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May 30, 2017

Change Management for Our Lizard Brains

2 mins read

Being a keynote speaker at a conference is a high-profile role and expectations are high. I’ve heard many keynotes who have left me thinking about their message for a long time thereafter. At last year’s Project Summit*Business Analyst World conference in NYC, I had the good fortune to hear a memorable speaker and learn about my lizard brain.

Gregg Brown spoke about Developing Leadership Resilience. What makes change challenging? Fear of the unknown is always the top answer. Also, the fact that learning takes time and decreases productivity worries employees and management. Finally, it can be hard to trust the changemakers because we don’t know their motivation for the changes. Although we all know change is inevitable no one is ready for change if they think it impacts them negatively. Brown referenced the notion we have lizard brains – we react protectively when we perceive threats of any kind.

Brown explains how to manage our lizard brains this way:

  1. Manage your lizard brain – adapt to the speed of change by aiming to have low resistance and high resilience.
  2. A-ha Strategy – When you get stuck, apply the same characteristics and abilities when you’ve had successful changes to the situation where you’re now stuck. Past success gives you the tools for future success.
  3. Be clear when you’re doing Creative vs Critical thinking. Saying “yes, but…’ is the same as saying ‘no’. Instead, explore ideas without making any decisions. Allow yourself to brainstorm without cutting short ideas before they are vetted.
  4. Find the Commitment beneath the Complaint – When someone has a problem, it’s that they expected something different than what is happening. “I can’t work this way” – means they are committed to working but have an impediment. See what can be done about removing the impediment.
  5. Problem-based thinking – Problems are temporary blocks. The situation isn’t permanent and each problem can be solved in some way.

Seth Godin describes another fun example of how lizard brains run our lives.  Be on the lookout for how your lizard brain is getting in the way of you accomplishing your goals.

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