Evolving Workplaces: Busy Brains of BusinessSep 29, 2022
Just preparing for writing this article, I was super stuck in my head. What is the problem? How can I think about it? How should I present it? What should I do? I had to stop and quiet my head so I could hear the real reflection from my heart.
Our thinking brains are like a crack in a windshield. All it takes is one small, tiny rock to leave a dent or small crack in the windshield. But if we don’t call the windshield doctor right away, that crack will spread and sooner or later over time the whole window will become cracked. We will be unable to see where we are going through all the cracks. When we stay focused in our heads and ignore the emotion, identity, need for connection, and safety needs of employees, we create these little cracks. They don’t have to be big dramatic moments. Rather, it is all the collective small moments that create major consequences.
Let’s take a moment to just consider the challenges we are talking about here.
What is weighing on your mind right? What do you think about?
We all, no matter who you are or what role you’re in, carry a tremendous load around with us all the time. Some of these things are real, some are stories we tell ourselves. Others are self-inflicted suffering.
I want you to take just a moment and write down or think about all the things that are weighing on your mind. Your assignment, your customer, your fight with your spouse, your kid’s challenges at school, your boss is [fill in the blank for yourself], your fears about the world and the war in Russia/Ukraine, so on and so forth.
Now, I want you to write down the things that are weighing down on you about yourself – things that you think or worry about. Some examples might be:
- Am I doing a good enough job?
- Am I good mother or spouse?
- Did my boss like my work?
- Is my opinion important?
- Will I ever be happy?
My gosh! Can you feel that load you are carrying with you? Have you considered how much you are holding onto in your head, heart, and body at any given moment in time?
Our heads hear and experience things, our hearts feel things, and our bodies hold onto them to deal with later… everyone does this. This is what is meant by the "human condition". Everyone carries these things. Everyone struggles with their reactions and feelings in response to experiences. It is literally what is meant by having the human experience. There is no right or wrong, good, or bad, it literally just is.
All this “stuff” that is created by your head clouds our ability to effectively reflect and integrate valuable insights into our lives.
Action: I want you to put this load down. I just want you to take a deep breath and put it on the floor next to you (or throw it across the room if that feels better!) But put it down so that you can be present here in this moment and hopefully take away something of value to help you with that load.
What do workplaces need from their people? We need our people to show up, do their best work, to serve (internal and external customers) to the best of their ability, and to go home come back and do it again the next day. It's simple, right?
What gets in the way of people doing this?
Think of all the reasons why someone might not be able to so what we need them to do. Things like there is too much to do, not enough people, not enough supplies, tough customers, no time, etc. Feel free to add to this list as you see fit.
What happens because of these challenges?
How does our people's inability to do what we need them to impact work? How does it impact the employees? What about customers?
Often, there are feelings of exhaustion, frustration, overwhelmingness. There could be drama, complaining, finger-pointing, blaming and even sometimes shaming. These behaviors indicate something I like to call, “falling into the hole” and once we're there, it is really easy to get stuck! It's easy to keep doing these behaviors that prevent us from climbing out of the hole and moving forward. This is the human condition – every single person falls into the hole from time to time.
Why do people fall into the hole?
It's the human condition. Because life is hard, I wouldn’t blame anyone for falling into a hole after all we deal with. When we are not able to stay coherent and present, when we argue with our reality or resist the present, we get stuck - unable to move forward or make any progress so we stay in our holes!
How do people typically respond to these limitations and challenges?
We try to respond with our head – to think our way out of our “problems”. But the problem with this approach is that these challenges are not really “problems” – they are just our current state of existence and our response to them is the human condition. When we start to think about problems, our brains start to create reasons, stories, and excuses to explain why we're experiencing the issue. We say things like...
- This is a problem because… (there's not enough people, not enough supplies, time etc.).
- This is happening because … (They didn’t do what they should have done, etc.).
- I couldn’t do it because… (I don’t have time, I’m exhausted, etc.).
We can end up spending all our time “thinking” about how to change, fix, connect, critique, improve, develop…do something. We know from research our focus becomes our reality – if we stay focused on thinking about the problem, then it becomes our reality, and it may not need to be our reality. And our beliefs impact our reality – whatever we believe to be possible or impossible we will be right!
There are no perfect circumstances – so we can’t solve or eliminate all problems!
Why do people respond this way?
What is causing us to get stuck in our heads? We are using only one of our three “brains” because this is typically the one we’re more comfortable with. If we can just “solve” the issue with what we “know” then we think we can resolve it.
What do you mean “one of our three brains”? I was lucky to have gone through a training called mBraining or mBIT – Multiple Brain Integration Techniques. This training had just instructed me on this topic and how we have multiple brains or intelligences. Here is just a bit of what I learned…
We actually have neural networks in more places in our bodies than just in our heads. Traditionally we think of the “brain” as the one we find in our heads. But we also have these same networks in our hearts, our gut, and even our nervous system.
Why does this cause us to get stuck? When we only use our brains, we are trying to “think” our way out of our challenges. But many of our workplace challenges are actually related to our emotions/relationships or our “heart brain,” or our identity/instinct/safety or our “gut brain.” If we want to move through our challenges, we will have to consider how to use them all.
What are some examples of what this looks like? Let’s start with emotions – they are often the root cause of our being “stuck in the hole”. When we experience a challenge, we often also experience a feeling. If we don’t understand the feeling and why we are feeling it, we can become stuck. It’s easier to point a finger than to acknowledge our own emotional struggle that is causing the frustration.
How do we see this show up in businesses?
The head brain is at a minimum the most valued brain if not the only brain used to face challenges and issues in the workplace. We often see examples of where people are discouraged from trusting their gut or following their feelings – instead we champion data, information, analytics over feelings, emotions and instincts.
What are the business challenges of being in our brains?
We ignore Emotions and therefore, our Hearts
We respond to challenges with “how to solve the problem” rather than supporting a person in working through the challenge to a solution themselves. We tend to ignore or avoid dealing with issues that are emotional in the workplace. We become uncomfortable with the display of emotions – passion, frustration, anger, joy, sadness, hurt, fear, etc.
We fail to connect to those we work with
Because we are so busy getting stuff done, we have no time for small talk or connection. We're typically hurrying from meeting to meeting, rushing through any chatting and failing to get to know one another. Simply put, there just isn't enough time for building relationships during the day. Activities like team lunches, dinners, and outside work events become something we see as a hinderance to our performance. Additionally, for years it has been tabooed to have personal conversations with your peers. Personal questions remain surface level and are not meaningful or heartfelt.
Workplaces lack Inclusion
We have a tendency to dismiss or not consider different experiences of people (e.g., different holidays people celebrate, etc.). We may say “to be a leader you must…” or “to be in sales you must…” suggesting there is a sort of mold one must fit into in order to be successful in a particular role. These behaviors may be excluding some from the culture or environment without us even realizing it.
Additionally, traditional approaches to development focus on the weaknesses of individuals and what’s wrong rather than their strengths and how they can leverage those in their work. Our brains have been programmed to "fix" what's wrong with people and dismiss individual identity as opposed to appreciating the differences within us and their value.
Create Unsafe Environments
Being in our brains can also reflect political or religious environments people have been a part of where it is unsafe to be different. These cultures can trigger various fears – rejection, belonging, failure, change, retaliation.
We prevent employees from responding with their gut. Instead, we teach them to follow process and policy designed precisely perfectly. But in reality, the challenges they face cannot be all predetermined. Instead, discernment is needed. Only a human can connect with their multiple intelligences in order to do what feels right - to trust their gut and when a policy says they should not. There are complex decisions that require more than just our thinking – they require our feeling and our being. We often think we know better – that there is one right answer; that every problem must have a solution; that every challenge must have a path to success. However, that is not always the case.
People get stuck
Without moving through challenges, people become stuck unable to evolve and grow. Furthermore, without support they are left to bury their issues rather than resolve them, so they revert to the same patterns of complaining, venting, blaming, etc., which is unproductive and ineffective.
What's the alternative?
We know being in our head brains has a negative impact on people in business. But what is the alternative? How can businesses do things differently to navigate these real challenges facing our workplaces?
We must incorporate the heart and gut brains into our business practices to create an engaging environment and experience for our people. We have to focus on how the business is executed - how it feels, looks, and the cultural experience people have interacting with and working within the business. We want to be using all three of our brains all the time to create the best outcomes in our workplaces and our businesses.
Check out the Evolving to Exceptional Podcast Episode that talks about this topic more in depth here!
To get you started, here are some resources Evolving to Exceptional has to offer:
(1) Take our FREE course on Creating Exceptional Work & Life Experiences
(2) Purchase and read the book The Exceptional Life R-Evolution - available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible. You get a free workbook and course with the purchase of the book!
(3) Check out our Free Resources page for workbooks and guides to get you started.
(4) Check out our Peak Performance Certification Program
(5) Listen to the Evolving to Exceptional Podcast to hear our series on "Evolving Workplaces" from the old corporate machines of the past into new living beings!
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