Change: The Learning Zone

By |2019-11-15T13:59:07+10:00November 15th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Coaching, Programs|

In a previous article, I made the claim that humans are hard-wired for change. My argument there was that, since we have managed to survive and thrive in virtually every ecological niche on the planet (or at least in a diverse range of ecological niches), we are, as a species, very adaptable and not only adaptable but also able to adapt the environment to suit our purposes. Since this is arguably true of modern humans in general, it is logical to assume that deep neurological structures give rise to this capacity.

Hard Wiring

This neurological hard wiring may not have developed for the singular purpose of making us good at change. We understand from the Transtheoretical Model that change involves a great deal of analysis, visioning, planning, and problem-solving. These are all basic survival skills for a creature with a big brain but without many of the ‘mechanical advantages’ of other competitor species (we can’t fly like a bird, run like an gazelle, climb like a monkey, balance like a mountain goat, or swim like a dolphin). But we are very good at analysing our environment and planning our next moves.

We could explore this idea at greater depth and even debate whether big brains are an evolutionary advantage or a probable cause of ultimate demise. However, leaving such issues aside, we should understand that being hard wired for change is no guarantee of being able to use that neurological inheritance to much practical advantage. This is because being good at change requires more than hardware (neurones). We also need the right software (information).

Software

In general, humans all inherit the brain structures that enable us to analyse, vision, plan, and problem-solve. But we don’t all have access to the same information about how to do those things. In other words, there are differences in how well people have learnt to do those things.

And it’s even more than learning how to do things. It also involves developing the psychological strength to do those things and keep on doing those things when there is a psychological, emotional, or even physical pain associated with doing them.

So, being good at change requires us to have the neurological hardware (which, generally, we do) and the right kind of cognitive, emotional, and psychological software. And what cognitive, emotional, and psychological software is the right kind?

This is a complex question and we can’t go into details here. But we can make some broad statements.

Cognitive Needs

On a cognitive level (what we need to know), we need to understand how the change process works. We must understand what’s going on and what we should do to succeed at change. In other words, we need to understand the process we engage in. That might sound simple, but many people don’t really understand how the change process works and what is normal about it.

The second thing we need to understand on a cognitive level is what personal change fitness means. Change fitness refers to a set of psychological capacities that empower us to succeed at the change process. But in addition to developing these capacities, we need to understand what they are and why they are important.

The third thing we should understand on a cognitive level is the system in which we operate. This system (family, workplace, community, national, global) exerts pressure on us as we do on it. We need to have some understanding of this system so we can manage change within it.

Emotional Needs

On an emotional level we need emotional intelligence. We need to be able to regulate our emotions so can best utilise them to our advantage, and the advantage of others. Much has been said about emotional intelligence, so there is no need to say anything more here.

Psychological Needs

On a psychological level we need to understand ourselves and how we function in the world. We need to work on developing more of the change fitness capacities that give us the psychological strength to meet the demands of the change process. And we also need to understand the deep-rooted immunity to change forces that keep us trapped in current realities.

How Do We Do This?

The easiest and most direct way to tune up your change software is through change fitness coaching. Unfortunately, many of the things people learn about themselves and about change make them less likely to succeed at it. How our minds are programmed often leads us to be afraid of change, to resist it, and to run away from it. That is unfortunate because we have the hardware to be better than that. We just need to unlearn some unhelpful lessons and relearn some better ones.

And that’s where change fitness coaching fits in. It targets the most important cognitive, emotional, and psychological issues you need to focus on the reprogram your mind and help you get better at change. And the best place to start is with the Personal Change Fitness Program.

Perhaps, though, you’re not ready to engage in a coaching program. Maybe you would prefer to put your toes in the water first and test it out. You can do that too. You can start with a self-paced, online learning program that doesn’t involve coaching. A good place to start is Understanding the Change Process. This will give you some of the cognitive information you need. And if you decide you want coaching as well, you can always add it on later.

If you need any further information or help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

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"The Personal Change Fitness Program will not only make you change-fit, it will really change your life."

How to Create Successful Change

By |2019-09-22T08:10:48+10:00September 19th, 2019|Categories: Change Readiness, Leadership, Managing Change, Programs, Resistance|

In 2010, McKinsey reported the findings of a huge study involving more than 315,000 respondents. They found that 75% of organisations were experiencing change and that 70% of change initiatives were regarded as unsuccessful.

Hundreds of other studies corroborate the 70% failure rate statistic. This statistic is often cited in the change management community as a reason to engage change management professionals as change leaders. But the problem is that the 70% statistic has remained stable for decades, even though change management principles form part of many graduate and post-graduate leadership programs. Maybe the message is not getting through to the right people. Or, in our view, there’s something wrong with the message itself.

Others totally debunk the 70% statistic. Claiming to be ‘superior’ change managers, they apparently experience success in most of the change initiatives they lead. This could, possibly, be realistic – theirs may be among the 30% of change projects that succeed. But it could also be a matter of pride: we all like to think we are successful.

But let’s not get too hung up on the 70% statistic. It is probably dependent on how things are measured and how reasonable initial expectations were. My interest in this article is not on the 70% figure, but on the perceptions of why organisational change fails or succeeds. I want to outline three reasons that are often cited.

The employees are the issue

McKinsey found that employee resistance to change was identified as the single biggest cause of change failure. If change fails, management often blames employees for having bad attitudes, for resisting change, and for disengaging from the process. Just when they should have been involved, they got negative and didn’t want to play ball.

Sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn’t. Maybe employees resisted for good reasons. But here’s the point – change leadership shouldn’t be about obedience – forcing people to do what they’re told.  It should be about developing readiness for change.

And let’s not just focus on failure. Employees are an organisation’s greatest asset and any change that succeeds does so, in large part, because of support from employees.

The leaders are the issue

Change managers may be delighted with or disappointed with the level of support they receive from senior leaders. Unfortunately, change can fail even though employees support it and skilled change managers lead it. It can fail if senior management pulls back their support for the change – they lose motivation or incentive, or simply under-resource it. Strong and continued support from senior leaders is essential for the success of any change initiative.

The change managers are the issue

Professionally trained change managers rightly take pride in the knowledge and skills they have worked hard to develop over many years. Many change projects underperform due to a lack of such leadership.

But as important as change management is, success requires more than good management. Management can only take you so far – managers can’t make the changes only the employees can make. So, there needs to be a readiness on the part of employees to support the change and engage with the process from beginning to end. And there also needs to be cultural readiness to support and sustain the change.

The landscape

Let’s look at the organisational landscape so far. It is a challenging landscape that offers many opportunities to fall short. Will the employees support the change, and do they have to capacity to succeed at every step of the change process? Will senior leaders maintain a strong commitment for the change at every step of the process? Do change managers have the knowledge and skills to deliver a successful outcome? And will the culture support and sustain the change long-term?

Look at those questions. Some relate to support and commitment – the enactment of the will to support rather than oppose change. And some relate to capacity. Even if people willingly support and engage in the change project, they also need the psychological capacity to meet the challenging demands of every step of the change process – the capacity to keep going when they are tired and confused and everything inside them wants to quit.  And they also relate to the capacity of change managers to follow an evidence-based process, to unlock the potential of the team, and to manage risks posed by the team’s limitations. This mix of will and capacity are aspects of an organisation’s change readiness. And there are other important ingredients in that mix as well.

Readiness incorporates power, capacity, and will. Organisations are not ready for change if their people are not willing to exercise their power to support change and if they don’t have the capacity to succeed at the change process. Change readiness is readiness to succeed at the change process – not just readiness to begin. Sure, that’s important too, but what’s the value of being ready to start if you’re not also ready to succeed?

The 70% failure statistic carries a serious warning – 100% of organisations surveyed started a change project, but only 30% were ready to succeed. I am reminded of the 2015 Optus study that found just 27% of Australian businesses are ready for change. Look, who wants to be one of the 70% of businesses that are ready to fail at change? Where’s the honour in that? And why would you even want that when you can do so much to become ready to succeed?

How to create successful change

Change is inherently risky because it’s easier to fail at things than to succeed. Success depends on doing a few things right but there are many roads that lead to failure. So, why should people expect to succeed when they’re not ready to succeed? That’s not being positive, that’s being unrealistic.

Here’s the point of this article – the real power of change leaders lies in their power to create change readiness. Organisations that are ready to succeed are much more successful than others that aren’t ready. That’s not rocket science; that’s common sense.

So, if you want to learn how to create change readiness in your organisation, the easiest way is to join one of our 1-day, online training programs. We specialise in personal change fitness and organisational change readiness and we can lead you into greater awareness of what’s involved. Start with our ‘From Resistance to Readiness’ training. You can learn more about it here.

There’s a lot you can do to get ready for success. And that road begins with knowledge. So, join in the training and let’s build some readiness for change.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

HOW CHANGE FITNESS COACHING WILL HELP YOU

By |2019-02-27T13:41:14+10:00January 9th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Coaching, Programs, The Change Gym|

This article will help you understand the value of working with a change fitness coach.

HIGH VALUE OUTCOMES

Success.

Have you ever watched a master at work? A master makes it look easy. However, becoming a master is anything but easy. It takes dedication, commitment, and years of practice. Becoming successful is not easy.

Becoming successful involves change. The master wasn’t always the master.

Success doesn’t make people successful. Success is what happens when we grow and learn and make the most of […]

Personal Change Fitness Program

By |2020-08-15T12:56:36+10:00August 24th, 2018|Categories: Programs|

What’s the Background?

The PCFP was developed in 2015 by The Change Gym’s founders, Steve and Stephanie Barlow.

To be agile and ready to succeed at change, people need strengths in 7 key psychological resources. We call these 7 resources ‘change fitness’. The more change fitness you have, the more likely you are to be successful at change.

What Happens?

When someone enrols in the PCFP, they begin by taking an IRVEY assessment of their initial change fitness. This identifies their strengths and limitations. They then engage in the program, which introduces them to the 7 psychological resources that constitute change fitness. The purpose is not to teach the client something about psychology. The purpose is to create a pathway through which the client can focus on these 7 key areas of their mind with a coach who has been trained to help them. By exploring these key areas, the client will gain more self-awareness and a language that more accurately describes who they are and who they can become. Through this process, the client develops more change capacity, more self-confidence, and more optimism about the future.

The PCFP is a 12-week coaching program, consisting of around 36 hours individualised work plus 6 hours coaching. Once the program is finished, the client takes IRVEY again and their progress is measured. Our research shows that, on average, people's change fitness scores improve by 40% over a 12-week period.

What This Means for Clients

Clients love the PCFP, because it is focused, it gets to their issues fast, they have a coach who helps them explore themselves, and they can feel the difference when their change fitness improves. They feel more in control of their lives and more confident and optimistic about the future. The coach and the program have helped them become more independent and self-reliant.

Some clients take what they have gained and leave, and others want to stay with their coach and delved deeper into some of the change fitness resources. All good.

What It Means for Coaches

The PCFP gives coaches a structured program with all the resources needed for measurable outcomes in a defined time frame. They may go on to help the client with other coaching, but the PCFP helps those clients who struggle with change and are not likely to succeed without lots of support.

The PCFP is a versatile and useful additional ‘product’ to add to the tool-kit of any coach. To deliver the PCFP with your clients, you first need to undertake training and become certified. If you want to find out more information, click on the button below to talk to Steve Barlow.

How to Become a Better Coach

By |2019-02-28T08:39:12+10:00January 24th, 2018|Categories: Coaching, Programs|


How to Become a Better Coach

How can you become a better coach?

You might be just starting out as a coach, or you might have been in the business for years. The more important question is; how are you becoming a better coach?

Improving your knowledge

There are two ways of answering this question. Many people answer it the first way. They say they become a better coach by improving their knowledge, their technique, and their skills. They attend classes, enrol […]

Training for Change

By |2018-08-27T09:41:49+10:00November 25th, 2015|Categories: Programs|

I recently participated in a LinkedIn discussion on the topic of whether soft skills training has any lasting effect.

Other contributors made some very interesting and valuable points. Some commented that the positive influence of training does not last if people return to work environments that are unsupportive of the ideas and values promoted in the training. Others proposed that soft skills training has a tendency to be theoretical, and many trainers do not take the trouble to ensure people […]

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