About Tara Swart
Tara Swart is a Senior Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), specializing as a Neuroscientist. She has published two books on the topic of Science in leadership titled, The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain, and “Neuroscience for Leadership: Harnessing the Brain Gain Advantage.” I recently came across an article she wrote titled, “Neuroscience Hacks To Improve Communication.” This title was intriguing, and I assumed it would have practical advice to implement right away.
What I Learned
In the article, Tara Swarts voices that “change will call on leaders to navigate major cultural and strategic shifts within their organizations with unprecedented speed, bringing teams with them to ensure they thrive and survive” (Swart, 2019) This note reminds me of a comment Sarah Wood, Co-Founder of an AdTech firm called “Unruly” said, “leadership is at an all time low in terms of trust – the Edelman Barometer is a really good sign of that. We’ve seen the biggest ever drop in trust of leaders, whether that’s across business, across charities, across the media” (Spaven, 2017). This was gleaned from a 2017 study by the Edelman Group, reporting that, “The credibility of leaders also is in peril: CEO credibility dropped 12 points globally to an all-time low of 37 percent” (Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 – UK Findings, 2017). At any level in a company, you must trust and be trusted to really make an impact on the work that is being done. Gaining trust, and leading with authenticity is a very relevant topic in business and politics today.
One way to gain trust is to build positive connections between you and your actions. Basically building your reputation of what you do, what you stand for, how you do it, and the action(s) you take. To explain this further, Tara Swart says,
“in a similar way to the strengthening of pathways in the brain, every time communication (top down, or bottom up), messaging and clarity flows efficiently, the ‘pathway’ itself, becomes reinforced”
So if the company is going through a phase of change or uncertainty, and received clarity in communication from leaders, that helps reinforce stability. Every time effective communication happens, your brain adds a tally mark and that new path starts to be more defined. It feels more familiar each time it happens, so it confirms your thoughts. The flip side is expecting ineffective messaging and when it happens, the event is reinforcing that belief negatively.
This reminds me of cognitive behavior therapy, an approach to behavioral ticks that has ideology around certain “stuck points” in one’s view about themselves, the world, other people and the future. In the workplace, there is a collision of unknowns for individual, cultural, management and teams biases or presumed ideas.
Tara Swart is the founder of the a fantastic vitamin company called Your Heights.