The Fundamentals of Change
The Five Fundamental Principles of the Psychology of Change. Fundamentals…to me, they are a universal thread, and the the building blocks of everything valuable in life. Truth be told, we cannot discuss change without recognizing what exactly it is that we fundamentally value as individuals, and how change puts it to the test.
Three factors we all fundamentally value as individuals:
- Comfort: A beloved condition that makes us want to stay and revel in the lack of stress that accompanies it. We also are seekers of comfort when life becomes difficult and our bodies react with a release of chemicals that makes us feel anxious or fearfulBarnes, George: The Psychology of Change, Roffey Park Institute (2021
- Routine: When we create daily routines through exercising or changing our sleeping patterns, this allows our bodies to adjust and know what to expect. The same goes for mental routines—creating predictable scenarios through habits allows your mind to adjust, understand what to expect, and alleviate anxiety over the unknown Brenner, Brad: The Mental Health Benefits of a Daily Routine, 2020
- Security: The psychology of security is intimately tied to how we think: both intellectually and emotionally. Throughout history our brains have developed complex mechanisms to deal with threats. Understanding how our brains work, and how they fail, is critical to understanding the feeling of security Schneier, Bruce: The Psychology of Security, 2008
In the process of change, there is disruption in these revered values.
This disruption is both positive and negative, physical and psychological. For example, we tend to enjoy change that we can consciously control, as in buying new clothes or undergoing a home renovation. However, change that is forced upon us or unexpected is more likely to cause stress. When our comfort, routine and security are disrupted it causes great discomfort, and creates a lag between the implementation of a change and its acceptance.Barnes, George: The Psychology of Change, Roffey Park Institute (2021
However, these types of change are critical to growth in both our business and personal lives. The belief surrounding change is that it is inevitable and necessary — but if navigated correctly, can lead to growth. Wisdom and purpose in business interactions spurs innovation, develops skills, and leads to better opportunities.
Keep in mind there is crossover as well. Personal growth inevitably leads to overall betterment. In business, however, there is a catch – One must remain clear about objectives and communicate effectively, or issues may arise.
So how do we effect positive and productive change?
Five psychological principles that facilitate positive change.
To affect constructive change we must remember why people resist it. It is helpful to look at change not as something people fear, but rather juxtapose it with the fact that people like comfort.Barnes, George: The Psychology of Change, Roffey Park Institute (2021 With this in mind, the status quo is infinitely more comfortable than the unknown. While change is inherently experiential, it is also cognitive, physical, psychological and/or emotional – and quite often a combination of all. Thus, what principles need to be evaluated in order to facilitate positive change? There are five:
Leaders must do their best to ensure that the whole team is on board and understand not only what exactly is changing, but why. A clear purpose to believe in must be communicated effectively, and accompanied by reinforcement and teaching the required skills. It is vital to be skilled at communicating in an influential way, and understand how others think. Ultimately in order to connect and persuade productively, it is key to role model these behaviors.
If employees believe in the overall purpose of the organization, they will almost certainly be prepared to change their individual behavior in support. If not, however, they will suffer very real discomfort and consequent loss of spirit and motivation. It is important for leaders to introduce intentional change, laying out a roadmap for motivation, energy, and commitment. Barnes, George: The Psychology of Change, Roffey Park Institute (2021 Fundamentally, being inspired and feeling control in any evolving situation is more motivating than being forced to adapt.
One of the larger issues that leaders face concerns the ‘one-size fits all’ approach.Barnes, George: The Psychology of Change, Roffey Park Institute (2021 This fails to consider individual differences and how everybody reacts to change differently. A recent example of this was the shift from office working to home working during the pandemic. For some, being removed from the social environment of an office was stressful and unproductive, while for others, the quietness of their personal abode was more facilitative. Thus introducing a hybrid model of working, focusing on employee needs with the goal being productive and content – may be the right balance.
It is not easy to accommodate every single person, but awareness of individual differences can lead to an efficient plan and strategy. What makes one person accepting of a change may not work for someone else. The change must mean something deeper to the individual, that they know will have a positive effect on their personal growth. Giving them an emotional connection to the new behavior can trigger that shift in perspective.
A useful way of viewing change and stability is to recognize that while organizations need to adapt to the inevitability of change, they also need to identify and maintain those stable components of their cultures that have positive value. This focus on positive values that remain will help comfort and inspire individuals that are skeptical of change.
Research suggests that 68 percent of senior managers understand the reasons behind major organizational decisions, but only 53 percent of middle managers and 40 percent of first-line supervisors say their management does a good job of explaining the reasons behind major decisions.Barnes, George: The Psychology of Change, Roffey Park Institute (2021 Without clear communication throughout an organization, many will struggle to positively involve themselves in the change.
The first stage of initial communication is the most important of them all. Communicators need to develop a story or narrative that reinforces why change is so important to the survival of the organization, and why it needs to happen quickly. Furthermore, repetition is key. Not everyone will hear you the first time. Even if you are tired of hearing your own message, there is likely someone is hearing a part of it for the first time or is only now starting to process that part of the message.
What will be difficult initially will benefit staff and the organization long term. Many leaders address change with a firm, inflexible structure which resists input from employees and plows through their hesitancy. Not surprisingly, this can lead to resentment. Adapting your strategy is important, and as a result employees will feel heard and be more likely to buy in to your perspective and plan.
5. Role Modeling:
Diversity in personality styles is a good thing – but when conflict arises, the problem usually is a lack of flexibility, not compatibility.Barnes, George: The Psychology of Change, Roffey Park Institute (2021 The real strength in teams comes in understanding one another, and this is best achieved through the influence of role models. Role models need not only be in management, but should be an organizational mission manifested at every level, even laterally…further promoting the concept, regardless of stature or hierarchy.
Experts believe change cannot succeed unless role modeling is working efficiently.
“Influence is not really a skill, although it requires skill. Influence is who you are and how you are perceived by others. It is vital to be skilled at communicating in an influential way, to understand how others think, how to connect with them and how to persuade them.” – Suzanne Bates, author of Discover your CEO Brand
In summary, while attempting to affect positive change it is incumbent upon us to be empathic to the needs of others. Seeking to be instrumental in helping others be their best selves, and adapting to change together is key to success for all involved.
Laura Milo DeAngelis | Owner and Founder | Bergen Concierge Service LLC