The core of Davidson’s book crystallises research how we ourselves uniquely react and respond to ‘life’s slings and arrows’. Individual response is unique mix across six dimensions — Resilience, Outlook, Social Intuition, Self Awareness, Sensitivity to Context, and Attention. We have a mix of these styles which means we could be highly resilient (resilience) but not very good at reading social cues (Social Intuition). The key difference between these defined domains and some kind of self help manual is that they are related to underlying identifiable brain systems and can be altered through mental and environmental changes.
An EC Field StudyWhat do Steve Jobs, Ray Dalio, Bill George, Marc Beinoff and Phil Jackson have in common? They are visionaries, have been known to lead and inspire teams, and have achieved significant success in their professional lives.
So how do neurons communicate with each other and why is this important in terms of how well we work? Imagine a couple of islands separated by some water. Each island has its own stranded inhabitant who communicates with the other islander by placing messenger bottles in the water and then waits for them to wash up on his neighbours’ shores. In a similar way the neurons ‘talk’ to each other by sending little packets of chemical ‘bottles’ across tiny gaps that separate them from their neighbours. The area right behind the forehead is extremely sensitive to two main messenger bottles. Too few or too many of certain types of bottles basically causes this area to close down. The relationship between these chemical bottles and its performance is so connected that you can see the effect in a simple diagram.
Much of Rock's current thinking is distilled in Managing with the Brain in Mind, published in August 2009 in strategy+business, Booz & Company's quarterly magazine (free registration required) and in "SCARF: A brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others," a paper originally published in 2008 in Issue #1 of the NeuroLeadership Journal (co-founded by Rock) and available as a PDF on the Resources page of the site promoting Rock's new book, "Your Brain at Work."
Studies on neurocognitive processes indicate that mindfulness meditation increases awareness and the creation of alternatives to mindless, automatic behavior – reducing the stress response by guiding conscious thought away from uncontrollable past or future scenarios and towards a non-attached acceptance of present circumstances, rather than battling unwanted thoughts.
There's an emerging field of research tackling a big question: how can we develop better leaders, and create more successful organizations. Called NeuroLeadership, the field each year gathers for an annual summit to explore the big questions and share new research.
Daniel Goleman's new book, Ecological Intelligence, reveals the hidden environmental consequences of what we make and buy. Goleman is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence.
It turns out that just under half the time, 46.9% to be exact, people are doing what's called 'mind wandering'. They are not focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts. Unfortunately, the study of 2,250 people proposes, most of this activity doesn't make us feel happy.
My recent post, “Advice from an Over-50 IT Pro: Stop Whining and Get to Work,” led to a lot of discussion of the role that having a positive attitude plays in gaining employment. Maybe it’s time to take the discussion a step further and ask: Should employers make an effort to identify negativity in job candidates and consider that trait as a potential disqualifier?
Even with breakthrough books on emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman, emotions are still very much peripheral in organisations. Workplace culture (with rare exceptions) seems to be stuck in a time warp that mirrors an old 1970s cognitive psychologists perspective– which was that the best emotions can offer is to just interrupt us so that we can direct our attention to what is really important. When’s the last time emotions were spoken about in your workplace for instance? The emotional tapestry at work seems almost binary, dissolving down to just whether we feel stressed or not, nothing more. Emotions seem to be relegated to a point of insignificance, viewed as getting in the way of the real business and doing what is important, if they are mentioned at work at all.
We are, simply speaking, hard wired to connect. Mirror neurons respond, perhaps surprisingly, based on the goal or perceived intention of the person performing the action - random actions by others don’t seem to cause them to fire. This means we unconsciously copy or imitate the emotional states of others with a sense of their intentions, this is what provides us with social cues as to how to respond. We have a felt sense of where someone’s at and therefore can respond accordingly. This unconscious or implicit imitation also occurs more strongly when we are with people we like or for people we perceive to be powerful. A leader will capture our attention so their emotions will be particularly contagious. However, its impact is also more subtle, for instance college student subjects who watched a video about old people were unaware that they walk more slowly to the exit at the end of a study. This implicit or unconscious imitation has profound implications for team dynamics. It is the basis for emotional contagions – how we inherit people’s moods in a team meeting or why a workplace has a particular mood tone. It’s also why stress can become such an infectious corrosive atmosphere or how an empathic nurturing environment can spread, both with their subsequent impact on team dynamics.
It was suggested that rather than trying to be less negative or more positive, people could use the practice of mindfulness to create more effective outcomes. While witnessing this conversation I thought to myself that a decade or more ago this conversation would not have occurred frequently at work. Now it is not uncommon for teams to discuss mindfulness and meditation as practices which can enhance personal and professional effectiveness.
This increasing interest in mindfulness is occurring in the world of positive psychology, where mindfulness is becoming an important member of the kit of practices to help build optimal functioning. In chapter 22 of the new book Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward, Baer and Lykins suggest, “because mindfulness training appears to have a broad range of outcomes, including enhancement of positive characteristics, its potential contribution to optimal human functioning warrants substantially increased attention.”
Bill George is a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership since 2004. He is the former CEO of Medtronic and a Best-Selling Author. On August 13-14, 2010 Yongey Mingur Rinpoche and I co-led a two-day retreat in Minneapolis on the subject of “Mindful Leadership.” Over 400 people participated actively in the retreat. To our knowledge, this is the first time that a Buddhist Rinpoche and a leadership professor have joined forces to explore this subject and see how Eastern teaching can inform our Western thinking about leadership, and vice versa. Rinpoche led several guided meditations over the course of the two days, but this was strictly a secular event, not a Buddhist teaching.
In his new book "Your Brain at Work," coach David Rock depicts the story of two people over one day at the office, and what's happening in their brains that makes it so hard to focus and be productive. Not only does he explain why things go wrong, but how you can train your brain to improve thinking and performance at work. Based on interviews with 30 neuroscientists, he's developed strategies to help you work smart all day.
New technologies have emerged throughout history that have mocked our closely held intuitions about the world. Telescopes for example taught us that the universe doesn't revolve around the earth. In a hundred years, as new technologies unfold that we can't yet imagine, I wonder if we will look back in amazement at how we misunderstood the human brain in this era. I propose that some of these minsunderstandings may be the cause of much everyday misery in the workplace.
Bill George is a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership since 2004. He is the former CEO of Medtronic and a Best-Selling Author. The highly visible corporate leadership failures of recent years have deeply shaken public confidence in business leaders. All too often these leaders have placed self-interest ahead of the well-being of their organizations. After the companies got in trouble, their leaders then refused to take responsibility for the harm caused to the people they served. The problems at British Petroleum, Hewlett-Packard, and failed Wall Street firms, along with the actions of dozens of leaders who failed in the post-Enron era, are glaring examples of these lapses in leadership.
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