Feed Your Brain

I always thought Cherry Coke and a Hershey’s bar was brain food, but neuroscience is proving me wrong.

courtesy nu-spoon.com

courtesy nu-spoon.com

Marilee Sprenger, author of “The Leadership Brain for Dummies,” thinks that our leadership brains can be nourished so that they excel. You can provide great leadership and brain “nourishment” for your team by:

  • Providing training opportunities – on the job, onsite, offsite, virtually – you name it. Learning never stops, and the brain thrives on it.
  • Conducting personal meetings – by letting team members know you value their contributions, they are secure and will be more productive.
  • Keeping stress levels low – high stress interferes with the brain’s functions; offer coaching, mentoring, and partnering programs to help your team thrive without stressing out.
  • Celebrating successes – big or small, celebrations help teams bond. Make them regular and special; after all, humans are social animals.
  • Connecting teamwork and the organizational goals – help your team’s brains make pathways to work more efficiently.
  • Promoting life outside of work – emphasize exercise, rest, and family time; without breaks, the brain can’t work at its best.

Tomorrow: Using Your Leadership Brain in Decision-Making

inspired by The Leadership Brain for Dummies, by Marilee Sprenger
Leadership Brain for Dummies

I Like Dummies…

… the books, that is.

Dummies Man

courtesy thefinancialcoach.co.za

I’ve been a big fan of the “Dummies” books for a long time. I own at least 15 and have read many more – they serve as great introductions to a new topic and help chart a course for expanded learning later on.

I guess you could say they are like Cliff Notes on steroids – or is that mixing too many metaphors?

For instance, when our youngest son decided to give rugby a try after 14 years of playing soccer, it was “Rugby for Dummies” to the rescue. From a brief history of the game to key terms to strategy, after a few nights reading I felt somewhat knowledgeable about the game and could appreciate the fact that my son was a hooker. That’s another story.

A couple of years ago, I became aware of a book by John Medina entitled “Brain Rules”, a fascinating study of how the latest studies in neuroscience were helping us understand more about our brains. After reading though that book, I wanted to learn more about brain science.

Enter “The Leadership Brain for Dummies.” Author Marilee Sprenger translates the recent abundance of brain science into leadership principles which help your team keep operating at its best.

Applying Brain Science to Leadership

When you lead with the brain in mind, you address the structures of the brain and its needs. Scientists commonly consider the brain as a structure with three separate “brains” that have their own specialized jobs. Understanding how these different brains work and what they need enable you to better relate to and lead your team.

  • The survival brain wants safety and security. In a nutshell, its job is to keep you alive, and so it’s always on the lookout for changes in the environment that might put you in jeopardy. You address this brain’s needs by providing a predictable ans stable workplace – agendas, schedules, information, and procedures.
  • The emotional brain deals not just with emotion but memory. You help keep this brain moving along by being socially aware (noting your feelings but not letting them rule you), and you put it to work for you by giving your team an emotional connection to training. Any information that is connected to an emotion has a better chance of becoming a long-term memory. Also, remember that your emotions are contagious – whatever you are feeling will spread to your team.
  • The thinking brain handles the brain’s executive functions: decision-making, future planning, judgment, and emotional control. The brain learns through feedback. Change your team’s minds by providing immediate, constructive feedback.

Tomorrow: Feed Your Brain


inspired by The Leadership Brain for Dummies, by Marilee Sprenger

Leadership Brain for Dummies


Are You Smarter Than a Nine-Month Old?

I think I have met my match when it comes to a carnivorous learning – my nine-month old granddaughter. Pound for pound, I’m pretty sure her hunger for learning outpaces mine.

Carnivorous and nine-month-old don’t usually go in the same sentence, much less the same page. A little background…

“Carnivorous learning” is one of the values of Auxano, the first “clarity first” consulting group for ministry leaders. I’m a part of the team of navigators who journey with churches to help them discover their “Church Unique.” I’m proud of the label, and do all I can to earn it! In a recent post, Auxano founder Will Mancini wrote about “The Greatest Secret for Continuous Learning.”

“Learning is a free, daily opportunity to those who seize it.”

Enter my granddaughter.

At nine months old, she seizes everything – literally – and explores it with all her senses to see what she can learn. John Medina, writing in “Brain Rules,” states that:

Hypothesis testing is the way all babies gather information. They use a series of increasingly self-corrected ideas to figure out how the world works. They actively test their environment, much as a scientist would: Make a sensory observation, form a hypothesis about what is going on, design an experiment capable of testing the hypothesis, and then draw conclusions from the findings.

Babies may not have a whole lot of understanding about their world, but they know a whole lot about how to get it.

It’s a pity adults don’t.

What are you learning today – right now?

Are you learning as much as a nine-month-old?



What I’m Re-Learning from a 9 Month Old…

I’ve made an astounding discovery: If you want a definition of curiosity and exploration, just watch a 9 month old discovering her surroundings.

A little backstory: while my son is going through basic training in the Air Force, our daughter-in-law and 9 month old granddaughter are living with my wife and me. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an infant in the house – over 18 years, in fact. Even with four children, I forgot how fascinating babies are – they are learning machines.

Babies are born with a deep desire to understand the world around them and an incessant curiosity that compels them to aggressively explore it. Even though she hasn’t yet begun to crawl more than a few feet at a time, my granddaughter is constantly in motion when she is on the floor – looking at objects, responding to sounds, grabbing things, and putting most of them in her mouth (GrandBob disclaimer: I only let her put Mom-approved objects in her mouth).

Babies younger than a year old will systematically analyze an object with every sensory weapon at their disposal. They will feel it, kick it (we have a budding soccer star on our hands), stick it in their mouth, stick it in their ear, and even give it to you to stick it in your mouth. I proved the last item at a cookout last night: after mauling my name tag, my granddaughter insisted that I put it in my mouth – which, of course, I promptly did.

Babies methodically do experiments on the objects in their universe to see what else they will do. We are natural explorers, and the tendency is so strong that it is capable of turning us into lifelong learners.

Music to my ears!

Our brains are not wired to outgrow the thirst for knowledge, but sadly, most of the time we are “educated” out of this natural curiosity. How sad.

As John Medina, author of the absolutely fantastic books “Brain Rules” and “Brain Rules for Baby” states:

The greatest Brain Rule of all is something I cannot prove or characterize, but I believe in with all my heart. As babies try to tell us and show us, it is the importance of curiosity.

What will you be curious about today?

For a few prior posts taking a look at specific topics from Medina’s book, click on these links:

Brain Power


Short-Term Memory



Also check out his books:

Brain Rules

Brain Rules for Baby