From what we’ve learned so far, we know that to raise performance anywhere, we need to be able to choose to be At Cause.
We’ve also learned about the affects of five important neurotransmitters: Dopamine (pleasure), Serotonin (happiness), Cortisol (stress), Adrenaline (fear), Anandamide (Peace and Joy).
We need to know about four additional Neurotransmitters in your brain’s “cocktail bar”: Oxytocin (love, trust), Vasopressin (attachment), Endorphins (resilience) and Acetylcholine (focus).
Stay with me, because I am coming back to the impact on your leadership and performance improvement @work. Meantime, let’s talk about love:
Love, often confused with joy or happiness (and sometimes pleasure) is a combination of two things: Attachment and Attraction:
Attachment is tied to the neurotransmitters Oxytocin and Vasopressin. Oxytocin is known as the “love and trust” chemical. It’s responsible for increasing the bonding between a mother and her new born, and for that trusting relationship bond with a colleague or team member.
Vasopressin’s effects are less well understood but it appears to be gender specific. For men, Vasopressin is believed to make men more suspicious, even aggressive, towards novel males. Thus a new male joining the team may be viewed with more suspicion by the other males in the team.
In contrast, for women, it appears that Vasopressin makes them friendlier towards novel women.
When you enjoy doing something, you are attracted to it, which makes you feel “happy” with a cascade of Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin.
You can see why feeling attracted to someone or something can easily get confused with fear mixed with pleasure mixed with happiness! Explains a lot that I wish I’d known when puberty struck!
It’s also why attraction can also cause a lack of appetite (your digestive tract got shut down in the fear response!) and a loss of sleep (which is affected by Serotonin).
As you do things well and get into your “zone” or in your “flow”, your performance improves thanks to the additional cascade of Anandamides and Endorphins.
Endorphins are your brain’s natural pain killers. They are released to help cope when your body feels pain or stress. You can get a boost of these through exercise or any demanding activity.
Performance improvement @work
Ok, we’ve got the necessary foundational understanding.
When you do something that matters to you, you are attachedto it (Oxytocin and Vasopressin).
When you do something that you enjoy, you are attracted to it and just a little fearful (Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin).
Then you get into your zone or flow or your high performancestate (Anandamides and Endorphins).
You stay focused on task because the dopamine high mixed with a little fear to make it an exciting challenge triggers Acetylcholine - and signals your Reticular Activating System (RAS) to focus attention on the task at hand.
These eight neurochemicals significantly enhance performance and is addictive (scientists prefer to use the word “autotelic”). Hence we experience “flow” in our performance and we will go out of our way to re-experience it. Basically, we increase our own intrinsic motivation and inspiration to continually enhance our own performance!
AND there’s more! These chemicals also augment the creative process and pattern recognition. Oxytocin and Vasopressin disregulate your Neo-cortex, widening your self perspective, liberating your mind to new thoughts and feelings. Making us more creative and faster in how we do things!
Command and Control leaders should be aware that, in contrast, fear narrows perspective and inhibits performance and increases distress further degrading performance!
Which would you choose?