Having two young boys, I’ve witnessed first hand the transition most children go through when it comes to accepting (or rejecting!) change. At a young age, my boys were quite flexible when it came to what they wore, where we went as a family, or what we ate for dinner. As they’ve grown older, this flexibility has started to wane, and I’m told that as the boys progress to teenage years this may only get worse!
My oldest went from eating anything we put in front of him to only eating plain foods (no sauces, no gravy, and nothing that tends to touch on the plate).
What’s most interesting about this transition, whether it be about the kinds of food he eats or the clothes he wears, asking “why” he is so set on specific things and behaviors only serves to create an emotional response.
This pushback relative to change is something that we all face. However, some obviously become more fixated on having things a certain way than others do. Have you ever wondered why this is?
Having studied human behavior for nearly a decade now, I’ve spent time looking at various factors that influence our resistance to or acceptance of change. What I found most intriguing was a book I read recently by Carol Dweck: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In her book, Dweck discusses that there are two different mindsets that we form starting at a very young age.
A fixed mindset: one in which we perceive intelligence to be static, versus a growth mindset: one in which we believe intelligence can be developed.
Each and every one of us has a default mindset we tend to move towards when faced with challenges, obstacles, criticism, or success. Formed from the environment we grow up in, our mindsets themselves have a significant impact on who we are, who we become, and who we see ourselves as. Fortunately, Dweck finds in her research that our mindsets can be changed.
The idea of a fixed versus growth mindset is something that is crucial for leaders to understand. The very idea explains why some employees tend to give pushback on change, whereas others run towards it. More importantly, the techniques that Dweck outlines provide insights for leaders into how they can begin to support their employees in shifting their mindset.
Taking a piece out of my own experiences in working with teams of varying sizes and of differing levels of authority, the way to help employees accept and adopt to change (and in turn shift their mindset), boils down to a few fundamental techniques, applied on a continuum.
First, hold frequent dialogues with employees that discuss the pros and cons of change, being open to listening to feedback (good or bad) as it pertains to past changes (those already in place), future changes (those being planned), and those changes underway today. Dialogue, although not definitively solving or resolving change, is a necessary component to ensuring employees feel heard and understood.
Second, in alignment with frequent dialogues, leaders have to agree to capture ideas, opportunities, and problems, working towards (with the help of others) their resolution or introduction. As I’ve said many times before, an effective leader is one who sees himself or herself not as a “boss,” but as a mechanism to ensuring the employees overcome the barriers to great performance.
Lastly, and I would suggest most importantly: to shift the employee mindset as it pertains to change, leaders have to be willing to reward both success and failure. The former likely seems obvious, but the later is just as important. Recognizing that failure is acceptable ensures that employees develop a mindset where attempting to resolve issues is accepted and encouraged. In fact it’s this fear of failure that I’ve found is the single greatest contributor to employees having a fixed mindset when it comes to dealing with change.
So the next time you are faced with pushback or uncomfortable feedback from an employee specific to a change you are introducing, remember that this may be a learned behavior (not a personal affront) and invest time in opening dialogue and collectively seeking ideas towards solution. Continued efforts in this area will shift the mindsets of your employees and position you as a stronger leader with a more empowered team.