Sometimes, the more we learn about people, the more we learn that classic ideas still hold true. In her post Anita shared some of the current research into how our brains react to change and the growing field of neuroleadership. By studying the brain we have learned that we react to social and emotional stimuli the same way we react to actual physical stimuli. As humans, we all perceive a change as a potential loss or a threat in the same way as a potential physical threat or loss.
This is the concept that William Bridges shared in his groundbreaking 1991 work Managing Transitions. Bridges suggested that all of us, even people who love change or are leaders of change, go through a psychological transition adjusting to the loss of the known when we are faced with a change. People are not resisting the change or need convincing on the value or need for change. Paradoxically, you need to start with the endings your people are experiencing to have the dialogue necessary for buy-in and engagement. Bridges highlights that the communication they need from you at first must:
- acknowledge the loss they are feeling
- clarify what is ending and what is staying the same
- provide information that helps rebuild stability
- clearly marks a break from the past
Respecting the past and honoring the losses people are experiencing creates the foundation for a robust future. What losses are your people experiencing as a result of changes? How can you recognize the threats they feel and use that awareness to guide your leadership efforts?