The Neuroscience of Driving Performance

“The brain likes to have a say in the future.”~ David Rock

neuroscience employee performanceI heard that quote recently in a session on The Neuroscience of Driving Performance.  David Rock (@DavidRock101 on Twitter and author of Your Brain at Work) led an insightful session at PeopleFluent Wisdom that made me think about leadership and style in ways I had never considered. As background, Rock is a consultant and leadership coach who is the CEO of Results Coaching Systems. He has written other books and materials on the subject of coaching, leadership and the way the brain works.

The message he shared was that we all grow more when we believe in change. Believe in change? Yes, believe it or not, there are people who do not believe people can change.  They believe that we are born a certain way, with specific dispositions. This idea of being born with a fixed mindset is very limiting as a leader and as an employee. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe you are born the way you are and cannot change. Therefore, you don’t see opportunities to improve with effort. You don’t want feedback and setting stretch goals is a disaster. Furthermore, other people’s success is a problem for you. If you are this type of leader, employees will come to you with checklists of completed tasks and projects because they realize they have to constantly “prove” to you that they are working.

The opposite is the leaders who have a growth mindset. If you have a growth mindset you believe people can grow and change with effort. Growth mindset individuals show an enhanced neural response reflecting greater attention to making mistakes relative to those with a fixed mindset.  They love stretch goals and are constantly trying new, innovative ideas.  If you are this type of leader, it translates into teams who want to innovate and improve on current ideas and processes.

Why is this important?

One reason is that in our workplaces, we experience leaders and colleagues with these opposing views and approaches.  This type of diversity in approach can negatively impact performance of the individual, the team and, if left unchecked, the organization.  In Brandon Hall Group’s 2014 State of Performance Management Survey, 34% of global organizations said that executives do not hold leaders accountable for performance. In our 2014 State of Talent Management Survey, results showed that 39% of global organizations plan to increase or significantly increase their focus next year on holding managers accountable.

So leader accountability is a major first step in improving performance management. The second step should be promoting the growth mindset with leaders.  This can lead to an ongoing performance development process that involves an ongoing dialogue between employee and manager, and peer-to-peer feedback as well. The bottom line is that we all grow more when we believe in change.

Trish McFarlane, VP and Principal Analyst, Human Resources, Brandon Hall Group


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