Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time with leaders of organisations, one observation I want to share is, most of those leaders have a reluctance to set goals for their organisation and for the people within it. They don’t hold people accountable for getting things done for fear of being a “micro manager”, they just expect their team(s) to know what they need to do and just get on with it. These leaders without exception fail to recognise their number one role in their organisation, to protect their work family and provide them with an environment that stimulates them and keeps them engaged and happy through the regular release of happy chemicals.
On our leadership programme, I’ve come to realise that part of what we do is give our leaders the ability to give themselves permission to do what they need to do. One lesson in particular does this well and that is learning to D.O.S.E your team every day with the 4 main happy chemicals and no we are not turning them in to drug addicts!!
I just want to say hear before we go any further, our brains are pretty much the same as they were 70,000 years ago when we were hunter gatherers, so although our society and technology allows us to live in significantly safer and more comfortable environments our brains are still protecting us as if we were still hunter gatherers.
D.O.S.E describes 4 happy chemicals in our brain that drives our behavior as both individuals and as a group to ensure our survival, Loretta G. Breuning, PhD and famous author has written extensively about them and how they impact our mammal instincts. I want to give you a brief summary of each of them here, so maybe you too can give yourself permission to do the things you know you need to!
This is the motivator, this allows us to give ourselves goals to ensure our survival. Back in the day we may have seen a tree in the distance, we think it could be an apple tree. Dopamine is released in the brain telling us “go to the tree, your survival depends on it”, so with that little hit of dopamine, we feel good and motivated to investigate the tree. When we get there we see all the apples hanging from the tree, we try one, they taste wonderful, dopamine is released again, making us feel good, its the brains way of saying thank you for taking action so we can live another day. As creatures we need goals, we are wired to be motivated by short term wins so that we survive. Of course today those short term wins could be the securing of that big contract (securing the future of the organisation, thus securing your income – it’s still survival!), achieving our production target, keeping our costs under control or finding that elusive new member of the team. If you are not giving your team short term goals then you are reducing their chance of getting that dopamine hit.
This is the trust chemical, this chemical brings us closer together in a group situation. Back in the day, we lived in groups of not much more than 150 people, we knew everyone, and we depended on each other for that survival, each member of the group had their areas of expertise, whether that be hunting, gathering, food preparation or looking after the children everyone trusted each other to do their bit to ensure the survival of the group. In today’s life, that human interaction is more important than ever, it is only positive human interaction that releases oxytocin, the shaking of the hand whilst looking into their eyes as you say hello, its the offer of help when a team member is struggling, it is a simple hug when they are sad and most importantly it is those conversations between each other that grows our trust. The more we trust each other the more oxytocin is released and so the happier we are and the closer the group is.
This is the chemical of respect and social standing. Any leaders out there that think you can have a flat company structure with no leaders, think again, we are just not wired for it. As a species we are hierarchical, we need to know where we stand in the “pecking order”, we need leaders to look up to and we need others to look up to us. Here is the great thing about serotonin, if you show someone respect and gratitude they will get a hit of serotonin making them feel great, but you too will also get a hit of serotonin for showing that respect. This is the second chemical that brings people together in groups. Here is thing about respect, it can only be earned through action, imagine back in the day you are going about your business, when a group of strange people come over the hill with spears and knives. As a leader you would grab your own and run out to fend them off (with the other able bodied men following closely behind) and if you succeed, your group survives for another day, on your return everyone will be giving their praise, they show respect, you receive respect, everyone feels great.
The bodies very own opiate, albeit of the non addictive kind!! Endorphins are released into the body to mask pain. Have you ever found something so funny that you laughed, laughing makes us feel good because the body convulses making it feel sore, endorphins are released to deal with the pain of laughter which in turn makes us feel good. At the point where you laugh so hard you get a sore side, you have reached the limit of your own endorphins to cope with the pain, which is why we inevitably ask whoever it is that is making us laugh to stop. Back in the day, endorphins were used on the body to also mask the pain our muscles would feel when we walked or run long distances to find food. To get that endorphin hit in the work place, you should be creating an environment that is fun to be in, have areas where the team can unwind and maybe have a laugh or engage in great conversation.
Now you know the purpose of the 4 happy chemicals, are you doing everything you can to D.O.S.E. up your team?