If you’re going through any type of change – and we’re sure you are, whether it’s the everyday, just-trying-to-keep-up kind or the hold-onto-your-seats-transformative kind – you’ll know that performance can suffer as a result.
Whether it’s a new team member or new org chart, a significant merger or rapid growth, workplace change is all around us.
And guess what? That’s bad news for the brain. Because for all its cleverness, the brain doesn’t like change, preferring predictability and routine. Motivation, innovation and cohesion fall by the wayside as employees try to stay focused and positive in the midst of change.
But there’s a way to reduce the level of disruption they feel and, as a result, improve engagement.
It’s called psychological safety or NeuroSafety and it’s what Harvard researcher Amy Edmondson discovered was the ‘secret sauce’ for Google’s most high performing teams.
Here are six ways to create a NeuroSafe™ climate:
Bring the team together and talk about the changes. This is different than “inform”. Talk. Have actual dialogue about why the process is happening, what is hoped for, what to expect, and what not to expect. Take questions and address them with real care. Be human.
2. Name It
Here’s a phrase to remember: “Name it to tame it.” Naming emotions has been shown by researchers, to lessen the impact they have on us. Your team will be experiencing many complex emotions. Suppressing them dilutes executive function (the brain’s ability to make complex decisions), so model and encourage opportunities for naming these emotions.
Acknowledge what your team is feeling as real. Their brains are experiencing actual turmoil. Most of the brain’s safety reference points are being changed or removed during disruption and the brain doesn’t like it. It’s valid, and by making sure they know that you understand, it helps their social brain find a new reference point it can rely on: you.
Confirm all the things that you don’t know yet, as well as what you do know. Change throws certainty out of the window. Create as many points of certainty and reassurance as possible, even naming what you don’t know.
Clarify the important role your team plays in making the change successful, and in the meantime, help them understand what work still needs to get done. A brain that feels unsafe struggles to prioritize and sequence. When you foster clear prioritization, you increase peoples’ capacity to focus.
Let them know you care. The brain is social and needs to know that it’s not alone. Remind them. They have a place; they belong. And together you will get through, and think through, the disruption.
Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling everyday change and major transformation initiatives. We help our Fortune 500 clients scientifically improve leadership.