Culture Change is an Inside Job

Culture Change is an Inside Job

  • Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring back the company culture you used to love?
  • What can you do if the leadership books you’ve been reading aren’t making much of a difference?
  • Do you ever feel stressed and exhausted a few days after your vacation and not know why?
  • Would you like to bring more of your true, authentic self to work every day?

The secret to overcoming these and similar challenges is learning, even if only for yourself!

Increasingly in organizations everyone is moving a thousand miles an hour.  There’s nothing wrong with moving fast, we just need to couple that with opportunities for reflection, presence, mindfulness, and renewal.

Why?  Many of us at work are continually in a physiological state of threat or overwhelm.  I know which one I’d choose.

Your safety-threat response goes like this:

  • Here I am relishing a sense of SAFETY…until something NEW pops up…
  • My biology says (in less than 3 milliseconds), is this NEW thing offering REWARD or THREAT?
  • If it’s offering reward and I go for it, I will likely learn something new
  • If it’s a THREAT (real or not) my learning is deeply inhibited
  • And, if my sense of THREAT grows, I may even move to OVERWHELM

When you move out of safety, and into the threat or overwhelm, you cannot learn.  Thus, it may not matter that you want to become a better leader and spend time reading leadership books.  Without the ability to get your physiology into a learning state, you can’t develop the “conscious competence” let alone “unconscious competence” to make the changes you seek.

The reason your culture seems more challenging, more threatening perhaps, and certainly less enjoyable, has much to do with your sense of safety and the ability to learn – or not.  

So, what can you do about it?  Take control at an individual, small scale level at first, and shift into a learning mode.  Then, recruit your peers and start a grass-roots movement.

Let’s use an example of someone who wants to start giving effective presentations.  You might think that the best way to do so is to practice.  The problem is, unless we learn to practice in a way that doesn’t trigger physiological threat, we are actually reinforcing the supercharging in our nervous system with our compulsive practice.  This in turn will make us more likely to feel nervous when we present.

So we need to change the game and try a new approach to behavior change founded in brain science.  

Think of a new behavior you would like to try but have some fear about attempting.  Now, approach this new behavior with the VARIEs method:

  • Verify your willingness to experience something new
  • Check the accuracy of hesitancy, aversion or avoidance (pick something you fear but not something that is truly dangerous)
  • Relinquish compulsive planning, rehearsal, or preparation
  • Activate your social safety system and then initiate the new behavior
  • Nonjudgmentally evaluate the outcome

How do you activate your social safety system?  An easy one (best tried when alone or in the office bathroom before the meeting) involves this: stand up or sit in a chair where you can pull your arms back behind you a bit until you feel a slight stretch across your chest.

Next, start raising and lowering your eyebrows (called an eyebrow wink).  Breathe deep and smile to yourself with your lips closed.  Take a few more deep breaths.  Guess what, you’ve calmed your nervous system in less than 60 seconds and you’re ready for learning!

Now that you are ready to learn, try out the new behavior.  After the new behavior, take a moment and nonjudgmentally evaluate the outcome.  What went well?  What would you try again?  What might you do differently?  Be gentle with yourself.  You are learning.

How will you reward yourself for trying?  What steps will you take to recruit others to learn with you?

At Positive Disruption we specialize in working with companies who know that change done well creates better results, awesome levels of engagement, and a workplace that is THE BEST place to be!

"Kim’s training methods and passion for the subject and participants are highly effective! She makes the learning fun and highly results oriented!” 

- Todd Gieber, Director

Sports and Apparel Industry

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