Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dealing with Resistance to Change

Do your employees like change?

When I ask this question of participants in my change leadership workshops, the answer is almost overwhelmingly no.

But when I ask part two of the question: do YOU like change – the answer is usually overwhelmingly yes!

Isn’t that curious? What happens when you become the boss? Do you go through some magic door and change your mindset about change?

I think the answer is often yes.  And if we think about why this happens, it may give us some clues to getting our people on board not just in the short term but for the long haul so change is part of ‘business as usual’.

And change is ‘business as usual’, so why does it still consume vast amounts of our time? Why do managers still find themselves dealing with pockets of resistance and negative attitudes?

Let’s look at a couple of things about your role as a leader of change:

- your own mindset

- you as a role model

Your Mindset

What is the difference in your mindset when you are a driver of change and when you are a recipient of change?

For example: think about a time when you decided to move home. You might have been offered a promotion or opportunity that involves relocation.

On the other hand, you might have lost your job and need to find work elsewhere. You might want to move closer to (or further from!) other family members. You might just want a change of scenery or lifestyle – it could be for a myriad of reasons.

By the time you have reached your decision, you have thought about all the reasons why it’s a good thing to move as well as all the reasons why not. You have mulled over the consequences of doing it and the consequences of not. You have thought about the financial, physical and emotional costs.

You have worked out how all these changes may affect you. You have been excited by the best possible outcomes of the move and faced up to or at least given some thought to the worst possible outcomes. You’re ready. You know what you’re going to do and how to deal with whatever will, crop up.

Many of these thoughts will be conscious and deliberate (logical and reasoned) but some will also be just feelings and intuition (an emotional or intuitive response).

After what’s gone on in your mind, you’re now in the driver’s seat. You’re in control. It’s your decision.

Of course, there is that small issue of your partner’s objections – they love your existing home. It’s peaceful, all established. Everything in its place. The neighbours are great – they will even look after the mail and the cat and keep an eye out for intruders if you go away. A routine exists – and given how much is going on in your lives, at least your partner felt secure knowing something was stable, home.

Then there are the kids. Why should they have to change schools? They “couldn’t live without their friends”, “you are so cruel” – you know what I mean.

Spot the difference?

It’s obvious isn’t it? As the initiator of the decision to move you’ve completed a three-step process – the RIV approach.

1. Reasons: We know and understand the reason for the change

2. Implications: We’ve have thought about the implications and consequences – personal, social, financial, environmental etc. We’ve faced and answered the ‘what if’s’ and our fears. We’ve looks at the positives as well as the negatives. i.e. we’ve dealt with The Almond Effect®.

3. Values: We’re comfortable that the decision fits in with our values, the way we want to live our lives.

Contrast your partner and kids – they may be able to tick off step 1 but if they aren’t jumping up and down with excitement then they certainly aren’t yet fully across steps two and three.  In fact you might be facing overt and covert or passive resistance.

Unless you help them deal with steps 2 and 3, your move may be more trouble than its worth if you want to keep your relationships in tact.

Emotions not logic

The logical component of change is clearly in RIV step 1, knowing and understanding the reasons for the change. There’s a mixture of logic and emotion in step 2. It’s pretty well all emotion in step 3.

And we know which is the most powerful and the hardest. Dealing with emotional responses – a consequence of how our brains function.

How does this appy at work to facilitate change?

Interestingly, many organizations think they do step 1 (explaining the Reasons) very well. And many do. However, it is worth questioning this: if you are experiencing resistance, ask your people to share their understanding of:

  • Why the changes in systems, processes, procedures, behaviour etc are necessary? 
  • What’s driving the need for change?
  • What will be better because of the changes? 
  • What will be worse if things don't change?
  • How does this fit into the big picture, the overall plan or framework? 
  • Their "WIFM" (what's in it for me?) of the changes compared to the previous way of doing things? 

In fact, could you, as the manager/supervisor sum up the compelling need for change in plain language in 25 words or less?

I am surprised how often organizations think they have completed step 1 yet the feedback shows there are still gaps in understanding why, the reasons for change.

If it's not logical, it's emotional

If your resistors can tell you the reasons for the change, then obviously the logic is OK but there is still something holding them back. It can only be their emotional responses.

Some they might share with you. Others they might not either because they don’t want to (and that’s a big area for discussion in itself) or perhaps even more frustrating, they can’t even articulate them themselves.

Changing your own attitude to change

Usually, when you become the driver of change or at least the implementer as a supervisor, team leader or manager, you have had the benefit and experience of looking at change from a business level. You may have been involved in identifying the problems or challenges and coming up with the solutions.

As part of this process, you will have worked through the logic and had the opportunity to work through your emotional reactions as well.

e.g. what will this change mean for me and the company? How will it improve the way we do things around here and my workload? My bonus is riding on getting this done and that means a holiday for the family or maybe a new car. My boss will see that I have done a good job and so promotion or a raise may be an outcome.

So before you have to get others to change, you and most managers in change scenarios, have completed the 3 step RIV process – you understand the reasons, have looked at the implications and how it fits with your values. So you’re there, the change makes sense and you want to be part of it.

But your people (or your family!) may be lagging well behind you in the process. The RIV approach explains why you just want to get on with it - because you have already dealt with your logical and emotional reactions (consciously or unconsciously) – but if others haven't completed that process, don't be surprised that they don't share your enthusiasm yet

Different mindsets about change

So I think there often is a difference in mindset about change between managers and staff – usually because of the timing and opportunity to go through the 3 RIV step model.

The implication of this is that if your projects are off track, blowing out budgets, timeframes or requiring more resources – check how you are tracking on the RIV model with the people who are impacted, directly and indirectly, by the change. What assumptions have you made where your employees are in the RIV process? How can you find out and/or measure this? Where there are gaps, what are you doing to assist them through? It’s time consuming in the short-term but vastly more effective overall.

Would you like some more information and assistance with working this through with your people? 

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you would like some more in depth application, facilitation and tools for this process. It's amazing what a small intervention can do to get your business change on track.

Future Blog Post

One critical component to getting others to change is you – you as a role model.

In a future post we’ll look at your impact as a role model of change – do you unconsciously sabotage your own efforts?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's coming - direct information download into your brain - hook me up now!

Want to learn to fly a helicopter in a few minutes? Learn a new language in seconds? Shakespeare's works before you go to the theatre?

According to Nicholas Negroponte - this is not just science fiction. It's almost here:

Watch now

Monday, December 15, 2014

When will this shopping game changer get to Sydney?

Shopping while you're waiting for a train (it's delivered once you get home!), is an example of what Dominic Thurbon describes as digital disruption:  

"... digital disruption means that schools, supermarkets and banks are not just ‘places’ anymore, and so it is the same with ‘work’.
Digital disruption means that work is not a place. It’s put beautifully in the World of Work report from Randstad: work is changing from a being place that you go, into a collaborative process."

So if work is not a place, then:

"Some of the obvious effects of this are already clear – flexible working arrangements, remote teams, virtualisation are becoming de facto norms in many organisations. Although it is also worth noting that there is growing evidence that management capability is not keeping pace with the changes in work style (many managers, for example, are used to managing teams by presence and visibility, which obviously doesn’t work when your team is remote, and must be managed by productivity and output!)"

Game changer indeed - requiring masterful change leadership. Is your organisation up to this kind of challenge?

reshaping the world of work for hiring managers & HR professionals

White paper by Dominic Thurbon

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Do you have anxious and scary situations at work?

Alone at the station

 8.15pm - alone on a long empty platform waiting for the 8.30pm train from London Paddington to Heathrow. Another person appeared. He had the entire platform to choose a spot to wait but he came and stood next to me. My heart started to race.

‘Stop it’ I said to my amygdala.

‘Calm down’ I said to my hypothalamus but it continued to flood my body with adrenaline.

All my amygdalae could see was a “young man of middle eastern appearance with a backpack.”

My pre-frontal cortex was appalled and embarrassed at my limbic system response. My cortex had no idea whether the young man was from the Middle East or not – and even if he was, so what?

I used the STAR model:

  • I Stopped. I took deep breaths. 
  • I Thought. I kept telling myself that my reaction was irrational and that my body should calm down.
  • I Acted - I stayed put but was consciously reframing my ridiculous thoughts for what they were - limbic mania over rational awareness.

Eventually the 8.30pm train arrived. I stepped on, sat down and my heart rate slowed.

Deep in the ocean

Two months later, off the Neptune Islands in South Australia I was in a cage heading towards the ocean floor hoping to get up close and personal with some Great White Sharks.

One came soon enough - ‘Cheeky Girl’ – 4.2 metres and 1000 kg. She was BIG! And I saw her many teeth as she passed several times within a metre of me while she attempted to snatch the bait hanging off the back of the boat!

The 30 minutes in the cage passed in a flash.

Did my life flash before my eyes?

Back on board I realised that my heart rate had hardly increased when I came face to face with this enormous predator. All I felt was awe and wonder as I watched one of the most amazing animals I have ever seen.

So what was the difference?

Why did I experience the fight/flight response so fully on a London train platform but not at all when within touching distance of a Great White Shark?

How much can you can prepare for scary situations?

The answer lies in preparation and learning (Rewiring) from experience.

Some of you will recall from a previous post that I searched for GWS once before. But even with 3 days of turning the ocean red with burly including tuna heads, blood and guts – no shark appeared on that trip. So much for ‘blood in the water attracts sharks!’

However what we did do on that ‘no show’ trip was to talk a lot about GWS with experts, practice descents in the cage, watch videos, look at GWS photos and listen to research – all of which prepared us for the recent trip – and took away the fear.

In contrast, the man on the platform was a complete surprise. It was the end of a fabulous trip to the UK; I had just been shopping in Oxford Street and was looking forward to returning to Sydney.

I simply wasn’t focussed on what was happening on the platform or that any risks or dangers could be lurking there.

So I was unprepared for the possibility that a man could appear on the platform and trigger an ANT (automatic negative thought) that cracked my almonds (amygdalae) with a sledgehammer!

And I had no previous experience from which to train my amygdala not to react to a racist stereotype automatically stored in my brain’s ‘database of nasty things’ after September 11, 2001.

Face the fear and defuse your amygdala

At work, ‘the man on the platform’ might turn up as a surprise outburst from the boss; an urgent deadline abruptly imposed; a retrenchment to be made, a dramatic fall in share price or an unanticipated cut in funding.

But ‘Cheeky Girl’ could show up when you anticipate the performance appraisal next week, a future presentation to the Board, an interview for a promotion, the switch over to a new system.

In other words, there will be some sudden and unexpected events that will catch us off guard. At those times, it is likely that we’ll experience The Almond Effect® - the fight/flight response in a pyschologically not physically threatening situation- even though our lives are not at risk.

When that happens, use the STAR technique – and focus especially on Rewiring afterwards – what can you learn from the experience? The more times you experience something confronting, the less confronting it becomes. Your amygdala learns that it is nothing to be overly concerned about.

But do not beat yourself up for reacting even though your pre-frontal cortex knows you should not have. We are hard wired for survival and our amygdalae do not know the difference between physical and psychological threats.

However when you know that a ‘scary’ situation is coming up (Cheeky Girl) – do everything you can to minimise the impact of The Almond Effect® by preparing as much as possible. Show your amygdala that there are no potentially fatal consequences to what you are about to do.

Then perhaps you’ll even enjoy coming face to face with your Great White Shark!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Sleep off your toxic memories

Would you like to simply sleep off toxic memories?

This may be possible one day due to the work of John O'Keefe the first neuroscientist to win a Nobel Prize.

Some french scientists have inserted a new memory into a mouse when sleeping.

And you thought that it was still a sci-fi notion .......

Check out the short news item here

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Are you a totally predictable boss?

The power of patterns

The Almond Effect® is when our amygdala recognises a pattern in its most rudimentary form, instantly assesses that it could be a threat to our ‘survival' and triggers us to react inappropriately to the ‘danger'.

Of course, everyday our brain relies on non-thinking patterns that don't trigger The Almond Effect so we can get on with our lives. That's why we are ‘creatures of habit'. We get into 'safe' ways of behaving, patterns, because then we don't have to think about it, we just ‘do'. It's less stressful and takes up less brain energy.

Change, even good change, is demanding

Yet anyone who has ever tried to change their diet or give up cigarettes, move to a new city, take on a new work role, learn a new language, work with different software, study a new subject, improve a long used swimming style (or your golf swing!) and a myriad of other examples - you know how demanding and tiring making those changes can be. Your brain finds it draining.

Even good changes, eg getting a great new boss or work colleague, buying a new phone or tablet, these can be difficult as your brain has already laid down patterns of behaviour attached to working with the previous person or device. 

And that's why it's hard to get people to change at work and indeed, at home.

We prefer the status quo

Unless we are highly motivated and determinedly ‘think' our way to persist and be resilient during the challenges of laying down new patterns, our brain will always prefer to rely on existing patterns rather than have to learn and lay down new ones.

That's why if we don't maintain the determination to keep trying, we (and our people) just slip back into the old ways. It's simply easier - and, automatic!

Patterns are our default

For example, we lay down multiple new brain patterns when we are learning to drive, but once we have mastered the skills, it's easy and becomes almost a ‘non active thinking' skill. 

How many times have you driven somewhere and didn't even notice the journey as your mind was pre-occupied with something else. Scary at times! But if you were driving in another country where they drive on the other side of the road, I suspect you'd be concentrating on every moment - until your brain had ‘got' the new pattern!

Same thing happens at work - we get into ways of working and behaviours that make work life easier for us and then rarely think about them - especially if the patterns deliver results.

Shrieking Sharapova

One of many great sporting examples of this is Maria Sharapova. She, like many other tennis players and other sportspeople, have a pattern that they repeat before every shot. And I mean every one.

Between each shot, she walks to the back of the court. Then, if serving she selects the tennis ball she is going to use to serve and approaches the base line. She takes a breath, looks at the part of the court she is serving to, slowly bounces the ball on the court twice, and then serves.

Every time! It is fascinating. Clearly she uses this pattern to get focussed, get her nerves and adrenaline under control and make winning shots. Though even when she is losing, she never breaks the routine.

This is a conscious use of a brain pattern that she knows usually works, even when it isn't actually delivering the results, to make sure that she doesn't lose her cool, fall prey to The Almond Effect® and do something rash, impulsive, without thinking and contrary to her years of training.

Manager's patterns aren't always helpful

The challenge with patterns is that because they happen without thinking, sometimes we don't realise the impact of our behaviours (patterns) on others.

For example, the manager who never looks up when someone comes into their office - what message does that pattern send to the staff member? The CEO who never makes any announcements that have any good news - what signal does that pattern send to staff? What do you think is their state of mind, their expectation, whenever the CEO indicates their intention to make an announcement or visit?

Other examples:
Managers who don't work with their team to formulate new organisational strategies because "what's the point, the CEO will do it his way anyway." And he does. Why would you be surprised when these managers complain that the CEO is an autocrat and he complains that they don't co-operate. Both parties are set in their own patterns of behaviour, both reinforcing each other's.

What about trying to improve safety by changing uniforms in a manufacturing environment? What if the employees are used to uniforms with long sleeves and you want them to wear short sleeves. Or vice versa? Seems on the face of it like a small thing. Yet because of the change required in mental patterns (try listing them from the employees' point of view), such a request can present real challenges for managers implementing change.

We have unhelpful patterns we're not even conscious of

And outside work. Have you ever said something like: I don't like sour cream on potatoes - but in fact have never tasted it? Or "I've always vote Liberal" or "Labor" as the case may be - why? Because your parents always did.

Where do those choices/patterns come from and what makes us stop, or not stop, and review them? You know you have a pattern that you've never reviewed when you say or think to yourself: "I've never really thought about it". Or someone says to you: 'you are so predictable' and you're staggered that you are!

So how predictable are you?

In fact, have you ever thought or said to someone else: "you're so predictable". How often has anyone ever said that to you? Do you just ‘know' how someone is going to react to a certain situation, what they are going to say? Would they say the same about you?

It's hard work to lay down new patterns especially if the old ones seem to have worked well enough so far. The first step to overcoming the negative and stressful impacts of The Almond Effect is to stop and reflect on what's going on for you at that moment. It's about developing self-awareness. It's about looking at what automatic behaviours you engage in, or what automatic assumptions you make, without thinking, just on reflex.

Try this

Ask a trusted work colleague if they can predict how you would react (behave) if:
- a new IT system was introduced
- a new manager was hired from outside over internal competition
- your boss got a new expensive car
- you were asked to stay - back late for the third night in a row

You get the kind of examples I'm thinking of.

And what about at home: what's predictable? About you? About someone you share your home with?
Not that there is anything wrong with predictability. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, patterns help us live our lives less stressfully, usually.

Good leaders try to discover and reflect on their patterns

In order to change and to build leadership skills, we must develop and hone the ability to reflect on our patterns, good and bad, and assess their impact on others and how much they contribute towards our goals.

Sometimes understanding this can be the most important step we can take towards becoming a great manager.

Please feel free to forward this to a colleague

Monday, December 01, 2014

Do you work for a disrespectful boss ? So do over 10,000 others

A study of  20,000 employees around the world shows that being treated with respect is more important than recognition, appreciation, an inspiring vision, useful feedback or opportunities for learning growth and development.

Yet over half said they were not treated with respect leading to less engagement, more turnover, less focus, greater health costs. Any surprises here?

To try and figure out why through a separate smaller survey by the same author, 60% of that group said they were uncivil because they are overloaded and have no time to be nice.  

When my mother was teaching me how to communicate with people, she never explained that being respectful took extra time. She always told me that it was a matter of choice and that if I chose respect I would reap the benefits.

Mum - over 10,000 others say you were right!