Understanding How We Tick

Until recently evidence on how our brains work was still confined to the neuroscientists.
Good news for all of us is that more and more of this work is being published and put into a context that we all can understand.


Last week at a conference held by the Neuroleadership Institute Dr David Rock took us through how we can use this knowledge to enhance not only the performance of leaders and managers, but everyone.

It was a lot to take in and my little grey cells felt very tired at the end, but being a passionate and enthusiastic Australian at least Dr David Rock kept it simple and easy to follow.


So what were my main take-outs that I will use with clients?


The first is that thinking positively is all very good but you need to follow it with positive action. Makes sense really as if we want to facilitate change we need to take actions that change and imbed new behaviours in the brains circuitry. Just willing good things to happen is only half the solution.


That said positive mood states are good as they produce Dopamine in the brain and so we expect more good things to happen and see them. If you’re in a negative state feeling anxious, stressed etc. you’re producing less Dopamine so very difficult to get out of that mood and approach situations effectively.


A way to do this is to do small things that are positive. It might be just tidying your desk or finding something that makes you laugh. Reminds me that there’s nothing more annoying than being in a bad mood and someone sets out to make you laugh and it works!


They’ve discovered that we are hot wired to stay away from threats. Apparently the brain checks in every 2 seconds to make sure we’re safe. The brain circuitry for this is much larger than the circuitry for reward. Neuroscientists have found that we have a negativity bias that is 5 times larger than our positivity bias; guess that’s based on our survival instinct of Fight or Flight.


A way of controlling this is to flip your thinking if you’re thinking negatively, look at the positives. Monty Python know what they were talking about when they wrote the song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’!


Next was regulating our emotions. We’ve all been in situations where we feel our emotions getting the better of us. Unless we can control our emotions especially under pressure we’re limiting our decision making process to think deeper. If we can’t manage our own emotions how can you hope to manage emotions in others?


A way to do this is by naming the emotion you’re feeling. This puts it into a context out of the detail and calms the brains limbic systems.


I’ve focused on understanding positivity as with this bleak summer we’re enjoying, staying positive is a must!