I spoke recently to a select audience of 40 on “The Neuroscience of Engagement” at the Business in Oxford 2017 trade show event. I was delighted to have this opportunity to share some ideas from the recent work of Judith E Glaser on Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ®).
Whether staff are engaged at work or not is a big problem for businesses and other organisations. When individuals are disengaged in the workplace it is pervasive and affects us all. We can be sucked into negative group-thinking. Or we can feel a vague sense of discomfort from the cloud of negativity around so that it is a relief to escape it when the working day finishes.
Either result is bad news for leaders. We find our teams not only less productive than we want them to be, but also difficult to motivate or inspire.
So it’s important:
– to know how to keep people engaged and
– to have some hard evidence that it really makes a difference.
Neuroscience gives us the hard evidence. Of course we already know that if we are criticised and judged unfairly in the workplace, we feel bad. What Neuroscience can now tell us is why. It also shows us some wider implications.
Through the use of MRI scans, neuroscientists have discovered which part of the brain is activated in certain types of conversation.
When we feel trusted, included and appreciated at work, neuroscience research shows that our brains light up in the pre-frontal cortex. Oxytocin (the bonding hormone) is released and we feel good. We feel we are trusted and we trust others. In this part of the brain our creative, innovative function resides. So we are not only ready to collaborate but we are more innovative. We’ll take risks by participating more, suggesting new ideas, co-creating.
However, when we feel excluded, judged and criticised, we slip into “protect mode”. We close up and play safe. We’ve all experienced this – from our schooldays and in the workplace. Inside the brain, the “distrust area” of the brain is activated, and the hormone Cortisol is released. We feel it’s unsafe to question things, give an opinion, try to make improvements. We’re disengaged.
When Cortisol (the stress hormone) is released into our bodies, this can remain in the body for more than 24 hours.
It shows us that certain behaviours push us into this distrust zone, the fight-flight-freeze-appease zone.
The opposite happens when we have a good leader or manager who appreciates our hard work, shares information, invites participation. We can then be more innovative, we’ll take risks and try new things.
It’s all about conversations
The words we use, and the tone of voice trigger reactions in others. Reactions like distrust or trust. We might not intend it but once we understand the consequences and implications, we can learn to choose words with more care and change behaviours.
Conversations that build trust
Prepare the ground for trust with specific conversational behaviours and activities, “priming for trust” as Judith Glaser describes it. Learn more about how to “down regulate” the distrust-inducing behaviours and “up-regulate” the trust-enabling ones.
I’ve been studying C-IQ for over a year now, absorbing the ideas and models both into work with both individuals and teams – and in my personal life too. If you want to find out more about C-IQ, contact us direct or watch out for future blogs.