How to be brain-savvy (and why it’s vital to success)

by NZ Adviser15 Jul 2016
Leaders don’t have to be neuroscientists, but it’s important they understand enough about why people think and behave the way they do.
This is because it makes it easier for them to influence and lead others, said Dr Jenny Brockis, medical practitioner and author of the new book Future Brain.
In particular, leaders should keep their people feeling safe and moving towards a reward response so they are motivated and interested in their work, according to Dr Brockis.
She added that the ‘brain-savvy leader’ understands that it’s important to have mental sharpness, but they also have to have the great people skills.
“Leaders should respect people for who they are and the value they bring,” she said.
Why is this important?
“People like to feel rewarded and given credit when it’s due and if we don’t feel that we are being acknowledged or we are just being taken for granted that’s hugely demotivating,” said Dr Brockis.
“It’s about making sure that people have some self-direction. Micromanagement is a big performance killer where people are not given the opportunity to demonstrate their capability.
“If somebody is always checking up on you, correcting you, and not allowing you to get on with what you know you are perfectly capable of doing it doesn’t make you want to contribute anymore. It tends to shut you down and a lot of people will just simply leave.”
It’s also important to be a leader who is observed in all their conversations and behaviours to be consistently fair. This is because if we see somebody that says one thing and does another that incongruence makes us wary, explained Dr Brockis.
“Even if it’s not affecting us directly and you observe it in a conversation between two other people it will still affect us. If we are thinking: I didn’t think that was fair or that was favouritism or that’s bullying, it sets up a reaction in our brain and we feel disgust,” she said.
“We underestimate how important fairness is to us. In fact, brain research has shown that fairness matters more than the promise of a bonus. We value that more highly.”
We also need to make sure we provide clarity and certainty around what’s being talked about, and what our intentions are, Dr Brockis added.
She explained a scenario where an announcement is made that a company is letting go hundreds of workers, but further details are unclear.
“It sets up a fear response because we don’t have enough information and we don’t have that clarity or that certainty to know who it’s going to effect,” she said.
“So being really clear and demonstrating intent with communication is really important if you are going to be a good leader.”
Another charachteristic a brain-savvy leader should be mindful of is to be empathetic, said Dr Brockis.
“Sometimes we can have a leader that we respect because they have got the experience and the know-how and all that,” she said.
“But if they are not good with people we don’t see them as a good a leader because they need to have that social skill.
“When you feel that somebody gets you it’s more than just somebody remembering your name. You feel that in times of trouble they are not going to abandon ship and it’s every man for themselves.”

Originally published in L&D Professional.

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