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The Neuroscience of
Leadership and Culture
Katharine McLennan, Mettle Group, March 2007


We live in a world that at last
is attempting to learn between
disciplines: religion informing
science, science informing business,
business informing psychology,
psychology informing marketing,
marketing informing technology,
among others. A few years ago,
Daniel Goleman, the author of
Emotional Intelligence and many
other leadership books, gathered
together a group of physicists,
Buddhists, psychiatrists and
neuroscientists so that they could
learn from each other about how the
mind works. Each year in Australia
well-known CEOs and board
members gather for two days in
retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche (author
of The Tibetan Book of Living and
Dying) to learn about the Buddhist
philosophy, focusing on how to calm
their minds more effectively so that
they can think more innovatively
and be more effective leaders for
their people. Harvard and Insead
Business Schools talk about the


two most potent tools of the . An understanding of the
21st Century being intuition and attention deficit trait (ADT) which
meditation. The Harvard Business is beginning to create a whole
Review writes about executives class of frenzied underachievers
and their new attention deficit in our executive ranks.
trait—overloaded circuits in their 2. The power of meditation and
minds. With the use of functional why it will lead to less ADT,
MRI and other technologies, we more innovation and better
are able to glean more information leadership in our culture.
about how the mind works, helping
. The counter intuitive findings
us to understand how behaviours
that neuroscience is showing
can be changed and innovative
us about culture change and
thinking can be improved in how we can better implement
our organisational cultures. change programs.
Perhaps most telling is that the . The trust as well as the
first Global Annual Summit on respect and suspension of
Neuroleadership will be held judgement we need in using
in Italy in May this year (www. our Blink-like intuition.
neuroleadership.org), designed
5. Nurturing of diversity of thought
to take the learning of science
processes, particularly as they
into the realm of organisational
relate to men and women.
design and culture. This paper
will introduce several insights
from neurosciences that will
assist us in improving leadership
and culture in organisations:


1. An understanding of the attention
deficit trait (ADT)
In January 2005, the Harvard of information on the same day that Implications on what
Business Review published an article the third deal has collapsed, the brain
called “Overloaded Circuits: Why begins to panic, reacting as if it were
organisations need to
Smart People Underperform.” Its responding to a sabre-toothed tiger do for their people:
description of the executive being attack. The deep centres now interpret n Promoting positive emotions
bombarded by emails, Blackberry the messages from the frontal lobes through ensuring people are
beeps, voicemails, constant by sending alarm signals of fear, panic, working in teams with support.
interruptions, back-to-back meetings anxiety and irritability. The frontal Apparently most humans need a
and deadlines that never end is all too lobes are hijacked by these deep “human moment” at least every
familiar to most of us. This executive is centres’ messages and fail to assert four hours where they can just
constantly in touch with her business
their calm, rational decision making. talk face-to-face with someone,
at least 18 hours a day, seven days a
which stimulates the deep centres
week. Unlike attention deficit disorder Daniel Goleman has coined the
of the brain to send messages
(ADD)—a neurological disorder that term “amygdala hijack”, which is
through the pleasure centre to the
has a genetic component and can when our deep centres hijack our
area that assigns calm resources
be aggravated by environmental and rational thought and we respond to to the decision-making frontal
physical factors—attention deficit challenging stimulation with anger, lobes, supporting the physical
trait (ADT) springs entirely from the fear and anxiety. We are robbed of care of employees’ brains through
environment. Never in history has our flexibility, our sense of humour
our brain been asked to track so sleep, a good diet and exercise.
and our ability to deal with the
many data points. When the mind is unknown. We forget the big picture l If you can wake up without an
coping, it is being governed effectively and the goals and values for which alarm clock, you are getting
by the frontal and prefrontal lobes of we stand. We lose our creativity enough sleep.
the cortex, which guide our decision and our ability to shift course. We
making and planning, the organisation l Too many carbohydrates cause
fail to see the choice that humans the blood glucose levels to
and prioritisation of information and
alone as a species have to react to yo-yo, which leaves the brain
ideas, and time management. When
any situation. We forget the greatest either glutted or gasping for
the mind is coping, the deep centres
lesson of Victor Frankl, a German glucose. The brain needs complex
below the frontal lobes that govern
psychiatrist who survived arguably carbohydrates and protein,
basic functions like sleep, hunger,
the most horrendous of all human supported by omega-3 fatty acids.
sexual desire, breathing and heart
rate are sending up messages of stimulations, the Nazi concentration
l Exercise produces many
satisfaction and joy. They are pumping camp. Frankl wrote about how that, chemicals that the brain loves,
up your attention and motivation and even in the most dire of all human including endorphins, serotonin,
won’t interfere with your working conditions, we ALWAYS have choice dopamine, epinephrine and
memory, which is what you need to about how we can respond. We do norepinephrine, as well as
track the many data points coming not have to succumb to the hijack that brain-derived neurotrophic factor
in. But when the brain suddenly has wants to bypass our rational frontal (BDNF) and nerve growth factor
to deal with the sixth decision after lobes—IF our minds are in a healthy (NGF). Both BDNF and NGF
the fifth interruption in the midst of promote cell health in the brain
state capable of pressing that PAUSE
and protect it from aging and
the search for the ninth missing piece button for even just a split second.
stress.

n Organising for ADT—helping the


employees to figure out how to
have times which are free from
distraction and learn to have the
office environment that works
best for them.

n Looking at making the office


environment calming and
soothing: on-site gyms, shortened
work hours, on-site day cares
where parents can eat with their
children, unlimited sick days, etc.


“The question
is: how do
people learn
new management
behaviours?”


Slowing down
our minds
for: creativity,
innovation,
intuition.


2. The power of meditation and why it
will lead to less ADT, more innovation
and better leadership in our culture
One of the most effective remedies to In our normal business rushing thinking that this economy requires.
the stressed and rushed environment around, we experience beta brain Our workplaces induce beta brain
we are living in today is proving to be waves. The more anxious we feel, the waves, often of the very high
meditation—the slowing of the mind, more frequent the beta brain waves. frequency type. These brain waves
which technically means reducing In this state, it is rare to have an seem to induce more cortisol, which
the frequency of our brain waves. “innovative” thought. We are mostly is a hormone that causes us more
There are classically four types of processing information and going from stress and is known as the major
brain waves that are described, task to task analytically. When most age-accelerating hormone within the
each representing different states of people are asked where they have brain. These brain waves induce the
“slowing down” for our mind. their most innovative thoughts, they fight or flight response in which blood
seldom say “at work.” Our left-brained flows away from our brain and toward
analytical environments induce beta the periphery of the body, floods the
Figure A: Four brain waves which do not lead to bloodstream with sugar, and increases
Categories of Brain creative thought. However, as we heart rate, blood pressure and
Wave Patterns begin to slow our minds, we begin to respiration rate in order to prepare for
relax and daydream, and we enter the the tiger. In this state, learning ability,
alpha brainwaves where creativity is problem solving, reasoning ability and
more possible as we begin to access consideration of change are seriously
our subconscious mind. This is where inhibited.
Beta (14-30 Hz) learning is much more likely to take However, as we lower the frequency
• Concentration, arousal, alertness, cognition place. As we slow down even further, of our brain waves, we begin to
• Higher levels associated with anxiety,
we enter into theta brain waves, produce neurochemicals and
disease, feelings of separation, fight or flight
where we access our unconscious hormones that are much more
mind and we can begin to integrate beneficial to creativity and learning.
new learning and new behaviours. Alpha brain wave patterns boost
Theta brain waves are known as “out the production of serotonin, which
Alpha (8-13.9 Hz) of the blue” brain waves because increases relaxation and eases
• Relaxation, super learning, relaxed focus, ideas often come to us from nowhere pain. Theta brain waves induce the
light trance, increased serotonin production
when we are in this state. With theta production of catecholamines, vital
• Pre-sleep, pre-waking drowsiness,
meditation, beginning of access to brainwaves, we can retain more for memory and learning. Theta brain
unconscious mind material, and we can access some waves also induce the production of
of our deepest sources of creativity. vasopressin, which is associated with
Finally, in the delta brain waves, we increased access to memories and
actually lose all sense of our body and increased creativity. Lower frequency
we go into a deep trance, where we brain waves also release endorphins,
really access what Jung termed the which are the brain’s reward system
“collective unconscious,” the source for learning something new. This
Theta (4-7.9 Hz) means that new belief systems
of the greatest wealth of new ideas.
• Dreaming sleep (REM sleep) designed to effect desirable behaviour
When present in combination with
• Increased production of catecholamines
other waves in a waking state, delta changes, if presented to the mind
(vital for learning and memory), increased
creativity brain waves act as a form of radar when it is flooded with endorphins,
• Integrative, emotional experiences, which seeks out information from the may be perceived as beneficial
potential change in behaviour people around us on the deepest and adopted as such—a powerful
unconscious level that we can’t boost to any behaviour modification
understand cognitively. Delta waves protocol in cultural change programs.
provide us with our intuition, with our Endorphins provide us with that “aha”
empathic attunement with people and moment that excites us to change and
our instinctual insight. reinforces our will to change.

Creativity, innovation, intuition, Lower brain frequencies have also


Delta (.1-3.9 Hz) empathic radar and instinct are been correlated with higher levels
• Dreamless sleep increasingly required in a knowledge of DHEA and melatonin. DHEA is
• Human growth hormone released
economy that relies on ideas coming produced by the adrenal glands
• Deep trance like state, loss of body and is a precursor to virtually every
awareness faster and faster, wilder and wilder.
• Access to unconscious and “collective The problem is that our workplaces hormone the body needs. It is a key
unconscious” mind are not set up to induce the type of determinant of physiological age and


resistance to disease. DHEA acts Implications on what in low frequency states. The
as a buffer against stress-related conversation between two brains
hormones. Melatonin is a hormone organisations need to in high beta brain state is riddled
associated with the creation of restful do for their people: with “cosmetic” listening and
sleep. n People who need to constantly superficial understanding, and
create, innovate, and construct certainly no new thoughts are
We now know from both science and
strategies that are not simply being created between the two
many meditation practitioners that
regurgitated thought need to people. As minds begin to slow
the brain can consciously be slowed
SLOW their minds. They need down, people connect intuitively,
down. Some of the most interest-
practice and space to do this. they find ideas between each
ing science is now being done with
Innovation will not come in the other that never existed before,
Buddhist monks who can con-
typical frenzied atmosphere of they feel heard and honoured in
sciously slow their minds in a matter
most corporate environments. ways they have never felt before.
of seconds to theta and delta states.
Successful executives will learn The pleasure centres of their
Richard Davidson of the University
to train their mind in the same brain release endorphins of joy
of Wisconsin has spent many years
way they need to keep their and excitement that keep them
researching the effect of meditation
bodies fit. Learning meditation motivated by work and the people
on the brain waves through the use of
has proven to be one of the most with whom they work.
MRI and EEG signals, and can exhibit
such results as shown in Figure B effective ways of training one’s n Organisations need to completely
(below) that compares a person who mind—but it’s not the only one. rethink the way they run meetings,
does not regularly practise meditation Yoga, gardening, other exercises especially meetings designed to
with a long-term meditation practi- and simply just sitting also train create strategic and innovative
tioner. the mind to slow down. The idea thought. People need a chance to
is to create the ability for the mind get in that space of slow thinking
Scientists are showing what we also to just observe itself—observe the and authentic dialogue and, once
know to be true in athletes. World thoughts as they pass by, observe they do, magic begins to happen.
class athletes in the zone are experi- the fickleness of the thoughts
encing the lowest frequency of brain and allow new creative thoughts
waves. Tiger Woods’ brainwaves are to arrive without effort. Slowing
in their lowest frequency when he is the mind allows us to tap into our
playing the best. The amateur golfer, most creative selves.
on the other hand, is using very high
frequency beta brain waves to analyti- n The most authentic dialogue
cally work out his swing, his stance, between leaders and their people
his hands, his grip, etc. occurs only when brains are

Figure B: Heightened Brain Activity


3. The counterintuitive findings that
neuroscience is showing us about
culture change and how we can
better implement change programs
As we have argued, it is a given that signal” created by new behaviour The more humanistic approaches of
we all now work in a knowledge creates emotions of fear and anxiety the 1950s and 1960s based on the
economy, where people are paid to that often override logic and push the likes of Carl Rogers and Abraham
think and respond to change that is person back to their old behaviour. Maslow have also shown to be not
exponentially increasing in complexity overly effective. This assumes that, if
At Mettle, we experience
and uncertainty. Command-and- we work on employee’s self esteem,
seven classical reactions to
control, wait-until-you-are-told-what- emotional needs and values, we can
change in our clients:
to-do cultures can no longer produce work on changing their behaviour.
innovation, quick response and . People feel awkward, ill at ease These approaches emphasise
places where generation Y people and self conscious. empathy from the manager.
want to work. The problem is that Complex performance management
2. People think first about what they
most managers have grown up in processes are implemented across
have to give up.
such a culture, and they will need to the organisation, and the manuals
learn new management behaviours . People feel alone, even if on administering annual appraisals
to adapt to the new environment. everyone is going through the counsel the managers to “deliver
change. constructive performance feedback”.
The question is: how do However, translated from the jargon,
people learn new management . People can handle only so much this often means, “Politely tell people
behaviours? Traditional leadership change. what they are doing wrong.” This
and management development 5. People are at different levels of approach assumes that, if we tell
programs in the corporate world readiness for change. people what they are doing wrong and
and academia are based on learning give them the right incentives to do
by transmission—give the student . People are concerned that they right, their behaviour will change. This
the book and the lecture and they don’t have enough resources. is as mechanistic as the carrot and
will change their behaviour. “Run 7. If you take off the pressure, stick approach.
the two-day Leadership Excellence people revert to old behaviour.
program through the entire
organisation and you will change The classical approaches to changing
the culture in a year.” We also all behaviour are now being shown as
know that this doesn’t work. ineffective. B.F. Skinner and John
B. Watson’s 1930s behaviourist
The newest brain research shows us approach, which is based on the
why behaviour change is so difficult. traditional carrot and stick approach
The way we manage people has to eliciting change, rarely succeeds The Basal Ganglia
Thalamus
become a routine that is hardwired in the long run. Salary and other
into our brain in a very efficient monetary incentives are useful to Putamen
automatic processing centre called some extent in rewarding the right Tail of
Caudate
the basal ganglia which operates behaviour but have not been shown
Head of
like an automatic transmission, to correct undesirable behaviour, and Caudate
shifting among patterns of deeply their effectiveness tapers off once the
held thought. How we sell ideas, employee has attained an acceptable
how we run meetings and how we level of compensation. The brain
communicate to our people are research is also showing us that the Globus Amygdala
Pallidus
deeply embedded within us. Trying to stick approach only seems to reinforce
change these embedded behaviours the neural patterns associated with
creates discomfort. In fact, not only the habitual problem. Punish an
does it create discomfort but also employee for not being a team player
new behaviour is often perceived as and he will continue to not be a team
an error signal by a part of the brain player if he does not have a mental
called the orbital frontal cortex, which model to replace his existing one, and
works quite closely with the amygdala he may revert to being a two-year-old:
which, as we have seen, houses tell a two-year-old what to do and they
the brain’s fear circuitry. The “error automatically push back.

People want to determine themselves that the brain changes as a function are associated with sudden bursts
how they are going to behave and, of where an individual puts his or her of high frequency brain waves just
if change is necessary, they need attention. before the moment of insight which
to call the terms for it and have the create new connections that help us
2. All the psychology research around
support for constant reinforcement. overcome our resistance to change.
pain and the expectation of pain
The best coaches know this. Socrates relief has also shown us the power . However, the issue is that we
knew this. Rather than lecturing and of expectations in actually shaping cannot be just given the insights
providing solutions, effective coaches people’s reality. People in pain who from someone else; we need to
ask pertinent questions and support were told that they were being given come to them ourselves. Insights
their clients in working out solutions morphine but who were actually giv- that we make ourselves give
on their own over a long time until the en a sugar pill perceived a reduction us adrenalin which helps us to
new behaviour is embedded. in pain. Not only did they perceive it, fight against the amygdala’s fear
but their actual brain’s pain-relief cir- response. Our individual brain
So what does elicit cuits were activated, which caused architecture will also not readily
behaviour change? the real decrease in the sensation of
pain.
just pick up someone else’s mental
model—we need to adapt it to fit
The latest brain research into into our own thinking. We also need
Managers who have two different
behaviour change concentrates on to give regular attention to these
mental maps of the people they
three points: focus, expectation and manage will perceive different
insights over time.
attention. reality. A manager who does not A stand alone training program is
. The combined learning from trust her people will constantly see not sufficient to create significant
quantum physics and psychology error and people out to get her. A behaviour. One study, for example,
has led to the finding that the mental manager who thrives on his people’s showed that a training program for the
act of focusing—whether on a ideas will produce great results
public sector increased productivity by
thought, an insight, a picture in your and be rewarded by his people.
28%1. However, if you added follow-
mind’s eye or a fear—maintains the The findings now say that large
up coaching, which acts to sustain
chemical brain changes arising in scale behaviour change requires
association with that experience. a large-scale change in mental attention on the behaviour change and
Over time, paying enough attention maps. This in turn requires some allow the individual to build on their
to any specific brain connection kind of insight that allows people own insights, the productivity rose to
“cements” the chemical links into to change their expectations more 88%. The training program is useful
actual physical changes in the quickly and dramatically than they in the introduction of new ideas to the
brain’s structure. Hence, we can say normally would. In the brain, insights participants, but the participants must

Implications on what organisations need to do for their people


Research Findings Implications on our approach to eliciting behaviour change in
organisations
The carrot and stick approach is not overly Relying on the performance management system to elicit behavioural change won’t work—it
effective at eliciting behaviour change. may reinforce, but it certainly will not cause change.

Teaching empathy to your people managers Empathy and coaching are skills that can definitely be taught. However, there is more than
may raise the standards of rapport but, if the just the art of coaching at stake—it will also be important to focus on the positive behaviour
managers concentrate on what is wrong, it is changes that are being made and find ways to reinforce them continuously.
unlikely that behaviour change will occur.

Law of focus: Focusing on something long Behaviour change programs need to be oriented around focusing on identifying and creating
enough creates physical changes in our brain new behaviour, not on identifying and concentrating on the ineffective old behaviour.
which allows us to overcome routine behaviour.

People will change their behaviour when their People need to experience their own insights about how their behaviour needs to change.
expectations about what they can accomplish While training programs are useful to feed ideas into their minds, they need to have time to
are accompanied by their own flash of insights. adapt these ideas into their own hardwiring and determine their own insights, which will give
them the energy to overcome old routine behaviour. Help leaders with this wiring process by
getting them involved in adapting workshops to meet their local team’s needs AND in teach-
ing the principles they learn to their people through co-facilitation.

Changes in behaviour require constant atten- A once-off training program is not sufficient for change in behaviour to occur. People need
tion over time to occur. constant attention to support them in their rewiring process. This attention is most effective
in small bites that can be more easily digested by the small capacity of the working memory.
This attention is also supported by constant coaching and feedback that can come from your
leader, your colleagues, your team members and independent coaches who work with you to
keep your new behaviour reinforced.

Changing behaviour requires changes in Behaviour change programs need to allow people to develop a self-awareness that will help
emotional states and mindsets. them to discover which mindsets and emotional states are useful to support the culture and
which are not useful.

10
adapt these ideas in their own world, Use the principles of
play with them, generate their own
insights, and continue to pay attention
focusing, expectations
to the ideas over time. Given the small and attention on what
capacity of working memory, which is lies below the iceberg
where new behaviours are introduced, of behaviour.
small bites of learning such as e-
Mettle’s experience in working with
learning may be the key to the larger
behaviour change employs focusing,
blocks of time spent in workshops.
expectations and attention on what
The founder of the positive psychology lies underneath behaviour—both the
movement, Martin Seligman, has individual’s values and their emotional
shown over and again how attention states (see Figure C).
to positive behaviour in the form of The state of mind determines a
optimism can significantly change person’s level of engagement, which
behaviour. He has worked with will determine the level of interest
depression and pessimism over much they will invest in any situation and
of his career and now has significant the motivation or energy they will
data that shows that, if you get people use to exert the type of change the
to concentrate on the things that are organisation will need. The mindset
going well in their life and they are is just as important, which consists
assisted in this attention by colleagues of the beliefs and values that direct
and coaches, the depression and this energy charge towards what
pessimism can be significantly we believe to be important. Some
reduced to mild. He then has empirical mindsets will be useful for the
data from hundreds of organisations organisation’s transformation; some
and individuals that link productivity, will not. Many of our mindsets are so
health and longevity to the level of subconscious that it takes work to
optimism in the individual and the unearth them through the process of
organisation. developing self-awareness. Changing
behaviours will be possible only by
changing people’s underlying mindsets,
and this takes work and time.

Figure C: The Be-Do-Have Model

1 Gerald Olivero, K. Denise Bane, Richard E.


Kopelman, Executive Coaching as a Transfer of
Training Tool: Effects on Productivity in a Public
Agency,” Public Personnel Management, vol. 26, no.
4 (Winter 1997): Research on the value of follow-up
in coaching.

11
4. The trust as well as the respect
and suspension we need to put in our
“Blink”-like intuition
Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling au- the many ways in which our “in- scious minds even knowing. And our
thor of The Tipping Point, also wrote ternal computers” can be “thrown body language will give us away with
Blink, which gives us insight into the off, distracted, and disabled” (or people we have judged as not good
power of our intuition. In this book, worse—what if your unconscious enough. We will unconsciously lean
he describes the ability of our brains is culturally skewed, preferring forward a little less, turn away slightly
in “rapid cognition”–the ability to white people to black people?). He from him or her, close our body a
make snap decisions in the back- argues that, to make the best use bit, be a bit less expressive, maintain
ground, without our ever really con- of our internal machines, we have less eye contact, stand a little farther
sciously knowing about them. This to learn how rapid cognition works, away, smile a lot less, hesitate and
itself is a surprising idea. Gladwell what screws it up, and how we can stumble over our words a bit more
says that we’re not aware how much control it. That’s the real purpose of and laugh at jokes a bit less.
work our brains do for us in secret— Blink. Gladwell believes that, if we
how they’re always sizing things up, just paid more attention to how our
Implications on what
extracting meaning out of the tiniest brains process things, we’d get a organisations need to
details, constantly making sense of much truer, smarter picture of what’s do for their people:
the world, even when we think we’re going on around us, and perhaps a
There are two messages for or-
not paying attention. What’s more, fairer, more egalitarian world.
ganisations from Blink; firstly, intui-
as a culture we’re trained to discount
Gladwell talks about “thin-slicing,” tion in a time of huge change where
such rapid cognition in favour of
which is the ability of our uncon- precedents are not available to really
deeper thinking and greater analysis.
scious to find patterns in situations provide the answer may be the most
First impressions are never thought
and behaviour based on very narrow powerful tool. As we have seen in
to be as reliable as lifelong studies.
slices of experience.” By thin-slicing, the previous section, intuition is more
Gladwell wants us to honour our first our minds can just know; we can available in lower frequency mind
impressions. “The first task of Blink,” look at a situation, gather its essence states. Organisations need to create
he writes, “is to convince you of a in a few seconds or so, and extract environments that foster these mind
simple fact: decisions made very meaning, order and truth amidst the states. Secondly, organisations must
quickly can be every bit as good chaos of the moment. Our brains also help their leaders to be aware of
as decisions made cautiously and make snap judgments of who will the Blink judgments they are mak-
deliberately.” However, listening to make a good employee, who will be ing of their people and their potential
our snap judgments can be a tricky a trusted colleague, who will become recruits when they might be riddled
business, and Gladwell documents a revered leader without our con- with bias and prejudice.

Figure D: The Ladder of Inference - How we judge


and form our ‘truth’ or ‘our noble certainties.’
The
“Truth”

Adopt
Beliefs

Draw
Conclusions

Make
Assumptions

Add
Meaning

Select
Data

Observable
Data

12
The Latin root of “respect” is “re- sions of the truth are in the room
specere,” which literally means “to (see Figure E below).
look AGAIN”. At Mettle, we work
Arguing for who is right is often
with leaders to become increasingly
wasted effort. Creating shared vision,
conscious about their judgments,
a vision that is new and not regurgi-
which are constantly being gener-
tated, will be essential for organisa-
ated with everyone who crosses our tions to succeed in the economy of
path, whether or not we know it. the 21st century. Authentic dialogue
We ask people to always attempt to balancing advocacy and inquiry, and
employ the “Nelson Mandela Rule,” featuring deep listening, suspension
which is that everyone who comes of judgement, and respect will be
across our path has the potential to necessary.
be as interesting as Nelson Mandela.
We quietly greet each person with .
the Zulu language’s “Sawu Bona,”
which means “I SEE you and all
your potential.” In response from the
person we greet, we quietly hear
“Sikhona,” which means, “I am here
because you have seen me.”
Mettle also teaches its leaders to be
aware of certainty and “the noble
truth”. In our Blink-like decisions
about people and situations, we are
often unaware about how fast we
race up the ladder of noble truth (see
Figure D on the previous page). We
think that our “truth” is the only right
truth in the room, and it is only when
we use a combination of advocacy
and inquiry into other people’s truth,
that we realise that ten other ver-

Figure E: Advocacy and Inquiry

13
“...the realm of
organisational
design and
culture.”

14
5. Nurturing diversity of thought
processes, particularly as they
relate to men and women

Every organisation Mettle has we find it exceptionally useful to fos- leaves her more proficient at
observed in relation to diversity ter an acute awareness of how your integrating and deciphering
has identified “diversity” as a major colleagues think that is different from verbal, visual and other signals
focus. But, for most of them, this the way you think AND to encour- to understand what is really
is narrowly interpreted to mean age teams to thrive on this diversity. going on with the other person.
“women”. Ask a senior executive Diversity of thinking is necessary for
about diversity, and the conversation innovation and problem solving. l Also, a woman’s corpus
soon turns to the fact that there are callosum, which is the bundle of
However, there are differences nerve fibres connecting the left
insufficient numbers of women in the between men and women that are
senior ranks. These executives are and brain hemispheres, is much
worth noting. Here are some of the thicker than a man’s, with up
concerned that the organisation is fascinating results that have come
hiring the “best and brightest” (which to 30% more connections. This
from the neurosciences, biology and
means at least half the graduate fosters more fluency of speech,
anthropology:
intake is female) but that, within ten and apparently fosters a greater
years, despite the investment in Women are constant radar sense of intuition, because it
training and skills development, the allows for a much faster transfer
detectors. of information between the
majority of the women will leave.
Clearly the talent pool needs to be l When men are at rest, at least hemispheres.
deepened. 70% of the electrical activity
is shut down compared to Women tend to be better at
This focus on women diverts us from women, whose brains remain communication.
the real issue. “Diversity” in these or- 90% active in the same state.
ganisations in fact means “other” or l Women’s eyes display more
Women are constantly receiving
“different”. The impact of this narrow white than men’s eyes, which
and analysing information from
interpretation is profound because provides more connection to
their environment, trying to
the same organisation that has an understand how other people others through the greater range
issue with retaining senior women are thinking and feeling. Men of eye signal that is possible with
manifests a parallel characteristic are, instead, registering where eye movement.
in that it does not foster, reward or potential attack may come from
enjoy the benefits of “other” or “dif- l The left side of a girl’s brain
and possible escape routes, as develops much more rapidly
ferent” thinking. well as things that need to be than that of a boy, meaning
The issues of “women” and “di- fixed or repaired. she’ll speak sooner, read earlier
versity” are merely symptoms and learn a foreign language
l Women have a wider peripheral
of a broader and equally impor- more quickly (boys, however,
vision than men (to monitor any
tant—indeed vital—issue: diversity predators sneaking up on the develop the right side of the
of thought. And there is increasing nest), and men tend to have brain faster, giving them spatial,
recognition, backed by research, more long-distance tunnel logical and perceptual skills
that diversity is the key to an or- vision (to pursue targets in the earlier).
ganisation’s successful long-term distance). Women take much
survival. Mettle’s practice in working l For males, speech and language
more in than men in any given
with teams always includes a focus are not specific brain skills.
environment.
on this diversity of thought, as we These skills operate mainly in the
get teams to understand how each l Body language research left brain and have no particular
other relates to the world, how they reveals that in face-to-face location. For women, speech
take in their information, how they communications, nonverbal and language have specific
make their decisions, how they solve signals account for 60-80% areas located in both sides of
problems and how they organise of the impact of the message, the brain, which makes them
their mental constructs. We still while vocal sounds make up 20 better conversationalists.
believe in the power of the classic to 30%, leaving seven to 10%
for words. A woman’s better l Women need to talk. Unlike
Myers Briggs Type Indicator to show
ability to read body language male brains, which are highly
how not everyone thinks alike, and
15
compartmentalised and have Different values and emotions. ó Over 35% of women
the ability to separate and store graduating from Stanford
information, women’s brains l A study conducted in five Business School since the
do not store information as western countries asked men 1970s have opted to take
well—the problems just keep and women to describe the kind significant time off from full
going around and around of person they would ideally like time work (averaging 5.4
unless she can talk about them. to be. years), mostly due to raising
Women use speech to build ó Men chose adjectives such families.
relationships, make friends and as bold, competitive, capable, ó Harvard Business School
solve problems. Men use it to dominant, assertive, admired surveys found that, of the
relate facts. Women speak an and practical. Men rated women graduating since the
average of 6,000 to 8,000 words prestige, power, and owning 1970s who had significant
a day and use an additional things as important. Men family responsibilities, only
2,000 to 3,000 vocal sounds valued things. 38% were employed full
to communicate, as well as time; most of the others were
ó Women chose warm, loving,
8,000 to 10,000 gestures, facial working part-time.
generous, sympathetic,
expressions. Contrast that to
attractive, friendly and giving.
men: 2,000 to 4,000 words,
They rated being of service to
1,000 to 2,000 vocal sounds,
others and meeting interesting Implications on what
and 2,000 to 3,000 body
people high on their scale organisations need to
language signals (a THIRD of the
output of a woman).
of values. Women valued do for their people:
relationships.
Science is showing us that brain
l Women use indirect language differences can explain much of
l MRI scans show that the
because they use language to the diversity in how we think and
locations for emotion are in two
build rapport. Men’s sentences behave as men and women. Brain
areas in the right hemisphere,
tend to be short, direct, solution differences exist between all kinds
whereas for women they are
oriented and to the point. of people, though, not just between
throughout both hemispheres.
In an argument, a man can men and women. Organisations
Women can multi-task. argue logic and words (left that encourage diversity of thought
brain) and then easily switch will get the most innovative thinking,
l With specific areas to control
to spatial solutions (right brain) the most robust strategy and the
speech, the rest of a woman’s
without becoming emotional. For creation of communities of respect
brain is available for other tasks,
women, emotions can preside and tolerance. They will also
enabling her to do a number of
while she is speaking logically attract and retain their best talent
different things at once.
and often hover everywhere. in an environment of skilled labour
l With her greater flow of shortage and increased retirement of
information moving between l In the new organisations that baby boomers. There are biological
the left and right hemisphere, value constructive culture, reasons we are made differently,
women can talk about several male characteristics and and businesses that celebrate and
things at once, and brain scans values are largely responsible leverage these differences will thrive
show that they can actually for driving people to the in the new world of the knowledge
speak and listen at the same top of the tree, but feminine economy.
time. values are fast becoming
the only way to stay there.
Feminine values encourage
Men have better spatial ability.
teamwork, collaboration, and
l Males’ brains have a specific interdependence, which are far
location on the right front brain better suited to an organisation’s
for spatial ability, while women strategic capabilities.
do not have specific locations.
Only 10% of women have spatial l Women still value raising children
as their top priority—over 80%
ability that is as dynamic as
of the 5,000 women surveyed
those of the best men.
in the UK by the British private
l This ability evolved from being health insurance company
the hunter; as the lunch chaser, BUPA rated it as the top
he needed to find his way priority, which was a finding
back home or there would be that was corroborated by a
little chance of survival, and he similar Australian survey. Even
needed to be able to estimate at the top of the “achievers”
angles and distances in order to in business, raising children is
hit his game. important:

16
Summary of insights
to be incorporated
into organisations by
neuroscience.
This paper examined only five
broad categories of insights that
businesses can extract from the
field of neuroscience. Hundreds
more lessons will now be learnt as
we exponentially increase the rate
of learning from brain research. We
are learning more and more about
the power of thought and how it
can shape the reality we experience
and, indeed, how it can rebuild the
circuits in our mind, well into our
elder ages. Works such as The
Secret (www.thesecret.tv) and What
the Bleep Do We Know? (www.
whatthebleep.com) are popularising
the findings of neuroscientists and
quantum physicists to show us the
magic of our minds. The new field
of “neuroleadership” is emerging,
which will be a field that constantly
rushes ahead of us to tell us how we
can work with discoveries to help
organisations:

l Increase the level of employee

“...Intuition is
engagement

l Drive cultural change

more important
l Improve decision making

l Assist in the development of


high performance leaders

l Improve the performance of


individuals and whole systems than IQ—I never
discovered
l Achieve strategic and tactical
business goals
New talents will become important

anything with my
in this world—particularly the ability
to quiet our minds so that we can
tap into a deeper level of wisdom.
Einstein knew this. He discovered
E=mc2 through deep, long years of
meditation. As he writes, “Intuition
is more important than IQ—I never
rational mind.”
discovered anything with my rational
mind.” - Albert Einstein
We have a lot to learn.
Amen.

17
About Mettle

Mettle Group is a specialist in culture organisations identify the strengths


and its impact on the success of that account for their success,
business strategy grounded in limitations on their effectiveness and
rigorous, provable methodology. what needs to change. Each year
This methodology is based on we conduct many pieces of research
an integrated approach that on company culture and use the
incorporates the six levers of cultural results to advise executives on how
change—leadership, structure, to put in place the capability they
mindsets, behaviours, systems and need to execute their strategy. Our
symbols. experience and research shows that:
We work with major corporations l Culture determines the extent to
globally and tailor cultural solutions which your people play at their
to support the implementation of full potential
new business strategies, restructures
l Aligning culture to strategy is a
or company mergers. Over 20 years
key to success
of research and experience enable
us to understand what makes l The momentum generated by
people tick and how to engage great leadership creates the
their hearts and minds, therefore, platform for that success
References used in creating the link between culture and l Permanent change is achieved
strategy.
writing this paper only when people change the
 Gladwell, M.. (2005) Blink: The We describe culture as the way they think
power of thinking without thinking.  personality of an organisation—the l Strategy works best when
Little, Brown and Company: New “way we do things around here”. backed by congruent behaviour,
York. Some of these ways produce long- symbols and systems.
Harris, B.  The Science term desired results; some do not.
Behind Holosynch and Other It is vital to understand and tackle We work with clients on all six of the
Neurotechnologies.  [Online], everything that is irrational about major levers of culture that link the
Available: http://www.centerpointe. what happens in your company—the organisation’s strategy ultimately
com/about/article_downloads/ gap between what looks right on to the employee’s behaviour and
research.pdf   paper and what actually happens— the client experience. This is best
Nathan, R. (2007)  Leveraging because this is the human dimension shown by our Mettle Culture model
Diversity.  Unpublished paper of that will make or break your plans overleaf.
Mettle Group Associate. for success. Detailed analysis helps
 Olivero, G., Bane, K.D., and
Kopelman, R.E. (1997) Executive
Coaching as a Transfer of Training
Tool:  Effects on Productivity
in a Public Agency.  In Public
Personnel Management vol. 26,
no. 4 (Winter 1997). 
 Pease, A. and Pease, B. (1998)
Why Men Don’t Listen and Women
Can’t Read Maps.  Welcome Rain
Publishers: New York.
Rock, D. and Schwart J. (2006)
The Neuroscience of Leadership
in Strategy and Business
[Online], Available: http://www.
strategy-business.com/press/
freearticle/06207  
Wise, A.  (1997) The High
Performance Mind.  Tarcher/
Putnam: New York. 

18
Our Model

Structure Symbols l How prioritisation is done


l Rituals and Ceremonies l Quality of relationships
l How resources are allocated
l Meeting and event protocol l Quality and frequency of
l Clarity of roles and
communication
accountabilities l Who gets recognised and
l Number of reporting layers promoted
l How authorities are assigned (or Mindsets
not) to roles
l Values — guiding principles and
l How structure recognises risks what we stand for
and value creation/destruction
l Beliefs — our inner world
Systems l Choices — how to act and how
l People systems — performance to be
management of reward and
recognition Behaviours
l Business systems — sales, l What is said and done
planning, or budgeting
Leadership
l Operational systems —
l Context and purpose leaders set
management information or
operating procedures l Decisions they make
l Divisions created by systems l How they use time
— who they apply to l How leadership is shared
l Informal process of exchange throughout the organisation
— how resources and information l How leadership is role modelled
are distributed and shared — walking the talk

The Mettle
Cultural Levers
Model

19
“..aligning
culture to
strategy
is a key to
success.”

20
About Katharine McLennan

Katharine came to Mettle from a energy, their talent and their


career that spans strategy, execution commitment. After establishing the
and leadership. She began her leadership development practice
career as a strategy consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers
with Booz Allen & Hamilton and an Australia, she moved to Mettle,
MBA with top class honours from where she is now also the Practice
Stanford. Transforming strategy into Leader of Leadership. With her
execution became her next passion undergraduate honours in biology
when she led the four years of and psychotherapy background,
operational planning and execution Katharine is passionate about the
for the 40 competition venues neurosciences of leadership, the art
of the Sydney Olympic Games. of dialogue, the practice of slowing
From the Olympics, she became our minds to create innovation
passionately interested in how and the power of leadership
leaders inspire their people to provide development in situ—meaning
their most precious resources: development on the job, in real time,
their time, their motivation, their with everyday consciousness.

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www.mettle.biz

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