Tasty Tidbits from Social Neuroscience

I got the opportunity to attend the 14th NeuroLeadership summit in San Francisco last week. So many wonderful insights from social neuroscientists about how the newest brain research is shedding light on our behaviour. A couple of nuggets for you, our faithful blog readers:

  • Brain exercises do not increase your brain power, despite what Luminosity spends on marketing. Use that time to learn a new language, develop new skills or exercise your body; your brain will reap more benefits.
  • Collaboration does often yield better problem solving and more creative decisions, but it slows things down and the best companies reserve it for special occasions, not as a default.
  • The “in group/out group” response by the brain is constant and pretty much random. This means that the brain is constantly assessing whether other people are “on our team” or “not on our team” and this effect can be created by scientists merely telling you that some people are on your team and others are not. You will instinctively see those on the other team as adversaries.
  • Understanding one’s values, articulating them, writing about them and repeating them increases emotional resilience. Not sure how or why yet, but wow, who knew? The best argument ever for engaging in our Leadership Point of View exercise.
  • One of the most robust findings about learning is that the more “spacing” is used while learning – breaking the content into small chunks and repeating it a couple of times over a period of days with sleep between times – the better. Spacing ensures that the content is encoded into long term memory. Cramming information – learning it quickly right before an exam, for example – will result in the information staying in short term memory and then disappearing. A terrific support for Blended Learning!

Why Is Your Tummy So Big? (4 Factors for a Powerful Question)

(Editor's Note: This is not the author's tummy.)

(Editor’s Note: This is not the author’s tummy.)

I’ve always battled with my weight. This last year has been especially tough as I’ve had to take a break from my other career (as a prolific goal scorer in adult recreational soccer leagues) due to nagging injuries that have turned into chronic injuries. I started playing almost 30 years ago and haven’t had any significant periods away from the game until now. The wear and tear has caught up with my knees and ankles.

When you’ve got chronic pain in your knees and ankles, getting regular aerobic exercise is a challenge. It hurts to walk, let alone to go for a jog or a run. Exercise for me has always been specific to the sport I’m playing. Take away the sport and I don’t get enough exercise. Take away the exercise and my clothes fit tighter than they should be.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to do something. Yeah, tomorrow I’ll do something. Of course, tomorrow soon turns into yesterday, then last week, then last month, and here I am still sitting in my recliner. So one night while I’m sitting there with my 5-year-old son, he turns to me and asks, “Dada, why is your tummy so big?”

As soon as the words left his lips, my wife chuckled and then got embarrassed for me. I initially had a similar reaction. Kids say the darndest things…often when you least expected or are prepared for them. During my pause to think about how to respond, I realized he’d asked an incredibly powerful question. For his purposes, I used it as a teaching moment and answered it with a simple statement about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, and that I needed to get better at both.

The answer I gave him was good enough for him, but it wasn’t good enough for me. Like most Dads, I want to be a superhero in my son’s eyes. And, I don’t want my alter-ego to be “Flabby Man.” So his question got me off the recliner and moved me into action. I did some research on local gyms and will be signing up for one this week…let the journey begin.

Upon further reflection, here are four factors that made his question so powerful:

  1. The Person Delivering the Question. There’s built in credibility. He looks up to me and I don’t want to disappoint. Most importantly, there’s an established positive relationship.
  2. It Lacked Judgement. Consider the alternative that most of us are used to hearing…“have you lost weight?” Which is roughly the equivalent of saying, “you were fat and I can’t tell if you’re any less fat than you used to be.” The best questions are those that aren’t judgmental, accusatory, or have hidden agendas. I honestly don’t know if my son loves my big tummy or is disgusted by it, he just wanted to know why it is the way it is. But…
  3. It Caused Me To Think. I was pushed to examine the factors behind the issue in question. And…
  4. It Motivated Me Into Action. After voicing the factors that led to the issue, I was motivated to consider the solutions and to act on them.

Good coaching sometimes comes when you least expect it and from those you least expect it to come from. Out of the mouths of babes.

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21

What Neuroscience Can Teach Leaders About Change

There are probably six excellent change theories and models, and hundreds of books.   Here are a couple of little factoids about the human brain that just cuts to the chase on this topic:

  1.    People can only really focus on one big goal at a time.  Setting another goal will most likely cancel out the original goal (Rock).

 

2. Change is hard for everyone and really really hard for some, because it literally sets off alarm bells in the brain (Rock and Schwartz).  When navigating a change, take more time than you think should be needed, set up systems for people to have conversations about the change to process it. People need time and coaching to relate, repeat and reframe (Deutschman) their thinking about the changes expected of them.  Be ready to be talking about the change long after you have become bored to death with it.

As Peter Senge so advises: 

  • Start small
  • Grow steadily
  • Don’t plan everything and
  • Expect challenges.

Image by Paul Brentnall

What Neuroscience Can Teach Leaders About Feedback

Feedback:  The never ending mystery! Here is yet another installment in the series on what we have to learn about Leadership from the study of neuroscience.

Feedback:

  1. Hire for Feedback Orientation. Individuals, who have feedback orientation like feedback, believe it has value, seek it regularly, have the wherewithal to process feedback with and without help, are sensitive to others’ view of themselves and generally feel accountable to act on feedback (London and Smither).  Ask yourself about your own feedback orientation?  Are you a role model for asking for and receiving feedback?

2.   Build a culture in which feedback is natural and given in the moment.   A culture of feedback is :

“…one where individuals continuously receive, solicit, and use formal and informal feedback to improve their job performance.  This may be linked to effective policies and programs for performance management, continuous learning and career development. The individual’s feedback orientation depends in part on the support and climate for learning.  The more frequent the feedback and the closer it follows the behavior in question, the more likely it is to be accepted.  The more support [from you the leader] for learning and development, including the availability of behaviorally-oriented feedback, the more the individual is likely to develop a positive orientation toward feedback. ” (London and Smither)

3. People who have sustained a great deal of trauma are going to have a very hard time distinguishing a real threat from a potential one (Rock).  This means that workers who go through rounds of layoffs and are not given new information to raise their levels of certainty will most probably become less and less able to receive any critical feedback.  Only people working in an environment where they feel safe will be open to learning, be more likely to have insights and be generally more creative and productive (Gordon).

 

Image from Grant Cochrane

The Secret Powers of Time

The Secret Powers of Time is one of many brilliant videos in the RSA Animate series by the RSA. In the video, Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health, and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships, and how we act in the world.

In coaching, simply having an awareness and understanding of the time perspectives of those you coach is invaluable. Within the context of time, we’d like to see all of our clients be future-oriented. Those that come into coaching already future-oriented are more likely to be able to quickly move into action on their growth and development goals. That’s not to say that individuals who are past/present-oriented can’t achieve the same, however, it might take a little more work and, most definitely, a different approach.

Take the time and watch the video below to learn more. Share your take-aways in the comment box.

Vodpod videos no longer available.