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Sure, it's a little late - well, later than everyone else's - but maybe now you'll have time to read this wrap-up of my top 10 most popular blog posts of 2013.

top 10 change management blog posts

Before we get started, just a quick word of thanks:  The past year has brought a whole lot of new visitors to the ADRA blog, and I wanted to thank both my new readers and my 'old faithfuls' for making 2013 such a great one. I have always loved thinking - and writing - about change management, but it's particularly gratifying (not to mention flattering) to know that thousands of people are interested in what you have to say about change every month.  Thank you - and I hope you enjoy my 2014 posts even more.

And now for the top 10 of 2013.

1.  Changeruption: When 'disruption' meets 'what the hell just happened?', it's time for change management

Like so many buzzwords, disruption started out with good intentions.  But when the skinny-jeans consultants forget to tell Marge's team in shipping/receiving about the 'disruption' they're about to orchestrate in the organization, the resulting changeruption starts looking more like Mount Pinatubo than the TED talk you were hoping for.

2.  Top 10 Myths of Change Leadership

We all have some preconceived ideas about what leading change will, or should, look like.  But many preconceived ideas aren't, in fact, correct.

3.  Adapting to your new iPhone is not the same as change management

These days, technology has made us all more adaptable - at least we think it does.  But learning how to use your fancy new gadget isn't the same as adapting to organizational change.  Here's why.

4.  Think the workplace isn't about making friends?  Think again.

Sure, you probably shouldn't be best friends with the employees you manage in the workplace.  On the other hand, you'll find that the most successful businesspeople are the ones who know how to build and maintain long-term relationships with the people they work with.  

5.  The Changing Role of Pharma Reps

New regulations mean that pharmaceutical reps are going to have to do less 'selling' and more 'relationship-building' with healthcare providers.  What does this mean for healthcare?

6.  Change Challenge:  Sales Force Reorganization

Changing the process, tools or structure of  sales teams can be particularly challenging, especially when some members are more successful than others.  Here's how we managed a change initiative in a real-world organization.

7.  Positive Psychology, Change and the Bottom Line III:  Motivation to Change

Part of our 5-part series on how theories from positive psychology can be applied to change management with dramatic bottom-line results, this piece discusses neural pathways and how they affect the motivation to change.

8.  If culture eats strategy for lunch, change is part of a healthy breakfast, Part II

The right change management strategy balances the rational (typically the business goals) with the emotional (typically the organizational culture).  If you can get them both working together, the organization will do a better job of changing.

9.  10 tips for choosing the right change management consultant

I first wrote a version of this back in 2011.  It was one of my most popular blog posts back then, and I've updated it every year since.  Remember, the right change management consultant can make or break your change initiative.

10.  Positive Psychology, Change and the Bottom Line V:  The ABCs of Positive Psychology - Affect

Another in this year's Positive Psychology series, this piece examines 'affect', the first in the ABCs of positive psychology which also includes 'behavior' and 'cognition'.  


I hope you have a chance to visit - or revisit - these posts.  In the meantime, thanks again for visiting the ADRA blog, and as always I look forward to hearing from you (and you can always find me on Twitter).


Published in News

In our previous posts on Positive Psychology, we've talked about what positive psychology really is, about how neuroplasticity affects the way we learn, about the essential factors in creating the motivation to change, and about the implications of all this for organizations.

Now we're going to look at the ABCs of positive psychology:  Affect, Behavior and Cognition.

All 3 of these - affect, behavior, cognition - are necessary for change to occur.  They are important individually, but their real power is in the way they intersect and align.

Today, we're going to talk about Cognition.


Cognitive therapists will tell you that you never simply experience an event - you interpret it.  You have a thought about the event, and then you have a feeling about it.  Their premise is that we can change our feelings about an event simply by changing our interpretation of it.  Now, I'm not totally convinced that this works every time, but I do believe that the way we interpret events leads us to conclusions that may or may not be productive for us.

For example, let’s say I’m in a meeting and present an idea.  My boss cuts me off and tells me the idea has no merit.  I’ve got three choices:  I can either interpret his reaction as an indication that I, as a worker, have no merit and shut down for the rest of the meeting (or, in fact, for many subsequent meetings).  Or I can interpret his reaction with curiosity:  “Why do you think that?” or “Which part of my idea has no merit?”  Or I can interpret his reaction as a misunderstanding:  “Maybe I haven’t explained my idea fully - let me try again.”

Option 1 isn’t productive for me - or for my organization, who now has a disengaged (even if only temporarily) employee.  Options 2 or 3, however, reframe the incident in a more positive way for me as an individual, and for the organization, because I remain engaged.  The option I choose is dependent upon the way I’ve interpreted the situation.

How we interpret an incident or situation affects the way that incident is established as a neural pathway.  If we want to change the way we interpret events - if we want to make it less automatic, especially if we’re in the habit of interpreting events in a negative light - we need to create new neural pathways.  I call it ‘getting curious’.  Instead of assuming, for example, that my boss’ comment indicated that I had no merit and consequently retreating into a disengaged state, I can ask questions:  “Let me clarify:  Do you mean that my whole idea has no merit, or that there is a specific aspect of it that won’t work in the context we’re discussing?”


The Three Ms

As individuals and as organizations, we’re often guilty of the Three Ms:  Magnifying, Minimizing, and Making Up.  Magnifying is when we overgeneralize or engage in ‘all or nothing’ thinking.  Minimizing is when we underplay and dismiss the positive (and sometimes the negative) elements of a situation or idea.  Making Up is when we use faulty emotional reasoning or assign blame incorrectly.

When organizations magnify, or overgeneralize around a change (“This is a fantastic change!  It will be so great for everyone!  This will be the miracle we’ve all been waiting for!”) they can end up losing the engagement of their stakeholders.  The truth is that change is rarely universally positive, and when organizations don’t acknowledge this, they lose trust, which can be fatal to a change (and even to the business as a whole).

Companies which minimize the truth of a change in favor of a sanitized, “don’t pay attention to the man behind the green curtain” version of their change strategy will also lose trust and the engagement of stakeholders. 

And organizations which spend more time assigning blame than in fixing mistakes end up creating a blame culture in which CYA memos become more important than actually getting stuff done - which will derail a change initiative faster than you can say “It wasn’t my fault.”

Cognition is all about encouraging individuals - and the organization - to respond more positively when faced with a potentially negative situation, by consciously creating more positive neural pathways, whether in the individuals involved in a change or in the processes which are the organizational equivalent to neural pathways.  It is these conscious changes - combined with Affect and Behavior [insert appropriate links] which will allow the organization to implement and sustain meaningful change over the long term.

Published in News

In our previous posts on Positive Psychology, we've talked about what positive psychology really is, about how neuroplasticity affects the way we learn, about the essential factors in creating the motivation to change, and about the implications of all this for organizations.

Now we're going to look at the ABCs of positive psychology:  Affect, Behavior and Cognition.

All 3 of these - affect, behavior, cognition - are necessary for change to occur.  They are important individually, but their real power is in the way they intersect and align.

Today, we're going to talk about Behavior.


Sometimes, we go to a class or a workshop and we leave all fired up:  We've learned a new way to approach problem solving, or gained a new skill in handling conflict, or we've just been inspired by someone who is doing great things in their field.

We go back to work, full of ideas about how we're going to Change the World or even just our own corner of it...and then, after a few days or weeks, the changes we had resolved to make either fail to launch or fall by the wayside.

Why?  Because any real, lasting change requires real, consistent behavior change.  

Whenever I work with a group, the last thing I ask at the end of the day is "What will you do differently tomorrow (or on Monday morning)?"  It's a critical question, because in order for our situation to become different, we have to behave differently.

Work smart - and then smarter

In 1993, Anders Ericsson studied elite musicians.  He found that they work hard, but more importantly, they work smart - and then challenge themselves to work even smarter.  Elite musicians practiced:  they worked at their craft consistently, day in and day out.  They worked smart:  they had teachers to coach them and provide feedback all along the way.  And they worked smarter:  they didn't practice too much - 4-6 hours a day, no more.

Edward Taub, a leading neuroplasticity researcher who works with stroke victims, found a similar trend with his clients.  After 4 hours of therapy a day, stroke victims made no more positive gains when they spent additional hours on speech or mobility therapy.  At that point, they simply reached a point of diminishing returns.

Ericsson found that elite performers needed to avoid exhaustion to maximize gains from long-term practice - the same could probably be said of Taub's stroke victims.  This flies in the face of what we learn in the business world:  We're told and taught - and most of us think - that the more hours we work, the better we'll be.  We don't take vacations, or even a day off without our iPhone or Blackberry.

However, most of us would find that we'd think better and be more productive if we actually took more time off.  Disconnecting for 48 straight hours on a weekend doesn't mean you're not committed to your career - it means you return to the fray rested, recharged and able to tackle challenges more effectively than you do when you're chronically exhausted and drained.

Behavior, action and lasting change

In positive psychology, 'coping' is a term used in relation to self-esteem.  The idea is that we learn when we take action - when we put ourselves at risk in some way and then cope with the consequences.  It's acting outside of our comfort zone which builds our self-esteem.  It doesn't matter if you succeed or fail - simply taking action drives the new neural pathways which lead to greater positivity and success.

People who enjoy lasting change have a bias for action - and for working smarter.  The same can be said for organizations.  When organizations try to change but then fail to implement behavioral changes which will reinforce the change, the change won't stick.  Similarly, if change isn't accompanied by sufficient downtime for individuals to process, adapt and build positive new neural pathways, the change won't deliver the desired results.


Next time we'll talk about the C in the ABCs of change:  Cognition.

Published in News

In our previous posts on Positive Psychology, we've talked about what positive psychology really is, about how neuroplasticity affects the way we learn, about the essential factors in creating the motivation to change, and about the implications of all this for organizations.

Now we're going to look at the ABCs of positive psychology:  Affect, Behavior and Cognition.

All 3 of these - affect, behavior, cognition - are necessary for change to occur.  They are important individually, but their real power is in the way they intersect and align.

Let's talk about Affect first.


Typically, when we think about emotions in the workplace, we think of them as being negative.  We think that 'real professionals' don't bring their emotions to work, and they definitely never reveal their emotions in the boardroom - to do so would be seen as a sign of weakness.

Except that all of us have emotions, and it's not all that easy (or even possible) to leave them at the front door of the office.  We may experience anger, frustration or fear as a result of something that happens at work; we may also experience more positive emotions like joy, satisfaction or excitement.

All of these emotions are giving us important clues about ourselves and our situation, and if we pay attention to them, rather than doing our best to suppress them in the name of 'professionalism', we might succeed in using them to our advantage.

When an organization is going through change, it's often the negative aspects of emotions which are most talked about:  Those who oppose the change, those who challenge the change, and those who resist the change.  But even these negative reactions to change provide important information to the organization.

We don't always focus on the positive emotions associated with a change, but I think it's important to pay just as much attention to them as we do to the negative emotions.

Did you know that 80% of individuals who experience some kind of trauma actually experience post-traumatic growth, not post-traumatic stress?  That's a good endorsement of our inner strength and resilience.  However, we most often hear about the 20% who suffer from PTSD.  Now, I'm not minimizing that 20% - their experience is real and difficult.  But it's interesting that we don't focus on the majority who experience something more positive - and it leaves many of us with the notion that there is only one way to respond to trauma (PTSD) when in fact many of us respond much more positively.

When we examine PTSD and PTG (post-traumatic growth), we see that it's often a single event which leads to either one.  Remembering what we learned about neuroplasticity, we know that a single experience creates a new neural pathway in the brain.  When that channel is seen as negative, we end up with PTSD; when it's seen as positive, we end up with PTG.

We know that a single negative experience in our work life can set up a negative pathway that lasts (all it can take is one manager, early in your career, telling you that you'll "never rise to a senior leadership position" to change your career aspirations forever).  But if that's true, can a single positive experience in our work life have a similar outcome?  Can it create a channel that will permanently increase our well-being and a positive response to challenges?  The answer is yes.  Sure, it depends on the experience - but it also depends on what we do with it.


Reinforce positive experiences

When something bad happens at work - someone yells at  you, you make a mess of a presentation in front of the whole team, etc. - we tend to replay it in our heads over and over again, which of course reinforces the negative pathways the experience created.  But when was the last time you replayed a positive experience over and over again?

Many of us are taught to downplay our successes ("Don't get cocky!" or "No one likes someone who's full of themselves!"), so we tend to move on from positive experiences faster than we do from negative ones.  But there's nothing to stop you from replaying a positive experience to yourself.  Journaling is a fantastic way to do this:  By taking the time to describe the experience to yourself and write it down, you're reinforcing the positive neural pathways that were created, and making it part of your personal narrative, which will enhance the results.

Another way to fortify positive experiences is simply to take the time to do so.  In 2006, scientists demonstrated that rats who were given time to rest and 'hang out' ended up learning a maze faster than rats who were simply forced to repeat the (unsuccessful) attempts over and over again.  As humans, giving ourselves sufficient downtime is critical both to the creative process and to allowing us to fortify our positive neural pathways.


Affect and change management

How does all of this relate to change management?  Well, we can deny the existence of emotions in the workplace all we want, but the truth is that when change happens, it always generates emotions in the individuals required to carry out and live with that change.  If we can acknowledge the negative emotions, we can do a better job of managing their consequences. More importantly, if we can harness the positive emotions, we can use them as powerful tools to create real and lasting change that delivers the results we want.


Next time, we'll talk about the B in the ABCs of change:  Behavior.

Published in News

In our previous posts on Positive Psychology, we've talked about what positive psychology really is, how neuroplasticity affects the way we learn, and about the essential factors in creating the motivation to change.

Today we're going to look at the impliations of all this on organizations.

Individuals and organizations

In many respects, organizations ask themselves the same change-related questions that individuals do:  What is my motivation for change?  Do I really want to change?  Does my interest in changing outweigh the perceived effort required to change?

However, these questions are asked both by the organization and by each individual affected by whatever change is being introduced.  If the organization says "We want to become a more nimble organization," this has implications both for the organization as a whole and for each individual involved in the change.

Remember, if the subconscious doesn't agree wtih the change, it won't happen.  In organizations, the 'subconscious' can be seen as individual employees.  So if the organization says that becoming more 'nimble' means 'hiring more temps who we can fire at will', the organization risks alienating existing employees, who start to feel that the organization no longer values a commitment to the organization.  That doesn't mean this change won't work - it just means that management needs to speak openly about the reasons for these temps and how the process will work.

Motivation for organizations

As we discussed earlier, motivation to change requires that the desire to change is greater than the perceived effort required to make that change.  Without sufficient passion, change is difficult even when it doesn't require a whole lot of effort:  "They tell me that spending 15 minutes changing my settings on this CRM system will do something, but I dunno...I've kind of gotten used to it now."

At the same time, when the perceived effort is too large, it can be hard to generate sufficient passion to make it seem worthwhile:  "I know the existing CRM system isn't perfect, but now I have to sign up for a 5-day course to learn the new system!  Ugh.  Don't they know I have work to do?"

In both cases, senior leadership has good reasons for wanting the change - a more efficient CRM system means better sales processing, better customer service, and ultimately a more productive sales cycle - but in neither case have they communicated these reasons effectively.  The result is that while the organization may be motivated to change, the organization's subconscious - the individuals involved - isn't.  Which means that the change won't happen, or won't happen effectively.

Emotions of any kind are a big part of change.  They're often disregarded in favor of a focus on the technical aspects of change - the training, the processes, the expectations - but it's important to remember that building positive emotions will provide the momentum to move the change forward, while negative emotions (or a lack of emotional engagement) will have the opposite effect.  The only way to effect change within an organization is to leverage the ABCs of positive psychology:  Affect (emotions), behavior and cognition.

Next time, we'll delve into these ABCs.


NEXT:  Part V - The ABCs of Positive Psychology



Published in News

In our previous posts on Positive Psychology, we talked about what positive psychology really is, and how it's important when you're thinking about change, and about neuroplasticity and how it affects the way we learn.

Today we're going to look at how this applies to the motivation to change.

motivation to change

Neural pathways by any other name...

All organizations have neural pathways - but we call them 'processes' or 'the way we do things around here'.  As with neural pathways, processes tend to be self-reinforcing.  That may be because they're official and written down, or because they are part of the unwritten, accepted culture - but they're still self-reinforcing.  When they're working well, they become stronger and that can be a good thing for the organization, but they can make it harder to change something which is entrenched within the organization.

Motivation to Change

Dr. Ellen Langer, a noted Positive Psychologist, conducted a study in which she asked study participants if they wanted to change from being rigid, gullible or grim.  She asked each participant if they valued consistency, trusting and seriousness - and those who said yes had the most difficulty changing.  This is because thought I might say I don't want to be so rigid, if I value consistency it will be hard for me to really want to change - my desire to become less rigid is fighting with my desire for consistency.  So I need to learn to distinguish between the positive and negative parts of the characteristic before I can begin to make any changes.  In other words, I need to unbundle rigidity and consistency if I hope to make a substantive change. 

Motivation to change starts with having some feelings about what I want to change.  Studies show that without emotions we cannot act.  Do my feelings, divided by perceived effort, equal at least 1?  If the perceived effort is greater than the emotions I feel and the equation is less than one, I will not act.

In 1965, Dr. Howard Leventhal and associates conducted a study in which researchers tried to get students to get their tetanus shot.  At first there was no reaction.  Then they increased the emotional component:  They showed students pictures of people who hadn't had a tetanus shot and what had happened to them.  Some students were motivated to take action, but most did not.  Then researcheers demonstrated the reduced effort it would take to get the shot - on one flyer they included the location of the clinic, the hours of operation, and even the phone number.  Only then did they get a large response.  By lowering the perceived effort required to get the shot, the researchers finally got students sufficiently motivated to take action.

The second component of motivation to change is recognizing the need to change.  This only happens when we take responsibility for our actions, rather than blaming others.  For example, if the attitude within the workplace is "I couldn't get that done because I didn't have enough lead time and then I didn't have the right tools to get the job done," then it's hard to drive change because no one feels responsible for the process or the outcome.  On the other hand, if the attitude within the organization encourages a more positive approach - "If I need better tools to get the job done, it's my responsibility to request those tools" - then it's easier to recognize the need to change.

The third component of motivation to change is believing change is possible.  Whether I do or don't, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If I have a growth mindset - if I think that we (the organization and I) can grow, change and adapt - then it will happen.  At the same time, if I feel that it's not possible, it won't happen.  A growth mindset can be taught:  Talking about neuroplasticity can help, and fostering a workplace culture that values and encourages growth and development will also make a difference.  But like all organizational neural pathways, these mindsets have to be reinforced.


NEXT:  Part IV - Implications for Organizations

Published in News

Last time, we talked about what positive psychology really is, and how it's important when you're thinking about change in large organizations.

Today we're going to look at neuroplasticity.

What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is one of those five-dollar words that actually has a straightforward meaning:  From 'neural' (pertaining to the nerves) and 'plastic' (changeable), it refers to the brain's capacity to change on a physiological level.  In other words, neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to form new neural connections.

It's these new neural connections which allow us to learn, think or do new things.  It's what allows a baby to learn to walk and talk, and what allows a person who's suffered a stroke to relearn to walk and talk.  Neuroplasticity enables us to change habits, to learn new languages, and to learn new information.

Neural pathways are channels in our brain, sort of like roadways.  They're created and sustained through our experiences.  Used often, the roadways stay wide and open; used less often, the roadways become narrow and less easy to traverse.  These neural roadways are created through experience:  A new neural pathway will be narrow, reflecting the beginning of a new experience, while a wider neural pathway indicates a more mature, more-used experience, like a habit or a customary way we consider information.

Neural pathways are self-reinforcing:  The more you use them, the wider and more entrenched they become.  This is good news if we want to continue that pathway without having to think about it too much - but it's bad news if we want to change in some way.

The problem is that some of our neural pathways are negative, like if we're constantly criticizing or finding fault with ourselves or others, or if we're always worrying.  The more we worry, the more we strengthen these negative pathways, and the more difficult it becomes to change those pathways.

On the other hand, a positive neural pathway is where positive habits, like looking on the bright side or making positive choices, come into play.  Luckily, these positive pathways can be equally strong as the negative ones.

What does this mean for change and change management?

Understanding the way our brain creates and sustains these neural pathways helps us to create and sustain change on a personal level.  If we're a 'fault finder' but want to become a 'benefit finder', we need to find a way to shrink the 'fault finder' neural pathways and expand the 'benefit finder' neural pathways - we have to block the negative roadway while widening the positive one.  Just as roadbuilding isn't fast or easy, neither is neural change - it takes time and concerted effort.

This has implications for both the individual and the organization.  Brain lock is signified as a deep-rooted neural pathway.  For individuals, these  pathways can manifest as obsessive-compulsive disorder.  For organizations, these pathways - also known as 'processes' - can be what makes change difficult or impossible.


NEXT:  Part III - Motivation to Change



Published in News

Bring up the subject of 'positive psychology' in a roomful of hard-nosed business types and you'll almost always get the same reaction:  A whole lot of rolled eyes and possibly the assumption that you shouldn't have been let into the room in the first place, what with your dangerous hippy notions and all.

But as many of today's most successful businesses - think Google, Apple, Virgin Mobile - have discovered, positive psychology can have a huge impact on the bottom line, especially over the long-term.  In this series, we examine what positive psychology really is, how it affects change, and how businesses can benefit from a better understanding of positive psychology in the workplace.

Why positive psychology?

Today's 24-hour news cycle means that we're being bombarded with 'negative' messages all the time, from global warming and world hunger to slow economies and political dictatorships.  

What we hear less about are the world leaders, business leaders and scientists who are trying - and succeeding - to make a difference even in the face of all this negativity.  And I tend to think that we can learn just as much from these successes as we can from a steady diet of negative stories.

Positive psychology was born out of a desire to stop focusing only on the negative while recognizing that we may have just as much to learn from positivity and success as we do from negativity and failures.

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is the science of human flourishing.  It was started in response to what psychology had become, at least in the United States:  The study of problems, failures and disease.  Though it has roots in the 1950s, Dr. Martin Seligman is credited with popularizing positive psychology in the late 1990s.

Dr. Seligman began by asking "Why are we only studying problems, instead of also studying what makes people successful?"  What makes people flourish?  What makes them happy?  Instead of asking "what's wrong?", why not ask "what's right?"

What does positive psychology have to do with change?

When we start thinking of positive psychology in terms of how humans are successful, the connection to change (and therefore change management) becomes more obvious.  Change management practitioners spend a lot of time examining why change fails, but you can't be successful by focusing only on what could make you fail.  Positive psychology suggests that a more productive approach might be to examine how and why change is successful - the idea being that positivity begets positivity, which is particularly important within large and changing organizations.


NEXT:  Part II - Neuroplasticity

Published in News

When a business needs to change dramatically, in order to stay in business or stay competitive in a changing marketplace, it can wreak havoc on employees.  Even the best top performers can find themselves struggling to keep pace with the change and return to a state of equilibrium.  However, the quicker that employees can return to that equilibrium, the quicker the organization will see the positive results of the change.

Many people think that the best way to encourage employees to return to business as usual is to ignore the 'feelings' around a dramatic change and focus strictly on the tasks at hand.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  Change always raises emotional issues, whether in our professional or personal lives, and companies which acknowledge this will find employees much more receptive to - and better equipped to deal with - even the most dramatic changes.

By injecting change efforts with a little empathy for employees, leaders have an opportunity to positively influence the movement of individuals through the change process.  In their book, Aftershock, Harry Woodward and Steve Buchholz present an effective 3-part model for helping individuals through change:  Clarify; Share; Engage.

Clarify:  The first step toward empthy is to Clarify the issues and concerns an individual may have with the changes taking place.  It starts with listening - both to what's said and what's not said.  At this stage, it's not about refuting concerns, but to clarify that you understand them.  Most people's concerns about change stem from a fear of the unknown, and simply listening and clarifying those concerns by using active listening questions like "What do you fear losing?" and "What would you like to gain?" can help them move past their fears.  This is the beginning of empathy: When you engage in active listening and demonstrate you've heard and understand their concerns, individuals begin to feel they're not alone - which makes it easier for them to move forward into unknown or changing territory.

Share:  In the second stage of this model, you can focus on sharing your understanding of what's happening with the organization.  The key is to relate what you're sharing back to the concerns expressed in the 'Clarify' stage - don't just repeat the company 'party line' about the changes in a generic way, but make it specific and personal.  Even if you can't directly dispel every individual concern (you may not be able to guarantee their job, position or responsibilities), the fact that you're being honest and straightforward will make a big difference.

Engage:  Once you've clarified and shared - and hopefully calmed some of the individual's worst fears by demonstrating empathy for them - you're in a position to gain their commitment to move forward with you (and the organization) through the changes.  Engagement is the root of ownership:  when an individual engages in the process, they can take ownership of their role in the success of the change - and this helps them feel more in control of the process.  Ask them for ideas on how to successfully implement change; create an individual action plan, together; come up with ways to implement their ideas.  The more the individual feels like a valued, crucial part of the change, the more they can focus on what they'll gain rather than what they'll lose.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting that business change management has to start with weekly therapy sessions for employees in order to be successful.  However, providing a little empathy - especially at the beginning of the change process - can significantly reduce change resistance while encouraging rapid adoption of change.  In fact, in my experience empathy can actually reduce implementation time and cost by as much as 25% over the change cycle.  And that's a 'business result' everyone can appreciate.


Published in News

Sometimes we're rushing around so much that I think we should be called 'Human Doings' rather than 'Human Beings'.  We're coming in early to work, rushing from meeting to meeting and checking our smartphones in every spare minute, trying to get stuff done.  It's no wonder we don't always feel particularly creative or innovative.

change requires creativity and innovation

Creativity and innovation don't just happen, though companies often think they should.  Creativity is born out of knowing as much as possible about the subject at hand and then giving your brain time to ruminate or incubate.  Instead, we're sent to off-site 'brainstorming' meeting, where we're pushed from one session to another, talked at, presented with endless PowerPoint decks, talked at some more - and then suddenly we're told:  "Okay, for the next hour we're going to be creative, people!  We're really going to innovate!"

It just doesn't work.

Here are a few ideas to help get your team's creative juices flowing:

1.  Restructure the off-site meeting:  Instead of putting the 'free time' portion of the off-site/retreat at the end of the end, have meetings on the first few days, during which everyone can learn about the topic at hand and facilitate discussion.  Then schedule downtime to allow that information to simmer.  Come back together the next day and you'll find creative ideas have come to the surface.

2.  Schedule recess for adults:  If you've got only limited time, try adding an extended break in the middle of the meeting.  Gather your team together and make sure everyone is well-versed in the problem or challenge you're trying to solve.  Then send everyone off on a walk, by themselves, out of the building if possible, for 20-30 minutes - no emails, no phones, no talking to anyone else during that time.  Then reconvene and ask for ideas - you'll be surprised how productive those 30 minutes will have turned out to be.

3.  The mini-break:  Get up from your desk and walk outside - don't take your phone, don't check your email, don't talk to co-workers and don't surf around the Huffington Post.  Start with 10 minutes and work your way up.  giving yourself permission to just be for a few minutes will, I promise, almost guarantee your ability to think better and do more in the long run.

Remember:  If you've long been frustrated with the lack of creativity and innovation that you and/or your team have been able to generate, it's probably time to try a different approach.  Continuing to do the same old thing won't generate different results - just increased frustration.


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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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