Why teams? Why neuroscience? in Leadership Development #3

It is well known that high level of pressure during demanding situations and critical decisions have negative effect on cognitive function. However, it has not, thus far, been possible to reliably predict the behaviour of an individual under heavy pressure. Traditional methods, such as interviews, CVs, and psychological tests, or simple physiological methods like e.g. heart rate, heart rate variability or cortisol level are not reliable enough for predicting behaviour in extreme situations. Moreover, physiological baseline levels, whether cardiovascular or endocrinological, do not provide enough predictive power, if at all. In order to secure results and quality, we activate stress systems with a validated stress experiment, labelled the most robust among its peers: Trier Social Stress Test.

Responses to acute stress (sudden and uncontrollable pressure and demand in critical situation) are observed in multiple psychophysiological systems, of which three are dominant overall. Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which are adrenergically mediated cardiovascular reactions causing a fight-flight stress response, and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA), which consists of several endocrinological interactions. Each of these systems have direct links to cardiovascular system, which consists of the heart and the blood vessels, such as the veins and arteries, which by upholding blood pressure move the blood around the body. Blood pressure is a product of cardiac output and peripheral resistance. The former is the amount of blood pumped by the heart in one minute and peripheral resistance a combination of elements that create resistance to regulate blood flow distribution in the periphery. These are the main indices used in the psychophysiological studies, when measuring non-neural activation during the stress.

To achieve the highest ecological validity when studying stress in laboratory environment, it is common to use different types of psychosocial stress tasks. Psychosocial stress tests, especially public speaking tasks, give a reliable and robust responses and activate both cardiovascular system and HPAA. Furthermore, under psychosocial stress, blood pressure is mainly driven by increased vascular resistance but also increased cardiac output. Higher cardiac output during psychosocial stress is suggested to result from increased myocardial contractility. Furthermore, evaluative observation results in increased beta-adrenergic activity, increased cortisol production and robust vascular and myocardial responses.

A meta-analysis of over 200 stress studies suggested that by including social evaluative threat, unpredictability and by using combination of speech task and cognitive task with a presence of evaluative observation, the most robust HPAA stress response is achieved with the Trier Social Stress Test.

Therefore, it all will be now changed. Neuroreactivity measure of 15 minutes is the only reliable and scientifically proven way to estimate potential of a person working in positions where performance depends on ability to cope under high pressure. Uncovering an individual’s potential in corporate context is crucial for ensuring operational reliability, confidence and trust in the team, and individual well-being and life balance.

Results of the Neuroreactivity measure will bring us to the heart of the matter. Learning and development will be based on the Individual and Team Profiles, starting from the very first individual feed-forward session, and then continuing in the team sessions with two professional coaches along Caleidocons™ Team Approach.

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