Helping Leaders Achieve Greater Influence, Higher Engagement & Increased Results


How Well Do You Manage Your Mood?

Smileys AufheiterungThe uncomfortable truth for leaders is that you are constantly being watched. When you walk through the office door in the morning, you’re under scrutiny. While you sit at your desk, your people are watching you. They see the way that you go to get a cup of coffee and the way you sit in meetings. This means that whatever mood you are in will be picked up by the people you work with and lead, including those at a distance and even those on the end of a phone.

The author Charles Handy once said, “The leader’s job is not only to communicate the message, the leader is the message”. How you act and perform will affect the way in which your team act and perform – even without them realising it.

Why does this happen? There are two reasons:

1. Our brains are programmed to constantly make meaning of what we see and hear. If someone sees you sitting at your desk, wearing a frown or scowling, they will assume you are in a bad mood. Their brain will try to make mean of this and will make assumptions as to why you’re in a bad mood. These assumptions can quickly escalate into something much more dramatic than is really going on.limbic1

2. Thanks to ‘mirror neurons’ we all have a super power called empathy. This means that others around you may start to ‘feel’ the bad mood they assume you are in. Before long, they will start to snap at other people and make rash decisions too.
The key to stopping your mood from adversely affecting the work of your team, you need to be fully aware of your mood. Think about how you’re feeling on the way into work in the morning. If there is something annoying you that has nothing to do with what goes on within the office, make sure you leave it at the door when you go in.

A good mood is just as infectious as a bad mood, so think about how you can use some morning cheerfulness to lift the mood of your team. The next section will show you how to do this.

You can use the chemicals in your brain to actually change your mood – to lift and improve your mood if you’re feeling down. Here’s how:

1. Endorphins increase the feeling of euphoria and determination. They are called nature’s pain relief. Laughing is a good way to release helpful mood-lifting chemicals. Take a quick look at a short, funny video on YouTube and see how it makes you feel. Have a good stretch as this can also release these chemicals.
2. Dopamine is a motivation booster, releasing energy. Think about a small achievement you have recently made. Reminding yourself that every small step is progress and being proud of it will help release this useful chemical.
3. Self-respect is a powerful feel-good feeling and Serotonin is the chemical responsible. There is a delicate balance between feeling good about where you are in the ‘pecking order’ and arrogance. See it from a healthy influence point of view and you will feel good without appearing above others.

The next time you feel your mood slipping or your energy waning, think about how you can use the naturally occurring feel-good chemicals in your brain and see how you can change your mood.

How Do You Lead Yourself?

in_a_bad_moodHow Do You Lead Yourself?

It’s raining and you’ve had a difficult journey into work. You stepped in a puddle while walking across the car park and now you have a wet foot. The lift is broken so you have to walk up the stairs to the third floor. You walk through the door of the office, to be greeted by the faces of your team – eager and expectant, waiting for their daily dose of inspiration from you. But you have a face like thunder, so you march into your office, slam the door and start angrily answering the emails that are awaiting you attention.

But if you do that, how will your behaviour impact on your team? Will they continue to be effective, carrying out the work you need them to do? Or will they wonder what the problem is? Are they about to get the sack? Is the company in trouble? What have they done wrong?

If you don’t recognise that scenario (because you bounced into work, skipping across the puddles and running up the stairs because it’s great exercise!) perhaps the problem occurs later in the day. You’ve been too busy to take a break over lunch, except for drinking stronger coffee. You’ve still got a lot to do today, but as the afternoon wears on, you find yourself snapping at members of your team when they try to ask you a question. You can’t concentrate on reading more than a line at a time of the report you need to finish by the end of the day. Another cup of coffee? It doesn’t make any difference – you’re just getting more and more tired …

Your brain does not come with a user manual, so unless you take the time to understand your brain and how you work, you won’t be able to effectively manage yourself and your time. Which means you will struggle to manage and lead other people too.

Your brain is like a battery. On a Monday morning, if you have time to relax over the weekend, your battery will be fully charged; the same applies to Tuesday mornings and getting a good night’s sleep on Monday! There are some tasks that drain your battery more quickly than others, so it’s worth doing the tough stuff first, when your battery is fully charged. It’s also essential that you give your brain battery the time and relaxation it needs to regain full charge.

When you lead a team of people, they will look to you for motivation and inspiration. They will expect to receive it from you whenever they need it – after all, you are their leader. They might not know that you’re not a morning person, or that you’ve been up all night working. You need to work out when you are at your most effective and then look for ways of dealing with the highs and lows of energy that will affect you – and your mood – throughout the day.

You need to make sure that you don’t take your bad mood into the office – it will infect everyone else. Don’t show your tiredness in the afternoon either – it’s not a good example to set when you’re a leader.

Only when you really understand yourself and know how to lead yourself, can you become a more effective, limbic leader.

Limbic Success Tips
How do you find out when you’re your most effective self? Don’t leave it to your team members to tell you – by then it will be too late!

1. Check in with your mood and your energy levels throughout the day. Keep a log for a few days, if you need to and make a note of how you’re feeling, at certain times of the day.

2. Do the same with the days of the week. Give yourself a score of 1-5 at the end of each day (including weekends) for how you felt overall, at the end of the day.

3. Look back at your records to see if you’re a morning, afternoon or evening person. Do you have more energy at the start or the end of the week?

Once you have a clear understanding of how your mood and your effectiveness changes hourly and daily, you can start to plan for it. This way, your team members won’t be left wondering if you’ll be bouncing into the office grinning, or stomping in to snap their heads off!

What is Neuroscience anyway?

brain2There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about Neuroscience and how important it is for leaders to understand the way in which our brains work. There was a time that people thought that we only used 10% of our brains, but actually there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this is true. Actually the complete opposite is true – we are actually using some part of our brain all the time and there is no part that is never used. So what exactly is neuroscience and how can we use it to improve our leadership and therefore the performance of the people we lead?

One definition of Neuroscience is that it is “any or all of the sciences, such as neurochemistry and experimental psychology, which deal with the structure or function of the nervous system and the brain.”

Another is the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure and what it does; and that Neuroscientists focus on the brain and its impact on behaviour and cognitive functions. But it’s not just Neuroscientists who should study how our brains affect what we do. As leaders, it’s vital that we understand how our brains work and how they affect us, so that we can also understand the impact of our words and actions on those around us. No longer can we expect to lead teams merely by commanding them; and no longer can leaders get away with sitting in isolation behind their desks, without considering how their behaviours affect other people.

The Basics

The nervous system is divided into two areas – the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS consists of nerves its function is to connect the CNS to the limbs and organs; the CNS consists of the spinal cord and the brain.

The brain is the most complex part of the human body – a spongy 3lb mass that is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement and controller of behaviour.

How Does Your Brain Affect How You Feel?

Emotions are thought to be related to activity in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behaviour and determine the significance of what is going on around us. Emotions create feelings that lead to a state. Work by Paul Broca (1878), James Papez (1937) and Paul D. MacLean (1952) suggested that emotion is related to a group of structures in the centre of the brain called the Limbic System. Here are just a few of these structures and what they do:

The Amygdala is involved in detecting and learning what parts of our surroundings are important and have emotional significance. It is critical for the production of emotion and may be particularly so for negative emotions.

The Thalamus plays an important role in regulating states of sleep and wakefulness.

The Hypothalamus plays a role in emotional responses by synthesizing and releasing neurotransmitters which can affect mood, reward and arousal.

The Hippocampus is mainly involved in memory, working to form new memories and also connecting different senses such as visual input, smell or sound to memories. It allows memories to be stored long term and also retrieves them when necessary.

A part of the Cingulate Gyrus is thought to play a central role in attention and behaviourally demanding cognitive tasks. It may be particularly important with regard to conscious, subjective emotional awareness. This region of the brain may also play an important role in the initiation of motivated behaviour.

So now you know a bit more about how your brain works and how it deals with emotions, let’s look at how to put that knowledge into practice.

Limbic Success Tips

Leadership development that is grounded in Neuroscience is extremely powerful. Understanding how your brain works means that you can work with your team to get the best from them.

How can you get started today?

1. Start by noticing your moods and your emotions. How do you feel at different times of the day and in different situations?

2. Then look at other people’s moods. Do you know why they’re showing a particular emotion or behaving in a certain way?

3. Can you see a connection between how you’re feeling and how someone else is behaving? Can you see how your behaviour or current emotional state is affecting them?

Take some time to watch the people around you and you’ll to notice how your emotions can affect other people as well as yourself.

Why Leaders Should Create a Virtual Bathroom

Virtual Bathroom

Every business needs new ideas, creativity and innovation to survive, but creativity cannot be commanded! Telling someone to go and be creative is like telling the proverbial horse to drink when you have led it to water!

But understanding brain waves may hold the clue.
Being creative or in an ideas generating state of mind is very much down to the frequency our brain waves.
The electrical signals in our brain actually oscillate at a specific frequency (which can be measured by an EEG), and this frequency changes depending what ‘mode’ our brain is in. These ‘modes’ or ‘states’ have been researched, named and categorised in terms of their function. The states are :-

Beta – 16 to 31Hz Being alert, conscious, high awareness, daily life, active & busy.
Alpha – 8 to 15Hz Daydreaming, relaxed, visualising, creative and idea generating.
Theta – 4 to 7Hz Usually associated with sleep
Delta – 0 to 4Hz Usually associated with deep sleep.

From that it is clear that brains in the alpha state are much more likely to be creative and have new ideas. So how can you get your staff brains into alpha state?

Well unfortunately there is no switch or dial that we can readily throw to get the brain into the right state but there are certain things that will encourage it.

You may have noticed that when in the shower or bath you often have a great new idea or think of a creative way to solve and existing problem. That’s because the bath and shower are the common places where your brain will go into alpha state automatically.So let’s look at why that is.
The most likely reason is the warm water relaxes you. Beta state is not needed as there is not much to do and focus on. The washing routine is embedded in your Basal Ganglia as a habit so you don’t need to think about that. Very quickly you can slip into daydreaming which encourages the shift from Beta to Alpha.
This can also happen when driving a familiar route or doing familiar simple tasks or when just dropping off to sleep or just waking up from sleep.

One way of helping the creativity in your business would be to create a “virtual bathroom”, and of course I don’t mean one with a bath in it, I mean an area or room where people can go to relax and think, somewhere warm and comfortable, I don’t mean a coffee area, somewhere where people can go to think, daydream, visualise. Somewhere where there are no distractions so no tv, phones, ipads and no feeling like they are being monitored.
The chances are you will have created a place where people can go for creative thought and new ideas, problem solving, just like they would relaxing in their bath!
So how are you going to help the brains of your team get into creative mode when they need to?

Building Strong Relationships

relationshipsBuilding strong relationships is a vitally important part of any success strategy.

Knowing how to get along with others and have them like you is even more important as a leader. Of course, this is not new, Dale Carnegie made a lot of money from his famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. So, if you are serious about developing this skill as a leader, one of the first things you need to do is develop an interest in people and be curious about them.
One the most powerful ways to start is to genuinely show interest in others. Ask questions about them and then listen carefully,  at all times suppress the urge to talk about yourself as that will kill it dead unless of course eventually you are asked.
Henry Ford once said “A bore is a person who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it”.

Listening is not the same as hearing, it takes real focus and concentration. Listening can be considered to have different levels of intensity or quality, for example: Low Quality, Average Quality, High Quality, (you can read more about listening skills in a separate article). Generally we tend to listen at a Low Quality level when not giving it any special attention, which is not beneficial to building relationships, so I suggest you learn and practice to be a great listener if you want to have great relationships. Also, in order to build a strong relationship with someone it will help if we can get into a state of Rapport.
Something magical happens between two brains when they meet. Our brain has an “open limbic system”. This means that two brains have an affect on each other at an unconscious level.
When you are in  Rapport it’s like the two brains are in sync. When in Rapport you will both like each other and feel good, you will both be open to influence each other. A lot of the factors that affect how people get into rapport are non-verbal.(EG, posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice tone, pitch and pace.)
When people fall into Rapport naturally, (which often is happens,), these elements tend to be aligned to some degree. But it is also possible to learn how to use these elements in a sincere and genuine way to move a relationship into rapport. Matching of mirroring the other person’s posture gestures will help, but a word of caution, this needs to be done slowly and with finesse otherwise it will look comical and copycat and will actually decrease report. (You can see more about this in a separate article on “how to get into rapport”).

Another key strategy in building strong relationships is producing positive feelings in others. This may sound a bit weird but is vitally important to know what impact you are having on others. The next time you walk into a room, take a look around, notice people’s faces before, during and after you make eye contact with them. You are looking for a genuine smile that lingers after they look away, not a nervous half smile that drops immediately. Whether we like it or not we all carry a mood or state with us at all times and due to the open limbic system we transmit that mood to others even when we are not aware of it. Unbeknown to most people we have total control over our mood and state, but most of us operate on the false assumption that others create our moods. One of the best ways to produce positive feelings in others is to be positive yourself, get yourself into a bright positive state and smile (genuinely) and you’ll be amazed how quickly this transmits to others and how they will gravitate towards you as a leader.