When you look at leadership, and what makes a good leader, you wouldn’t think that neuroscience plays a big role. How we approach high performance today is very different to how we’ve looked at it in the past. Workplaces are busier, technology has altered the way we live (and work) and flexibility in the workplace has grown significantly. But are we leading teams to high performance with consideration to these changing factors?
The lines between work and life are becoming blurred, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for leaders to manage teams that are feeling stressed and burnt out. If we look at neuroscience, it gives us some incredible insights into how we can look at leadership, and how managers can lead by example within their team and implement strategies that will help their staff flourish in both their work and their life.
Next Evolution Performance coaching business has a unique ‘Physical, Mental, Neural’ approach that combines neuroscience, psychology and sports training principles for high performance in the workplace. Traditional leadership methods are no longer good enough, as we need to factor in the ever-changing nature of the business world. It’s crucial to ensure company’s can work most effectively, keeping effort levels down and resulting in sustained high performance.
It’s through these concepts and three pillars that it teaches leaders how to exhibit true high performance, without the burnout.
The ‘Physical’ refers to the factors that impact our physical being. Are we moving enough? Are we fueling our bodies with nourishing foods and hydrating ourselves? It sounds simple, but all of these factors contribute to optimal brain function. Here are a few tips to be at your best ‘Physical’ state:
- Hydration — aim for 6–8 glasses of water a day; crucial for brain function.
- Nutrition — ensure you’re eating or drinking your vegetables (especially your greens), berries (they’re anti-depressants), proteins (for energy). Make sure you get the good stuff into your body first for adequate glucose levels and don’t deny yourself ‘treats’, it’ll just make you feel deprived.
- Sleep — if you get 7–8 hours of sleep a night, you’ll improve your cognitive function and decrease your chance of depression. It’ll also improve your memory function and improve your ability to retain information and learn.
- Get moving — exercising increases oxytocin, which combats cortisol (the stress hormone).
Although these factors fall into the ‘Physical’ pile, there are almost more mental benefits than physical benefits, including optimism, resiliency, strategic thinking and creativity. Leaders need to be encouraging their employees to address their physical state, and ensure they’re looking after themselves, as this will lead to authentic high performance.
When we refer to the ‘Mental’, we talk about the mind-set for high performance. To produce the best work, we need be in a positive frame of mind. Your work is often a reflection of your mental state. If you’re not feeling the best, how will your work be at a high standard? As a leader, its crucial to understand how your staff work, and what kind of mental state they’re in. Reinforcing positive psychology and empowering your staff will result in more productive work, and a happy, less stressed team.
When considering the ‘Neural’ pillar, we’re addressing the way we structure our time and the way we work to make the best use of how our brain functions. Leaders should learn to help employees structure their day according to what works best for them, taking into account their Personal Pace and optimal focus time.
In terms of leadership, it’s crucial to understand what ‘Personal Pace’ is, and how your staff work. If your staff are working at their Personal Pace, they will work more efficiently and productively. Teach your employees to embrace their attention span, whether they’re fast-paced or slow-paced. Get them to pinpoint their optimal focus time, and let them flourish in those periods with no distractions.
Are some people morning people? Get them to work on their ‘heavier’ tasks during the morning. Do some staff feel more empowered and productive if they work from home one day a week? Allow them this freedom and flexibility, and you’ll reap the rewards two-fold. As leaders, you have to remember that no two brains are created the same, and therefore people have different attention spans.
If leaders have an understanding of neuroscience and the three pillars, Physical, Mental and Neural, employees will achieve authentic high performance.