In an increasingly competitive global economy, organizations fight for survival. They demand employees do more with fewer resources in less time. Leadership titles and roles are in constant transition, keeping leaders under heavy pressure to perform and evolve. Find out how to reduce stress and fuel change using neuroscience.
1. Understand How the Brain Responds to Stress
Stress creates a fight or flight response. Thousands of years ago that response was useful, because what created stress was usually life-threatening. When a man or woman needed to run away from a predator, the brain flooded their body with adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones that gave them a surge of energy. The body cut off blood flow to the digestive system and diverted it to the extremities so they could run away.
Stress surveys indicate 25 percent of Americans feel highly stressed, and another 50 percent feel moderate levels of stress. Chronic stress causes an increased heart rate, tense muscles and long-term health issues. Realize that increasing stress cuts productivity and prioritize decreasing it for employees.
2. Promote Engagement
Our brains are hard-wired to connect. Feeling rejected and isolated impacts the same braid regions as physical suffering. When individuals feel a part of the group and have positive interactions, engagement improves.
3. Develop a Shared Mission
Brain imaging studies show how frequently our brains “mirror neurons” imitate activities we observe. Mirror neuron connections affect our behavior and increase empathy. When I see you smile, my mirror neurons induce me to smile too. When organizations share a vision, employees are more engaged and likely to imitate those around them. When they face challenges, they return to the original goal and draw strength to press on.
4. Train Leaders to Navigate Roadblocks
Stress is inevitable, and it isn’t always bad. Individuals must face challenges in order to overcome them. Keep pressure from stunting creativity by training leaders how to support staff members. When management views problems as opportunities, they can set a positive emotional tone so teams can collaborate in spite of stress.
5. Invest in Environment
When people spend the bulk of their day in one facility, the environment has an effect on their thought processes. The emotional environment is critical, but so is the physical one. Identify ways to create an environment where people feel respected and valued, but also comfortable and relaxed.
6. Change Habits
Neuroscience has isolated chemicals in the brain responsible for making habits. Endocannabinoids are chemicals released by the brain into the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes decisions. With repetition, the brain comes to rely on direction from the endocannabinoids and forms habits rather than thinking things through.
In the workplace, people fall into patterns of behavior they repeat without giving them thought, patterns that can hamper creativity. Shake things up by rearranging groups, cross-training between roles or rearranging desks.
7. Activate the Unconscious Mind
Neuroscientist Dr. Trisha Stratford studied what happened inside the brains of 30 business executives when they were asked to solve a difficult problem. While the executives worked to solve the problem, many of them became frustrated. Stratford called it the “try harder cycle.” For as long as they struggled with the problem, their frustration increased. When they took a break and allowed their minds to relax, 80 percent improved their performance in creative thinking while 63 percent found ways to solve the problem.
Implement brief breaks throughout the day to improve creativity. For more information on how to change mindsets and improve productivity, contact Mindspring today.