Using Brain Science to get the Best from your people (2011)
By Edward M.Hallowell, MD.

Hallowell offers a five step process that leads to peak performance.

1. Selection – how to put people in the right job, and give them the responsbilities that literally make their brains “light up”

Managers can help employees achieve peak perforamnce by making sure the job – is something employee is good at, is something employee likes to do, something that adds value to the project or organization.

Sometimes working hard can be detrimental especially in the age of information overload. If there is a problem with selection or fit, managers can refer to the 3 frameworks for help :

1) The Hallowell Self-Report Job-Fit Scale  :It is a structured interview that you can give to employees to find out more.

2) The framework for flow : The concept of flow has shown that a person most often enters the flow when he engages in a task that is both challenging and within his skill set.

3) The Kolbe conative assessment scale (see


2. Connection – how to overcome the powerful forces that disconnect us interpersonally in today’s workplace, and how to restore the positive connections that fuel superior performance. Here are some simple, concrete steps that a manager can take to promote the feeling of connectedness :

1) Notice and acknowledge people.  To walk past someone as if that person were not there, is a surefire disconnector. A simple high-five can work wonders.

2)  Allow for people’s idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes. Encourage people to be who they are. When you are relaxed about yourself as a manager, you give others permission to be the same.

3) Develop an organization email policy – such that everyone checks email no more than x times a day. Never try to work out emotionally-laden issues via email.

4) Encourage everyone to have human moments – that is face-to-face human contact – at least once every few hours.

5) Encourage people to recognize stress within themselves.

6) Praise others freely and genuinely. People who can give praise freely are like cultivators of a great garden.

7) As a manager, try not to think in judgemental, moralistic terms – a person good or bad, a deed is good or bad – but in psychological terms – why did this person do this? When you ask why a person did something rather that whether the action is good or bad, actually stimulates people to act with more integrity.

8) Light up the world of your workplace. Sunlight is best. Good lighting or mood lighting is a connector.

9) Keep food and drink around. Food is a symbolic form of nurturing.

10) Foster impromptu get-togethers. Impromptu get-togethers – going for a beer, catching the Red Sox, grabbing lunch – all promote connectedness.

11) Encourage people to reach out. Remember Dr.Shine. Bring in the people who are on the outs. Whatever your environment may be, everyone in it suffers if even just a few people are left out and feel it. Do whatever you can do to make sure everyone has at least one friend.


3. Play – why play is essential to peak performance, and how managers can get it right. To encourage imaginative engagement and play :
1) Ask open-ended questions.
2) Encourage everyone to produce at least 3 new ideas each month and require management to evaluate and respond to each.
3) Allow for irreverence or goofiness (but not disrespect), and model these yourself.
4) Brainstorm
5) Reward new ideas and innovation.
6) Encourage people to question anything and everything.


4. Progress  – when the pressure is on, how to challenge the right person at the right time. Good stress works but bad stress kills. If people get stuck :
1) Don’t pound on the table and demand they work harder. See what might have gone wrong and make adjustments.

2) Play “Ping-pong”, simply keep offering ideas and suggestions, and even as they get rejected, keep offering more. You’re trying to provide a catalyst, not an answer.


5. Recognition – why reward systems always decrease peak performance, and how managers can finally get this right. Remember, as valuable as it is to learn from mistakes, people grow even more when success is noticed and praised. Empty praise is useless, but true recognition of achievement motivates people and secures loyalty.



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