Trusting neuroscience to build motivated and resilient teams


Motivating your employees and building resilient teams is a large part of any leader’s responsibility, no matter the industry, and it has become increasingly challenging with today’s real issues.

There are ways to help your employees be more motivated and resilient and increase the organisation’s performance, all based on Neuroscience.

It is not rocket science, its Neuroscience

Understanding how the human brain is geared to process information - especially in the face of persistence and/or high stress - how rewards are valued and how to interpret the value they hold to organisations, can ensure you use the right tool to foster trust, influence buy-in and have a workforce that is driven to help your business achieve its goals.

The human brain processes information in a systemic and deductive way. According to the authors of “Neuroscience of Inclusion: New Skills for New Times” our brains process over 1 million pieces of information per minute. The anatomy of the brain is structured to help create mental shortcuts to help us quickly reach decisions. These networks, through repeated exposure to similar situations or types of information, create long-lasting links.

During times of uncertainty, anxiety, worry, and stress make our decision-making even more reliant on this mental shortcut. Sometimes, it overrides our ability to think methodically and rationally. You may be familiar with the “fight or flight” response. This is our brain’s survival mode. Quick decisions and rapid reactions are relied upon to help us survive a threat. Stress and uncertainty, similarly, also tap into this rapid and reactive decision -making, due to these networks and the anatomical structure of our brains.

It is not all bad news, there is a way out. Resilience is a skill that can be learned and with repeated training and tools, resilience can help override this rapid decision-making under times of stress. Whilst this is a common sought-after attribute, one element that is often overlooked is how resilience training isn’t only an individual activity. Few of us work entirely alone, so it stands to reason that fostering group habits that provide a secure and threat-mitigating atmosphere as a team, will also link to overcome adversity as a team.

Now, you must be asking: How? Social psychology dictates that there are two main types of motivation. Intrinsic (the kind of motivation that speaks to a person’s personal goals, desires, and hopes) and extrinsic (the kind of motivation that provides tangible and measurable rewards). Whilst both forms of motivation can incentivise staff, the potency of the former, results in longer-lasting trust, learned resilience, and fosters a stronger inter-office relationship. Managers therefore can help manage the stress of uncertain times by better identifying what their team is intrinsically motivated by.

So how can you apply this in the workplace to improve performance?

And can we really influence the brain in such a way to change behaviours?

Yes, you can.

Tips for Managers to motivate and build resilient teams

Build trust

Trust is the antidote: fostering trust in your team needs to be genuine. Our brains are geared to identify and categorise the lack of authenticity as a clear shortcut to predict future behaviour. Trust fosters trust in return. Even remotely, it is important that you continue to show respect and trust in employees as they make their adjustments personally and professionally to adapt.

TRY THIS: Ask them about their personal goals where possible and integrate personal and business goals. For instance, if there is a skill that they would like to develop, leverage your network to link them in with the person in the organisation they can develop that skill from. It will go a long way to build a long-term trusting relationship and tap into their intrinsic motivation.


It’s important that employees feel valued to be part of your company. Many businesses have been forced to revaluate their internal staff structure and how they do their normal business. Many employees have lost valued team members and friends, adding to the feeling they are in a compromising work position with added pressure.

TRY THIS: Show appreciation for any extra work or effort they made during stressful times. Ensure you show people that their subtle efforts were noticed and valued. Give them a day off to volunteer for a cause they value can provide longer-lasting motivation, than simply cutting a cheque.

Company culture and environment

Employers need to tailor their communication strategy by using clear information, infographics, and employee testimonials to display the positive progression path within the company. This way, candidates can envision their career path several steps at a time.

TIP: Are there internal or external staff events and activities that your employees can get involved in? Are there employee incentive schemes, rewards, or competitions that might interest them? 

RELATED: Tips for managing a team remotely and nurturing a remote culture

Benefits package

Studies by Seek.com show that candidates across industries look first at not just salary, but also compensation, benefits, and the perks associated with a job. 

TIP: Flexibility, working from home, and work-life balance are now on the top of the list of benefits that current and future hires value in a company.

Learning and development

Even remotely, employees still need to be developing within their roles to feel engaged and find satisfaction in their job. 

TIP: Webinars, interactive documents, and online courses are all available and are great ways to ensure that your employees have been upskilled. Sharing learnings and skills amongst each other is also a fantastic way of extending new knowledge and ideas and reinforcing the idea of employee value.

For a long time, companies believed that remuneration was the primary motivator for results, but scientific evidence suggests that the link between money, motivation, and performance is much more intricate.

Today, businesses need to create supportive environments – through training, education, tools, and resources – that foster “creativity, responsibility, healthy behaviour, and lasting change” as noted by Edward L. Deci, Ph.D. in Why We Do What We Do.

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