February 2018 | Innovation
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributor: Michael Platt, PhD, Director, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative; James S. Riepe University Professor of Marketing, Neuroscience, and Psychology, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Apply findings from the latest neuroscience research to improve your personal and work relationships.
People are fundamentally social. Our ability to build relationships and connect with others increases our happiness, improves our health, and helps us succeed in business and in life. Neuroscientists have recently identified key areas of the brain where that ability resides, and their studies of this social connection network have yielded actionable insights into how we can maintain the health of the social brain, turn up its activity, and improve our relationships. In fact, as we increase our social connections, we also increase the size and integrity of the social brain network. These findings have important implications for leaders, teams, client relations, sales, and more.
One key finding is the role of hormones and other chemicals, some of which can enhance social brain function, social attention, and social bonds, and some of which can diminish them. Oxytocin, which enhances bonding, is an example of the former. Testosterone, which impairs social attention and increases selfishness, falls into the latter group. See the Action Steps below for specific ways to harness your social brain to improve your relationship IQ.
The following five steps can help you harness your brain’s social connection network and in turn help you build deeper and more numerous relationships.
Former FBI agent Chris Voss shared in Never Split the Difference that when words, voice tone, and body movements are in synch, people feel less threatened and are more willing to open up. As a negotiator, Voss specifically repeated one to three keywords in the last sentence spoken by the other person, describing the technique as “one of the quickest ways to establish rapport.”
Warby Parker, the designer eyewear retailer, brings new hires onto the team by providing tangible and intangible elements that represent the company and its team culture. They include a copy of Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” (the company was named after Kerouac characters); Martin’s Pretzels (the founders often ate them when they were establishing the company); and a gift certificate for a Thai restaurant (it was the only one open late at night when the company was in its early days). To further encourage team building across the organization, Warby Parker uses a “Lunch Roulette” tool each week to randomly select groups of four employees (never more than one from each department) to have lunch together.
Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founder of Zingerman’s gourmet food company, embraces a unique philosophy that relies on collective decision-making rather than the standard corporate hierarchy. A firm believer in Robert Greenleaf’s theory of Servant Leadership, he opens executive meetings — and the company’s books — to all employees.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, director of Custom Programs at Wharton Executive Education. Nano Tools for Leaders® is a collaboration between joint sponsors Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management. This collaboration is led by Professors Michael Useem and John Paul MacDuffie.
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