Sometimes its hard to lead change. That’s because we humans don’t like change.
Why? Because our minds seek to protect us from threats. Change is a significant threat thanks to the instincts and mindware programs that run our unconscious minds.
Learning to lead change around these instincts and programs fuels our ability to create an organization that adapts and innovates. Here’s how to do just that.
Why Humans Avoid Change
Your unconscious mind creates patterns to make its work more efficient. The more information your mind can process automatically, the more cycles are available to manage and respond to the important realtime information coming from our world – like a threat.
The patterns we create range from how we think about ourselves to how we swing that golf club. Our minds also create business patterns in thinking and behavior. These patterns and expectations range from our products, customers and competitors to the processes, responsibilities and beliefs that drive our business.
When our unconscious mind senses a delta between what it expects (based on our patterns) and what is potentially occurring (the change), it sends out an error alert. This alert triggers our fear instincts, the same fight or flight instincts that govern our survival mind. The error trigger is so strong it causes physiological discomfort. So we avoid the change at any cost.
Change in Business
When a change in business is presented to our unconscious mind, we see that change as a threat and we either resist or avoid it. We also seek the safety and comfort of the status quo. That’s part of the status quo bias, which is another instinctual mindware program related to the threat response.
No wonder we see teams or entire organizations hanging onto “the way we’ve always done it”, even when “it” isn’t working and our businesses are suffering. In the middle of that threatening situation – we instinctually seek the safe and known. Even if the downward spiral continues.
Leading Into Change
Thanks to the discoveries of neuroscience, we know how to lead our minds to accept and even relish the changes we need to sustain successful growth.
How? Here are three simple steps to lead successful change.
- Make the Status Quo Unsafe. The first step is to show the unconscious mind that the status quo is not a safe haven. When our unconscious minds see that status quo as a potentially unsafe place – we will begin to look for new options. When speaking with your teams, make the status quo less appealing by pointing out the inherent challenges, risks, and the downside potentials of remaining in that very status quo. You can also point to competitors or businesses inside or outside your industry that have shifted away from the status quo and into more success. I’m not talking about scaring your teams. The idea is to loosen the power of the status quo with a bit of reality, not increase their threat response. Be thoughtful.
- Forget problems. Focus on fixing them. As humans we are programmed to focus on the problems, especially when it comes to the problems driving our need for change. The challenge is that all the problems serve to instill more threat responses as we focus on what’s wrong, failing or just plain scary. When leading change within your teams or organization, focus on the upside from the changes. Share details about the powerful solutions and the positive results that will come with the change. This solution-oriented focus shifts the unconscious mind into a positive and open state and that’s when creativity and excitement begin.
- Ask questions to get people involved. We’ve all had leaders tell us what and how we will change. It didn’t feel good, did it? Statements serve to narrow the mind, limiting our choices and responses. Instead, ask questions! Questions open the mind to seek more ideas and option. They also empower a person to feel involved and part of their change. When speaking to your employees about a needed change – ask for their inputs. They know their roles best of all, so ask them what they believe needs to change for better results. Get them involved and open their mind with questions. This simple shift can and will increase your teams’ willingness and enthusiasm for making changes.
The Bottom Line
Change is a given within any organization. Leading successful change can and will create competitive advantage for your organization.
Use these three simple techniques and watch the results in your own teams. Before you know it – change will become the very thing your organization seeks as a powerful means of continued success.