Article written by Judith E. Glaser, September 2016
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Great leaders identify, measure, recognize, and reward meaningful efforts and achievements—and celebrate often with the people involved. Why should managers and leaders celebrate more? Creating a feeling of celebration helps meet people’s needs for inclusion, innovation, appreciation, and collaboration – and now with the advances in neuroscience – we know that celebration elevates oxytocin, which is a neurotransmitter which elevates collaboration and bonding. In fact when we enjoy and celebrate with others we produce these happy hormones – which is the best Conversational Cocktail to elevate spirits for the New Year!
How WE make Conversational Cocktails
How might the disciplined practice of celebration change the culture? From my study of neuroscience, I know that celebration has a big impact because it literally works wonders in the brain. By releasing dopamine and oxytocin and other positive neurotransmitters, positive celebrations and intelligent conversations are not just ways of socializing and sharing information—they trigger healthy physical and emotional changes in the brain.
Cultures either open you up to having healthy, trusting conversations or close you down so that you speak from fear, caution, and worry. As we communicate, we trigger neurochemicals that make us feel either good or bad, and we translate that inner experience into words, sentences, and stories. Feel good conversations trigger a powerful Conversational Cocktail that includes dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins and other chemicals that give us a sense of well-being and elevate the feeling of compassion for others.
When we converse with others, we are sharing our inner world, or sense of reality, validating reality with others, and measuring the levels of trust in our relationship to determine whether we can partner with others. The quality of our conversations depends on how open or closed we feel at the moment of contact. The neurochemical reactions in our brains drive our states of mind, and these affect the way we build trusting relationships with others, how we communicate, and how we shape our relationships.
What happens when we don’t care?
Our brains are designed to be social—and the need for celebration is greater than the need for safety. In fact, feeling socially excluded activates some of the same neural regions that are activated in response to physical pain. I call the ways that leaders can celebrate and show appreciation – the Caring Effect. The opposite effect is manifest when people physically or emotionally check out.
When an employee begins to check out, managers often think of this person as uncooperative or unreasonable, which leads tocounter-productive behaviors on the part of the manager—avoiding the person, talking judgmentally about them, or passing them over to HR for repair. This creates a vicious cycle: employee engagement continues to decline while the manager becomes exasperated with the employee’s performance until the tension is relieved—either by the boss deciding to fire the employee, the employee choosing to leave, or both resigning themselves to low satisfaction and performance.
Such negative behaviors signal that the social and psychological needs that drive performance are not being met. All people have deep-seated needs for meaning, purpose, connection, and inclusion that they want—and expect—to fulfill at work. How can you leverage your people’s social and psychological needs to fuel growth and productivity?