A Human-Centred, No-Nonsense Approach to Leadership.

There is not a single company on the planet that grows sustainably without an engaged workforce. Without the commitment of its employees, any business’ success is temporary at best.

What does it take to have an engaged workforce? What makes people commit personally to company goals, and contribute with all of their creativity? Something as familiar as mythical: intrinsic motivation. Research suggests that every human being is motivated for personal growth, in particular when they identify personally with ambitious goals that they perceive as just barely achievable. It also reveals that every human can demonstrate strong creative abilities when it feels safe for them to experiment and think out of the box. 

If engagement and creativity are such fundamental human characteristics, how come so many people fail to experience them at work? Why do they revert to “doing as they are told only”, feeling disconnected, apathetic even? What’s holding those people back? We believe they lack a sense of control over complex activities. Many people experience complexity as daunting, and that’s a big motivation and creativity killer. It doesn’t have to be that way. People who are able to maintain a sense of mastery tend to thrive and even enjoy complex challenges. They see unexpected events as new opportunities and mishaps as learning opportunities. A great salesperson, for example, may enjoy targeting unlikely prospects and closing deals with tough customers, seeing these as challenges, not threats.

So what’s holding those people back? We believe they lack a sense of control over complex activities.

Mastery builds on complex skills beyond the traditional ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ ones, such as taking in feedback, navigating through uncertainty and learning from controlled experiments. Such skills don’t come naturally as innate traits, and they cannot be learned and executed as reproducible recipes. Instead, people develop them mainly through on-the-job practice and by drawing inspiration from more experienced people.

So if complex skills develop over time and on the job, how can people acquire and adapt their skillset when their job context changes fast? Can product developers who have been working in large projects throughout their professional career, adopt  an ‘Agile mindset’? Can line managers become ‘servant leaders’ or ‘host leaders’ while their previous job descriptions included being in total control and giving ‘their’ people instructions? The short answer: absolutely.

Neuroscience research is unveiling how our brain performs complex activities and what it needs to do that effectively; how it deals with change and how it learns new behaviours. While every human being is highly complex and unique, the underlying brain patterns observed through neuroimaging are remarkably similar. Human behaviour can be quite irrational, but it is far from unpredictable. Everything we think, feel and do, relates to objectively observable brain activity. That doesn’t mean neuroscientists can explain the full human psyche – let alone predict it, but they do offer tremendously valuable hints on how we can make most effective use of our brain patterns, rather than fight them. 

That’s what we do at &&BEYOND. We craft solutions to complex workplace challenges, drawing from many years of brain research. Instead of spreading techniques and models that make sense intuitively, we integrate findings from objective observations of brain activity. We do that because, surprisingly, the things that brain imaging reveals often contradict conventional wisdom.

Too many people see leadership as a matter of trial&error, reproducing what worked before and copy&pasting what they picked up along the way and read in books. They act like construction workers without engineering architects.  

Too many people see leadership as a matter of trial&error, reproducing what worked before and copy&pasting what they picked up along the way and read in books. They act like construction workers without engineering architects. 

If we wouldn’t build bridges without fully understanding the applicable laws of nature (i.e. physics), why do we manage people without understanding the applicable laws of human nature, i.e. neuroscience? Quite simply, because we had to. Until now. It’s time to step up and engineer our workplaces for real, lasting growth.