Do you hate your job? Do your employees like you? You might be thinking "who cares?" Let me stop you there. These questions ARE important. Miserable teams don't build great companies. If you want yourself or your employees to be more productive, you need to consider these hormones and how they build great teams.
- You can lead a strong corporate culture by considering and stimulating the hormones of your employees.
- Endorphins are a pleasure hormone. Stimulate endorphins in employees through office parties, picnics, and other after-work group outings.
- Dopamine is a selfish hormone. Benchmark and track achievements to stimulate dopamine in your employees.
- Serotonin is the love drug that inspires pride and loyalty in employees. Stimulate it with acts of empathy.
- Oxytocin keeps social cooperation in check. Stimulate it by giving generously and random acts of kindness.
Do you ever wonder how you can better inspire your employees?
How you can encourage your team members to reach their full potential?
What you can do to create a team that works well together, while still achieving your company’s goals?
If so, you can stop wondering, because Simon Sinek has the answer. Sinek, the bestselling author of Leaders Eat Last, says that hormones play a huge role in whether leaders create strong unified teams, or weak every-man-for-himself ones.
Today you’re going to learn what those hormones are, which emotions they inspire, and how they can improve your leadership skills, so you can create a high-performing team and an enviable office culture.
The 4 Hormones that Impact Workplace Behavior
The way you feel in the workplace—or anywhere else, for that matter—is influenced by your hormones. In particular, Sinek mentions four hormones responsible for our happiness: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
So, what do those hormones do exactly? Interestingly enough, each has a very specific role.
The “Selfish” Hormones
Endorphins mask pain. You can think of them as working similarly to drugs like codeine and morphine. If you’ve ever pulled a muscle at the gym—but kept right on with your workout—you probably noticed over time that the pain grew less noticeable as you continued. You can thank your endorphins for that.
But endorphins don’t just shield us from physical pain. They also cause short-lived feelings of happiness—like the kind you might feel when attending a party.
By contrast, dopamine is the goal-achieving hormone. If you get a little thrill each time you finish a task, you’re responding to dopamine. This chemical causes you to feel satisfaction whenever you accomplish something—so much so that the mere act of writing down one of your goals can release dopamine.
Both endorphin and dopamine are what Sinek refers to as “selfish” hormones. While they may help us to get things done, they don’t promote warmth, trust, or connection. The hormones responsible for those feelings are what Sinek terms, “selfless” hormones.
The “Selfless” Hormones
The selfless hormones are serotonin and oxytocin. Both of these chemicals are released when we bond with other people.
For instance, serotonin floods your body when you feel pride about something you’ve done. But it doesn’t only get released when you’ve accomplished something—it also surges when you feel proud of someone else’s accomplishments.
Imagine, for instance, giving your employee an MVP award, seeing your daughter graduate from college, or learning about your partner’s awesome new job—that’s when serotonin goes to work, making you feel good about their achievements. For this reason, Sinek calls it the “leadership” hormone.
Oxytocin, which Sinek refers to as the “love” hormone is the feel-good chemical of them all. It’s what you feel when you hug your child, bond with your partner, or laugh with your teammates over a shared joke. This chemical creates feelings of trust, safety, and connection.
How Hormones Impact Corporate Culture
Although each of these chemicals can be beneficial at work, you may have heard the phrase, “too much of a good thing.” That phrase definitely applies when it comes to dopamine.
The Dangers of Dopamine
As you read through these hormone descriptions, you probably thought that dopamine is obviously the hormone a strong leader wants to bring out at the workplace—go, get it done, more-more-more! That’s the logical conclusion.
However, Sinek says that in dopamine-dominant workplaces, there’s a huge emphasis on the numbers. It’s kind of the get-more-done-with-less mentality. While that sounds good in theory, it creates an enormous amount of stress on employees when their heads are always on the chopping block.
General Electric’s CEO, Jack Welch, was a prime example of this type of leadership. He fired 10% of his lowest-performing managers each year. Although this strategy yielded some short-term results, it created a culture of fear, distrust, and resentment—not the type of feelings a forward-thinking leader wants to inspire.
Leadership Is a Balancing Act
Instead, you want to build an office culture of teamwork, synergy, and cooperation. You want your employees to look out for one another, to trust each other, and to work hard to see your company succeed—not because they’re afraid of the consequences of failure, but because they genuinely care about the organization and its leadership.
Teams like these don’t just occur by accident. They occur when you create balance among all the hormones.
Things You Can Do to Strengthen Your Team
While that may sound challenging, our hormone-specific suggestions will help you take your leadership skills to the next level:
Endorphins — These hormones are released during short, feel-good types of activities. You can create endorphins in your employees through office parties, picnics, and other after-work group outings. Social activities like these improve employee morale, strengthen corporate spirit, and foster close relationships.
Dopamine — As a leader, you don’t want to abandon dopamine altogether, but you do want to keep it in check. You can do this by establishing clear goals for your employees and by regularly tracking their achievements on an achievement scorecard. This is just the right amount of selfish motivation.
You can also reward work well done with salary increases, bonuses, and office recognition.
But don’t just stop there. Too many leaders believe that money is the answer to keeping employees happy and motivated. Not so. That’s why you also want to elicit selfless hormones more often, like serotonin and oxytocin.
Serotonin — You can bring out this chemical in your teammates by recognizing their accomplishments in a genuine, heartfelt way. For instance, you could designate an employee of the month, send a handwritten note for a job well-done, or celebrate a team achievement with a special party or outing.
By showing pride in your team, they’ll be inspired to work hard—not because you bullied them into It, but because they love feeling recognized and appreciated.
This chemical can also be stimulated by caring for others. For example, in the Marines, the officers eat last. The emphasis is on creating a culture of respect and generosity for the group as a whole. As a leader, this means you need to put the well-being of your employees above your own self-interest.
You can do this by caring about your employees—not just when your numbers are good, but even when times are difficult. Listen to their concerns, get to know them as people—not just as resources—and think about how your actions affect them.
Sometimes this’ll mean making hard sacrifices for the greater good of your employees. However, your willingness to put them first will earn you loyalty, respect, and admiration. In turn, they’ll work their hardest for you, so you can achieve your company’s goals.
Oxytocin — Acts of kindness can stimulate this chemical. So, buy your employees lunch from time to time, write them notes of encouragement, allow them to wear jeans on Friday, or let them go early once in a while.
While these are small things, they’re highly effective because they communicate you care—and when you show your employees they’re important to you, they’ll be inspired to want to help you.
There’s No Better Time to Start Than Today
You now have the tools you need to transform the way you lead your organization. However, it’s not just enough to read this information. You have to act on it, if you want to develop the type of team that goes “all in” to help your company succeed.
As Sinek says, “The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”
So, start implementing some of our suggestions for creating a more balanced environment at your workplace, and then, wait for the magic. It’ll come . . .
Nathan is WealthFit’s Managing Editor. He's previously worked as an attorney in entrepreneurial law and venture capital.