A hit of dopamine and sprinkling of oxytocin

Something that stood out for me when reading Simon Sinek’s ‘Leaders East Last’ was the section on chemicals in the body. In my previous organisation, my team was fortunate to be offered lots of fantastic opportunities which I encouraged them to take. This often pushed them out of their comfort zones, creating powerful feelings of challenge and achievement.

We had also introduced new organisational values at that time which encouraged ambition and, I felt, self-service. Whilst family and togetherness was the essence of one of the values, the others were in danger of encouraging competition amongst the team and whilst I want my teams to be driven, in this situation it felt like the balance was in danger of tipping in the wrong direction.

As I read the book, I realised that my team were high on dopamine and endorphins most of the time which feels great when you’re up but have a tendency to throw you down after the initial surge and make you want to chase the buzz these chemicals provide.

The opportunities in my area of work were amazing and we were all pleased to be able to enjoy this aspect but I did often feel exhausted by the highs and lows I experienced. The book also describes these chemicals as ‘selfish chemicals’ which push us to make progress but sometimes at the expense of others.

Sinek describes another two chemicals – serotonin and oxytocin – which are ‘selfless chemicals’. These chemicals encourage the strengthening of social bonds, foster connection and allow us to work together. I realised we needed more of these and I started to think of ways to introduce them.

My solution took the form of awards which provided recognition to those who went the extra mile. Not just in their work but in what they did for others. Achieving in this space provided the warm, fuzzy feeling we had been lacking, encouraging appreciation of each other and making people want to give back so others could share the love.

This idea operated on two levels – one for my team on a monthly basis and one for the organisation as part of our annual conference. The awards allowed colleagues to say thank you to each other for doing something nice which took the focus away from business results just for a moment. They rewarded the personal achievements like resilience, team work and being supportive.

It made the difference we needed. I didn’t put an end to the highs and who would want to? A dopamine rush is pretty amazing! But it did mean there was a little bit more of the cuddle drug flying around to create a sense of harmony.

Click here for a summary of Simon Sinek’s ‘Leaders Eat Last’.

Click here to watch Sinek explain the concept in person.

Or buy the book here: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

3minuteleadership.org

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