This interesting article by Seven Suphi provides a glimpse into the discoveries of over ten years of behavioural change work with business leaders. It's intended to inform and inspire your curiosity because being curious is the foundation of being exceptional.
Emotions and being human
Do you think you can make an objective, logical decision free of emotion? Many believe the answer is yes, but they are mistaken. Neuroscience, as highlighted in the Harvard Business Review in 2006, has proved that when we make a decision the frontal lobe of the brain (the part that makes us human, our thinking ability) is in constant contact with the amygdala (the oldest part of our brain where our emotions reside).
Indeed, people with brain damage that stops the communication of those two parts find it difficult to make any decision at all. Whether we like it or not, we are emotional beings. A perceived objectivity does not make it a reality it just adds to the distortion of it.
This, though fascinating, only relates to one person making a decision. What about team decisions? The term social proof was devised after a woman was attacked, raped and killed in an horrific half hour ordeal in a square in New York with law abiding onlookers. Not one called the police until after she had died.
"Being an exceptional leader is about knowing the facts about being human and being effectively prepared for them: utilising the positive effects, minimising negative consequences and being continually curious about discovering more."
Psychologists were horrified that this could happen in such an area and in such a situation so they researched and discovered that people look to others similar to themselves to decide the best course of action, especially so when there is uncertainty (social proof). When we are aware of this human condition we can more easily see the consequences of it. The banking crisis is a good example though there were other human conditions at play which compounded the situation.
Did you know that there are numerous business situations that has your brain interpret in exactly the same way as though you were being attacked with a knife - causing your brain to go into fight-or-flight mode and impairing your ability to think and behave effectively? For example, a perceived demotion of status - being put down in front of peers or those more senior - would have this reaction. Other business situations include: lack of clarity, lack of connection/relatedness, unfairness and lack of control/autonomy.
These are some valuable facts about human behaviour and there are many more, too many to share with you now, and I'm sure there are even more yet to be discovered. Being an exceptional leader is about knowing the facts about being human and being effectively prepared for them: utilising the positive effects, minimising negative consequences and being continually curious about discovering more.
Our performance and behaviour are best explained by the equation below:
Performance = (potential + strategy) blocks
Where potential is what you're born with, strategy is the range of techniques you learn (like recipes), and blocks are negative emotions and limiting beliefs - those internal things that can hinder or catapult you to great results. For example, fear of success may hold you back and conversely fear of failure may catapult you to great success.
Therefore performance may be optimised by sharing the most effective strategies as well as eliminating hindering blocks. Strategies are relatively straightforward - either they exist or need to be copied and thereafter taught. The main challenge here is to ensure all the essential elements for success are copied and taught - like making sure all the ingredients for a recipe are identified then used in the right order.
One of the most useful and powerful strategies helps high IQ leaders to develop their emotional intelligence. The same strategy may also be used to develop high EQ individuals to leverage their IQ though unfortunately not enough of them make it up the ranks to justify the investment required for such work. If learning a strategy does not change performance, then either there is something missing in the strategy, or the way it's being taught or there is a block hindering the change.
Eliminating blocks is a more complex skill and one too detailed to share in an article. However it's important to be aware that though any behaviour may be changed, in practice, most companies invest in those who are essential to business success and/or are leaders who have proved to have the potential but are unable to execute it in every context or instance: for example, freezing or being nervous when presenting to the board while being exceptional at presenting in front of their team;or being a reasonably behaved most of the time yet losing temper in some instances.
Team performance adds another level of complexity. There are numerous things a company can do to ensure successful behavioural change of which one of the most important is the identification and utilisation of contagious characters - those who others are naturally drawn to, consult and connect with - because then they can be naturally working towards your business objective versus against it.
The importance of knowledge in achieving exceptional results is widely accepted. As is the importance of the quality and maintenance of one's tools. There have been amazing discoveries and creations that utilse human capital. Yet only a few of the elite know of and use them. Exceptional leadership can only be reached when the human body is considered holistically and as a tool to improve the leader's performance as well as that of the workforce.
Seven Suphi is a behavioural change specialist, leadership expert, professional speaker, twice published author, founder and MD of Odyssey Solutions Ltd and partnering with LexisNexis to further equip partners of law firms to win new business.