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Physiology, Conversations, & Teamwork

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

“The physiology of our brains has everything to do with how well we communicate.”

Terrence J. Sejnowski, The Salk Institute

What happens in our brains during a team discussion? Today’s research has proven that we are able to influence our own neurochemistry whenever we want to as long as we are healthy. We have the choice to activate an appreciative mindset, thus our neurochemistry changes. Through conversations we can stimulate the production of hormones which enhance our nerve pathways.

For leaders, this is critical in that your teams need to feel comfortable with you and their teammates (trust). There must be a true connection between the parties. The power of your language and your reactions to what is said and felt by the group is what your people experience. This old saying still makes great sense, “what you say isn’t as important as how it is perceived.” Remember, you set the tone for the group. Research shows us that a trusting team is a prerequisite for a successful, productive team.

How is this done?

We learn to “turn off” the fear-based neuro-messages from the amygdala and “turn on” the brain connections that feed into the Prefrontal Cortex, AKA Executive Brain. This enables us to newly create ideas with others, it elevates empathy toward others, and it co-creates a shared sense of reality which can be extremely productive.

The Executive Brain lets us engage with the outer world and the future, helping us grasp inner and outer truths. This part of the brain also activates more partnering behaviors. By translating current information, impulses, and biochemistry, the Prefrontal Cortex helps us make judgment calls, have empathy, and anticipate the future. Anatomically, “fore” sight sits behind our “fore” head and has the power to predict what will unfold, based on understanding the patterns in front of you and being able to synthesize the meaning of them.

When we engage in generating these types of conversations, we activate our trust networks and simultaneously activate our strategic thinking. These are incredible leadership competences that are activated only when trust is present. When we are creating conversations with others, we are jointly activating our ability to share and discover at such a rapid and deep level that we are producing a new view of reality.

Coaching Questions

  • In what activities of your day would you like to be more of a team-player?

  • In what situations could using more empathy be useful?

  • In what ways could you engage your teams in generating more insightful ideas?

Circle back and tell me what you think at


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