From 2009 to 2016, Mike Salvino ran a large unit of Accenture, a global consulting firm. But in his first year, he overpromised and under-delivered.
Rather than fill his commitment to deliver profitable growth, his unit of 100,000 employees produced negative results at first. Some feared he’d prove a high-profile failure.
Instead, Salvino learned that people are born with four drivers: to acquire, defend, bond and learn. Appealing to each of these drivers releases chemicals in the brain.
Here’s how Salvino took this insight to heart:
1. The drive to acquire. He started praising employees more genuinely and looking for reasons to give them a pay raise or otherwise recognize their contribution. Receiving such positive input leads people to release dopamine, which makes them feel more enthusiastic.
2. The drive to defend. Putting others on the defensive creates dissension and discord, so Salvino avoided harsh criticism and stopped berating individuals who blundered. The brain releases adrenaline and cortisol when we feel we must defend our actions or behavior.
Adrenalin triggers a fight-or-flight decision, and cortisol stifles the parts of the body that are not needed for “survival mode.” This, in turn, limits inspiration and creativity.
3. The drive to bond. As groups jell and enjoy satisfying social interaction, they gain a sense of belonging. The brain releases oxytocin and that stokes a pleasing feeling of fondness for those around you.
Salvino hosted events in and out of the workplace that brought people together in a spirit of goodwill. The resulting bonds inspired employees to excel.
4. The drive to learn. Creative work groups share ideas and information in an effort to learn from each other. Serotonin is released when people learn and innovate, which energizes individuals and stimulates creativity. Salvino fostered a learning environment characterized by hard questions, not easy answers.
— Adapted from “How A Former Accenture CEO Turned A Failing Leadership Into Growth,” Mike Salvino, www.chiefexecutive.net.