Leaders need to give their staff opportunities to develop and grow, and to lead by example, says neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw.

Understanding the emotions of staff through neuroscience reveals strategies for managing a workforce for greater employee engagement and bottom line success for the company, Dr Shaw explains:

“Concepts and techniques derived from brain research and psychology can play a crucial role in improving individual and business performance.  Making every effort to understand emotions means we also hold the keys that can potentially open many more doors and opportunities.”

One example is the improvement of leadership. Dr Shaw reveals that effective communication is not only effective from a psychological point of view, but actually affects our biology. The more support an employee receives from senior members of staff, the lower their levels of the stress hormone cortisol in high pressured situations.

Dr Shaw says:

“As a result, rather than people narrowing their attention to any perceived threat, which is causing the stress, we open ourselves up to broader thinking, better problem solving and greater creative thought.”

Other areas of neuroscience Dr Shaw believes should be applied for a greater working environment include:

Calculated risk

We tend to stick to what we know but neurological research suggests that taking calculated risks can be a cycle of greater opportunity. When a risky situation is resolved successfully our brains release dopamine and other “feel-good” chemicals that make it more likely that we will follow our gut in the future.

Learning and development

The brain is optimised for learning, with synapses growing and strengthening when we are introduced to new information. However, Dr Shaw argues that it is important to understand the brain’s limitations for learning as taking in too much at once can cause a brain overload. She advises organising learning chunks of data for 30 minutes at a time.

Employee motivation

The prefrontal cortex is partly responsible for processing new information. When a person learns something new the neurons fire in this part of the brain, creating a positive connotation with progress and development. This in turn leads to higher self-esteem, which will improve wellbeing and mental health as well as company productivity.

Title image courtesy of Brian Hillegas via Flickr