The problem with change is that it is constant. Yet you are expected to embrace it, manage it, create it and even lead people through it. As a leader, how can you provide certainty for your people during times of uncertainty?
Focus. What you focus on is what you tend to notice. That is because a part of your brain is responsible for determining if things need to be brought to your attention. Your brain will focus on whatever it has been conditioned to believe is most important.
If you focus on problems, you may not notice the solutions available. Focusing on opportunities, while acknowledging and mitigating the risks, will expand your awareness of the available resources that will help you get there. This takes practice, and it begins with goal clarity. Know what you actually want, and condition yourself to notice things in that direction.
Conditioning. For those who are easily distracted, you may not have conditioned your brain to know what is most important. A habit is simply a conditioned set of responses to a specific scenario, and people create and maintain habits through repetition.
If you want to change it, you need to break the repetition and condition an alternative habit. This process needs desire, courage, discipline and rewards as key success ingredients.
Desire. Desire is an indicator of how well you have helped your people understand the gap between where they are and where they want to be, and how well you have helped them clarify why they find it important to make the shift.
Typically, they are shifting to increase a positive experience or decrease a negative experience. These experiences must be significant enough to risk the discomfort of the change. That takes courage.
Courage. Courage means making decisions and taking action at key moments of truth — those critical moments when facing uncertainty and replacing poor habits.
This calls for leaders and their people to be resourceful and to use pre-prepared strategies if required. Leaders must also encourage which literally means to give courage. Some leaders will need more discipline to do this regularly.
Discipline. Discipline is making the right choices between what you want right now and what you want most.
The correct choice builds self-esteem and reinforces continued action. Great change leaders help their people focus on their purpose and their desired outcome, why they are doing it and how they are doing such a great job persevering and progressing.
Reward. Rewarding positive behaviour is important, but be cautious of inadvertently reinforcing negative behaviour. It is also useful to note that monetary rewards are not always the most effective.
For simple tasks, such rewards can inspire greater repetition, but for tasks requiring more conceptual reasoning, cognitive abilities or creative or artistic pursuits, better motivators are a sense of purpose-clarity and contribution, and a sense of autonomy in a quest for personal mastery.
This means personal growth may be more valued and effective than transactional rewards.
Presence. Respected leaders cultivate a habit of engaged communication, authentic feedback, participative involvement and genuine enthusiasm in the positive transformation of their people.
Rewarding your people with positive, present attention, thanks and time is important. It continues to fuel the desire to change, tops up their stores of courage and certainty during times of uncertainty, steels their discipline as they push through personal resistance, and helps them release some important chemicals in their brains.
Celebration. When celebrating victories, the brain releases dopamine, a pleasure neuro-transmitter which helps strengthen and expand the new neuro-pathways being developed.
This makes the celebrated actions more automatic and thus habitual. It is why it is important to celebrate when you accomplish your goals. This can-do attitude of positive thinking reinforces the achievement and fuels the motivation to achieve even more in the coming year.
If you look at the psychology of how people respond to change, you can better influence the behavioural patterns that govern your outcomes — in yourself and others.