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Breaking The Mold: Steve Wood's Neuroscientific Approach To Leadership - Exclusive Interview

Brainz Magazine Exclusive Interview


Steve Wood has carved a 25-year career as a high-achieving, accomplished television director, producer and executive producer. He has worked with Australian TV Networks Nine and Ten, as well as the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). His experience encompasses news, current affairs, variety, drama, and sport, as well as the business of television. At Ten he was a senior member of a broadcast team that won three successive Logie Awards for its coverage of the Bathurst 1000 motor race. He was an integral part of a dedicated task force that launched Australia’s first digital TV network. For SOCOG he produced coverage of triathlon and mountain bike competitions and fulfilled the role of media manager for the round Australia Olympic Torch Relay.

Steve is a Master of Business Administration and holds a degree in International and Corporate Negotiations and has completed studies at the Neuro Change Institute. He is an early adopter of the application of neuroscience which forms the basis of his unique Thrive Formula. It is a program designed to drive significant positive change in workplace satisfaction, staff retention and improvement in productivity by understanding how our minds work. “TV has given me privileged access to people who have achieved extraordinary success, “Steve says. “Throughout my career, it has been my obsession to discover why they succeed – and why others, perhaps with equal talent, hold back.”

Stephen Wood
Steve Wood

Can you provide an overview of what led you to establish Leaders in Mind?

During my television career I attended many training seminars and workshops and noticed that no matter how valuable the information was that you walked away with, I often found it difficult to implement and apply many of the ideas and strategies due to the frantic nature of my daily routine and deadlines. After leaving TV, I decided there must be a better way. I wanted to do more than just impart more knowledge, information and strategies to organisations in the hope that they would understand and implement the teachings. I wanted organisations to take the skills and apply them.

What are the key elements of the Thrive Program?

Through my research and studies into neuroscience, I discovered three key elements I wanted to include in the Thrive Program. Firstly, I understood that regardless of how I presented the information each participant would interpret it based on their own self-image or concept of themselves. We all have a self-image and it’s molded over years by our habits, beliefs, behaviours, and understanding of what we think we are capable of. It sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment and defines what you believe you can and cannot do. You often hear conversations where people declare they are shy, no good at maths, hate public speaking or I don’t have the experience to do that! The list goes on. You can imagine in organisations that have hundreds of staff members, all with a different self-images, you will struggle to make lasting change without first looking at this key trait. I recognised the cornerstone of the program had to give a comprehensive understanding of how we form and we can change the concept of ourselves.

Secondly, one of the ways of installing, remembering, and recalling new information is through a process of repetition. It’s the same technique you used when you learned to walk, talk, and even drive a car, it was through repetition that you finally mastered those skills. So much so that they now run automatically in your subconscious mind. I knew I had to have a process where the knowledge could be remembered and recalled easily, hence the 12-week program. Thirdly, the research shows that we spend 95% of our time in autopilot or the subconscious mind and only 5% of the day in the conscious mind. This essentially means we spend the bulk of the day in a routine that we are not conscious of. In an era where creativity, problem-solving, and innovation are key to an organisation’s success, I understood a clear explanation of the roles the subconscious and conscious minds play was essential.

Could you elaborate on some specific strategies or approaches you believe are crucial for nurturing effective leaders?

I believe to some extent we are all leaders. If you isolate leadership as a category then everybody else fits into the followship category. It becomes very hard to walk the tightrope of leadership when you have been tagged a follower. I’m not talking about grouping everyone as a leader but providing the pathway and skills for followers to grow into leadership if that is their desire. As a leader, we need to become conscious of our unconscious habits. What are we doing on automatic, what are our assumptions and perspectives that are just running in the background of everything we do? If you understand why you do certain things and you become conscious of your own automatic behaviours, beliefs, and perceptions then you can make a change. Importantly you are then empowered to guide and mentor others in mastering their own limiting habits.

Steve Woods
Steve Wood

How does cultivating mindfulness contribute to leadership effectiveness, and how do you guide leaders to incorporate this practice into their busy routines?

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a complicated and highly organised practice. Mindfulness can be as simple as taking a break in a quiet place, where you can close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. The real issue organisations need to tackle is the level of stress in the workplace. We are all aware of the detrimental health effects of stress but every time the fight or flight nervous system is triggered the frontal lobe of the brain redistributes blood to the arms and legs so you can run fight or hide. (Even if you are sitting at a desk) The problem for organisations is the frontal lobe is where all our problem-solving, creativity, intuition, and communication are housed. So, if you are looking for increased performance from your team, you’re not going to get by continually putting them in stressful situations.

What are the key things leaders need to become aware of?

There is no doubt that leaders need to become more aware of the well-being of staff. In 2018 Nielsen reported only 15% of respondents enjoyed their work. In the UK 65% of respondents found their work unrewarding and in Australia 2 in 5 people have experienced a mental disorder. The UK and Japan now have loneliness ministers to oversee the array of people suffering with varying degrees of mental illness. Post covid more people are dissatisfied with their work, more people are lonely in this highly technically connected world and more people feel their jobs are not rewarding. This will become a key focus for organisations in the years ahead.

The field of leadership development is constantly evolving. How do you stay updated with the latest research and trends in leadership?

There are always new processes, models, graphs, and charts in leadership but I like to stay focused on the latest neuroscience research. When we accept that the bulk of our day is run by our subconscious programs, new studies can reveal how we can gain a greater insight into what is driving our decision-making. It’s our ability to change these hardwired habits, beliefs, and perspectives that enable us to become more present as leaders who can engage, adapt, and develop.

For more info, follow Steve on Linkedin, and visit his Website!


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