With our eye firmly on how 360 degree feedback precipitates changed behaviours, the following article is a great insight into the neuroscience of change.
We are delighted to have our guest contributor, Lilliana Gibbs of Enthum Coaching, provide a very interesting article that illuminates how coaching and 360 degree feedback effectively support an individual to affect lasting change.
Ah Ha Moments, and how to have more of them
Changing behaviour within organisations is much more difficult that we like to think it is. Now thanks to the integration of psychology and neuroscience, we can see how the physiological nature of the brain predisposes people to resist some forms of leadership, and accept others.
The Neuroscience of Leadership by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz http://www.strategy-business.com/press/article/06207 describes why persuasion doesn’t really work, and that despite the evidence of its ineffectiveness, the ‘carrot and stick’ approach remains as popular as ever. What has been discovered is that change is pain; it genuinely provokes discomfort and zaps our energy.
Our brains have developed a useful capacity to detect ‘errors’, those perceived differences between expectations and actuality. At the traffic lights we expect a green/orange/red sequence. So familiar, it requires minimal brain power. However, if the sequence skips orange, it jars with our expectation, and shows up on an MRI scan as increased activity in our amygdala or ‘old brain’, a spot closely connected to our fear circuitry. When activated, the amygdala draws metabolic energy away from the prefrontal lobe where our higher intellectual functioning is generated. This means that the unfamiliar and the new not only increase our discomfort and stress, but also decrease logical or higher thinking.
So what is the right way to go about facilitating organisational change?
The answer is to spend quality time and attention on new ideas, and sustain reminders and reinforcement until the mental circuitry changes, and the ideas are adopted.
The authors describe how the act of paying attention creates physical changes in the brain, and how our expectations shape reality. Repeated, purposeful and focussed attention can lead to self-awareness and ‘long lasting personal evolution’ or change.
The first step is to get people’s undivided attention. The brain’s prefrontal cortex requires concentration to process new information, so removing everyday routines to focus on something —such as an off-site workshop —provides an ideal environment. Once leaders have achieved attention, give people the big picture, the broad vision. Scientists are finding that our expectations and attitudes —our mental maps— actually define our experience. When allowed to focus, and given a vision, our brains are encouraged to contribute —to imagine opportunities and solutions. We are inspired to co-create the picture –—conditions ripe for moments of insight.
Brain scans show sudden bursts of high-frequency gamma waves just prior to moments of new understanding. This suggests a complex set of new connections is being created in the brain. With it comes a rush of adrenaline like neurotransmitters, providing a turbo charged feel-good energy. These ‘moments of insight’ are powerful motivators that counter resistance, and propel change.
One of the most effective ways of increasing these moments of insight is through one-on-one coaching that supports people to find their own answers and encourages self-awareness. Most people find it hard to hold onto new learning, and one study found that training alone increased productivity by 28%, but when follow-up coaching was added to the mix, increased productivity went up to 88%.
Positive feedback when managed skilfully is also a powerful reinforcer of behaviour, and a well-designed 360-feedback process is an effective tool for encouraging self-awareness. The brain recognises positive strokes as a reason to ‘do more of something’, and the act of focusing attention, supports an individual’s efforts on specific developmental issues.
Clearly, the more we learn about the phenomenon of change, the more effectively we can manage it and benefit, both personally and organisationally.
Lilliana Gibbs is a director of Enthum Coaching www.enthum.com