Now this article referred more to the noise generated in every-day life: living next to airports or busy streets for example but I believe it is also relevant to our working lives, to the level of digital activity, the amount of noise generated within the workplace. And this is where leadership comes in because leadership shapes culture within an organisation.
Here’s a small example of how it operates. A colleague likes to have music running whilst they work. I can bear that for so long but when it comes to something where I have to truly concentrate, to put a rational argument together, to evaluate actions I find it impossible and have to move away. It's not just physical noise either. Internal noise can be generated by working within high octane environments. Look again at the quote.
High levels of noise affect the part of the brain responsible for making decisions, solving problems and more. Surprised? I’m not.
This leads to a larger problem for leaders. How do you generate silence within a room?
Leaders are often visualised as high energy, intense, vocal, at times directive, perhaps jumping from one initiative to another. Does that lead to an inner calm in themselves and in their subordinates? Are employees constantly on the alert waiting for the next interruption and if so, where does that leave space for the brain to effectively problem solve and take considered decisions?
There is a solution.
Studies have shown that in noisy environments ‘bursts’ of silence have impact. The article quotes Attention Restoration Theory: being in an environment with lower levels of sensory input, the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities.
As a leader then you can generate that silence in two ways. First look at the working conditions of your teams and help them design an environment which facilitates attention restoration. More importantly look at your own working practices: analyse not only whether you generate ‘noise’ through, for example, constant interruption, contrary orders, oppressive behaviours but also consider how you can generate silence.
In my training and coaching I constantly allow for silence. I offer that attention restorative place where the brain can regain its cognitive abilities, solve problems and take better decisions. What are you doing to allow the same?
Will you start your week with silence?