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Engaging your Team - 4 February 2014

Humanitarian organisations generally regard food, clothing, shelter and air as the basic human needs for survival.  Even Maslow’s famous hierarchy had physiological elements such as sleep and water as primary needs.  But emerging neuroscientific research is demonstrating that social needs are just as important.  In fact, the brain’s reaction when it lacks social connectedness can be very similar to its reaction when it lacks food and shelter.

That point was highlighted in a study published last month in the Strategic HR Review journal, which introduced the concept of brain-savvy leadership.  It’s a reference to leaders who use neuroscientific approaches – in combination with social interaction – to engage employees.  First, the neuroscientific approaches:

  • Certainty:  Brain-savvy leaders make the future more predictable by setting a clear purpose, articulating their expectations, and communicating openly.
  • Options:  Brain-savvy leaders give employees choices at work by expanding autonomy, making rules bendable, and promoting flexibility.
  • Reputation:  They also make employees feel important by praising them, providing meaningful opportunities, and welcoming ideas.
  • Equity They operate from a sense of fairness by being transparent, avoiding favouritism, and explaining the reasoning behind their decisions.
But when it comes to engagement, those aren’t enough.  The social interaction is what elevates it to a new level.  This similarly comprises four components:

Getting Personal:  Brain-savvy leaders get to know each individual.  They see employees not in terms of output but in terms of who they are as people.  They understand their likes and dislikes, motivators and de-motivators, talents and ambitions.

Getting Connected:  They’re cognisant of employees’ emotions and can pinpoint with ease when they’re feeling bored, negative or frustrated. They act quickly to make them feel more valued and positive.

Getting Clear:  Whenever change is occurring – whether large or small – brain-savvy leaders clarify the rationale for the change and the benefits it’ll bring.

Getting Real:  Brain-savvy leaders are self-aware.  They rarely wait to receive feedback because they’re constantly evaluating their own performance.  They assess what they do well and what they do poorly, putting in place measures to improve the quality of their leadership.  

What the above demonstrates is that to engagingly use your brain, you must also use your heart.



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