and your subject lines can all be a big differentiator in whether people look at the idea or they hate it.

And so that is something I look at focusing on. Okay. So would you say that one of the things that? I have really focused on myself in the past probably five or six years of my business is transparency. Mm-hmm. finding that. Mm-hmm. people are more willing to accept change or understand change, even if it’s not exactly what they want.

When we as leaders are able to be as transparent as possible has been, I think something that’s created a lot of success. My business in terms of staff being okay with the change that we have without, you know, like a huge amount of resistance. Yeah, definitely. It’s not about the cookie framework.

Reciprocity is one aspect in there that is a big focus, and I talk about it in the way of giving the gift of transparency and openness and honesty. You can factor in the Ikea. Where people like things more that they’ve been able to have a hand in helping to create, even if in a very small way. And so if they can help shape.

The program by being brought in a little bit earlier, even having some small aspect of it, can make it so someone who might be an adversary is more likely to be an advocate. To give an example of something that I use in the book, and I talk about a lot as the way we present something that can either be setting people up to fail or to be successful, that is, uh, an example of an email I once got from a boss.

It was 10:00 AM on a Thursday. And I got an email that says We need to talk, be in my office at two. Ugh. Right. Which is terrifying. A really scary email to get. And of course, I spent the next four hours looking at every project I was working on, everyone I had been communicating with, anything I was coming in, you know, ready to fight at this moment.

Uh, get the gesture to come to sit down. Terrified sitting there and she says, Hey, I just wanted to let you know I’m going to be out of the office tomorrow and I’m putting you in my email responder as the person for people to follow up with. Oh my goodness. That was it. There could have been an email, first off, right?

yeah. It’s something I came to learn that the person I was reporting to was incredibly busy. It was the easiest way for her to say, Hey, I’m gonna need to talk to you. That was that simple thing that was best for her. In communication. I talk about this in, this is my concept of priming, not my concept, but how I represent the concept of priming in that, you know, the smell of popcorn or the SC of cookies is something we really love.

Burnt popcorn in an office can derail everything, right? So looking for those burnt popcorn moments like that email, you may be sending stuff when you’re busy, right? Just a quick, Hey, we need to talk. Can. Saving you two or three minutes and it’s costing one on your team hours of time. Yeah. And so, what are your suggestions for that?

To be more thoughtful about what you’re sending out? Couple of stats that I have in, in that new book. One being people wouldn’t send emails if they thought people wouldn’t understand what they were saying. Right. But, uh, stats show that people misunderstand your emails. 50% of the. So half the time people don’t know exactly what you’re saying and so they have to follow up.

And so over 60% of the work people are doing is busy, unimportant work, and that’s creating stress and extra time pressure, which makes us more risk averse. And we have a lot of difficult time processing information and we get really stressed out. And so if you can alleviate some of. If you send a more thoughtful message upfront, even in that case, if she didn’t know what all she was gonna need to talk to me about saying, Hey, I’m gonna be out tomorrow.

I wanna go over a few things. Can I see you at two? Are you available at two? Right. That’s a very different email. I know what was coming and it maybe took an extra 30 seconds, but I didn’t lose a lot of time. In the case of. . When you miscommunicate or you don’t put all the info, you do something quick. Then someone is emailing back and saying, well, did you mean this?

No, I meant this. Oh, this blah, blah, blah. Or just a quick slack chat. Stop by for five minutes. Quick question, and that all adds up. And so it’s investing up upfront a little bit more time knowing it’s gonna pay off. In the short term, but long run as well. If you can invest that bit of thoughtfulness. Okay.

I actually have a, it relates and also doesn’t, but I feel like my audience is gonna love to know the answer to this. It kinda goes along with the experience that you had with that one boss. Is there a best way to communicate with someone as a leader if you need to have a conversation with them either?

Putting them into a performance improvement plan or termination when it comes to timing or how to set that up in a way that doesn’t create that much stress up until the point of the actual conversation. Right? So one thing. Bringing back to that first example is was an easy thing she was sharing.

And if you can imagine that email leading into something like this, there’s no way I am ready to hear that information cuz my brain is just going crazy, right? There’s so much going on and there is a really great psychologist that talks about the brain, if you think about it, like a person writing an elephant and that subconscious elephant.

Is doing, you know, over 90% of our processing. Yeah. So when people are stressed and we’re trying to communicate with the logical part of the brain, we’re. Not paying attention to the elephant, which is running rampant. And we need to become more of an elephant whisperer for one. Okay. And so knowing that sometimes if we can take a step back and look at how maybe we can work on calming the elephant, it can help an employee to improve where we think it might be too far gone.

And I have an example of this being someone on my team who was missing deadlines, showing up late to meetings, not having a good excuse saying she was trying. Nothing to be done. We were meeting in her one-on-one where I always start with the, what’s the most important thing we should be talking about today?

She says, I wish we could talk about my wedding, to which. Many would say, well, that’s a nice wish, but that’s not what we’re here for. That’s not our problem. Right? So I said, okay, you know, what do you wanna talk about? Let me add it. Right? So she was my designer. She’s talking about the invitations she was looking at and the color of the bridesmaid’s dresses, all these things that were just bogging down her brain.

Because for anyone who’s ever planned a wedding or any sort of event, there’s a lot going on. It’s really stressful and it would be nice to be able to compartmentalize our brains, but we. . So we spent the first, you know, half to three-quarters of the meeting talking through all that stuff. And then she said, oh, okay.

I’m so sorry. I know I’ve been late, I’ve been missing some stuff. These are some things I need to work on. This is the next step. Can I check in with you? Thursday, whatever. And she started showing up on time. She stopped missing deadlines. We just needed to calm the elephant a bit. Mm-hmm. to be able to let her focus.

So for one, I would say, take a moment to see. If that person is really so far gone or can you help alleviate some stress that can make it so change is gonna be easier for them? Mm-hmm. , that would be the first step. Yeah. Do. When it’s not, then we still want to be, you know, giving opportunities for questions and questioning and having a conversation with them to help them, you know, leveraging the IKEA effect.

Again, if you ask them what they think they should do, Focusing on what they think the problem is, how they can contribute to solving the problem, in helping to shape their own plan in some ways is something that can help them to be more likely to stick with it. And, you know, if there’s someone who is truly just not a fit, there’s a lot of benefit to, in helping them to see that there are other opportunities out there for them.

And to look at that in a supportive way as you would if you had a, you know, a client who needed to move on. Yeah. To be able to support. I remember reading Kim Scott’s book, uh, radical Candor. I don’t know if you ever read that book. Mm. She was using an example about. Someone that worked for her who just wasn’t a good fit was talking about how when you as a leader can come to the conversation with them and support them in almost either coming up with the idea that.

The fit isn’t there. And supporting them through the process of even seeing what kind of environments would be a good fit for you, you’re almost creating a sense of connection with that person, even through a difficult time like termination because you’re working kind of side by side and, and supporting them through finding.

something that’s actually a better fit for them versus viewing it as like this only negative thing of, you know, you’re fired, right,? Yes. Yeah. And if you focus on what’s being given up, what you’re taking away from them, and you think you’re going to say You don’t really like this job, and look at all these aspects of what you don’t like, because our brains are really wired in.

To the status quo. And we have a familiarity bias. We like what we have, we end up with where we’ll get graduation goggles. Even if we were thinking we were ready to go, like, you know, we hated high school all four years and then the last week when you’re having that concepts, right? You go, oh, like this wasn’t so bad, you know, I’m gonna miss this place, by the way.

I was like, you were the whole time. I get that. You know, colored lenses, you know, after. Yeah. So when you tell somebody that something is going away and the change is upon them, even if it’s something they’ve been complaining about forever. , it gets really scary that Elephant wants to stop and cuz it likes predictability.

It likes to know what’s gonna happen. Yeah. And changes something that can be scary when it’s not presented very well. Yeah. So if instead of saying, Hey, look at all these things that I bet you don’t like, and then what might be good for you, that can be something where they say, no, no, I love it here. I don’t wanna leave cuz there’s fear of losing a paycheck or whatever.

And you know, asking perhaps like if you think about your dream career, your dream role, what might that look like? Where are you wanting to be? And then you can pick up on some nuance of what they’re talking about instead of then trying to prove to them that you’re not the fit. Maybe it’s to be able to show, you know, that there are other roles that you can maybe support them and knowing you’re not gonna recommend everyone.

Right? Right. So there’s a balance to what we put here. But if there is someone who you know is a great person, who is a great worker, and this is just not. The right spot for them, but you know of someone else who has a role that could be a fit for them, you know, and you could recommend them for helping to showcase that support is really valuable.

And investing, again, the time upfront to be asking people to know what your role is that you’re hiring for. Again, always taking those steps back. Then you can be identifying when you’re interviewing exactly if someone’s gonna be a fit or not, so you don’t mis-hire and then have these bigger problems down the line.

Yeah. I really appreciate you coming on Tell. I know you mentioned you have two books. I want you to name the two books and then also how people can find you, and what the best way is for them to find you. Sure. Thank you. So my first book is What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You. The second is what your employees need and can’t tell you.

I also have a podcast called The Brainy Business, and that’s the name of my company as well. So everything can be [email protected] books, podcast consulting and training, and whatever else. And you can find me on pretty much all the socials as the brainy Biz B. Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on.

Yeah, thanks for having me. Thanks for listening to the Group Practice Exchange Podcast. Like what you heard. Give us five stars on whatever platform you’re listening from. Need extra support. Join the Exchange, a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours, live webinars, and a library of training ready for you to dive into.

Visit See you next week.

Thanks For Listening

Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard? Give us five stars on whatever platform you’re listening from. Need extra suppor? Join The Exchange, a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours, live webinars, and a library of trainings ready for you to dive into visit www dot members dot the group practice exchange dot com forward slash exchange. See you next week.


Here are the resources and guides we recommend based on this episode

* I am an affiliate for some of the businesses I recommend. These are companies that I use in my own group practice, and make recommendations based off of my experience with them. When you use some of these companies through my links, I receive compensation, which helps me continue to offer great free information on my podcast, blog, Facebook group, and website.

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


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