Brain-friendly Change: Sticky Tip 3

I’m in a 5-part blog series that gives a brain-friendly tip that you can use to make your organizational changes brain-friendly so that they stick. Today’s is Sticky Tip 3.

Brain-friendly Change: Sticky Tip 3 Dr. Charles Stone

Manage expectations

As you create a change buy-in plan, consider the power of expectations. The brain likes to know what to expect so it can prepare for and anticipate what’s coming. If you team feels uncertain about the future, their anxiety will rise because they get into an away state (a feeling of fear). One way to help moderate this anxiety is to plan how you will set expectations.

It’s wise to set realistic ones and to avoid overselling the benefits. Yet, still build in hopeful expectations. When we expect something good, we get boost of dopamine, the neurotransmitter involved in reward and motivation.

This process is much like the placebo effect when somebody thinks he’s taking a real drug for a health issue, even though it may be a sugar pill. The sugar pill actually helps some people feel better because their positive expectations activate a part of the brain that tempers pain (Fournier et al., 2010). And, positive expectations prime our brains to be even more receptive.

David Rock, a noted writer on neuroscience insight wrote, “What you expect is what you experience (Rock, 2009, Kindle e-book loc. 140).” So when you implement the change, you want to have met the expectations you communicated. Better yet, exceed them. Our brains love it when we get something unexpected, like exceeded expectations.

When your team experiences the positive benefits of change, their dopamine levels increase which puts them in a better mood. And when our teams are in better moods, it can engender more confidence in your leadership. They then become even more open to new experiences and change.

One way to engender this confidence is to recognize and celebrate small wins along the way. The Scriptures even tell us to Rejoice with those who rejoice…. (Rom. 12.15, NIV)

How can you manage expections for the change you hope to bring?

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Fournier, J.C., DeRubeis, R.J., Hollon, S.D., Dimidjian, S., Amsterdam, J.D., Shelton, R.C. & Fawcett, J. (2010) Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: a patient-level meta-analysis. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 303 (1), pp.47-53.

Rock, D. (2009) Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. HarperCollins.

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