April 30, 2014 in Events (live blogging), CIPD L&D Show 2014

#cipdLDshow – Neuroscience – investigating the science of effective leadership & performance

Dr. Jacqui Grey, NeuroLeadership Institute


In opening the session, Jacqui reminded us that there is a vast body of research on neuroscience even though the area is new and new findings are still emerging.


NeuroLeadership is the neuroscience of how leaders make decisions/solve problems, regulate emotions, collaborate with others, lead change.


It is recognised that leaders today face many challenges and that we have to deal with a massive amount of noise, do a day job, and ‘be’ loads of other things as well (role model good behaviour, drive strategy, develop other people, be authentic, be resilient, lead change, live out the values, value diversity – and lots of other things besides!).


We all perceive the world through our own filters, and most leaders admit that they have misinterpreted a situation due to their own filters. Our filters come from both nature and nurture.


A 1996 study suggested that feedback either does nothing (or makes things worse) 59% of the time and improves performance only 41% of the time. Most training on performance management has focused on how to deliver the sessions.


Carol Dweck’s work on fixed and growth mindsets was cited:


fixed mindset – less learning from mistakes, fixates on negative feedback and finds it difficult to learn from mistakes

growth mindset – more learning from mistakes


Juniper networks has done away with performance management and all managers have been trained in having quality conversations, with managers having very regular discussions (including performance ones) with their staff.


There are two key parts to the brain; the Prefrontal Cortex and the Limbic system.


The SCARF model is one of the foundational models of neuroleadership and is based on threat and reward.

Status – this isn’t just how important you feel, it is how we rate ourselves against other people.

Certainty – which is often an issue during periods of change when the future is uncertain

Autonomy can be a challenge when changes happen which reduce our autonomy

Relatedness – our need to be accepted as part of ‘the group’



Even small threats can pack a punch; research at UCLA had people complete a paper maze with one group having a picture of an owl swooping on the maze. After the maze, both groups were given a creativity test and the people with the picture of the owl did much worse, the conclusion being that even a tiny threat can have an impact on our performance (even if we don’t notice it at the time).


Brain research can help us to prepare for things, it can help us to regulate our behaviour during events, and it can help us to make sense of what has happened.


There are some good resources on SCARF in the NeuroLeadership Journal: http://www.davidrock.net/files/NLJ_SCARFUS.pdf



Live-blogged from a session at CIPD L&D Show – 30th April 2014

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