Poetry improves your brain

A recent article in the Australian Financial Revue (23rd July 2016) by poet and scientist Zayani Bhatt, highlighted some interesting information, underlining the changes to brain function caused by reading poetry. 

 

Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK used MRI scans on people reading poetry.  They discovered that as far as the mind is concerned poetry is like music. Emotionally charged writing like poetry activated the region of the right side of the brain that responds to music.  Research has shown that these areas also create to shivers down the spine. 

 

In a further study researchers at Liverpool University found that when people read Shakespeare and Wordsworth brain activity increased, indicating that readers’ minds were being challenged when compared to the brain activity when texts were rewritten using modern language. This effect was long lasting, shifting the brain into a higher gear that encouraged further reading.

 

Bhatt goes on to point out that the research found that reading poetry increased activity in the right hemisphere of the brain in an area associated with ‘autobiographical memory’.  This allows the reader to reflect on and review his or her own experiences in light of what they had been reading.  Reflective thinking is well established as an important capacity for effective leaders.

 

We love to use Shakespeare and poetry in our programs: a great workout for the brain and a chance to reflect on experience and learn from it.  And who knows, maybe you'll even get the occasional shiver down the spine.

Bring your vision to life

It’s easy to be sceptical about vision statements.  All too often they can be so general as to be meaningless and come across as mindless slogans. ‘We aim to be the world’s best’, naturally provokes a predictable response. ‘Why would you be in business if you didn’t strive to be the best in your field?’

 

In fact well-crafted vision can mobilise and inspire.  It can free people to work for some higher purpose. Research tells us the articulation and communication of attractive, exciting vision is what followers are looking for in their leaders. People want to be inspired by a vision that opens the way to the future.  A vision that provides a graphic sense of an exciting new future possibility they can 'live in to'.

 

But creating a powerful new vision is not merely a paper-based art.  A vision needs to be spoken and often.

 

Without the emotional connection created by the human voice it is easy to dismiss or limit the potential of vision. Words on paper, even the most heart-felt, have difficulty generating the momentum necessary to forge the future.

 

The written word may stimulate debate and fire up people’s imaginations, however it is the skill with which the message is communicated verbally that has the  real power to bring your vision statement to life.

 

The dynamics of the way your vision is communicated verbally are really important.  For example, let’s just consider one variable, vocal tone. The vocal tone of the speaker literally colours the way the speaker is perceived by his or her audience. Vocal tone conveys a sense of the speaker’s trustworthiness and authority, yet its technical characteristics are almost totally unrecognised in the world of business, except at a subconscious level.  Poor vocal tone and lack-lustre vocal delivery can make a great vision sound dull.  It won't resonate.  It may not get off the ground.

 

It is possible to work with people to modify their vocal tone.   Everyone has a different range of vocal possibilities into which to grow, and the truth is that most people only use a fraction of their vocal potential. 

 

To improve your vocal tone and overall vocal performance requires persistence and relies on practical exercises designed to suit the needs of the individual.

 

People find the process of working on vocal tone and vocal flexibility empowering.   The reality is that business often seems to favour a rather bland style of delivery; a style that is restricted in range and therefore largely monotonous, flat, lacking individuality and unmemorable.  This style can often accompanied by a deluge of facts presented on overheads. (Interestingly Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, banned the use of overheads when people briefed him).

 

As performance professionals we work  with clients focusing on vocal tone, vocal range and variety and other key interpersonal communication skills.  The results: Improved self-confidence, the ability to self-monitor and adjust depending on the situation, as well as finding enjoyment and satisfaction in an area of business and personal expression that was in the past often anxiety provoking.  Such leaders and communicators reap the benefit of putting language to work for them. They are better able to engage others and win their respect and commitment.

 

With strong interpersonal performance skills the vision can jump off the page and come to life.

 

If you want to explore how we can help you re-vitalise how vision is expressed in your business or team, call us on 03 9699 6444 anytime. We'd love to explore this with you.

What do we think of our leaders and how they communicate?

 

The Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor (KLCM) surveyed 6,500 people in 13 countries across 5 continents to find out what people thought about their leaders, including how leaders communicated, the confidence they inspired, the accountability of leaders, their values, and whether leaders measured up to the expectations people held for them.

KLCM has just released its 2014 Overview. It has some sobering findings pointing to a continuing crisis in leadership.

Whilst there are differences across continents and countries, the outcomes of the survey make sobering reading. The KLCM Report does not include Australia but it makes some observations relevant and important to us all.

The Crisis in Leadership Continues

In line with their last two annual reports, the findings of the lastest KLCM Report confirm that, most leaders whether they are in government, business, community services or the not-for-profit sector, have not caught up with the expectations that people have for them as leaders.

Most leaders are failing to exhibit the behaviours, particularly as communicators, necessary to inspire, enhance and enable people to follow their leader.

According to KLCM, leaders across the globe ‘fall well short’ of our expectations.  There is a growing hunger for leaders who are open, transparent, show respect, demonstrate clear values, admit mistakes, walk the talk, and are determined to find solutions.

"Communication is more critical than ever to commercial outcomes" the Report observes.  74% of people surveyed viewed effective communication as very important to great leadership.  Only 29% of leaders were perceived as communicating effectively.

The Dawn of a New Era in Leadership Communication

The future of leadership communication is more feminine regardless of your gender as a leader.  This new archetype is replacing its macho predecessor. The new model for leadership is more transparent, accessible and values-lead.

People want their leaders to be more caring; to respect different cultures; to engage in two-way conversations (top down, singular messages won't work).

Female leaders are outperforming their male counterparts in “…the vast majority of attributes found by research to be critical to great leadership” according to the Report.

Some Things Never Go Out of Style

The Report confirms that there are certain leadership behaviours that will never go out of style:

- lead by example

- remain calm and confident under pressure

- provide clear long term vision

- align your words and actions.

But these must be balanced with a communication style that is more feminine.

The Report warns it would be a big mistake for female leaders to model their behavioural attributes and communication style on the outmoded macho model - somewhat imperious, domineering, top-down and know-it-all.

In summary KLCM Report finds that:

- Spin is dead.  Spinners will be found out and punished.

- People want principled leadership backed up by action

- A set of inflexible, tightly controlled key messages do not drive trust

- Transparency is non-negotiable

- Leaders need to amit mistakes, provide solutions and move forward

- People want leaders who can chart pathways for continuously making the future better

- Collaboration is vital.  Leaders need to bring others to the table to solve problems

- Leaders need to treat their employees as they  would like their  brand or organisation to be treated, and

- Leaders need to embrace the 'evangelists' not sideline or ignore them i.e. the vocal minority who are well connected, influential advocates for change.

It appears from the general disaffection with all types of leaders at all levels that a great deal of work remains to be done in this area.

The Report concludes that corporations continue to forgo the considerable competitive advantage to be grained from of truly effective leadership, with effective leadership communication at its core. 

KLCM reminds us that as the World Economic Forum (WER) and many others have found, effective leadership, with effective communication, remains a fundamental driver for positive social and economic outcomes.

 

 

 

What worries leaders most on the business stage

Over years of working with people from many fields on three continents we have asked leaders to identify their biggest communication challenges. Their responses frequently include how to be calm under pressure; how to convey both warmth and authority; how to appear credible and genuine; how to be clear, compelling and articulate; and how to be more inspirational.

Read More