Just imagine for a moment that it’s a late evening and you’ve just landed at the airport.
You’re eager to return home. But, first you have to go to the parking lot to pick up your car. The shuttle bus drops you off at the edge of the parking lot. With your backpack slung across your shoulder, pulling your carry-on suitcase, you head for the spot where you remember parking your car. It’s dark and the only light falling on the lot comes from a few lamps on the periphery of the fence. As you slowly make your way to the space where you believe your car is parked….you see that it’s not there.
What are you feeling in that moment? Not thinking – but feeling?
If you’ve ever had a similar experience you triggered a fight/flight/freeze response – whether alone or with another person – activating your sympathetic nervous system. It’s the system that stimulates the body for action, such as increasing the heart rate, increasing the release of sugar from the liver into the blood, and other responses that serve to fight off or retreat from danger.
Our emotional responses can arise from feelings (physiological responses) in our organs and intestines, as much as any direct cognitive input. What we feel in our “gut” is transmitted via the vagus nerve (responsible for social engagement strategy) to a region of the brain called the anterior insular cortex, which is involved in consciousness and functions usually linked to emotion or the regulation of the body’s homeostasis.
While there are critics of neuroscience and its interpretations who worry about the “culture’s obsession with the brain and how we have elevated the vital organ into cultish status, mythologizing its functions and romanticizing the promise of its scientific study,” there is unquestionably a place for neuroscience in the coaching relationship.
In full disclosure I am a coach and organizational development consultant and not a neuroscientist, but I have a passion for social neuroscience. And I’m well informed about the most recent research – so much so, that it has become an integral part of my coaching and consulting practice.
On a purely practical level I’ve found that every coaching experience can benefit from learning and integrating some key principles from the growing field of neuroscience. Perhaps one of the greatest “revelations” for many coaching clients is the understanding that they can shift their thoughts and feelings and change behavior. Continue reading →
“For me, my role is about unleashing what people already have inside them that are maybe suppressed in most work environment.” Tony Hseih, Zappos CEO
I believe there is a central issue at the heart of so much difficulty in today’s workplace – our inability to regularly connect at the human to human level. To be sure, the structure of the “modern” organization creates serious roadblocks and even undermines empathy, trust and genuine collaboration between co-workers. There is a decaying legacy of hierarchical control models that were never designed to optimize human dynamics. We need a critical conversation that engages organizational leaders and their employees if we are to ever achieve trust and authentic engagement.
Is the “modern” workplace designed for people?
Are the systems created for work designed to maximize productivity and profit or human well-being?
Who factors in the real cost of human labor when analyzing productivity and profits?
What do most managers believe they are managing?
I have far more questions than I have answers on this topic. In fact, I think we’re now on new terrain when it comes to redefining the meaning of work in a global “supply chain” world. While it may seem absurd that in one part of the world children are still working in coal mines; while in another, companies like Google have installed, “Chief Culture Officers,” – this is the new “normal.” Continue reading →
People are not tasksor robots. I’m still surprised when I meet people in the workplace who don’t believe that people are the most important part of their jobs. Sadly, the people are a means to my end meme still dominates. Granted, many people are disengaged, burnt out and disempowered – and can’t summon up the energy to deal with diverse personalities and needs andintense organizational pressures and demands.
Most of the business world is still organized on the principle that a job is essentially an economic transaction. Workers are being asked to do more with less –and faster than ever before. Employee head count is down and the bar for performance set higher. And managers still don’t seem to understand how to establish a workplace environment that view workers as people. An over reliance on the rational (we’re here to work!) and on emotions that don’t feed the human spirit (anxiety, mistrust, resentment, frustration) all contribute to the sense of exhaustion and disillusionment that many employees feel. Continue reading →
In Part 1 of Engaging the Unengaged, I refer to studies by the Gallup Workforce Survey. which have consistently placed the spotlight on organizational leaders’s weak “people skills” as a major factor in disengagement.
One major recurring theme in the studies is the importance of the positive relational dynamics that help co-workers feel connected to their work and a supportive workplace culture.
While these interpersonal skills may sound basic, it’s often surprising how many employees lack or ignore their value in promoting cooperation and good communication. Without question, these skills play a fundamental role in promoting engagement at work.