Brain Savvy Leaders offers practical insights into how we should lead. Humans are wired in certain ways; if leaders understand the wiring, they can do a better job running their organizations . . . and have better relationships with those they lead. Here are the top insights from Charles Stone’s book:
Encourage community in your organization using these brain-friendly tools:
• Provide regular relationship-building experiences for your teams to deepen their chemistry and friendships. Foster the sense that nobody is an outsider.
• Create physical gathering places in the workplace that encourage socialization.
• Regularly remind your team to see other team members’ perspectives. Walk in each other’s shoes.
• Help team members share goals.
• Build an attitude of gratitude amongst your team.
• Use appropriate humor. People endear themselves to those with a good sense of humor.
• Build trust. As trust increases, oxytocin increases, which strengthens cooperativeness and empathy.
Influence your team using the science of mirror neurons:
• If someone is in emotional pain, genuinely empathize with them. Mirror their pain through your facial expressions.
• Pay attention to the facial expressions and body language of others. Don’t ramrod ideas without considering a team member’s demeanor.
• Look for subtle clues that indicate more explanation or discussion may be needed.
• Stay aware of your own demeanor.
• When communicating key changes, maximize face-to-face communication.
• When in a meeting with someone whose anger is rising to an unhealthy level, guard against mirroring back a similar angry scowl. Mirror back calmness.
• Smile a lot. Show your sense of humor around your team.
Leading change – the brain and how it handles personal/organizational change:
• Change is hard for the brain.
• People naturally assume the worst. Our brain is wired to pick up threats and negative possibilities more then positive.
• People naturally fill their knowledge gaps with fear.
• Undoing a wrong impression is harder than creating a good one.
• People underestimate their ability to ride out difficult future events.
• The brain can only handle so much change at once (too much, too quickly, triggers fear).
• Change becomes more difficult the older we get. Recognize this dynamic and never quit learning.
• When change is far away, the positives usually outweigh the negatives. The closer the change, the more fearful we are.
• As change gets closer, uninformed optimism gives way to informed pessimism. Manage this dynamic.)
• What we say we will do, we often don’t do. What we say we won’t do, we often do.
• When we imagine accomplishing something, we activate the same brain circuits as if we actually performed the task.
• Build in hopeful expectations. When we expect something good we get a dopamine boost.
• Give people the opportunity to give input into how change will look.
• The more familiar something is, the less threatening it is. Familiarize your team about change before implementing it.
• The more motivated we feel, the more readily we embrace change. Celebrating small wins gains buy-in.
• Our commitment to a choice, once made, increases. Feeling follows action.
• Some people need answers about the HOW of change. Others need answers about the WHY.
• When sharing vision, give a clear WHY and allow your team to create the HOW.
• Leaders often skip the evaluation step. It’s easier to move to a new project than to reflect on the previous one. Don’t skip evaluation.
• Set specific dates on which you will report progress. Tell your team you will evaluate progress and report on it.
• Tell stories of people who are navigating change well.
• Stay connected to critics. Cutting them off will intensify their opposition.
Tips for handling negative emotions:
• Change your circumstances. Select a different situation.
• Shift your attention away from what’s bothering you (short term fix)
• Re-frame the situation through reappraisal. Know that others would feel the same way, it’s not as devastating as you first thought.
• Identify (label) your emotion rather than suppress it.
• Take a third-person view of an emotional situation (see yourself as a fly on the wall).
Tips for best using our mental capacity: Prioritize (put first things first), exercise, sleep, simplify the complex, group similar tasks together and do them at the same time, make repetitive tasks into habits (so you don’t use much brain power on them), and celebrate small wins (even checking something off your list is encouraging). Our brains are easily distracted. There is a precious sweet-spot where our brains work best. It’s between low stress (boredom) and high stress (anxiety). To work in that sweet spot: Increase interest (time flies when you’re interested in your work), take brain breaks (our brains can only focus so long), and don’t multitask (this significantly cuts mental ability).
Build high-performing teams with these brain savvy leadership techniques:
• Golden Rule: Treat people like you would like to be treated. Be fair.
• Reduce ambiguity: The brains loves certainty and predictability. Be clear on expectations, over-communicate, turn ambiguities into probabilities (by creating times, milestones and potential solutions), set regular goals and carry yourself consistently. Don’t leave people wondering what mood they will find you in each day.
• Allow freedom in the workplace. Give your team members choices in how they perform their role. Guard against micromanaging. Monitor your team’s stress level. Find what intrinsically motivates team members and give them assignments in those areas.
• Promote personal value among staff and volunteers. Regularly tell your team members that you value them. Help them make progress in their work. Making progress towards a goal is extremely satisfying. Teach your team what healthy comparison looks like (compare against your personal best, not others).
• Develop a thorough orientation process for new team members.
• Value the insight and input from your team. Allow people to express their views.
ADDITIONAL INSIGHTS ON BRAIN SAVVY LEADERSHIP
Lasting change requires individuals to change first before an organization will change.
Studies show gratefulness is good for brain and body health.
Being treated unfairly can make people sick. If an employee is out a lot, find out if they feel unfairly treated.
Studies indicate that if you feel drowsy, chewing gum may make you more alert.
A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind (stay focused, stay happy).
Our brains process and remember bad events more thoroughly than good ones (be aware of our thoughts, guard against negativity).
Research shows boredom shrinks your brain. The next time you’re bored, find something to interest you.
Studies show that smiling, even with a fake smile, can make you feel happier (facial feedback theory).
If you’re feeling down, pet a dog (petting an animal raises good neurotransmitters and reduces negative ones).
Our brains process 70,000 thoughts a day, contain 100,000 miles of nerve fibers and have 100 billion cells.
Brain-Savvy Leaders is an excellent resource for those leading change. It gives insights into why people react the way that they do. I recommend it to anyone who wants to successfully take their organization through a major shift
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