Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013 - (Page 11)
leaDershIp 2.0 | Ken bLanchard and scott bLanchard
stress causes the
instinctive side of
to take over
poor Behavior: Your Brain is partlY to Blame
hen was the last time that you behaved in a way that was
not consistent with the person you know yourself to be?
Ever wonder what caused that — and how you can prevent it from occurring again? New research into brain functioning
might provide part of the answer. Chances are, your frontal cortex
shut down, you found yourself in a “fight or flight” mode, and you
behaved badly as a result.
New images generated by dynamic, functional MRIs are giving
researchers the ability to see what’s happening in people’s brains as
they respond to different stimuli. Of special interest to leadership
practitioners are those situations which “light up” and engage the
frontal cortex of the brain. This is the area of the brain we use when
we are engaged in complex reasoning activities at work such as those
involving creativity and problem-solving. Also of interest to leadership researchers is what causes the frontal cortex to shut down,
requiring other parts of the brain — those more related to instinct
— to take over.
One cause for poor behavior is an individual’s perception of the
environment they are operating within. When people feel safe and
at ease they are able to access the higher portions of their brain. But
when working for a manager who uses a style perceived as threatening, people may experience a chemical change within their brain
that signals an unsafe situation and triggers the fight or flight mode.
This is one of the reasons why people often do things they
shouldn’t do when they get in stressful situations. They freeze up,
focus on protecting themselves and start to contract their thinking
instead of looking for new and innovative ways to expand it.
Many managers believe that applying a little fear and pressure to
perform brings out the best in their people. While learning to perform under pressure may have benefits in occupations that require
life or death decisions, managers who unnecessarily employ pressure and fear often get exactly what they don’t want.
In our experience, the best managers create an environment
where people feel safe, trusted and competent. That’s why we believe
leaders need to keep these two important questions top of mind:
• What are the intentions, attitudes and behaviors you want your
people to have and express? When we ask this question, we inevitably hear that managers want people who are cooperative, service-
oriented, change-able and willing to look for ways to innovate and
• What are the intentions, attitudes and behaviors you most fear
that your people will have and express? Most often we hear answers regarding people with a sense of entitlement, people watching out only for themselves, or people who are self-serving.
setting up higher Levels of behavior
If you want higher levels of behavior from people in your organization, you have to set up conditions that promote higher levels
of thinking. Expecting a high level of selfless behavior when people
are in a stressful situation is unreasonable, because stress causes the
“reptilian,” or instinctive, part of the brain to take over.
The good news is that neurological, psychological and behavioral researchers are studying factors that contribute to higher level
functioning. While the field is evolving, here are some leadership
strategies that contribute to employee well-being and subsequent
intentions to perform at a higher level:
• Autonomy. As much as possible, give people choice over how
results are achieved and support their autonomy and decisions
• Relatedness. Find ways to create collaborative work environments. Purposefully approach teambuilding.
• Competence. Provide people with opportunities to grow and develop. Developing new, in-demand skills is one way that people
create a sense of certainty and safety in their lives.
If organizations want their people to think and perform at a
higher level, leaders need to work on strategies that increase employee well-being. We’ve always known that leaders have a role to
play in bringing out the best in people. Now brain science is confirming it.
Scott Blanchard is the co-founder of Blanchard Certified. Ken
Blanchard is the best-selling co-author of The One Minute Manager
and 50 other books on leadership. You can follow Ken Blanchard on
Twitter @KenBlanchard or @LeaderChat and also via the HowWeLead and LeaderChat blogs. Email Scott and Ken.
Training Industry Quarterly, Spring 2013 / A Training Industry, Inc. magazine / www.trainingindustry.com/TIQ
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013
Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013
From Where I Sit: Back to the Basics
Table of Contents
Guest Editor: A Brave New World
Extracting Learning From Work
Poor Behavior: Your Brain is Partly to Blame
How to Design Engaging Training Programs
The Missing Link in Learning
Don't Let Training Be Half-Baked
What the Latest Brain Research Tells Us about Designing Learning that Sticks
Motivation: The Key to Learning Transfer
Improving Learning Outcomes with a Bite-Sized Strategy
Adult Development: Predicting Learning Success
From One Brain to Another: What We've Learned about Learning
Formalizing Informal Learning
Training Industry Quarterly - Spring 2013