Anatomy of Caring Communities at Work

What would your work community look like if people supported one anothers’ strengths?  If leaders openly welcomed new talents from all, and then facilitated these for group benefit? Did you know that each supportive act rewires the brain’s plasticity for more of the same? How so?

An encouraging word, smile of approval, or risk taken to help another person shine, reshapes your own brain’s circuitry. Can you see how support literally rewires whole groups mental capabilities, in ways that benefit an entire community? 

To create a culture of care, based on the brain’s capacity to grow and improve, is also to buoy up people’s courage to trust taking risks in public. The opposite is also true.

We all watched Susan Boyle lose courage to take on cynics, as a culture of detractors mocked what they saw as flaws, and neglected to value her top talent. Even well-intentioned media constantly diminished Susan’s appearance and her unique communication approaches. Because poor tone became the norm for some, opportunities were lost for others to celebrate Susan’s angelic voice.

Not surprisingly, critics and encouragers both stir emotional responses from people’s amygdala. Critics stir up stress and encouragers activate the brain area for well-being. It’s really a case of cortisol versus serotonin, and it comes within people’s responses to others’ effort and talents.

I once saw a scholarly community refuse to share their latest discoveries, and I questioned why. Person after person told of community critics who openly cut down ideas and publicly tore apart new innovations. To outsiders communities dominated by critics simply appear stagnant, to insiders that community kills incentives and shuts down innovation from even the most talented.

Where are the Helen Keller’s who leaped forward daily to perfect her offering, because as Keller put it, Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.

People find motivation to improve in encouraging cultures, because human support tosses in a heaping dose of serotonin chemicals that oil creativity.  Genuine care lays dynamite neuron pathways toward more innovation, that my intimidated scholar’s community had lost.

Encouragers too benefit from their own extended care, because a brain’s plasticity shifts in their favor every time they egg on others’ gifts or talents.

8 Comments

  1. caring communities are what groups publicly seek. The issue falls into when individuals put a wrench in the system.

    Recently I was working with a student leadership team, they told me that they were already a good time and all were friends.
    The entire time the group spoke in really negative and mean ways towards each other and when it came time to share thoughts, beliefs, opinions all their heads went down why?

    Because whenever anyone spoke the put-down started.
    I stopped the programming used some of the knowledge I have gained from reading your blog and shifted them to some posititive language.
    Slowly I felt the group shift into open and caring dialog about what each individual needs for success and how the team can reach success.

    Caring communities can happen.

    michael carduss last blog post..TeamBuilding Develops Dedication

  2. eweber says:

    Wow – Michael, you have done an amazing shift with your team. You used the concept of tone to refocus your entire community. In adult groups I shift teams often using 4 or 5 methods to randomly mix. At one brain institute a team talked me into allowing them to stay together as they had always worked together before in other situations. I did so reluctantly and it spoiled the entire community’s growing experience. They used poor tone as you described here, they created cliques so that others resented them, and a culture of caring was lost. We learn by doing:-) Yikes!

    Your comment inspires us all — thanks Michael for the way you apply brain based tactics to improve learning opportunities:-) No wonder you get dynamite results!!

  3. Thank you!

    We will see as I lead an additionall program with the group.
    I sent then questions in the form of AI and challenged the members to write out strengths they bring to the team, as well as their idealized future of their role in the teams success.

  4. eweber says:

    Mike, you build a great case for caring communities that groups seek yet rarely know how to create. Would you agree that leaders with proven tactics can shift directions when individuals put a wrench in the system.

    Groups who lack tactics for tone go down – but that is the entry point for leaders with tone tactics!

    No question – it takes huge energy away from the positive directions we’d envisioned! That is what cortisol does Mike!

    Yet you lead a new way – using new tools… “Slowly I felt the group shift into open and caring dialog about what each individual needs for success and how the team can reach success.” BRAVO!

    Caring communities can happen, Mike, and I am on your side of the struggle to make it happen!

  5. Well, I can say “ditto” on this discussion. I suffered a brain injury and onset of post traumatic hydrocephalus in 1992, and it took 16 years and 7 shunt surgeries to get it right. Along the way, all my advocacy, trips to Washington, writing and pleading with the neurosurgical field, and technology I invented – fell on deaf ears unitl in 2008 when a neurosurgeon threw his hands into the air and listened. That neurosurgeon today credits me with reteaching him how to use these shunt devices. So many experts were following ill-advised knowledge and methods. While it was wonderful to finally get my own outcome corrected, it is a bittersweet victory knowing that so many others remain incorrectly treated.

    Out of the above, I regularly apply open and considerate methods when I facilitate drum circles. It is often the people we surround ourselves with that makes us great!

    Stephen Dolle
    “Stuff for your Brain”
    ProfessorMac.net

  6. eweber says:

    Stephen, what a wonderful story of persistence, and yet it also points to the communities of “experts” we champion – without question.

    What a difference when folks’ brain are genuinely engaged and when solutions come from folks in every field – so that they become dividends for all. That is the kind of community that learns tone skills for respect, facilitation skills for engagement, and commitment skills for quality results.

    Thanks for inspiring us all!

  7. Arturo says:

    I just read the article and I don’t know much about the science behind it – but I have had a feel for this type of leadership for years. I am an educator who has worked in failing schools all my life. In each school I have worked in, I have helped colleagues find growth in academic achievement by creating a safe environment to experiment with one’s own strength. Although many schools chase the “next great program” to fix their problems, I have made a fundamental philosophy of finding experts within the staff who work together. By cultivating their expertise through positive talk and encouragement, I have found that academic achievement has been sustained longer than any prescribed programs. I am perceived different by my colleagues – but my teams culture, productivity, and success are amazing!

  8. […] 6. Anatomy of caring and creative communities […]

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