The Power of Using Neuroscience to Improve Your Leadership

The Power of Using Neuroscience to Improve Your LeadershipThere’s a lot of buzz about “the brain.” In recent years, research within the realm of neuroscience has ramped up for a variety of reasons, and lots of industries have tapped into it, finding ways to benefit from a host of new facts—and some fiction. No surprise, the leadership and management industry has surfaced countless ways to capitalize on this growing science. Articles such as “Your Brain at Work” featured by the Harvard Business Review build the case that leaders can turn to the brain for powerful insights about how people think, respond and behave. Consequently, what leaders learn in this field of science can actually inspire and define important habits that can help drive desired results and more frequent successes.

Here are some interesting takeaways from the research:

Downtime Matters

We all know we need time off to recharge our batteries. But science shows we are better at developing solutions and having breakthrough moments when we detach and experience down time. Jumping on that bandwagon, a lot of companies have built in fun—albeit still somewhat structured—internal programs to generate creativity. However, as these programs still feature elements of rigidity, rules and, often, sizeable goals (e.g., solve a problem in x amount of hours), the structured aspect of it all can undermine the good intentions. Want to trigger creativity and problem-solve more effectively? Consider implementing ways that truly support detachment. As the article points out, examples could include: turning off technology for a spell; encouraging people to meditate; and encouraging your people to take meaningful time away from the office with no obligation to call in, check email, etc.

Your Intuition May Give You Good Clues

You can’t toss reason into the wind and use your instincts to make your every decision. But brain science indicates that both gut reactions (generated in the “affect network” of our brains) and how our bodies respond to situations should not be ignored or dismissed as irrelevant. As “Your Brain at Work” states, “Leaders tend to push away feelings in making decisions because they think it’s best to be dispassionate. But a mounting body of neurological evidence suggests that emotional impulses should not be ignored. The affect network fast-tracks decision making and helps us process information that may include too many variables.” That said, the article states that while anxious feelings shouldn’t necessarily be the driver behind our choices, “listening to them, evaluating them instead of avoiding them, can generate better outcomes.”

Inequity Saps Motivation

For all the leaders out there who struggle with motivating employees, it pays to take a close look at whether the culture over which you have command is one that permits preferential treatment. The research shows when people know money is being given out in fair, equitable portions, they experience reward. It was also noted that when people are included in meetings, where they are privy to important information, a sense of reward is also experienced. No doubt, when leadership operates with bias toward certain people, whether that’s in some monetary fashion or by withholding valuable information, this is a behavior that, whether warranted or not, prevents transparency, which is vital for nourishing the motivation people need to succeed.

What other workplace behaviors breed a culture of preferential treatment?

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