You’ve probably noticed. Change is everywhere. The headwinds of organisational change are a major disrupter to the cognitive and mental health of all workplaces. It’s time to change the change management story that there is too much change before you get blown off course.
Our continuing ability to adapt fast to changes in our environment is why we are such a successful species. The risk of getting stuck in negative thinking means you could be missing an opportunity for supercharging your business growth, innovation and inspiration.
While the volume and velocity of change may feel a little uncomfortable, it’s a necessary reminder to get you out of that comfy status quo armchair and moving forwards.
This is where utilising the brain science can help you lead successful change. Change is a signal. It alerts your brain to the fact that something is different, with the expectation that you will respond in what way that meets your brain’s three primary objectives of staying safe, finding reward and keeping energy expenditure down to a minimum.
Failing to meet these objectives explains why so many change management strategies have failed in the past and resulted in change resistance experienced as fear, frustration and/or fatigue.
It’s time to lead change with the brain in mind.
Change can appear frightening
Especially when it is imposed because your brain seeks certainty and familiar patterns. It is a prediction machine preferring to ‘know’ what to expect.
Your brain’s security officer sees change as a threat, alerting the limbic system to trigger the stress response and generate the accompanying emotion of fear. If instead you choose to see your rising adrenaline levels as a means of preparing for change, you can replace fear with anticipation, excitement and readiness.
Change is teamwork
So bring everyone on board with your change initiative by painting a picture of your vision that is big, bold and beautiful, to invite and inspire others to join.
Speak openly and frequently with conviction
Repeat your message, using jargon-free language and with as much detail as possible to alleviate uncertainty, disbelief or second-guessing by others.
Remember to invite everyone to your change party
Especially the naysayers. Social inclusion addresses the fundamental human need to belong, feel safe and be part of a tribe.
Practise active listening.
Others may not share your vision, but if they feel heard and understand that you have their best interests at heart you are more likely to get their buy in and future cooperation.
Seek as many change advocates as you can
Who will continue to share your vision long after you’ve left the room.
Be realistic in your proposed timeframe for change.
The brain is a terrible future forecaster in determining how much time will be needed overall and how much can be achieved in any given day. Break down potential burnout and procrastination by reducing change into small, easily managed steps.
Evaluate progress frequently and celebrate.
Your brain would far rather have celebratory dopamine cupcakes more often than wait for the end-of-term party. As Amabile and Kramer, authors of The Progress Principle, remind us, the power lies in the small wins that enable us to see our progress.
Celebrate failure, too, to acknowledge the effort applied and the learning for what could be done differently or better next time.
Be prepared to change direction.
As every sailor knows, it’s important to continually check you’re on course, adjusting your sails as needed and always ready to change tack or abort the journey.
Change can be exhausting, so allocate time for rest and recovery.
After all, you’re working with your neurobiology creating and sustaining neural pathways for new ways of thinking and behaving. But making it a normal and expected activity reduces stress, boosts reward and lowers the amount of mental energy required.
It’s time to change the change story. Creating a culture that embraces change enhances mental flexibility, promotes inspiration, motivation and the early uptake of new ideas, providing you a competitive advantage in our rapidly changing world.