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Diane Marentette has over 35 years of experience working in industry and has a bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Texas at El Paso. Most recently, Diane was a Regional Vice President with a large global consulting firm where she opened a key strategic office and integrated the efforts of the 13 western-most states in serving clients effectively. Visit www.patinasolutions.com Alisa Robinson has her Ph.D. from USC and has been working in the field of psychology for over ten years. She studied Cognitive Science at University of California, Irvine and has a particular interest in the brain and human behavior. Alisa also has extensive experience in personality assessment and testing and uses her understanding of human behavior and group dynamics to help organizations function at their best. Visit www.newbrainforbusiness.com Email alisa@newbrainforbusiness.com The Lonely Leader will use it against you. • The people who work for you are cautious in their interactions. You are taken by surprise by people’s reactions or you are confused by what you see people do which is different from what they say. You feel confident that the feedback they give you is filtered. You don’t feel you are really getting the truth about workday experiences. • You are geographically distant from most or all of your team. • You don’t feel that you have any reciprocal relationships at work. In other words, you don’t have relationships at work that leave you feeling recharged or engaged. Most of your interactions with others feel draining. • You find yourself having to solve most, if not all, major problems on your own with no one to bounce ideas off of. • You find yourself living in your brain much of the time, your mind is often racing and you ruminate about problems instead of talking about them. • You are suffering from poor sleep habits. • You feel down, tired or lackluster much of the time. • You feel a lack of connection outside of the workplace. Other relationships are suffering. If you identified with two or more of these experiences, you are likely suffering from isolation and loneliness. Why Does It Matter? The Social Brain Science has shown that the human brain is wired for connection. Our neocortex or New Brain, which is the seat of much of our higher-order processing, is much larger than it is in any other animal. This part of the brain is primed to provide us with the cognitive mechanisms for complex social interactions. Because of this advanced New Brain, we are capable of having many different relationships and having many different types of interactions with others. Research has found that when we are engaged in a mutual relationship, the brain’s pleasure centers are triggered. However, when people feel rejected or isolated, the brain’s pain senses are triggered. In fact, the pain from isolation or broken relationships is similar to physical pain. This social brain is a gift in many ways, and it can also cause problems. When our relationships suffer, we often suffer. Isolation can be painful, in more ways than one. The idea that “everyman is an island to himself ” is not healthy for our brains. So, what happens when people are working in competitive environments that don’t naturally foster mutual relationships where people can be vulnerable and open with one another? Loneliness and isolation naturally set in. When you experience loneliness in this type of environment it is not a choice. You are not choosing to be lonely. You cannot will yourself to not feel isolated. Your brain is reacting without conscious control. Your brain is meant to be connected to others in order to be healthy and complete. It’s not an issue of weakness. It is a matter of brain science. Once you accept that it is natural as a human being to need some amount of connection at work (and outside of work) you can start to do something about the loneliness you are experiencing. Doing something about it will not only help you, but it will probably help your business, too. The Impact on Business What do you imagine happens in companies where there are one or more lonely leaders? Only one lonely executive can send a ripple effect throughout the organization. Because of this, isolation can lead to a company culture in which there is a lack of trust. Employees may be hyper-vigilant to potential threats. This triggers an Old Brain response in which decisions are made out of fear, rather than higher-order problem solving. People start looking out for themselves or their own team. Siloing occurs. Teamwork fades. Micro-managing may increase and the level of anxiety within the company naturally increases, as well. What kind of impact do you think this kind of company environment has on productivity? on innovation? The innovative mind needs to feel some amount of trust in order to function at its best. Now what? An Action Plan You have the power to have a positive impact on your team’s productivity and innovation by addressing loneliness. It starts with you. By addressing your own isolation at work, you will begin to set off a chain reaction that can bring more satisfaction to your job and create a healthier workplace. • Look for opportunities to open up and run ideas by others. Don’t necessarily assume that you can’t do this, even though it may feel awkward or uncomfortable. Take it in small doses, and listen carefully. The more you are able to connect to the thinking and ideas of others, the more connection you will make with them, which is the antidote for loneliness. • Be open, yet kind in how you give feedback to the people you work with. Your honesty and forthright approach can wear off on others. The more you demonstrate to others that you care about their success and want to help them, the more of a connection you will make with them. • Imagine how you want your work environment to be, and set specific goals for your own interaction with others to shape that environment. Set the trend in the direction you want it to go. You can start by talking about how you want things to be, but taking action that demonstrates it will have even a stronger effect. To paraphrase a common quote, “Be the change you want to see in the workplace.” • If you are geographically distant from others, find ways of connecting with them. The more you can have face-to-face and voice-to-voice connections, the more impact you will have and the more you will benefit. Make it a priority. Avoid working in isolation. • Seek a trusted advisor, whether within your company or as an external coach. Look for someone with whom you can talk openly and with trust. This connection alone can break the bond of loneliness enough to begin making a real difference. The Harvard Business Review reported in 2010 that 92% of executives value external coaches. Relying on an outside consultant can vastly improve your job satisfaction and company performance. We know this, because this is what we do! LE 37 leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014


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