Stressful challenging situations could increase your degree of learning!

When faced with a stressful situation, we could either approach this with a challenge or threat mind-set.  But how does this impact on your degree of learning?

Recent research conducted by Ashridge Business School and the University of Reading revealed that when leaders are faced with high impact situations, there is a strong correlation between increased heart rate and the degree of learning reported by participant. This neuroscience research involved looking into how managers responded to stress and the impact on their psychological reactions and performance levels in board-level situations; such as dealing with conflict, handling difficult conversations and managing unexpected crises.  The way the body depicts and responds to a stressful situation impacts on how well we are optimised for that situation.  Neurobiologically, if we perceive the situation as a challenge, the body becomes moderately aroused and we are more enhanced for decision-making, learning and memory creation.  However, on the flip-side, if we perceive it as a threat, our body becomes over-aroused and we respond by withdrawing; causing our cognitive functions to reduce.  So how can we control how we respond to the situation?

The way our body chooses to respond depends on whether we believe we have the skills and ability to manage and cope successfully with the situation.  Times of high stress are usually when leaders are required to make the most important decisions, however, this can be when panic sets in and concise decision-making is affected.  Experiential learning which mimics stressful situations allows leaders to experience stressful incidents similar to those they will face at work so they are more likely to be able to react effectively, rather than the body responding as if it was a threat.  To be a successful leader you need to be able to lead through ambiguity and unexpectedness and keep your emotions in check.

Hemsley Fraser, in partnership with Think Change Consulting offer a Neuroscience and the Leadership Brain course which applies insights from the latest neuroscience research to the workplace and provides leaders with approaches to improve effectiveness at work through altering your perceptions, thoughts and behaviours.  To learn more, visit our website here.

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