Psychiatrist and author Edward M. Hallowell’s book, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from your People, charts a five-step process to make the most of employee potential. The management guru draws on brain science, performance research and his own experience to give managers at every level a way to think about leadership. A specialist in attention deficit disorder, he has written extensively on the topic and is best known for his book Driven to Distraction. In the section on “Finding the Shine: Five steps to igniting peak performance", Dr Hallowell tells readers how managers can maximize their talent and be productive in everyday life. Edited excerpts:

Life has changed radically from a generation ago. A manager’s job is getting harder and harder to do. Some experts even say that managers are becoming obsolete, while others say managers are more important than ever. Whatever the truth may be, the fact remains that managers work hard in pressure-packed, confusing, unsettled times.

The central question for all managers is how to draw the most from their talent. What do you do when your most talented people fall short of their full potential, or worse, fall off their game altogether? How do you find the spark that Dr Shine always looked for?

Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from your People: By Edward M. Hallowell, Harvard Business Review Press, 197 pages, Rs 695.

Rather than touting a single key idea for peak performance, the process I describe here incorporates many ideas while drawing upon the latest research from diverse disciplines. The five steps in the Cycle of Excellence, and what they will teach you, are as follows:

1. Select: How to put people into the right jobs so that their brains light up

2. Connect: How to overcome the potent forces that disconnect people in the workplace both from each other and from the mission of the organization, and how to restore the force of positive connection, which is the most powerful fuel for peak performance

3. Play: Why play—imaginative engagement—catalyses advanced work, and how managers can help people tap into this phenomenally productive yet undervalued activity of the mind

4. Grapple and grow: How managers can create conditions where people want to work hard, and why making progress at a task that is challenging and important turns ordinary performers into superstars

5. Shine: Why doing well—shining—feels so good, why giving recognition and noticing when a person shines is so critical, and why a culture that helps people shine inevitably becomes a culture of self-perpetuating excellence

Each step is critical in its own right and translates into actions a manager or worker can do and do now. Each step builds upon the other. The most common mistake managers make is to jump in at step 4 and ask people to work harder, without first having created the conditions that will lead workers to want to work harder. There is no point in challenging employees to exceed their personal best if they haven’t first been placed in the right job, found a safe and connected atmosphere within which to work, and been given a chance to imaginatively engage and contribute to the design of the task. But if you follow the steps you can create the conditions that will lead to hard work and peak performance.

This plan works because it brings together the empirical evidence on peak performance into one integrated series of steps—that create the ideal conditions, the perfect tension in the violin string, for managers to propel their people to excellence.

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