How can construction business owners and managers keep up with competing priorities and deadlines, filter out the noise generated by the Internet and smartphones, and keep their companies productive and profitable? The answers can be found not in new technologies or methodologies, but rather science. 

Neural leadership is the study of how business leaders can leverage brain function in themselves and their teams to create a more robust work environment. New insights and discoveries about brain function are being made every week, and the focus on neural leadership is forging the way. According to Dr. David Rock, editor of the NeuroLeadership Journal, understanding how the brain functions can help align work practices with the brain’s affinity to create a more productive and successful workplace—whether it is in the office or on a construction site. 

The following five neural leadership practices can help construction business owners and managers work more effectively with their crews to solve problems and make more informed strategic decisions.

1. Foster Fairness
Neuroscientists have discovered that when people feel they have been treated unfairly, activity is stimulated in the amygdala, the part of the brain that performs a primary role in processing memory and emotional reactions. In short, memories of being treated unfairly run deep, so it is better to err on the side of being fair than right. Understanding this innate need is helpful to creating relationships that focus on respect, acceptance and equality. Maintain a fair environment, and synergy likely will be created among workers, who will unite to evaluate and find viable solutions to difficult problems. 

2. Take a Social Approach

The human brain is a predominantly social organ that needs some level of socially driven interactions and goals. Most workplace cultures, however, focus on optimizing results instead of improving social interactions. The unintended consequence of focusing on results instead of people is that, over time, even top performers will feel devalued, less secure or possibly unfairly treated. It’s important to inspire teams to be collaborative in their approach to getting the job done. Collaborative teams are productive teams; over time, they will demonstrate enduring engagement and improved results.

3. Emphasize Sufficient Sleep

The brain needs sleep. Debates about why this is true are rampant among neuroscientists. For example, during sleep, it is believed that the brain consolidates memories, makes new connections, conserves energy and unconsciously chips away at problems. Getting enough rest also affects safety and the number of mistakes made. During the workday, encourage crews to take a break, go for a walk, or enjoy lunch without checking phone messages or working at the site—all in the interest of re-energizing and recharging their brains. Finally, recognize teams for a job well done. Their brains will release dopamine, which is a natural energy booster.

4. Pay Attention to One Task at a Tme
When tasks compete for the same limited mental resources, the quality of the results of all tasks is diminished. In other words, the benefits of multitasking are vastly overrated, especially on a construction site. Most notably, prolonged multitasking causes a decline in and erosion of the quality of thought and energy. In other words, it’s probably not in anyone’s best interest to try to work on an estimate, review design plans and solve a contract dispute at the same time. Focus on one item at a time in order to fully process each discrete task. 

5. Stop Predicting
People are wired to predict; they automatically try to make sense of a situation by predicting what will happen next. The danger in creating predictions is that most are inaccurate or incomplete. With experience, the ability to make predictions will improve. However, holding on to a prediction may stop a person from seeking new perspectives that can help set a better strategy or make abetter decision. To break the prediction cycle, teach workers how to recognize when they are jumping to conclusions and encourage them to suspend judgment long enough to entertain alternative solutions. 


Michael Vaughanis CEO of The Regis Company and author of “TheThinking Effect: Rethinking Thinking to Create Great Leaders and the New ValueWorker” and “The End ofTraining: How Business Simulations Are Reshaping Business.” For more information, email mvaughan@regiscompany or visit www.regiscompany.com or www.thethinkingeffect.com