How can you motivate your employees to do the best work in the least amount of time when you’re working from a limited budget? This is a question that every manager has pondered since the emergence of the first formal organization. But there’s good news on the horizon, because a team of committed social scientists from the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) is answering this question and simultaneously redefining what it means to be an effective executive, manager, leader, and employee in the 21st Century.

The NLI strives to understand how the brain works when humans are leading others, and they are discovering a unique set of incentives that motivate humans in the workplace. According to their website, “The NeuroLeadership Institute helps individuals and organizations fulfill their potential through better understanding how the human brain functions, at the level of individuals, teams and whole systems.” Their main goal is to translate dense scientific research into useful ideas that can help organizational leaders build better workplaces. Here are some of their findings:

  1. Social skills allow managers to leverage their learning power. Managers who know how to effectively communicate with employees, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and acknowledge their needs will be able to accomplish more and better work than the manager who rules by fear. Managing relationships is a workplace skill, not something to be avoided.
  2. Being smart and motivated without being able to connect doesn’t cut it. The best leaders are those who bring out the best in others. Great leaders are talent developers. The smartest person in the room is not necessarily the best leader, and in fact, they are often the worst leader because they don’t know how to teach or coach people.
  3. The SCARF Model. David Rock, the Executive Director of the NLI, created the SCARF Model in his book, Your Brain At Work. The model stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness – these five domains explain how people act in social settings and why they act that way. In a nutshell, people have an intense need to be social, and these social needs are activated on similar circuitry as our physical threats and rewards.

Remember that public praise is an affordable, renewable workplace resource. Research is beginning to show just how powerful our need for social connection is, so managers would be wise to start building those connections rather than neglecting them.