Being in charge doesn’t always mean you’re actually in charge. Dr. Henry Cloud, says too many times, leaders are failing because they’re not setting the right boundaries and they’re not engaging with their employees brains. That’s right they may be surrounded by a lot of brain power, but they’re not connecting with or powering their employees brains. Cloud is a clinical psychologist, leadership consultant and author of more than 20 books including his newest release, “Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge."
His new book draws from the latest findings from neuroscience (the science that deals with the structure and function of the brain and the nervous system.) That research shows executives who can understand how to tap into the brains of their employees are actually doing better l because their employees can actually process and get behind what’s being asked of them.
Another important finding, those bosses who can successfully connect with their employees’ brains have done so on an intellectual and emotional level, thus forging a bond. Cloud says if a leader has been able to forge a positive connection, employees will invest in them and follow them.
“For the brain to accomplish anything, there are three things: It's got to pay attention to what is relevant, it has to inhibit everything else, and it has to keep a working memory of that. You know, when you drive your car, you’ve got to pay attention to the traffic, you can't be texting, and you’ve got to know where you are.”
In an interview with Off the Cuff, Dr. Cloud says the brain thrives on control and goes into high performance mode when it feels like it is in control but he cautions, “what leaders have got to do is be very careful about defining what people have total control over that's directly tied to results, and then empowering them and letting them go to do that. It’s when they either don't define that well and people are kind of lost and don't understand what they're in control of, or when the leaders step in and take control and ‘Micromanage,’ or usurp somebody's role or authority, that's when people begin to daze out from the brain side.”
Usurping or micromanaging by a manager, is overstepping boundaries and can be lethal to a team and confuses the brain. Boundaries, he says, provide structure, and structure is essential in building anything that thrives. “What leaders are doing by not setting the right boundaries is they're either confusing their people, or they're demotivating their people, or they're doing a lot of things that actually make them unable to follow them and get the very results they're wanting.”
Cloud also says that science is showing there are real pay-offs in those so-called “soft skills” and that in order to truly get in the brain of employees, you have to build a good relationship. But before you think this is a call for a kumbaya, Cloud says to get inside someone’s brain you have to instill a little fear – the right kind of fear.
“If you're running an accounting firm, it's really good to fear April 15th, because if we don't get it done by then, bad things happen…but that's different than the threat to a person. “
Cloud says the upper brain does all the “good stuff” like creating and planning, problem-solving and reaching goals. But the lower brain kicks in when we feel some sort of danger like when people are threatened physically or financially.
“The lower brain operates, basically, when we're in some sort of a danger. When leaders threaten people with anger and rage and control and all this toxic stuff, then the higher brain shuts down and the lower brain, fight or flight begins to kick in.”
So if you want to be heard and you want to lead, remember what your mother told you, mind that tone. Cloud says if someone feels threatened their brain shuts down and shuts out what you’re saying. It’s like you really are talking to the wall.
"Even though somebody may be nodding, what they're doing is they're fighting you inside.” Once that happens an employee can’t give you what you want, they shut down preventing them from being a top performer or they decide to flee and leave the company."
Bottom line; it’s not brain surgery. Cloud says if you want the best out of your people give them structure, a clear focus and direction but these must coexist with setting measurable goals. “A leader's got to be able to provide structure, where people know where they're headed. They got to know focus and direction.”