Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. How do you think the best executives make decisions? Well, forget what you think you know. Recent studies from the world of neuroimaging are revealing what is really going on inside the brain when people are working, being creative and making decisions. These discoveries can help us learn how to best motivate coworkers and ourselves to make better decisions. My dad shared with me an interesting Wall Street Journal article titled “Inside the Executive Brain,” which identifies key findings that may reshape the way we perceive decision-making in today’s fast-paced and aggressive market. Summaries of those concepts are highlighted below.

Strict Deadlines are Creativity Killers

Although we live in a time-constrained world, working towards strict deadlines is not a productive landscape for creative thinking. Some of you all may think deadlines can help us focus on getting a job done, but research suggests otherwise. Instead, a deadline often causes us to make worse decisions because it limits our ability to think clearly. Deadlines increase stress and activate the brain’s “task positive” network, which is used for problem solving, not producing original ideas. So, what do we do about this? Deadlines are part of our world, especially in our industry, so specialists suggest that companies help their employees reduce stress and tap into the creative side of their brains. Taking a quick break to sit back and look at the big picture could be the best thing to do when feeling pressure from a deadline.

Uncertainty is Uninviting to Good Decisions

Feelings of uncertainty, such as feeling that your job is under threat, cause the brain to assume bad things will happen. In turn, we become pessimistic and make decisions based on fear and anxiety instead of what is best. Because uncertainty is a common issue in workplaces, experts encourage leaders and employees to accept uncertainty instead of avoiding it.

Look Beyond the Facts

Surprisingly, the best leaders lean on their emotions more than logic. When tested, leaders used the social and emotional thinking parts of their brain more than they used their planning and logical reasoning parts when asked to evaluate a set of management scenarios. It is difficult for people to switch between the social and analytical modes of thinking. Researchers suggest that people who have a hard time looking past the cold facts and analysis should remind themselves to take the social temperature of the situation every so often.

Positivity Goes a Long Way

This concept goes beyond decision-making and looks at how the best leaders inspire others, which seems to be through positive leadership. The best leaders seem to be the ones who are good at motivating others through praise, rewards and encouragement, which creates a strong emotional bond and sense of purpose among employees. Our brains are wired to react best to positivity rather than negativity.

Inspirational Leadership is Effective

What makes an effective leader…effective? Studies are showing that inspirational leadership plays an important role. Inspirational leadership is the ability to express a vision that inspires people and makes them buy into your strategy. If your employees are able to see the big picture and express it to others, you are doing a good job. Research shows that those abilities are due to connections between certain parts of their brains and that effective leaders seem to make those connections naturally while less effective leaders cannot.

So there you have it. Decisions are important and fortunately we have experts to coach us on how to make the best ones. I hope you found this helpful and interesting. Now, go and be creative!