If a change could do you good, why oh why do many of us find change so difficult? As a hired gun (aka change agent) brought into many organizations to make things better, this is a question clients ask me and I ask myself more times than I care to admit. And I spend a good chunk of my spare time (yes, this is the kind of thing that fascinates me) trying to get to the bottom of it.
Here are a few “insights” to keep top of mind:
It’s just plain hard: There’s no way of getting around it. It takes more effort for your brain to create a new habit than to stay in the same old routine. I could razzle dazzle you with a bunch of scientific proof (and would be happy to share it with you on request); suffice it to say it takes more energy which in a busy world is why we avoid it.
Self-insights trump carrots and sticks: We all have mental constructs; a play book of sorts; through which we interpret the world. If we want to change we need to entertain the idea that we could/should create a new chapter. Turns out it is more effective when we come to that conclusion on our own through prompts vs. being spoon fed “this is the way it must be”.
The old school carrot (reward/incentive) and stick (punishment) approach doesn’t work long term.
Focus on the solution not the problem: Why ask “why” when “what” works better! Typically we ask “Why didn’t you meet your quota” “Why didn’t you get it done?” when in reality we should be asking what; “What do you need to do to meet your quota” “What can you do to get it done”. That leads to self-insight that creates actions that get positive results. Reinforcing or reminding people of those positive results through feedback goes a long way in rewiring the brain, which reinforces the new action to create a productive habit.
So perhaps in your workplace it is time to put away the carrots and the sticks. In the new economy they don’t have the same impact they had in the industrial age. The new world order, with a creative work force, requires playing to the brain with the added bonus of a more engaged and productive workplace.