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Exercise your brain to unlock career potential

Every organisation I work with has a strong focus on wellbeing. From proactive encouragement of employees to take regular exercise to supportive attitudes to mental health, I see many positive initiatives.

However, one area which doesn’t always receive the attention it’s due is the development of the brain. Of course, training and qualifications all lead to enhanced knowledge. But there is little specific focus on exercising the mind.

Logic and emotion use different parts of our brains, and while the ability to think logically is lauded in the workplace, developing emotional intelligence is essential for leadership.

We may be born with a natural affinity towards one or the other, but both are traits which can be developed. Logic can be learned: throughout school, college and university we are taught to reason and apply critical thinking. Little heed is paid to developing emotional intelligence within the education system, but this is something that can be successfully developed with coaching.

Acknowledging your own strengths and weaknesses is an essential element of leadership. When I work with leaders on a one-to-one basis, we work together to identify thinking preferences and how they make decisions. We focus on the profile of the individual and then look at how we can stretch them and encourage them to think with agile methodology. This gives a framework to encourage better quality thinking – something that Nancy Kline started developing two decades ago, and at Hunter Roberts we very much follow those principles.

A great example of the benefits of this type of coaching is a recent client of mine who was made redundant from a senior position in corporate banking. He had a very successful career but struggled to see where he could go next: he had reached a point where he felt he wasn’t going to develop any further. But he was a good solid performer, very reliable and consistent, so we worked together to develop his emotional intelligence and explore skills he hadn’t used in his banking career.

The change in him has been astounding. He’s gone from being solid and reliable to a dynamic leadership coach who travels all over the world helping leaders to reach their full potential. He was given an opportunity, but he made it work by opening himself up to new ways of thinking.

Careers can take lots of different trajectories – upwards, sideways, back down a rung, or a completely new start. But whatever point you’re at in your career – or your life – it’s never too late to develop your brain, embrace new skills and unlock your potential.