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Dec10
What You Expect Steers How You Lead

Leaders build new neuron pathways  for good or bad at work, based on expectations about new possibilities that remain open. 

Consider brain based facts behind a leader’s expectations…

Expectations, it turns out, really do make a difference

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It's true that if all a leader holds is a hammer in mind, most everything will look like a nail. Ever been hit? Similarly, when people focus on problems, they tend to miss possibilities. You see it in leaders who forget to laugh, or who blame others for difficulties they face.

Conversely, different chemical reactions form in the mind of an optimistic leader, so that the human brain reboots to create a cognitive map for possibilities, even when life throws a curveball. Remember Martin Luther King’s vision for improvement…?  I’ve worked with leaders can say – as King said… “I’ve been to the mountain top and I’ve seen God….there is no turning back…” Sure … King ended up paying the highest cost for his dream … yet it’s one that continues to add hope to a universe.

Expect failure and studies show you’ll likely flunk

In a news story from my Alma Mater –the University of British Columbia, reported at CNN.Com that expectations matter more than once thought - when it comes to math

Women who expected to do well in spite of genetic difference in math ability,

outperformed those who expected females to do less well. In fact the women who did better in math tests landed nearly twice as many correct answers, as those in other groups, according to Steven J. Heine,  psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Hmmm….

Adventure follows those who anticipate wonder through questions

While in Chile leading a conference about the human brain,  I was struck with a poet’s sense of curiosity and creativity, during a tour of Neruda’s home in Val Perizo. Later my hosts presented me with Pablo Neruda’s famous Book of Questions, which inspired a few of my own. Looking for adventure for your day? Why not ask a question that prepares your brain to embrace an adventure that matches what you care about most? I asked … How much does a cloud weigh? How old is the oldest computer? How much does spam cost? Who’s leading the industry in customer satisfaction? How can pictures play with your mind? Could a gravity powered aircraft fly with no fuel?  

Count on a great golf score and watch that next game improve

Out on the golf course last week, one guy on our team told himself he was a terrible golfer this season,  and every shot that followed proved his point. None of us who knew what that "I can't" voice was doing to his swings, expected much from Mark as he continued to shank balls into trees and swear about his shots. What does your inner voice tell you about your situation? Change your  predictions, and new opportunities seem to increase serotonin, and decrease cortisol to your brain for a new golf adventure.  It’s as simple as changing that little voice inside your head to make room for more success for a new adventure.

Expect anything from your adult kids and you can count on the opposite

Studies show that work goes better for those who expect the best from adult kids,  and yet research also warns not to manipulate to reach expectations. Oops….  In several best selling books, researcher Deborah Tannen shows how we constantly give meta-messages to adult kids, that leave them feeling frustrated rather than friendly. Meta-messages may seem to hide between our words, but adult kids hear them as if they shouted through a megaphone. Say I’m so glad you finally came, and they hear, ‘You’re neglecting me again. Tell them, I like your hair that way and they hear, I hate the way you usually wear your hair. Ask them, Didn’t you wear that suit last time you spoke? and they hear, How come you don’t wear something new?

Count on motivation today and you’ll tap into extravagant brainpower

While there is no magic formula for motivating ourselves as leaders… those who do so … tend to reap huge rewards…. When Henry David Thoreau said …  "Things do not change, we change… “ he was really referring to the extravagant brainpower within motivation. Motivated leaders differ from bored counterparts by the way they value their own and others’ abilities, try new approaches to solve old problems, stay with projects even after others leave, and refuse to share their dreams with skeptics.

Look forward to others doing well and acquaintances soon become friends

Did you know that when we criticize ... slip in poor tone ... or hit on people’s problems  … we add cortisol to a person’s day? In contrast…  whenever we find something to encourage or suggest a solution … we add serotonin all around? Ok, what do you see that’s worth a few encouraging jabs in the ribs at work today? Or what problem do you face that’s worth a stab at solving for those around you?

What you anticipate impacts what you remember too

Emotional experiences … we already know … are easier to remember than routine or everyday events. Jack Nitschke,  professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is pictured here with a computer-projected image of a human brain.  He and other researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered that anticipation of a fearful situation can spark two specific memory-forming regions of the brain - even before that event has

Since your brain rewires nightly as you sleep, you can reboot it for leadership success, simply by aligning what you expect in the evening and then look forward to finding more of it the next day.


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