Last week I attended the Neuroscience of Leadership Effectiveness Summit in Sydney. Over 200 people from around the world attended to listen to insights and research about Neuroscience and Leadership.

This is the first blog post I am going to share from the Summit around why our brains are wired to connect.

Matt Liebermann, Professor at the University of California told us that our brains need to be socially connected or we will die.

Apparently if Facebook was a religion, it would be the 3rd largest in the world! It seems that we actually do like to be connected.

One surprising piece of information he shared was the fact that being socially isolated has the same health risks as smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day!

Additionally, we have separate systems for the social and non-social thinking. Social thinking is what we do when we engage and interact with people. Non-social thinking is based in logic and data.

When I reflect on the information Matt shared, I see that this is why is it so important for organisations to focus on the social brain and to create cultures of inclusion and belonging.

Our ability to live in community with others is due to one of the most strongly wired networks in the brain. Our brains were tapped into listening and empathizing, well before we used it as a tool for decision making and analyzing.

There have been many discoveries by scientists like Matt which relate to the social brain including facts like:

  • Our Brain registers social pain in exactly the same way that it registers physical pain
  • Our Brain contains a set of neurons called mirror neurons. Their job is to make you feel as if you are living in the other person’s mind and experiencing their thoughts and emotions
  • Storytelling and pictures light up a greater area of the brain than facts and figures
  • Having a higher sense of purpose and helping others lights up the brain like a monetary reward.

You may be asking why, if our brains are socially connected, so many leaders have poor emotional intelligence.

Many leaders are chosen because of their technical skills and knowledge.  They aren’t chosen for their people skills.  That’s why our leadership and coaching work focuses on helping leaders understand their social brain.

I believe we give and receive limited feedback on our judgments and need to spend more time listening and reading the whole person, not just the words. That is something we can all learn to do.

I educate my leaders to undertake reflection as a way of really looking back at situations, challenges and interactions, so they can maximize their learning.

I would love your feedback on the social brain and how you can create an environment of connecting.

Phone 1300 719 665  www.soniamcdonald.com.au

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