Most leaders know that command and control is dead and that fear doesn’t motivate employees. Quite the opposite, in fact. That’s why, for the most part, we refrain from doing scary things. Yet according to Christine Comaford, author of the New York Times best seller How Teams Become Brilliant Together, even good leaders unintentionally strike fear in the hearts of their workforce.
More accurately, we strike it into their brains. And the consequences are more dire than you might realize.
“From time to time we all say or do things that spark unconscious fears in our employees,” says Comaford.“The primitive ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ part of the brain takes control. When that happens, when people are stuck in what I call the Critter State, all they can focus on is their own survival.”
In other words, everything that makes them good employees—their ability to innovate, to collaborate, to logically think through problems—goes out the window. All decision-making is distilled down to one question: What course of action will keep me safest?
Obviously, we need our employees to be in control of their whole brain—especially the parts responsible for the emotional engagement and intelligent decision-making that lead to high performance. Today’s economy demands it. That’s why Comaford’s business—teaching leaders how to use the best tactics from neuroscience to get teams unstuck and shift them into their so-called “Smart State”—is booming.
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