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The importance of Neuroscience in learning and leading within your business

Mirror neurons were first discovered by scientists in 1992 accidentally whilst conducting experiments on monkeys.  Scientists were mapping sensorimotor areas of the brain with laser-thin electrodes placed on individual brain cells.

One afternoon a scientist returned to the labs with an ice cream. They were astonished to see that whenever the scientist consumed the ice cream, the distinct set of cells within the monkey’s brain activated upon merely witnessing the scientist or fellow monkey consume ice cream.

This revealed the discovery of mirror neurons located in the premotor cortex adjacent to motor neurons. The same mirror neurons are activated when we mentally rehearse a golf swing or witness someone wiping a tear away. These mirror neurons map the identical information from what we observe onto our own motor neurons, allowing us to mimic actions, read intentions and emotions and understand the social implications of ones actions and even develop mentors or idols. The same happens when we are expectant of a pin prick for example. Our mirror neurons anticipate an action or feeling.

Mirror neurons are said to be the bridge of human connectedness. Humans are social animals and an understanding of mirror neurons and social intelligence could bring about the relationships we need within our personal or work lives.

We have witnessed how effective a leader can be when there is an understanding of his employees and the organisation’s needs. Giving employees a meaningful belonging in turn creates successful relationships. The same is applicable for students and teachers. A teacher can learn to make a student feel accepted within a group and help him adapt to different learning conditions.

Emotional intelligence is a key component for developing successful relationships. Where teams can work effectively together there are less setbacks and a higher level of motivation. Neuroscience researchers have discovered remarkable attributes present in our brains and with the correct guidance we can channel our emotional intelligence skills in order to grow personally and therefore grow a business.

It is widely accepted that it is possible to develop emotional and social intelligence competencies however one-day workshops do not work. The EQ consortium has provided guidelines for the training of EQ competencies.

Emotional incompetence often results from habits learned early in life.  These automatic habits are set in place as a normal part of living, as experience shapes the brain.  As people acquire their habitual repertoire of thought, feeling and action, the neural connections that support these are strengthened, becoming dominant pathways for nerve impulses.  Connections that are unused become weakened.  Emotional capacities like empathy or flexibility differ from cognitive abilities because they draw on different brain areas.  Purely cognitive abilities are based in the neocortex.  But with emotional and social competencies, additional brain areas are involved mainly the circuitry that runs from the emotional centres – particularly the amygdala – deep in the centre of the brain up to the prefrontal lobes, the brain’s executive centre.  Effective learning for emotional competence has to re-tune these circuits.  Motivational factors also make social and emotional learning more difficult and complex than purely cognitive learning.  What this means for social and emotional learning is that one must first unlearn old habits and then develop new ones.  For the learner, this usually means a long and sometimes difficult process involving much practice.  Therefore one-day seminars just won’t do it.

There are four phases that one has to go through to ensure a change within emotional intelligence.

These are:

Phase 1 Preparation for change.

Phase 2 Coaching.

In social and emotional learning, the relationship between the coach and learner is critical.  Therefore coaches who are empathetic, warm and authentic, which are, of course EQ competencies are more likely to develop positive relationships with participants in behavior change programmes.

Phase 3 Transfer and maintenance

Reinforcement and encouragement are critical in ensuring effective emotional intelligence training. Many environmental cues trigger old undesired behaviours however with proper guidance this can be prevented

Phase 4 Evaluating change

The IE Groups coaching staff have years of experience in developing social intelligence amongst South Africa’s top leaders and ensuring their effectiveness in a personal or work related capacity. Contact us today to learn how to perfect your own personal brand.