Are we immune to change? RTE The Business.

The only constant in life may be “change”, but are we, in fact, immune to it and how can we learn to embrace it? Broadcaster and leadership coach Michael Comyn joined Richard Curran on The Business to talk about why we can be so resistant to changing our ways, even if logically we see that it’s for our own good. Michael spoke about the work of Harvard researchers Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey and their Immunity to Change programme.

“What they looked at was the idea that people were well-intentioned, they had maybe noble goals, things they really wanted to do but at some point, something kicks in that prevents us getting to where we want to and they call that the Immunity to Change. If you think about the human body, we have an immune system and its purpose is to keep us safe. In exactly the same way, if you set a goal, our brain kicks in with a kind of an immune system that says, do you really want to do that?”

While our brains will readily accept some changes such as improvements in technology as we can see that the results are in our best interests, it finds other changes that may be even more beneficial very challenging to process. Perhaps we want a better work/life balance but can’t seem to unplug once we get home.

“What you really need to do next is, following this particular model, is to say, well what am I doing instead? So you know, you’re bringing things home, the laptop is open until midnight, you’re still working on a spreadsheet and the very first thing you check the next morning is your email. Well the immune systems will tell us the reason you’re doing that is a conflicting priority and in this particular case, and if we work it through really quickly, you discover… you’re afraid you’ll be judged for it and you might be seen by your boss as less diligent and not a team player.”

For many people, a common block to achieving their goals is a lack of time. Michael says there’s a simple way to immediately reframe this issue to help assess the situation and achieve your aims. He recommends replacing the word ‘time’ for ‘value’, for example, instead of saying ‘I’ve no time for exercise’, we would say ‘I’ve no value on exercise’.

“There’s your answer. Something you’re doing, you value more than the particular goal you’ve set for yourself.”

Click here to listen to Michael’s interview in full.

Job Satisfaction

There comes a moment after a busy few days training when I get to remember why I love what I do. Having just finished a module on Leadership with an international group from Kingspan I am renewed in my vigour to see tomorrows leaders become fearless, full of courage and keen to make a difference. This group are amazing, bright, intelligent and to use that awful phrase – not a “snowflake” in sight.  That’s a myth I love to bust – these young people are resilient, keen and interested in their fellow men and women. What they are not, is a pushover and they won’t tolerate poor leadership from above- this group is fortunate they are in safe hands.  So till we meet again in the Netherlands – keep leading!

What role does fear play in your business?

At a recent conference, I was asked to address what role fear played in decision making and what kind of decisions do we make when we are afraid. It reminded me of an article I had read recently that proposed that work is feeling more and more like a Skinner Box.

So, what’s a Skinner Box? Developed in the 1950’s by B.F. Skinner, an experimental psychologist to train laboratory animals to respond to reward and punishment, after a while we don’t need the actual punishment just the sight of the box can elicit a reaction! The Sunday Fear.

A quick look a the neuroscience of the brain and we quickly discover that living in a constant state of fear and anxiety will see the pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus – the executive centre of the brain – starting to shut down.

Simultaneously, the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for our emotional responses, specifically fear – gets bigger. This neurobiological process severely undermines our capacity for reflective decision making, calculated risk taking, and exploratory activity. It also makes us more prone to extreme, simple, and cognitively rigid solutions, and less empathetic to and understanding of views different from our own.

More and more of the people I meet are scared.  Fear has generalised to the workplace and everything associated with work and income.  People are caught in a whirlwind in which we are so scared of loosing our job, our clients, or our savings that fear seems to be overtaking our decision making process.

There is a clue to where this fear may come from.  Self care for business owners, leaders and managers could be better. When we are hungry, angry, lonely, tired or vulnerable we are more prone to being fearful. Self care or resilience removes or reduces the likelihood of us being in these less than useful states.  Getting better sleep, networking and connecting with others and having a mentor, managing your emotions and reducing vulnerability make you a stronger and more robust leader.

Put this on your agenda this week and think about how you might change this?