Articles // February 21,2022

4 Unique Solutions To Address Your Team Leadership Blind Spots

By Sripriyaa Venkataraman , Research Associate - Rupal Choudhary Sudrania

When You hear the word “Hormones”, it immediately conjures different meanings for different people.

  1. Your health specialist may have referred to hormonal imbalances after reviewing your recent bloodwork.
  2. You may relate it to words like mood swings, outbursts or some not so normal behaviours in yourself or others.
  3. You may relate it to the world of sports where performance hormones are used by some athletes – commonly referred to as doping.
  4. You may relate it to words you hear from your fitness and nutrition experts in their guidance to help you plan your exercise and diet regimen, etc.

Now, if we said, in addition to the above scenarios, “Hormones” play an important and integral role to your leadership, would you agree or disagree?

Allow us to help you connect the dots and provide you perspectives from neuroscience for you to consider, while defining your leadership impact. This is more important now than ever as we move towards the post covid world.

According to McKinsey Insights published in September 2021, employees are experiencing increased stress, anxiety and burnout in the post-pandemic era.  Employee well-being is   intricately related to their satisfaction at work. If an organization fails to ensure employee satisfaction, there is a risk of the culture getting toxic, leading to performance and organizational health issues.

Given this context, leaders have the added responsibility of creating a safe, secure and nurturing environment for their teams performance and productivity.

It would not be wrong to say that managers should be hired not merely based on their technical and managerial skills, but also evaluated on their socio-emotional skills. The present-day leaders are faced with the challenge to enhance employee experience while driving off the pandemic fatigue. They must be able to motivate their teams by understanding human emotions and their triggers and articulate the purpose of the organization seamlessly.

This is where understanding and leveraging the powers of neuroscience can be a game-changer for your leadership. You can have better comprehension of the natural factors that lead to goal attainment, empathy, cohesion, productivity and leadership progression.

Your nervous system communicates with your sensory organs through chemical messengers aka hormones. A pre-pandemic video from Our Founder and Executive Coach Venkataraman Subramanyan talks about the “D.O.S.E for Leadership” .

D.O.S.E for Leadership

Let us begin by exploring these hormones in a sequence that will enable you to build high performing teams.

1. ENDORPHINS in the context of leadership

The current VUCA world presents change as the only constant. In order to keep pace with the change – endurance and resilience factors are critical. Keeping your mood elevated, stress levels lowered and inspiration levels high, is the job of ENDORPHINS – the natural pain reliever your body produces. They are released when you exercise,  practice yoga, meditation or even simply laugh and enjoy some good humour.

As leaders, reflect on the following questions:

  1. Do I have a regular fitness regime? If yes, draw some patterns from the last two weeks – connecting the days you exercised to how you addressed some important decisions or adversities?
  2. If ‘No’ is the answer for the first question, how can you set up some cues or seek an accountability partner to begin regular fitness activities?
  3. How often have you asked your team members about their health and wellness?
  4. Have you seen some of your team members with more energy and others with less energy? Have you reflected on your energy levels – peaks and troughs?
  5. If your body is the foundation for your leadership, how are you nurturing it?
  6. If humour can exhibit endorphins, are you capable of displaying / using humour as a mature defence mechanism, to enable bonding and safety for your teams?
  7. If endorphins are critical for your energy levels, how are you planning to build your executive endurance?

In the virtual engagement mode, sharing lighter moments, having casual conversations and laughing over common jokes can bring out endorphins. When a team laughs together, their brains fire with endorphins, cueing them to trust each other more, thus making the current 2D interactions more memorable.

Leaders with a sense of humour are seen as 27% more motivating and admired. Their employees are 15% more engaged and teams are twice as likely to be creative and address complex challenges.

Nurturing a healthy environment at work dramatically leads to employees outperforming their peers and competitors.

2. OXYTOCIN in the context of leadership

When the pandemic struck, organizations world over witnessed high rates of retrenchment and attrition. Leaders had to reduce headcounts to survive. In the same period, the CEO of a company was approached by his Accounts department, pressing on the need to reduce headcount. Unwillingly, he said, “What if instead of a few people suffering a lot, all of us suffer a little bit?” He went on to explain this further. His idea was to avoid firing any employee by introducing a policy of taking a few weeks of unpaid vacation by every employee anytime of the year. The weeks could be in succession or scattered throughout the year.

By doing so, those who could afford taking unpaid vacation could donate their salary share to a fellow member who was going through a tough time due to the pandemic. As a result, all employees were retained with everyone making little compromises. This organization stood out as a monumental example of how a leader can rise above others with his approach to ensure the well-being of his employees. He gained immense loyalty from his employees who were touched by this thoughtful gesture. A small act of kindness and generosity guaranteed productivity and accountability.

When your team is happy and content at heart, you foster better interpersonal relations, mutual trust and loyalty. That is where the “bonding hormone” OXYTOCIN comes into play.

As leaders, reflect on the following questions:

  1. As a leader or manager, how are you leveraging EQ (Emotional Quotient) to drive XQ (Execution Quotient) in your team?
  2. How are you creating a safe environment for your teams to be safe and secure in your presence?
  3. How is your leadership making your teams showcase vulnerability-based trust?
  4. How is your leadership creating a culture where team members nurture each other’s progress and create a healthy environment of accountability?
  5. How are you creating a culture of positive strokes to acknowledge and encourage your teams?
  6. Is your anger and ego in check?
  7. Is your intent and behaviour synchronous?
  8. Do you practice compassionate leadership?
  9. How do you leverage mentoring and coaching approaches to create a healthy leadership pipeline?
  10. Do you create an environment where your team members see growth and development?

Some memory recalls for Oxytocin:

Oxytocin is the hormone, which played a major role in your decision to choose your life partner. It is the hormone that would have enabled you to reach out and seek support from family or friends under stress. It is the hormone you see in action when you hug your loved ones. And it is the same hormone that helps you establish long term bonding with your colleagues at work. The nature of oxytocin is to be surrounded by people, and this is also the reason why you should not isolate yourself or withdraw into a shell when stressed or depressed. Instead, be bold and take support for your mental health and well-being.

Renowned neuro-economist,  Dr Paul Zak, says the baseline levels of oxytocin is zero. It needs stimulants to be released and does wonderful things when injected into your body.

In his book, Trust Factor, Dr Zak connects high trust with the bottom line for organizations. He also explores ways in which leaders can create and sustain a culture of trust. So, how exactly do you bring trust within your organization and teams? The answer is, by stimulating the release of oxytocin. In our routine interactions, we could stimulate this hormone by a simple handshake or a close hug. It is much more complex in a remote working world, where life revolves around a camera.

This is where creating bonding and binding opportunities for teams makes a critical difference – seeing your co-workers with kindness, compassion and a lovely smile will make a difference. An interesting point to remember here is that all the above oxytocin generating activities require energy and enthusiasm, which can only be achieved with endorphins.

Remember, hormones work in pairs!

3. SEROTONIN in the context of leadership

With healthy levels of endorphins and oxytocin within you and your team members, you can be the A team –  A high performing “go-getter” team with high levels of trust, engagement and achievement quotient. When you and your team consistently demonstrate self-trust coupled with deep focus and confidence, we can see the leadership hormone, SEROTONIN at play.

Serotonin is a selfless chemical that releases not only when you take pride in your achievements but also in those around you. It is known to drive away stress. When people see you as a confident leader with high self-worth and low stress, they align to your purpose.

So, what boosts serotonin? Saying a simple thank you, being grateful for all that you have and identifying your purpose releases this leadership hormone. Imparting meaning to what you do sustains your serotonin levels and makes you a better leader over time.

As leaders, reflect on the following questions:

  1. How often do you practice gratitude?
  2. Are you building meaning into your job roles and activities?
  3. Are you spending time with your team members to find out what drives them?
  4. Do you have vertical coherence between your body, heart, mind, and soul? (In other words, does a straight line connect the dots of meaning to all dimensions of your life?)
  5. How do you practice self-care across your body, heart, mind, and soul?
  6. Do you encourage the aspects of self-care within your team?
  7. Have you developed your intuition to help you serve your team and yourself better?
  8. Is your leadership unidimensional or multi-dimensional? How do you stack rank and value physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions for your leadership?
  9. Do you consciously clear the path for a team member to achieve success? And does your team imbibe the spirit of “clearing the path” for fellow team members?
  10. Has your leadership encouraged cross group collaboration projects and how many special / stretch engagements are you and your team involved in currently?

As you reflect through the questions and the ideas presented under these topics, you will understand how small little behaviour and habit changes you bring about within yourself and your team,  has the potential to lead towards big results.

During the pandemic, leaders and organizations have many wonderful stories that can motivate them for a long time. It is in these stories you will recall the power of our hormones and how they helped us battle an epidemic, which became a pandemic, and is now endemic.

4. DOPAMINE in the context of leadership

Reiterating the fact that hormones work as an integrated system, with good levels of endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin, a leader and his team begin to achieve results.

As team results and business results get delivered consistently, we begin to experience the “Dopamine Rush”. As you begin achieving results, a leader and his team need recognition and motivation to keep the momentum going.

Recognizing and rewarding contribution and achievement, based on the key motivating factors that drives your team members, will play a big role in becoming a high performing team.

Only 17% of employees believe that their managers know how to recognize them well. Companies which fall into the top 15% in building a “culture of recognition” have 46% lower rates of voluntary attrition.

This motivation molecule is addictive and keeps you stimulated for bigger accomplishments. The pleasure and satisfaction you derive after a victory are the result of this hormonal flow. It makes you strive harder for success, helping you think and plan your goals better.

Bestselling author and inspirational speaker, Simon Sinek says that even writing your goals down will help, as merely seeing them boosts your endocrine glands that release this drive-elevating hormone.

As leaders, reflect on the following questions:

  1. Do you practice setting goals for yourself and encourage your team to construct goals using the critical thinking format?
  2. Do you establish clear standards for performance, and standards of excellence within your team?
  3. Do each of your team members know your goals? Are you operating in a world filled with assumptions?
  4. Do you take the time to have clear ‘Gives and Gets’ conversations with each team member, so that there is clarity for their contribution and performance? Remember – with clarity comes conviction.
  5. Do you have an open rewards and recognition framework in place?
  6. As a leader, are you conscious of your lens towards politics?
  7. Are your prepared to engage in constructive politics and achieve higher order collective results?

CRITICAL THINKING FORMAT FOR YOUR REFERENCE AND USE:

Critical Thinking Format

As leaders, you want to lead a high performing team and achieve your collective goals for growth and evolution. As a team of coaches working on enabling leaders and teams, we have observed that leaders forget the possibilities of the body in the context of leadership.

The functioning of the human body and its potential amazes us each day, and we truly believe that when leaders recognize the power of the human body and the various chemicals (hormones), there is a beautiful kind of leadership that can be practiced. A leadership that understands the potent combination of Body, Heart, Mind and Soul. We call this BoHeMiSo Leadership.

Are you ready to practice BoHeMiSo Leadership, that leverages the potential of the body and its hormones to demonstrate a higher order leadership?

 

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In my career leading and building high-performing teams, I enjoy inspiring & coaching employees to unlock their potential for maximum performance. The team's success is my deepest delight. Global Coaching Lab provides the platform to put this into practice every day and fulfill my passion of making others great.




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