10 Nov Manage the mental resources : primary competence of the manager
Contribution by Jean-Christophe Beau and Gaël Allain, the founder and scientific director of my Mental Training PRO, respectively.
Future leaders must demonstrate a wide range of competencies: lucidity, creativity, cooperation, communication, etc., which they will not be able to deploy unless they learn to manage their mental energy, and that of their collaborators.
The list of skills expected from the Leader of 2020 is long: flexible, co-operative, empathic, visionary, critical, multi-cultural, inclusive, coach and more! This wide range of skills, when accompanied by an ability to rapidly mobilize human, technical, emotional and intellectual resources for self and team means that signals (often low) can be identified, analysed and exploited. Many qualities are required to mobilize your mental resources at any time, but how do you do if you are constantly worn down by the constant demands on both professional and personal levels, including digital ?
Manage your mental resources; The most essential competency for the leader of tomorrow ?
Saturated mailboxes, tight call schedules and meetings, open-space with interruptions and constant background noise, interfere with our attention and cause semi-permanent brain overheating: so how do we remain lucid; listen, take a step back ?
For this reason, experts such as Daniel Goleman, successful author of “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, 1996” and Dr in psychology, verified how much capacity we have to manage and protect attention levels, to concentrate and to regenerate mentally. An essential skillset, which determines success in all areas of life.
Solutions do exist which can enable us to deal with the acceleration of information overload rather than simply suffer through superficial treatment of all the information or worse, sink into mental exhaustion.
Infobesity : When cognitive resources can no longer be used to process information
Mental ecology consists of establishing rules for sustainable management of intellectual resources in such a way that the supply of cognitive resources is in line with the demand for information processing. This concept refers directly to research on attention, working memory and the basic mode of functioning of the brain.
Another recent discovery, dating back to the early 2000s, is the “default mode” of the brain. Thanks largely to the neurologist Marcus Raichle and his brain imagining techniques that have made it possible to materialize high levels of brain activity when at rest, that is to say, when an individual is daydreaming and allowing his mind to wander. The consequences of this “default mode” in terms of mental ecology are major: this very high cerebral consumption at rest demonstrates the importance of the cognitive treatments performed when an individual does not concentrate on something specific. In short, when we feel like we are doing nothing, our brain structures information in long term memory, creates new connections, digests emotions. This can only be done at special moments, in particular,during breaks. However this cannot be done during those pauses, when we check our emails or social networks! That’s why techno-addicts, including digital natives, are more affected by attention problems: their brains no longer have space for regeneration.
Mental ecology has a short-term and medium-term impact on performance.
Deloitte, in its report Global Human Capital 2016 Trends, draws attention to employees and leaders that are overwhelmed by cerebral overheating flows. A more recent compilation of studies on performance, revealed the strong link between the leaders’ performance and the psychic health of his collaborators: good psychic health generates commitment, creativity, cooperation, and also less absenteeism, less turnover.
Consequence : Teams with a higher level of mental energy will produce more; and with less perceived effort.
So how can we infuse and disseminate mental ecology skills throughout a company or within the Corporate world ?
In order to successfully implement mental ecology practices within the workplace for managers and all staff and employees, there are 3 necessary steps:
* The first step is to raise awareness, then to communicate well on the importance of preserving mental resources by making it an individual and collective daily discipline.
* The second stage involves providing suitable up-to-date tools and resources which can really help people to cope with the most demanding situations; micro tools for guided visualization, mental stimulation, or regeneration. This is what My Mental Training Pro offers.
* The 3rd step consists of proposing regular opportunities to practice mental training, such as mindfulness.
More and more thinking and studies are emerging in this still relatively new field of “Quality of Mental Life”. What is at stake here is, giving people the right to disconnect. This is critical for the brain to function at its best. What we are witnessing is the evolution of the “Happy Managers” concept, which seeks to ensure a positive working climate in the company. More and more Educational establishments who are
at the forefront of digital transformation, such as Grenoble Ecole de Management, in conjunction with My Mental Training Pro, have even added mental ecology programmes to student curriculums. Perhaps in the near future we will see the emergence of DMRs, Directors of Mental Resources ?
So, the question now is, what are you doing in your business to establish a “mental ecology” agenda as part of business life? What are you doing to improve your own Mental Quality of Life and of that of your colleagues ? What are you doing to reconcile mental well-being and effectiveness, day after day ?
Some Basic Principles of Mental Ecology
Concentration – knowing how to concentrate, remains a basic rule of intellectual performance, but consumes a lot of mental resources. In addition, concentration is characterized by a high sensitivity to interference (which has greatly increased in the past 40 years). To be able to prioritize the most demanding cognitive tasks, to keep work periods uninterrupted (to group the reading of the emails in blocks 4-5 times a day), to avoid carrying out tasks in parallel (multi-tasking) and to make plenty of regenerative breaks; these constitute the foundation of mental ecology. An approach that is both individual (self-discipline) and collective.
For example, open-space should definitely be accompanied by a Mental Ecology Charter, in order to minimize distractions and parasites.
Regeneration – To create a culture of mini-pauses is a way to guarantee maintaining sustainable performance, preserving moments of intellectual wandering that are essential to the proper functioning of the brain. In the absence of genuine mental diversions, it is important to integrate regular mini-breaks into daily life in and out of work. These should have the sole purpose of creating space to practice mental relaxation techniques and / or mental visualisations during which, the attention of the practitioners will be focussed proactively on specific elements (breathing, images, movements, etc.), all of which are critical to regaining mental and intellectual power.
Emotions – closely associated to the concept of regeneration. Making time available to the brain via mini-pauses dedicated to visualization, allows the brain to easily accept strong emotions and so develops better emotional stability. Again, this is essential for maintaining high levels of intellectual and mental performance.
Relations – A manager who establishes a positive and safe climate at work, optimizes the exploitation of the brain’s resources. Conversely, a climate of rivalry and unhelpful competition is a waste of mental resources and hinders getting tasks accomplished efficiently. In this context, specifically, the management of response times must be subject to shared and explicit rules.