It’s an exciting time for brain science, which has become a source of buzz in CEO circles. As CEOs grapple with tight competition, workforce issues, slimming margins, technological advancements — all while trying to filter out interfering noise from the Internet, smartphones, and various media — many are turning to neural leadership practices leveraged by the best learning and development training programs to keep their businesses on the fast track to productivity and profitability.
Neural leadership is part of brain science, which studies how the brain works and how business leaders can leverage brain function in themselves and their teams to create a more robust work environment.
New insights and discoveries about brain function are being made every week, and the focus on neural leadership is forging the way. According to Dr. David Rock, editor of the NeuroLeadership Journal, neural leaders use their own gray matter to gain insight into what their teams need psychologically to be more productive and successful. Consider these insights as you craft your own neural leadership style:
- It is better to be fair than to be right. Neuroscientists have discovered that when people believe they have been treated unfairly, activity in the amygdala, which performs a primary role in processing memory and emotional reactions, creates memories of that treatment. These memories run deep, so create relationships that foster respect, acceptance, and equality. A fair environment will spur synergy among your employees.
- Value a social culture. Our brains are predominantly social organs, so they crave socially driven interactions and goals. This is why group-based learning and development training programs, such as business simulations, prove to be so effective. Most workplace cultures, however, focus on optimizing results instead of improving social interactions among employees. The unintended consequence is that, over time, even top performers will feel devalued, less secure, or even unfairly treated. Inspire your teams to collaborate in solving problems and completing tasks. A collaborative team is an engaged, productive team.
- Rest up for enhanced performance. Inventor Thomas Edison and many prominent thinkers in history have encouraged work over sleep. Yet if Edison had slept more, he may have made fewer mistakes. During sleep, neuroscientists believe our brains consolidate memories, make new connections, conserve energy, and chip away at problems. Neural leaders recognize that well-rested workers do a better job. Encourage your people to get their 40 winks, and, during the workday, to take breaks or go for a short walk to recharge their brains. Finally, recognize your teams for a job well done. Their brains will release dopamine, a natural energy booster.
- Complete one task at a time. When multiple tasks compete for the same limited mental resources, the quality of the results of all tasks is diminished. In other words, the benefits of multitasking are overrated. Empower your people to focus on one task at a time so they can fully process it.
- Stop predicting. We are wired to try to make sense of situations by predicting what will happen next. The danger—most predictions are inaccurate or incomplete, and they may stop you from seeking new perspectives. Coach your people to stop jumping to conclusions and suspend judgment long enough to entertain alternative solutions.
Michael Vaughan is the CEO of The Regis Company, a global provider of business simulations and experiential learning programs. Michael is the author of the books The Thinking Effect: Rethinking Thinking to Create Great Leaders and the New Value Worker and The End of Training: How Business Simulations Are Reshaping Business.