1. Framework: Seventy percent of change initiatives fail. Why do people resist? Neuroscience shines a new light. 2. Description of practical application: A number of successful leaders illustrate practices that leverage an understanding of the brain to reduce resistance and improve change program results. 3. Outcomes: Many traditional prescriptions for change leaders, like creating a sense of urgency, are more likely to intensify resistance due to generating fear and stress. Sharing a vision created by the top team can also backfire. This is due to how we value gains and losses, and to leaders generating social evaluative threats. We value losses twice as much as equivalent gains. We also discount future gains two to one compared to immediate gains. Thus any potential gain needs to be perceived as four times better than what people stand to lose. Social evaluative threats—the perception of status threats—activate some of the same circuits as physical threats, with the same results. Targeting culture first triggers a response from our inflexible reptilian brain. Programs that start with supportive action that targets the cortex are more effective. For example, change strategies that increase productive capacity and reduce stress are more likely to make it possible to engage people and share information. Likewise, sequencing disruptive strategies to follow supportive ones reduces resistance and the likelihood of destructive emotional responses. All these and other implications are illustrated by numerous client experiences. 4. Implications: Change leaders need to better sequence supportive and disruptive activities to leverage brain functions. A new vision needs to be developed in a collaborative manner. Participants need to be nudged in the right direction rather than be forced to accept a fully formed vision from the top. Leaders need to be mindful of status threats, or risk triggering fear-derived resistance.
|Keywords:||Leadership, Brain, Neuroscience, Fear, Loss, Change, Vision, Communications, Supportive Change Strategies, Disruptive Change Strategies|
Independent Consultant, Seattle, WA, USA
Principal, Change Consulting Associates, WA, USA