The Brain and Leadership Development Insights

The Brain and Leadership Development Insights

Today it was my pleasure to attend a presentation by Dr. Erika Garms at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN.  I know Dr. Garms and I have her book “The Brain Friendly Workplace” having cited it several times with my own presentations related to negotiations and mediations.  In fact, my new book “Peaceful Resolutions” recommends her book given the work she has contributed to the field of neuroscience and her practical insights related to the brain, learning and behavior.  But my reason for bringing this presentation to your attention is to share with you some thoughts of what I took away from today’s lecture that I thought can help you right now.

She shared a model associated with relationships that she has trademarked known at the PICTuRe Model ™.  This model is a conglomeration of several neuroscience models.  The letters in this model come directly from her review of a host of models that express how individuals relate to one another based on neuroscience.  I present below what the letters stand for and I offer my own interpretation of what she said based on my notes in parenthesis. Of course if you hire her she could provide you much better insight.

·         P stands for Power (this is not organizational power but the power of influence with one another)

·         I stands for Information (the certainty and the completeness of information with each other)

·         C stands for Control (the autonomy that have in the decision making process)

·         T stands for Tetheredness (the relatedness we have with one another)

·         R stands for Righteousness (how strongly we feel about our values and fairness in decision making)

She recently contacted the firms that were rated as the best places to work over several years and asked leadership what are their best practices and what do they need to strive to do better.  From my notes I noted the best practices are:

·         The firm is highly attractive;

·         Employees are engaged;

·         Employees are focused on the mission;

·         There is a clear cultural brand; and

·         The firm is doing well financially.

The firms were striving to improve in these areas:

·         Respect in the workplace;

·         Turnover;

·         Employee and organizational health;

·         Sustainability; and

·         Curiosity.

Since our brains are oriented to minimize threats and maximize rewards (this does not mean money) she spent some time discussing neurons, neural transmitters, hormones and other chemicals focusing on what triggers threats and rewards in our brains.  Given that information a real key is how to maximize rewards and minimize threats.  These are the keys to success for training and leadership development:

·         Control your own tendencies to be negative;

·         Ensure an environment of inclusion;

·         Encourage an environment for involvement and learning;

·         Develop an environment of connecting with one another and collaboration; and most importantly

·         Provide Timely Quality Feedback.

I could not agree more.  In my book “The Servant Manager” I suggest that managers need to do three things on a continual basis taken from my own contacting of the 50 best places to work in America.  These are:

·         Catch your employees doing something right and thank them for a specific action weekly;

·         Get your employees the resources they need from their perspective and don’t micromanage; and

·         Give your employees a chance to shine.

She also updated me on several areas that were new to me.  For example I knew it only takes 6 to 8 seconds for our brains to flood chemicals throughout our body when we become angry.  I also knew that these chemicals stay in our blood stream for 8 to 10 hours.  Today Dr. Garms shared that newer research indicates that these chemicals stay in our bodies at least with residual levels for up to 22 hours and don’t fully leave our bodies until we have gone through a sleep cycle.  This points out the need for us to obtain 7 to 9 hours sleep a night to help reduce stress in our lives and just how detrimental it is for us to become angry.  We can control our ability to become angry with practice when our more developed prefrontal cortex is able to stop our reptilian brain from that knee jerk reaction to fight, flee or freeze.

Of course Dr. Garms offered a host of other ideas, but this to me was one idea that I wanted to share with you as a trainer, manager or an employee that you can use right now in your day to day dealings with others to make your work place more productive and a great place for everyone to work.  If you feel yourself starting to get angry that is your amygdala kicking in and beginning to flood your brain with chemicals to have you fight, flight or freeze.  Knowing this you can work to calm yourself and train your prefrontal cortex to override these tendencies.  This takes practice.  Read more about this in Erica Garms book and by researching work around anger management.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]