Talent and the Brain – it Grows!

The War for Talent. Something of a buzz phrase for many years and a phrase that will be around for some time yet. Globally, we are still figuring out how to find, engage and retain great talent in the market. Why does it seem so hard? Let me give you some insights into how to engage and motivate talent from a neuroscience lens.

Recently I read a remarkable – even inspiring book on Talent called the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. What immediately resonated to me about this book was not only is it about something I am rather passionate about; the world of Talent; it’s about how talent grows in the brain and how you can grow more of it.

The Brain and Neuroscience; let’s begin there.

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, advances the understanding of human thought, emotion, and behaviour. Neuroscientists use tools ranging from computers to special dyes to examine molecules, nerve cells, circuits, brain systems, and behaviour. From these studies, they learn how the nervous system develops and functions normally and what goes wrong in neurological disorders.

What is the mind? Why do people feel emotions? These are among the many mysteries being unravelled by neuroscientists. Forget about discovering what is happening in outer space, it’s all about the inner space!

Now, humans contain roughly 100 billion neurons, the functional units of the nervous system. Neurons communicate with each other by sending electrical signals long distances and then releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters, which cross, synapses — small gaps between neurons.

The nervous system consists of two main parts. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes the nerves that serve the neck and arms, trunk, legs, skeletal muscles and internal organs.

Critical components of the nervous system are molecules, neurons, and the processes within and between cells. These are organized into large neural circuits and systems controlling functions such as vision, hearing, learning, and breathing and, ultimately, all of human behaviour – including human emotional and cognitive functions.

What does Neuroscience mean for Talent? By understanding the human brain and in turn; behaviours, we can truly understand our people – our talent. What is the secret of talent? How do we unlock it?

With our brains at the centre of everything we do, it offers a new way to how people approach work and respond to everyday workplace situations. Neuroscience is relatively new to the world of talent management and it is proving to be vital in understanding how to engage and motivate talent – and ultimately develop and retain them.

Let’s take neuroscience to another level and explore a newly discovered brain mechanism – myelin and how it relates to talent.

Myelin is a microscopic neural substance that adds vast amounts of speed and accuracy to your movements and thoughts.  Scientists have discovered that myelin might be the Holy Grail; the foundation of all forms of greatness from Michelangelo’s to Michael Jordan’s. The great news is that it isn’t fixed at birth; to the contrary it grows, and like anything that grows, it can be cultivated and nourished.

How does this change our way of thinking about talent and how as leaders do we help talent reach their highest potential?

It’s deep practice – and everyone knows practice is the key to success. Why is targeted, mistake focused practice so effective. Yes, mistake focused. Because the best way to build a good circuit is to fire it, attend to mistakes, and then fire it again, over and over. Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement. It’s about persistence and passion – key ingredients of talent. Wrapping myelin around large circuit requires immense energy and time. If you don’t love it, you’ll never work hard enough to be great.

Ignition! We all need a little motivation to get started. A level of commitment – or call it passion born out of our deepest unconscious desires and triggered by certain primal cues. I suppose I am sharing nothing new here as we all know that reward and recognition, encouragement, training and great cultures create environments that help with motivation and commitment. But now we know it also helps with growing myelin and growing talent!

Become a talent whisperer…or as I like to use the term; Master Coach. Henry Brooks Adams once said “a teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops”. Great teaching and coaching is a skill like no other. It is a combination of skills – a set of myelinated circuits built through deep practice – with a focus on skills, knowledge and connections. And this links us back to myelin – and skill; is insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signals. Master coaches are the human delivery for the signals that fuel and direct the growth of a given skill circuit, telling it with great clarity to fire here and not there. Coaching is a long, intimate conversation, a series of signals and responses that move toward a shared goal.

Finally, a question for you – what are you doing in your organization to grow talent in the brain?

We cultivate, ignite, coach and grow talent everyday using neuroscience and it has proven for us that the War for Talent is becoming a phrase of the past.

Phone 1300 719 665  www.soniamcdonald.com.au

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