A good mood reflects good health

Everyday clinical practice: About the power of mirror neurons

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Why it is so important to be a good leader.

A good manager orchestrates his team like a conductor. She doesn't need to be the best violinist for this, because the solo is left to proven experts in the team. In order to bring the orchestra to fame and honor, it is no longer enough if the manager is the best violinist but cannot fulfill the role of the conductor. Therefore, central elements of the "soft skills" also play an increasingly important role in personnel developers for the selection of executives in clinics.

In the past few years, experts who wanted to know what makes a good leader have teamed up with brain researchers to find out what happens biochemically in the brain when people interact with others. One result: it is the mirror neurons that are responsible for ensuring that the same cells are active in the brain of a person who observes someone else during an activity as in the person who is actually active. If you observe dancers on a stage, you activate the same areas of the brain as the dancer himself. Mirror neurons reflect what has happened, but do not translate it into the corresponding action. Subconscious body processes seem beyond cognitive control. Mirror neurons only react if the observed action is already present in their own repertoire and fall back on the wealth of experience.

There is thus a somatic change of perspective between alter and ego. We experience what others feel in an inner simulation. This often leads to a kind of emotional contagion, to spontaneous imitation, to step in step and to the copying of style and habitus. In addition, mirror neurons react not only when observing an action, but also when hearing an action, such as tearing up paper.

A good mood is contagious
Employees who observe their boss and unconsciously perceive their mood and behavior can be infected by it - in a good as well as in a bad sense. A boss who laughs often and maintains a casual tone also improves the mood in his team. People laugh more often there and everyone has more fun at work. Everyone's performance increases.

What distinguishes humans from almost all other living beings are the "spindle cells", which - like mirror neurons - were only discovered in the brain a few years ago. Research to date suggests that spindle cells control intuitive behavior in social interactions; among other things, they control empathy. Because they are so fast, they can control human behavior extremely quickly in a very complex social environment. So gut decisions about other people can be made in real time. “Oscillating cells”, which regulate the physical distance between people, also belong to the specific brain cells that control social interactions with others and play a role in leadership. Anyone who experiences exemplary and successful managers in clinics can literally observe how they use all “social brain cells” and stimulate their employees in the process.

Managers are under constant observation and imitation; consciously, but also unconsciously. Therefore, their behavior as well as their actions multiply.

The performance increases
Previous experiences also play a not insignificant role in the function of mirror neurons. Anyone who had to find out that friendly people show unexpectedly unpleasant sides, their mirror neurons will react differently to friendly people than people who have not had bad experiences. And whoever suppresses or does not use his ability to mirror will lose it.

The ability to mirror does not develop on its own, it needs a partner. In the baby, it is the mother or a caregiver who activates the mirror actions. Researchers assume that mirror neurons are fully developed between the ages of three and four. From this point on, the child has their own, independent perspective on the world. The fact that the mirror neurons are active in small children can be seen, for example, when a child begins to comfort its mother. It reflected that the mother is sad and comforts her.

These new neuroanatomical findings are important for hospital management because humans are herd animals. It's not just the mood in a department, in a clinic, that spreads from top to bottom. Everything is reflected. That is why professional and social skills are equally important. Good leadership has a direct impact on employee performance and ultimately on results. Good employees “fertilize” one another and are thus motivated by demonstrating. And so motivation is also contagious. A motivated, popular boss can encourage his employees to perform at their best. Because in this way he not only reaches the head, but also the heart of his team. An unmotivated superior will find it difficult to motivate his team to perform at their best.

Conversely, good leadership is also reflected in the performance and productivity of the manager and their team. In crisis situations in particular, it is not just a matter of specialist knowledge, but also of leadership qualities. Those who respect and value are also shown respect and appreciation. This is because stress also has a major impact on the functioning of the brain. When the hormones adrenaline or cortisol are released, this can improve performance to a certain extent. But when the brain gets too much of it, important cognitive functions stop. In experiments, researchers have found that employees release the most stress hormones, for example, when they are criticized inappropriately harshly by their superiors.

Mirror neurons work unconsciously, we don't have to think about them. The movement patterns or body signs of the other are quickly deciphered by our brain. A reflection of what we see is created in our brain. After the information came to our brain through the other person's body language, specific mirror neurons are activated that make the corresponding feelings vibrate. Regardless of whether it is sadness, joy or anger: in a very short time the mirror neurons begin to “infect” the same state in the observing person, that is, to transmit the same emotions. In the next step, we make sure that the feelings we are feeling are also real in the other person.

But we can also refuse to mirror emotions, if we are not open enough or if other strong emotions block us, then we will not react to a smile in the hospital corridor. The mind can also be a hindrance to intuitively mirroring the right thing. In addition, we have a built-in inhibiting mechanism - which also corresponds to the upbringing - which prevents us all from imitating or mirroring each other like puppets and assimilating each other. This is particularly important for team development and team composition in the hospital.

So we should think carefully about who we let ourselves be infected by. From the complainer who only sees the bad with suspicion, or from the cheerful nature who happily goes to work. Intuitively, we tend to be influenced by the most senior. This is the boss. So they should think carefully about how they treat the people around them. This ability is therefore also known as leadership and is a decisive success factor in a team.
Gaby Baller, Bernhard Schaller
Email: [email protected]
Everyday Clinic: About the Power of Mirror Neurons