Neuroscience for Leadership

Peter Cheese sets up the session with Dr Tara Swart “we need to go back to the roots of the profession” and the roots of the profession are understanding human behaviour.

Dr Tara Swart shared lots linking neuroscience to the practical and pragmatic practice of helping folk do good work. I’ve captured a few of the main points but missed a million others.

The starting point is to understand the brain is a part of a dynamic system, we cannot ignore the rest of the system if we expect the brain to function well and for our thinking to be at its best. We need to add physiology to the psychology.

External information goes first into the lymbic system before going into the cortext but this is moderated by the level of emotion that is attached to the input. All of our decisions are biased by this emotional weight.

To create sustainable behaviour change you have to be engaged emotionally as well as logically.

There are a few gender differences eg Corpus callosum is a super highway in women and a country road for men (helps with empathy I think).

Diversity of thinking model

Diversity of thinking

Emotions and Physicality – our physicality will often show our emotional level better than what we are saying.

Intuition – How we learn goes from higher centres (cortex), then with practice gets moved into faster thinking centres within our lymbic system and then down to the nervous system that sits even deeper in our bodies.

Neural see-saw

Blood supply moves to the system we use so if we are doing logical thinking the brain supplies that part of the brain. If we want to do empathetic thinking we need to start it to get the blood supply moving there (over simplification on my part)

If people perceive that we are 14% of logical thinkers are seen as great leaders, 17% of empathetic thinkers are seen as great leaders. If we have both then 72% will be seen as great leader…and we can switch our thinking style, so why don’t we?

The role of Cortisol

We get a natural spike of cortisol an hour before dawn and then we should have low levels all day, if we have stress we get a hit of cortisol and itshould moderate. Under stress it doesn’t reduce and the effects are – reduced immune system – from colds to increased cancer.

The bodies response to cortisol is “I’m going to die” and it rationalises this by assuming it “must be starvation lay, lets lay down fat”

Cortisol leaks through sweat and can then be picked up, so you can catch stress (particularly from someone in a power position). It comes from caveman times and needing to be concious of the stress level of our caveman leader even though we don’t have the language.

You can sweat cortisol out and you can think it out

What to do

  • 30 mins aerobic exercise 3 times per week
  • Talk stress out (coaching etc)
  • Journal
  • Meditate

Our emotional response has a significant effect on our behaviour, just look at the money’s behaviour when he feels hard done to.

Cucumbers grapes and monkeys

What else is important

Sleep
Glymphatic system – cleansing process for brain which takes 7-9 hours hence our need for sleep. When we work with disturbed sleep we have an actual measurable IQ drop that is in essence the same as being drunk! Lack of sleep now connected to Parkinsons and other diseases.

Hydration
1-3% dehydration has an effect – we should drink half litre per day per kilo body weight.

Exercise
voluntary exercise supports neurogenesis, so exercise you like or have chosen is better for you than exercise you are forces into.

Cortisol correlates with risk, we select negative memories and see danger where ther is none, we see uncertainty as a threat. Uncontrollability increases stress so transparency

Increase your confidence

wonder woman

  • Winner effect – win something little, like a game on your phone
  • Territory effect – claim the territory – be there first
  • Power posing – eg Wonder woman – eidence now equivical
  • Past successes/self-talk/right physiology

Neuroscience Culture and Meditation

  • Culturally diverse communities are more creative with increased alpha wave states
  • People who meditate get increased folding in cortex (so more cortex)
  • Meditation reduces cortisol
  • US Marines who do 12 mins of meditation are more resilient on the battle field

NB Nordic sauna and cold dip and 5:2 diet have similar effect to meditation – go figure


Live blogged from #CIPD15, apologies for any lack of grammar, punctuation, spelling and opinion

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