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Wired for survival: uncovering the brain’s influence on employee engagement

For reasons unknown to me, I am absolutely fascinated by the human brain. Not so much the complexities of the brain’s anatomy and physiology, but rather its predispositions and proclivities, how it triggers emotions and influences our behaviors, and ultimately how it impacts our performance in the workplace. In fact, the incredible information now available about how our brain functions is changing our understanding about leadership and how to create an engaging workplace.

Over my next several blogs, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about the intriguing inner workings of our brain and how we can use this understanding to more effectively improve employee engagement in our organizations. In this first post, let me set the stage with a basic understanding of brain realities.

The human brain is built for SURVIVAL. Therefore, our brains are inherently wired to:

– Minimize or move away from threats and avoid danger

– Maximize rewards

These core motivations drive our emotions and ultimately our behavior.

The wiring of our brain reflects the fact that our early ancestors were constantly exposed to numerous physical threats such as wild animals and unfriendly tribes. They had to constantly be aware of potential dangers and were more likely to survive if they were hyper-vigilant to these vulnerabilities. Therefore the brain developed the capacity and proclivity to constantly stay very alert to potential threats. Survival also depended on things like finding food, bonding with others and being able to depend on other people in the village. Although our ancestors’ day-to-day lives were very different from ours today, our brain is still wired to move away from perceived danger and move towards perceived rewards.

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