A Mind-Set for Success

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By Judith E. Glaser | www.strategy-business.com
Published: March 29, 2013

Judith E. Glaser, author of Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking and Build a Healthy Thriving Organization, introduces a passage illuminating the drivers of success from Leadership and the Art of Struggle: How Great Leaders Grow through Challenge and Adversity, by Steven Snyder.

Often, we mistakenly attribute business success to the innate abilities of those who achieve it. We assume that the skills of a Henry Ford, a Steve Jobs, or a Jeff Bezos are somehow hardwired into their DNA. But neuroscience research suggests that such an assumption can become a major obstacle to high performance.

As Steven Snyder explains in the excerpt below, the real secret of success resides in people’s mind-set. He shows how a “fixed” mind-set that ascribes success to innate qualities is less resilient and adaptable than a “growth” mind-set that connects achievement to continuous learning and persistence.

Thus, neuroscience offers a valuable strategy for leaders who are seeking to develop the talent base of their organization: Attribute people’s success to what they did to achieve it. And when they fall short of their goals, use it as an opportunity to encourage the improvement of existing capabilities and the development of new ones. The simple distinction between labeling a person as successful or unsuccessful and labeling what that person did as successful or unsuccessful can make all the difference as you strive to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

 


 

Read the full article here: http://www.strategy-business.com/article/ac00047?gko=da795

Why Your Brain is Hooked on Being Right (and What You Can Do About It)

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By Judith E. Glaser | lifehacker.com
Published: March, 2013

I’m sure it’s happened to you: You’re in a tense team meeting trying to defend your position on a big project and start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over one of your colleagues and correct his point of view. He pushes back, so you go into overdrive to convince everyone you’re right. It feels like an out of body experience—and in many ways it is. In terms of its neurochemistry, your brain has been hijacked.

The Role of Cortisol

In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building, and compassion shut down. And the amygdala, our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself—in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong—and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality. So we default to one of four responses: fight (keep arguing the point), flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus), freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up), or appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him).

All are harmful because they prevent the honest and productive sharing of information and opinion. But, as a consultant who has spent decades working with executives on their communication skills, I can tell you that the fight response is by far the most damaging to work relationships. It is also, unfortunately, the most common.

That’s partly due to another neurochemical process. When you argue and win, your brain floods with different hormones: adrenaline and dopamine, which makes you feel good, dominant, even invincible. It’s a the feeling any of us would want to replicate. So the next time we’re in a tense situation, we fight again. We get addicted to being right.

I’ve coached dozens of incredibly successful leaders who suffer from this addiction. They are extremely good at fighting for their point of view (which is indeed often right) yet they are completely unaware of the dampening impact that behavior has on the people around them. If one person is getting high off his or her dominance, others are being drummed into submission, experiencing the fight, flight, freeze, or appease response I described before, which diminishes their collaborative impulses.

Fight Back with Oxytocin

Luckily, there’s another hormone that can feel just as good as adrenaline: oxytocin. It’s activated by human connection and it opens up the networks in our executive brain, or prefrontal cortex, further increasing our ability to trust and open ourselves to sharing. Your goal as a leader should be to spur the production of oxytocin in yourself and others, while avoiding (at least in the context of communication) those spikes of cortisol and adrenaline.

Here are a few exercises for you to do at work to help your (and others’) addiction to being right:

Set rules of engagement. If you’re heading into a meeting that could get testy, start by outlining rules of engagement. Have everyone suggest ways to make it a productive, inclusive conversation and write the ideas down for everyone to see. For example, you might agree to give people extra time to explain their ideas and to listen without judgment. These practices will counteract the tendency to fall into harmful conversational patterns. Afterwards, consider see how you and the group did and seek to do even better next time.

Listen with empathy. In one-on-one conversations, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more. The more you learn about other peoples’ perspectives, the more likely you are to feel empathy for them. And when you do that for others, they’ll want to do it for you, creating a virtuous circle.

Plan who speaks. In situations when you know one person is likely to dominate a group, create an opportunity for everyone to speak. Ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about on a flip chart and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.

Connecting and bonding with others trumps conflict. I’ve found that even the best fighters—the proverbial smartest guys in the room—can break their addiction to being right by getting hooked on oxytocin-inducing behavior instead.

3 Ways to Effectively Manage Conflict When You Know You’re Right

by Judith E. Glaser | successtelevision.biz
Published: March 9, 2013

I’m sure this has happened to you: You’re in a tense team meeting trying to defend your position on a big project and start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over one of your colleagues and correct his point of view. He pushes back, so you go into overdrive to convince everyone you’re right. It feels like an out-of-body experience — and in many ways it is. In terms of its neurochemistry, your brain has been hijacked.

The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself — in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong — and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality. So we default to one of four responses:

1)     Fight (keep arguing the point),
2)     Flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus),
3)     Freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up) or,
4)     Appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him).

What do you do? Can you guess which behavior is the most common?

Two great DVD trainings for learning how to manage conflict in all sorts of situations:

I can tell you that the fight response is by far the most damaging to work relationships. It is also, unfortunately, the most common.

Luckily, there’s another hormone that can feel just as good as adrenaline: oxytocin. It’s activated by human connection and it opens up the networks in our executive brain, or prefrontal cortex, further increasing our ability to trust and open ourselves to sharing.

Your goal as a leader should be to spur the production of oxytocin in yourself and others, while avoiding (at least in the context of communication) those spikes of cortisol and adrenaline. Here are a few exercises for you to do at work to help your (and others’) addiction to being right:

1. Set rules of engagement. If you’re heading into a meeting that could get testy, start by outlining rules of engagement. Have everyone suggest ways to make it a productive, inclusive conversation and write the ideas down for everyone to see. For example, you might agree to give people extra time to explain their ideas and to listen without judgment. These practices will counteract the tendency to fall into harmful conversational patterns. Afterwards, consider see how you and the group did and seek to do even better next time.

2. Listen with empathy. In one-on-one conversations, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more. The more you learn about other people’s perspectives, the more likely you are to feel empathy for them. And when you do that for others, they’ll want to do it for you, creating a virtuous circle.

3. Plan who speaks. In situations when you know one person is likely to dominate a group, create an opportunity for everyone to speak. Ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about on a flip chart and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.

 

Trust, Risk, and Uncertainty

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What is the most powerful stimulator of fear for human beings? Uncertainty. Uncertainty destabilizes our brain and causes the production of hormones such as adrenalin – a take action hormone, and testosterone – a take to fight hormone, and cortisol – a threat hormone. Together this suite of hormones provokes us into the defensive, or protect behaviors.

Uncertainty is the crucial fulcrum between distrust and trust. Uncertainty is an urgent clue alerting us to the need to attend to our surroundings and find ways to anchor or stabilize ourselves. While some people turn to others and partner when they are in states of fear, others pull away to turn inward and protect.

Neuroscientists are finding fascinating correlates between trust, distrust and uncertainty.

According to Angelika Dimoka, Ph.D., Temple University, “Distrust takes place in the lower brain (the Amygdala and Limbic areas) – which is also what becomes active when we are in high states of uncertainty – and trust takes place in the higher brain (Prefrontal Cortex)” which is also the part of our brain that enables us to reconcile doubt and develop strategies to handle risk and uncertainty.

Researchers have also linked the orbitofrontal cortex to uncertainty (Hsu et al. 2005), and demonstrated that when this part of the brain is activated, it increases distrust.

Why is this Important in Business?

The implications for business are profound. Why? When risk and uncertainty are high, there are proactive ways to lower or down-regulate the fear (distrust) networks, and up-regulate the trust networks. When we focus on down-regulating our fears and up-regulating our need to understand and be understood, we are literally re-balancing our neurochemistry.

Because this is a very interactive and social process, having conversations about fear, threat and uncertainty actually restores a steady state to our brains. Conversations are a co-regulation process (two people talking in healthy conversation acts as a regulator to emotions) creating a sense of calm, and of being understood and consequently being hopeful for the future.

Prefrontal-CortexThe part of the brain which becomes more active when people are sharing insights, wisdom, fears, threats and hopes, is the prefrontal cortex, and there is a strong chance that this highly engaging and caring conversation also triggers mirror neurons also located in the prefrontal area of the brain. These special neurons enable empathy between people – so we are not only quelling risks and fear of the future; we are bonding with others to do something about it. When this happens, higher levels of oxytocin are produced in the body – also adding to higher levels of collaboration and trust.

Conversations wherein people open up to each other about what’s really on their minds, actually stimulate a powerful brain alchemy for trust. When we are sharing and discovering with the intention of really understanding another’s way of seeing the world, we are more open than usual. It’s a state of trust when I sense this person cares about me (and not only how their message is being received) and what I have to say and do as a result of it. Unsurprisingly, that perception within our brains causes the release of oxytocin, a hormone, which prompts bonding and trust.

Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D., a professor and head of the Laboratory of Neuro-endocrinology at The Rockefeller University, states, “Trust is a phenomenon that is enhanced by oxytocin, which gets people to be socially interactive. Then you have the Amygdala, which is the sentinel along with the Prefrontal Cortex, paying attention to decide if the interaction is going to be rewarding or punishing. If the interaction is punishing we feel more aggressive and distrustful. We have to be wary and we move into protect behaviors.” Under stress, testosterone levels are increased. If the interaction feels good you have more oxytocin and you relax. Testosterone works against oxytocin as does cortisol, another powerful hormone that is increased by stress. It’s the balance between these hormones and the neural systems that they interact with that give us the feelings of trust or distrust.

Conversational Intelligence®

When teams work together as partners to handle risk and uncertainty, they release a powerful neurochemistry that opens the brain’s ability to access new ways of thinking – in other words to become more innovative, adaptive and open to change. Not only is oxytocin flooding our brains, but there are also elevated levels of dopamine, the pleasure hormone, and serotonin, which increase our confidence. What this looks like – from the perspective of a fly on the wall – is a dynamic exchange of ideas, insights, beliefs, and a higher level of listening than we normally experience. People refer back to something others said earlier in the conversation, and they use each other’s thoughts as a platform for more insights to emerge.

When an organization, team or relationship reflects higher levels of Conversational Intelligence, we often see higher levels of innovation, breakthrough thinking and the ability to let go of the past and embrace the future. All of this new dynamic releases energy, promotes confident risk-taking, and enables the company to produce better work.

Takeaway Tips

  • meditating-womanFeeling uncertain? Take a moment to relax and breathe, before the suite of hormones known as adrenaline, testosterone and cortisol take charge of your wellbeing.
  • See if you can identify the source of any distrust that may be arising. Is it to do with you, the other person(s) or the situation itself? This will help anchor you.
  • Focus on rebalancing your chemistry. Down-regulate your fear (distrust) networks and up-regulate your need to understand and be understood. How? Start talking. Conversations are inherently a co-regulating process.
  • Conversations stimulate a powerful brain alchemy for trust. Opening up is the result of sharing and discovering. When you perceive that you are cared about, oxytocin, a hormone that prompts bonding and trust, is released, thereby easing the tribulations of conflict.

*** Conversational Intelligence is a trademark of Benchmark Communications, Inc./The Creating WE Institute

Recommended Reading: Your Brain Is Hooked on Being Right

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By ASTD Staff | www.astd.org

In the HBR Blog Network article, “Your Brain Is Hooked on Being Right,” author and executive consultant Judith Glaser describes how chemical reactions in the brain can make many of us addicted to being “right” all the time—and cause conflict in business.  

It works like this: In high-stress situations, the amygdala (our instinctive brain) takes over and creates the “fight or flight” response. Glaser explains why so many choose to fight: “When you argue and win, your brain floods with different hormones: adrenaline and dopamine, which makes you feel good, dominant, even invincible. It’s the feeling any of us would want to replicate. So the next time we’re in a tense situation, we fight again. We get addicted to being right.” Unfortunately, it seems that many business executives fall into the group addicted to being right—damaging their work relationships in the process.  

However, there is another option. According to Glaser, the hormone oxytocin can feel just as good as adrenaline—and oxytocin production is activated by human connection. Glaser contends that “your goal as a leader should be to spur the production of oxytocin in yourself and others, while avoiding (at least in the context of communication) those spikes of cortisol and adrenaline.” 

If oxytocin production seems to be running low in your next big project or meeting, Glaser offers some exercises executives can to do to break everyone’s addiction to being right:

  • set rules of engagement
  • listen with empathy
  • plan who speaks.  

To learn more about these exercises, read the complete blog post here.  

Judith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications and the chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of six books, including Creating WE (Platinum Press, 2005) and Conversational Intelligence (BiblioMotion, 2013), and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.