Archive for ◊ May, 2016 ◊

• Saturday, May 28th, 2016


We all have to deal with pressure in some form. Sometimes we do it well and other times not. But if you want to know what works according to the science, then read on.

You know the feeling: You have a massive deadline to hit, and you can’t think straight. You have an exam that is making you nervous, or you have to give a presentation that could make or break your career. Or… you’re just trying to keep your cool when someone is being incredibly frustrating. Maybe you get a feeling in your stomach, or your hands start to shake, or you feel like your head is about to explode. What do you do?

Do you tell yourself it’s going to be alright?
Do you give yourself a good talking to: “C’mon, you got this!”.
Or do you start with some negative self-talk explaining why you’re going to fail?

Well, here’s something you can do that’s simple. And it works.

A recent study looked at university students who suffered crippling performance anxiety before exams. In the test, they gave the students a test under no pressure at all and then did a re-test in a high pressure environment.

The students were allocated to two groups: Before the high pressure test, Group 1 did nothing at all, while Group 2 wrote a short paragraph expressing their emotions.

The re-test results, in the high pressure situation, showed that Group 1 (that did nothing), suffered their usual anxiety and consequently dropped around 7-10% in their performance. But Group 2 (expressing their emotion) increased anywhere between 5-10%. They didn’t just match their previous scores – they exceeded them.

This concept of ‘Labelling’, which simply involves giving your emotions a name, is one of the most effective things we can do to control our emotions under pressure. It seems that this simple analytical activity can start to quiet the Emotional Brain, so that our Thinking Brain can get on with the work it needs to do.

But the key here is being succinct. Don’t go on for pages and pages and hours and hours of telling everyone how bad you are feeling. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to help.

• Thursday, May 19th, 2016


You have to reward and recognise people. It’s how we drive engagement but more importantly, it’s how we reinforce behaviours. But how do we do it effectively? We think it’s the big things that matter but the research tells us something completely different.

The Dopamine Response

The Dopamine Response is a measure of how much something means to someone. Dopamine is our feel-good chemical: it signals motivation and reward, and people will change behaviour to get a dopamine buzz. In fact, drug addicts aren’t technically addicted to the substance, they are addicted to the dopamine they get as a response to the substance. Give people enough dopamine, and you begin to change their behaviours and get them wanting to engage in more of the same behaviour to get the same response.

When we give people money, obviously dopamine goes up. But from here on things get interesting:If we keep giving people the same amount of money, this dopamine response decreases over time.

Give someone a $500 reward and they get a big buzz. Give them a $500 reward again and they experience a smaller buzz. Give people the same reward a number of times and this ‘feel good’ response decreases and decreases even further.

You see, we start to ‘desensitise’ to the money. The only way to keep the big buzz is to keep increasing the amount of money you give. That’s all well and good if you’ve got a bottomless pit of money to give to your staff.

Social Rewards

On the flip side, we don’t have the same problem with social rewards. We can give social rewards over and over again, with no drop off in that feel-good chemical. In fact, in one study with children, saying ‘good job’ to a child in front of the family gave the same dopamine response as giving them a material gift.

So use social rewards whenever possible. When your team hits their targets, take them out for lunch or a fun activity. Give positive recognition for individual achievements in front of the group, or make people look good by emailing the senior manager.

These are some simple things that will greatly boost the sense of achievement of your staff. Social rewards increase performance and build a great team atmosphere.

To watch the video click here