I recently came across an article in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Blackman where he talks about the Inner Workings of the Executive Brain.
Through his conversations the following 4 things emerged:
- Be Wary of Deadlines: Brain research from Richard Boyatzis at Case Wester Reserve suggests that setting deadlines actually limits our thinking and leads to bad decision making. What they have found is that deadlines increase urgency and stress levels which leads to people being less open to change and/or blowing something up to get to a new place. Eliminating deadlines isn't exactly realistic, but helping employees and teams reduce stress will allow them to access the creative parts of their brains even when under pressure. Dr. Pillay out of Harvard said that often when people are taught to meditate they reach a mental state that allows the creative part of their brain to be active.
- Big Unknowns Lead to Bad Choices: Take a deadline and then add the uncertainty of the companies future or the employees future and you have a recipe for disaster. Dr. Pillay said it is important for leadership to let the teams know that no decision is final. Removing the pressure will prevent people from making decisions based on the fear that bad things are going to happen. He says when looking at a situation through doom and gloom you are more likely to make exactly the wrong decision.
- Good Thinkers Look Past Facts: When Blackman spoke to Roderick Gilkey an Emory professor of management and an associate professor of psychology he found out that a study of mid career executives brains showed more dominant activities in the parts of the brain involved in social and emotional thinking when working on a strategic decision. What they believe is that a good strategic thinker not only relies on logic and rationality, but also, can feel their way through strategies. They see the big picture and the potential for negative long term effects of a decision. Putting yourself in the someone else's shoes is just as important as analyzing the facts.
- Leaders Should Stay Positive: The best leaders are good at motivating their teams. They use encouragement and rewards to create an emotional bond. Boyatzis states that we still have a lingering belief that to be effective we must be negative and tough when all of the data shows it is just not true on a very basic human level.
As you reflect on what Blackman discovered in his interviews is your narrative encouraging or gloom and doom? are you thinking big picture enough? are you allowing for failure? and do you have reasonable time frames?