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Why is Change So Hard (and why do we resist it)?

stick_figure_hand_up_stop_6450In being transparent, I am in the process of rebranding my business, not moving so much away from what I’ve been doing but being more focused on a particular area, or ‘the niche.’ I’ve always resisted being so focused – I’m ‘eclectic, meaning I have a lot of knowledge and experience in a lot of areas. So I’ve always resisted choosing one topic to focus on. It’s has gotten me through ten years.

However, I see how it has held me back in some ways. I’ve also recognized a passion forming for my renewed focus, which is leading me to come the decision that it’s time for some needed renewal. (More to be revealed). Why do I tell this? Because I’m realizing how hard this change can be – a name change, new business cards, new website, targeting marketing efforts, and the like. Although I’m excited by this, I find I’m resistive some days.

Why is change so hard? Why do companies struggle with this? Why do workers struggle with changes made within an organization? Our brains have a lot to do with this (actually all). We’re hard-wired to be in threat-mode: the brain is always searching for any type of threat to our safe environment. When we get into our routines and our habits, that is a safe area. We know what we know – and like it that way.

But when are faced with a situation that is new or, perhaps, we have faced in the past, the brain’s threat center goes off. We then either are faced with the choice of staying in safety or moving to the unknown. Most people choose safety, thereby resisting what is on the other side. While they are in their ‘safe zone,’ they feel frustrated, anxious and, sometime, depressed that they can’t seem to move out of this area.

I find myself slipping back into comfort zones – I know how to deal with my frustrations and, if I allow myself to, I can then attribute my lack of staying put to other people or situations (i.e. it’s too expensive to buy that, or I’ll do it later, or I don’t know how). Sound familiar?

So, as I’m going through my own changes, here are some tips that can help you to move you -or your organization – through any change:

  • Be clear on why the change should occur – often, communication is not conveyed often when a change occurs, which I’m unclear why the resistance.¬† As communication goes, just because you sent something out does not mean it is heard/interpreted the same way so ensuring the reason for the change is conveyed will help buy-in to the need. I’ve been very bored, quite frankly, with some of the work I’ve been doing so I’m needing change; I also have identified a need that I’m now looking to help with.
  • Identify the benefit for the impact of the intended change – what is the desired result the change will bring? People will accept change more readily if they know it will benefit either them or someone else. How will the change impact the workplace, such as by having less paperwork or being able to leave on time, or will it lead to a happy customer, who will come back and buy or refer others? I see the benefit of my changes as more effective workers and happier workplaces.
  • Plan…Plan….Plan… – moving to something new requires a plan for how the change will occur, including all the steps needed, people, time, money, regulations, paperwork, etc. Without a plan, frustrations will come quicker and excuses will be easier to make. I wrote a new business plan, as well as mind-mapped, for the direction my company is going. I have checklists and a calendar for what I’m doing on a daily basis; the change is feeling easier, which is giving me more excitement and motivation to get the change made soon.
  • Be Patient – don’t rush the process -it is tempting to move through a change quickly to get on with the new, but this actually can stall, or screw up, the new outcome, which could involve money or a brand. Pulling a band-off quickly will hurt but then you’re over it; there will be times that moving quickly through a change will be beneficial but not what I would recommend (unless a new opportunity presents itself that is too good to pass up). Being methodical and following the steps¬† laid out when planning will ensure that all bases are covered, as well as ease any fears that may arise. I actually am expecting that this process will be painful for me, which is helping me to take my time.
  • Communicate steps needing to be made and update on progress: this is very critical during a change to ensure everyone is aware of what will happen during a change and how things are going. If not, this could open the door to ‘the water cooler’ discussions of what employees think is going on. Having the buy-in will alleviate fears, thereby gaining more acceptance and support. I’ve been through several organizational changes in my past work, where I’ve seen it handled well and not so well; successful change always involved transparency and communication as we moved through. As strange as it sounds, I talk to myself, as well as write/journal, about the changes and validating the direction I’m on as I find this helps keep me focused on daily tasks and validating ‘wins’ I’ve made.
  • Trust and believe in yourself – it is vital to have faith in what you are doing, the decisions being made, and the skills/knowledge/abilities you have to do so. Leaders need to know – and stand behind – their ideas and decisions to make needed change; this applies no matter what you may face, such as backlash from employees or customers/the market. The hard part is going against adversity, which is often what keeps people from living in their comfort zones, as I’ve mentioned. Believe you can and you will. I have to remind myself of this step several times a day, but I feel more empowered and excited – and ready – to make changes in my business.

Moving through a change can be hard and will definitely feel uncomfortable but following my lead and the steps I’m taking will diminish any uncomfortable and resistive feelings while producing acceptance and trust (for any future changes). I’ll be updating my progress so stay tuned.

If you, or your organization, is looking to make a change but find resistance and struggle, let’s talk – contact us at http://www.cyscoaching.com

 

 

How Change Impacts the Brain and Holds You Back

Change – that can be a scary word, more so for some people than others. Change means moving away from something we know and moving to something we don’t – and that can create resistance. Some individuals will drag their heels, refusing to the change while others will go with it but are kicking and screaming reluctantly, while others will cruise along to see how things go and either will accept or reject. We get these types of responses whether the change is forced on us or it is for something we want for ourselves.

Why is change so difficult? Why can we just accept and move towards it as opposed to holding back? You know, the more we resist the more upset and frustrated we become. So what happens? How can this be explained?

We actually have to place blame on this brain of ours, especially the reptilian part of the brain, which houses emotions. When we move away from our status quo, and it feels threatening, that limbic system activates which will either lead us to fight or to be anxious. How we respond will be how we’ve coped and adapted over the years to stressful situations.

The way to move through change is to alter the way you see it – not as a threat but as something that will be an improvement which you get to know. Don’t think ahead or predict the outcome (‘It will never work’); plan and write out some solutions for how you will deal with the change, and tell yourself that it will work out. These simple steps help to tame the ‘dinosaur’ and help you to move through any changes that come your way.

How do You React to Unplanned Change?

I was in church this morning, which is merging with another church; today was the first day the two were brought together. I used to attend both at one time but this came as a surprise. However, what should have been a holy experience was interrupted by a woman who sat in front of me, who was obviously very displeased. She kept shaking her head and making some snide comments that were loud enough to be heard.

What should have been an uplifting service was now – not. It made me think of both the how and why one reacts to unplanned change; heck, change in general. If things don’t turn out the way we anticipated, we either accept or not. Both, however, can lead to some anxiety and resistance.

When we anticipate the future, this can lead to worry about what that might look like. The fear center in our brain – the amygdala – activates and releases certain chemicals into our system. How we have responded to scary situations sets how we react when those situations threaten us in some way. Usually, these situational outcomes are created in our mind, although our responses become more automatic, especially if we have the same responses over time. So, the worry can also come out as anger, like the woman in church.

I don’t know if she didn’t like the distance she now has to drive, if she was upset that new members were coming in, or the new practices they implemented; I do know, however, that she was not happy and did not either care or realize that she let it show. Getting in our ‘rightness’ leads to resisting change of any type: our thoughts, our way. The question to ask is: if you would rather be right in your way or to be happier? The thought here is that you win so I lose but, in the grand scheme of things, no one is winning.

You can either wait and see, or go along with, the change or you can resist. You never know if the change may actually be enjoyable but when you think negative, you get negative and are not open. As we can never know an outcome, stop trying to control it. Be open enough to ‘go with the flow’ and wait it out; this will allow you time to make an informed decision for how you want to proceed from then on. Going back to the woman I spoke of earlier, she can either go to another church or she can give it time to see how things go. I prayed that she opens her heart enough to find out.

We all have the ability to assess how we respond to adverse situations and unplanned change; we also have the ability to learn to control how we view those situations and our responses. Go back and think of a time when you had an unplanned event and how you looked at it and how your responded; rate the magnitude of the event (finances, job loss, divorce, etc. all have high magnitudes), and then begin developing solutions to fall back on. Challenge and reframe your thoughts so you feel more in control. I pray that you open your heart enough to find out.

Using Your Voice for Good

I know this will sound ‘cheesy’ but I admit that I watch beauty pageants; in fact, I’ve judged several. I am always amazed at how this industry attracts not just beautiful women but ones who are very smart and accomplished. Last night’s Miss USA Pageant was a bit different in the respect that there was more diversity in contestants, there was a “Number 52” who was voted in by the public, a Ph. D. candidate, and an Army sergeant (who won).

Another change that was very impactful was, first, there were only 5 judges and not 10 like there were in the past; the public as well as the contestants were able to cast votes for the winner; and the biggest impact were the questions for the final five. How awkward that one contestant was asked the question of what can be done about the disparity between the rich and the poor (she bombed this badly), as well as the contestant who was asked if she would vote for either Clinton or Trump – talk about being put on the spot, but she handled it well.

I also like to hear what these women stand for – their passions and hobbies. This last year’s Miss USA, in her farewell speech, talked about her best memories of politicking on Capital Hill for Cancer and Alzheimer’s; she said how using your voice for good can change the world. This really resonated with me as I find this is often hard for some to do, as it means you have to put yourself out there which could open you up for criticism or ridicule.

We, as a society in general, seem to care about what others think of us so we go along with the crowd, like ‘sheeple,’ afraid to think and act as we want. We seem to be afraid of being authentic or showing who we really are; we might judge others, become that mean girl (or boy), or stay hidden in the shadows. The ultimate is a frustrated life. The only way to get ahead is to use your voice for good – write, speak, advocate for yourself and others, don’t accept mediocrity, don’t accept poor service, but do express yourself in whatever way feels good for you. This is how change happens – for the good.

Of course, this takes risks but aren’t things you want in life worth a risk? You can use your voice for good at work, in your business, in school, or in your community. Find ways you can do good and make a difference in our world – it all can start by taking the advice of a beauty queen and use your voice.

 

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