The Chemical Leaders within

Anyone that has attended one of Passe-partout’s Personal Best programmes will already appreciate my passion to share the great progress that is coming out of neuroscience around understanding how we think and behave.

Whether you lead a multi-national corporation, run your own business, or even just manage a small functional team you ought to be making time to keep up with the research in this area – the rate of new insights is astonishing. Unlike a lot of research, this is so much more than academic theory, it is a developing body of work which provides a practical guide, not just to the traditional “how we behave”, but to the very foundation of “who we are”.

If we want to lead organisational change or raise performance – be it as a Line Manager or Chief Executive – it is the people we need to engage if we are to deliver ultimate success, yet so often our focus is just process. We look at the “behaviour” and not the “person” – does this sound familiar? Well this is where the value of this research really kicks in.

One element of neuroscience which I find fascinating is the evidence about how certain chemicals affect our moods, motivation and productivity.  There appear to be four which have particular importance, and I will give a brief summary of each here.

Dopamine (popularly known as “the happy drug”) seems to be associated with accomplishment and a sense of self-worth.  We receive small dopamine releases when we complete a task, receive a text, or engage in light exercise.  But the biggest dopamine hit appears to come when we feel we have done something useful or helpful for somebody else.

Endorphins have been widely (but perhaps not accurately) publicized.  These are released when the body experiences manageable stress.  So intensive exercise works, and so does a sense of challenge or novelty.

The third important chemical is serotonin – our mood regulator.  Serotonin is susceptible to environmental factors like heat and light, but the greatest guarantee of having a beneficial level is to ensure sufficient sleep and nutrition.

Finally, oxytocin (“the bonding drug”) is an important influence in relationships.  It reaches very high levels in expectant mothers, and can also be stimulated through interactions where we feel close or empathetic towards another person.

For business, this knowledge matters because it gives such strong clues about how we can create conditions where people will be positive, committed, trusting and fulfilled. With our Personal Best programme we have created a learning framework which aligns to these elements and as such we are beginning to see outcomes which offer real organisational benefit from the ground up, employee by employee.

“Having worked in people development for over 20 years, it is rare that a training opportunity arises that has the potential to make such a huge difference to employee motivation and fulfilment,  Personal Best offers an employee-centric solution that undoubtedly does both” – Head of Organisational Development, Housing and Care 21

As I said at the beginning, neuroscience is getting to the heart of who we are; creating a workplace that is cognizant of this learning establishes an environment which has the potential for genuine and meaningful employee engagement.

Alex 2016

Alexandra Taskin  
Director, Passe-Partout Consulting Ltd
phone: 01634 919848
mobile: 07973 185124
address: Kits Coty Farm, 87 Salisbury Road, Aylesford, Kent ME20 7EW