The Neurobiology of High-Performance Management

I read a very interesting article recently, describing the neurobiological explanation of high-performance management. It claims that meaningful challenges provide motivation, energy, and connection to the employees especially when those problems relate to the employees' interests and values.  It went on to describe how the naturally occurring chemicals in our bodies can help or hinder our performance at work.

Epinephrine (adrenaline) is a hormone that is released by the body in response to the need to concentrate on the challenging tasks at hand. It increases blood flow to major organs to keep us focused and attentive to details and to consequently perform at a peak level.

Dopamine is a chemical that triggers the internal reward system and makes us feel good about ourselves. It increases optimism, camaraderie, and sociability. It is released after achieving a significant goal and is further increased if the achieved goal was a team endeavor. 

Cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone, is meant to offer protection and help us to be more alert and avoid dangers. Fear triggers cortisol release. However, chronic exposure to cortisol is damaging to our physical and mental health.

The effects Dopamine typically lasts around 2 to 4 hours while cortisol can last up to 24 hours or longer when negativity (danger) is prolonged or constant. 

These hormones come into play when employees are engaged. For employees to perform at their peak, research shows that they need to receive more positive than negative feedback. Roughly five positives (comments, encouragement, positive social interactions, etc.) should be given for every negative comment. This is important for employees to feel appreciated, fairly treated or engaged. Constructive criticisms increase attention, focus, self-worth, and self-esteem, thanks to the hormones mentioned earlier.

How Does This Translate to Effective Management Practice?

Meaningful challenges that trigger epinephrine, dopamine and the right amount of cortisol can provide motivation, energy, and connection which allow employees to excel and be more productive. This is especially true if the challenges are tied to the employees' values and interests.

Achieving those challenges increases employee motivation and engagement in the workplace.
For peak performance, managers need to create an environment where positive feedback outweighs the negative and where the focus is on employees' accomplishments.
The emphasis put on the positive does not mean that the employees' shortcomings and inadequacies should be overlooked, especially when patient safety is at stake. It only means that if at all possible, provide positive feedback on what was done excellently along with counseling and mentoring to address areas of improvement. 

Tools that can provide a built-in rewards system for tasks that meet standards or completed on time can go a long way to release those happy and focus-generating hormones. ManageUP has one of those tools that use gamification techniques to automatically reward employees for completing key tasks in a timely fashion thus, increasing productivity and employee engagement.  







"Every Voice Matters: The Bottom Line on Employee and Physician Engagement"July 12, 2015 Press Ganey

"Employee Engagement" Gallup Topic 

"Caught in the Act!...of doing something right: A neurobiological approach to high performance managment."  by Michael McIntosh, April 5, 2016