Leading change is one of the most common problems leaders face. There is a common misconception that people fear change, however it is rarely “change” itself that people fear. Fears are often related to people’s identify, comfort zones and beliefs. Learning to work with those three things can change everything. Dilts’ Neurological Levels Pyramid is a great tool for leaders to explore because it can be a fantastic guide to leading change. Let’s look at the 7 levels from bottom up: Level 1 – Environment When people are unhappy, the environment is often our first port of call. It could be the job, the organisation, the team, or even the location of a desk. There is an assumption that a change in environment will create an increase in happiness. Not so, because we take our unhappy selves with us! New workstations rarely solve the real issues. Level 2 – Behaviour
When environmental change fails to lift morale, the logical place to improve seems to be behaviour. I see this done through team charters, agreed behaviours or a code of conduct. This can work, however it rarely sticks because people slip back to old ways. Frustration increases and we knock on the door of level three. Level 3 – Skills Frustration with a team’s failed attempt to live the charter often has leaders pulling out their hair, asking what it takes to get commitment. “Argh…It must be a skills gap!” An investment in training goes ahead, and if done well, improvements from some but not all take place. However, it is often only on the surface, because as we know, new skills don’t always stick! Level 4 – Beliefs All the skills in the world are no match for deep seeded limiting beliefs. Thoughts like ‘I could never do or say that’, or ‘that would never work here’ always come back to bite. This is where hope takes a hit and confusion sets in because when leaders have put their team through these steps all they can ask is, “Why doesn’t anything stick?” It’s simple; if people don’t truly believe change is possible, their subconscious mind will continue to sabotage their own progress. Warning: trying to change someone’s beliefs can be incredibly difficult. Their beliefs are their truths. Don’t try to dissolve them – understand how they got there, because there’s usually a very logical reason! Level 5 – Values When you can find congruence between one’s values and the desired change, everything is easier. One of the best questions you can learn to ask your staff is “What really matters to you?” People become annoyed when they don’t feel understood or respected. When you explore people’s values you can also look at their character strengths. The things people do well are most likely related to the things they hold valuable; it probably has some value in relation to the change as well. Level 6 – Identity When someone is in a resistant state I will focus the conversation back on them. “What do you believe to be true about yourself?” Is a great question and the answer can be challenging and enlightening as it shifts thought patterns. A leader’s time is best spent coaching people to look within. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until after the fire when everyone is burnt. Teach people to find courage in ownership of their identity and give them the tools to change it for the better if they want to. Change can come quickly when people change the way they see themselves. Level 7 – Purpose In his book Drive, Daniel Pink identifies the three main motivators for people as: autonomy, mastery and purpose. The peak of Dilt’s pyramid is about that which is greater than self. When people feel connected to a sense of purpose they will move heaven and earth. In fact, it is a connection to purpose that often gets in the way of change. When I ask people why they are resisting change, they often tell me they perceive the change as a threat to their purpose. Experience has taught me that change is easier and faster when you start with conversations at the top of the pyramid. It has also taught me that most teams and organisations get bogged down at levels 1, 2 and 3. As you lead your people through the next change, why not take the short cut? It just might change the way you lead people through change!
Jodie Nevid is an international speaker, coach, consultant, facilitator and business owner who has worked with thousands of leaders across Australia and New Zealand. Jodie regularly speaks at conferences focused on self-development, personal growth, leadership and high performance. You can read more great articles by Jodie on her blog at The 7 Effect. You may also be interested in joining AIM in Adelaide for the Women in Management High Tea on Thursday 14 August, where Jodie will be discussing the road less travelled.
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