Laura is a seasoned project manager who was recently hired to lead a large project critical to the success of a company. She was assigned a very competent and professional team, most of whom had been with the company for many years. They were smart and professional, but the problem was they were burned out. For them, this was another project in a long line of projects. They knew they would be facing demanding clients, grueling deadlines, and long hours. Their energy had waned over the years, and it was Laura’s job to rejuvenate it.
Laura knew many tricks of the trade. She knew the importance of getting to know her team-mates and finding out what makes each person tick. Over time, she would learn their individual desires and goals, and she would do her best to provide matching rewards that would help them get energized about the project. She would discover which rewards would be most meaningful to each person, such as who gets energized by challenging assignments or learning new skills or getting notoriety that may lead to a promotion. But that would take time, which she didn’t have – she had to get them going fast. Plus, she knew that this demanding project wouldn’t allow her to accommodate all of her team’s desires. Fortunately she knew how to boost the energy of the team in a much more efficient way.
Neuroscience has found that everyone has a basic “seeking” emotional system, which mediates their drive to achieve, attain, and experience the fruits of the world. Burnout is an emotional state in which the energy for “seeking” has waned, at least temporarily. It can be rejuvenated in the traditional way by providing compelling rewards that the person is motivated to attain, or the emotional system itself can be directly energized. Our conventional approach in business is the former, offering rewards that energize people to attain them. However, this can be challenging because over the course of each person’s lifetime, they’ve had unique beliefs and experiences that have caused them to be driven by significantly different rewards. Fortunately, we’re learning how to work more directly with emotional systems through body dynamics. Primal emotional systems can be energized directly through a variety of somatic, or body-based, methods including: 1) humor that prompts deep laughter, 2) physical play that includes spontaneity and creativity, 3) mindfulness techniques that prompt a present-centered awareness, and 4) music and dance that are designed around the motor impulses of the body.
Laura’s team needed emotional rejuvenation. She decided to use elements of all four of these somatic methods. She got the team interested in a mindfulness technique that they used for about fifteen minutes a few times a week. It was a form of a drumming circle and included elements of creativity and spontaneity, where people would lead a rhythm that others followed or added onto. It was fun, playful, centering and rhythmic. Such body-centered techniques energize a team’s primal emotional systems while at the same time relaxing the stress of their cognitive minds. The technique had a noticeable impact on the team after only a couple sessions – their energy level increased substantially. The four body-based methods are available in numerous forms and combinations, and they can be designed to meet the individuality of any team.
As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share