Leadership Matters: Are your employees stuck in ‘lower brain’?

Try one of these eight mood shifters to boost your team’s performance.

Leaders have a huge impact on our employees’ state of mind. Virtually everything we do and say elicits a psychological reaction. We can make them feel positive, engaged and empowered, or we can strike fear in their hearts, shut them down and send them into self-protection mode. I call these two states of mind “upper brain” and “lower brain”—and they have everything to do with performance.

When people are in their upper brain, they’re more likely to do what they need to do. They’re more creative. They’re happier and more fulfilled. Their relationships are better. They trust leaders more. They do their best work.

In lower brain, they might blindly follow orders in the moment, but even if this does spur higher performance, it won’t be sustainable. They’ll be stressed, frustrated and anxious—and too focused on keeping themselves safe to do much else.

Let’s be real: Good leaders don’t want that kind of power. Unfortunately, we can’t change how the human brain is wired. What we can do is learn the triggers that provoke fear, anxiety and worry—I call these the “unholy trinity of the lower brain”—so we can avoid them.


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