An Understanding of Implicit Memory Has Real Implications for Self-Awareness in Leaders

Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 in AdultLeader, Executive Coaching, Leadership | 103 comments

memoryImplicit memory is a type of memory in which previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without conscious awareness of these previous experiences. Schacter, D. L. (1987). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13, 501-518. .

We have all reacted unreasonably or unproductively and seen others do the same. An understanding of implicit memory has real implications for self-awareness in leaders. This understanding can help us manage our own behavior and help us avoid being sucked into reacting to someone else’s unreasonable behavior.

“What’s crucial to understand about implicit memory — especially when it comes to our kids and their fears and frustrations–is that implicit memories cause us to form expectations about the way the world works, based on our previous experiences. Because neurons that fire together wire together, we create mental models based on what’s gone on in the past. This is because implicit memory creates something called “priming” in which the brain readies itself to respond in a certain way.”
From Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., The Whole-Brain Child

Our brain is designed to react based on previous and repeated experiences. We form mental models for making sense of the world based on implicit memory. We recognize these mental models as our beliefs, perceptions, habits, expectations, and assumptions. Implicit memory helps us run on automatic pilot and to react without thought. Sometimes this is great, like in an emergency, or when we are running late for work. Sometimes it is not so great, like when we find ourselves reacting unreasonably or unproductively (again).

To develop as leaders, we need to increase our conscious awareness of the existence of the mental models we created from implicit memory so we can evaluate their effectiveness. Or just to realize they exist and are likely not helpful in the present moment.  Rather than react, we want to be better able to consciously choose to respond in order to get the results we want and be the leader and/or parent we want to be. This is about training our minds through our awareness to intervene and interrupt the reactions led by our brains.

In my executive coaching, I use the Results Accelerator™  to help my clients expand awareness of their mental models, or systems (beliefs, perceptions, habits, expectations, and assumption), so they can more consciously and effectively choose how they will respond and lead.

Leadership is not a position. It is the expression of our best and most capable selves. Leadership is a choice.

My best to you. Please feel free to send your comments and questions.


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