Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. In this episode, Daniel Goleman speaks with Anthony Gell about the sweet spot for achievement.
Anthony Gell- You’ve mentioned this correlation between a very interesting graph in your book talking about the inverse U-shape which has got productivity and stress and the correlation. Could you just talk to us about what you call the sweet spot for achievement?
Daniel Goleman- Ah, the sweet spot for achievement. So what you’re referring to an inverted U and this axis (the vertical) is performance, how well you do, and the other axis goes from low brain arousal to high brain arousal.
It’s a very technical graph, but the sweet spot for performance is at the top of that U. And this is where people work at their best, think at their best. Neurologists call it a state of neural harmony. It’s a state of, also, maximum cognitive efficiency. That is, we can think at our best. We’re most nimble, most flexible. In sports it’s called the zone. You know, athletes who are superb, when they’re being at their best, are in that zone. It’s sometimes called flow. But if you are at work, or if you’re doing something you really care about, anything, that’s where you want to be. If you’re managing people, if you’re leading people, that’s where you want everyone to be, because that’s where you get the most return.
AG- And on the low side you’ve just got…
DG- Well on the one hand people are completely disengaged, which unfortunately is too large a portion of the workforce on any given day at any given moment. Which means, you know, “I don’t care about this job, I’ll just do what I have to do to keep it. I’m not going to give my best, I’m just going to do enough to hold my position.” And at the other end, you’ve got people who are over stressed. The technical term for that in neurology is the state of frazzle. The brain is actually frazzled. You can’t think straight, you can’t remember, you can’t learn. Forget creativity! So disengagement and frazzle are equally bad for performance. You want people to be in the middle in the sweet spot.