Hi. Today we're going to talk about managing change and fostering a culture of agility. My name is Marion Gamel, I'm an executive coach. I have years of experience as a leader and marketeer. I worked a lot in digital at Google and Eventbrite and Betson. I was a chief marketing officer and then I became a coach. I started working with BetterManager this year. It's an organization that focuses on coaching managers so that their team is more engaged and happier and more efficient. Because we all know that managers are really essential for people to stay in a company and want to grow and want to do more.
So without further ado, this is what we're going to cover today. We're going to understand what change actually is, how to do change in a company, and how to drive change as a leader. Warren Bennis said something really true. He said, in life change is inevitable and in business change is vital. We all know what happened to companies that failed to change with the time and sort of evolve. The Kodak and the Blockbusters, and even in digital, who remembers excite, for instance.
We can't deny that change is happening more and more often and faster. And this is due to globalization and digitalization. This means that amongst your workforce, there's a key ingredient that is really most relevant today. It's agility. It's the ability to take change on your stride and to do it again and again. So let's dive into change and understand what it actually is and how it works. First of all, change is a brain thing.
And during that presentation, I'm going to touch lightly on neuroscience simply because it is very important for leaders to understand what change is, what happens in the brain and why people behave the way they do, react the way they do when some kind of change is announced. First of all, change is hard. You've probably noticed how children or elderly people like their routine. They like to do the same thing over and over again, hear, read, or say the same stories, eat the same food, watch the same programs, et cetera.
Change is not our default setting, routine is actually our default setting. Change is something that we become a little bit more comfortable when we grow into adults, but still it's not what we're going to sort of seek out permanently. And why is that? Well, simply because of the way our brain works. When we do something on repeat, when it becomes a habit, a routine activity, our brain creates neuro wiring and the more we do this activity, the more intense this neural wiring gets until it almost looks like a rail track.
And you would notice that you can do that activity on autopilot without even thinking about it. On the other end of the spectrum, when we do something brand new for the first time, our brain has no neuro wiring in place to do that. So it needs to create the first neuro wiring as we do it for the first time, which is a lot of effort. It's energy consuming. And as you know, we always try to go for the easiest route, right? We always try to save energy.
So that would explain why people always have as a default setting to do what they know what to do and not to go towards the unknown. It's a lot more work basically. And there are three ingredients that leaders need to keep in mind to drive change. The first one is time, the second one, repetition and the third one is attention. So time is very important when change is happening because the way people react to change is to assimilate it, and that takes time. It's very hard to plan how long time it's going to take.
Some people get very excited when you announce a change and they're on board immediately. Some people will take a bit of time to sort of think about it, think about all the options, et cetera, and eventually get on board. But what is for sure is that leaders need to allocate a little bit of time for the change to be digested, if we could say, and to be assimilated by people. So tip number one for leaders, allocate some moment, some time for people to integrate the change, understand it and be ready for it.
Don't announce a change on Monday and expect everyone to be onboard and active and doing it on Tuesday. Second key ingredient, there's repetition. Repetition is what makes the difference between an activity that we do for the first time and a habit that we could almost do in our sleep. So repetition is key. It goes with time. You need to give time for people to repeat the activity again and again and discover that it's not that hard, that they're actually comfortable with it.
And repetition is also about the fact that leaders and managers sometimes forget that when they announce a change, the emotion in the room is very high. People may probably get de-rooted, they think about, "What's in it for me and what are the threats and what's going to happen?" And they don't really listen to what you say. It is therefore very important for leaders and managers to keep on repeating the message of the change again and again.
I would even say go as far as repeating it so much that you think you're being patronizing. Because I promise you that there's always going to be in the room someone who's not quite paying attention to what you're saying due to emotions. And the third ingredient is attention. Now it's a very basic equation. Attention is not an infinite resource. While I pay attention to this, I'm not paying attention to that. So while you're asking your team to pay attention to something that is changing, they're not paying attention to something that is not changing.
They are likely therefore to drop a few balls maybe. And that's what as a leader and the manager you need to make room for, it is possible that some objectives are not reached on time because that big change happened and it was very disruptive. You need to plan for that as well. So how to drive change for leaders and managers? Well, you've probably heard of Abraham Maslow who in the forties created the hierarchy of human needs.
So the first human needs would be physiological: air, water, food. Then after that you've got safety, a sense of safety. And after that, number four, is a sense of belonging. Sense of belonging is essential because we are not designed to function on our own, we're designed to function as a pack. And the sense of belonging, that's a sense of loyalty, a sense of trust and a positive mindset. All those ingredients are exactly what you need in time of change. That's what you need to drive amongst your team.
So how do you drive that? Based on four pillars, which are: emotions, information, rewards, and storytelling. So let's look at each of those pillars that will help you drive change and in time turn your team into a very agile team. So let's start with emotions. Well, first of all, during a random day, any one of us would experience about 20000 moments. A moment is a few seconds during which something happens that you record and you saw somewhere in your brain.
Now, the interesting thing is that those moments can be positive, negative, or neutral. But the balance is not there between positive and negative. Negative moments weigh a lot more than positive moments. There's actually a five to one ratio, meaning that you're going to need up to five positive experiences or moments to mitigate a negative one. This is something to remember because that means that a negative emotion will tend to tint four to five positive emotions until those ones win over and mitigate.
The second thing to remember is that emotional pain is actually the same as physical pain. For a long time we thought the two were completely different, right? Either you break your leg or you break your heart and there's nothing in common, but that's not the case. Pain is pain, and it's being dealt by our brain in the same way, whether it's a broken leg or a broken heart. So what does that mean? Well, that means that pain is something that we feel so that others see symptoms, kick in and our body does something so that we fight or we flight.
Usually fear is one of the strongest emotion and if we get scared, we usually become a bit stupid because our brain is not focusing on making us very clever, it's focusing on making our body ready to fight or flight. So what does that mean in terms of change? What does that mean for leaders? Well, very simply it means that in the same way that you wouldn't dream of asking an employee who has just broken his leg in the office to solve a complex question, don't expect an employee who is scared, who has just heard something that he thinks is a threat to him to be clever, to be present, to pay attention, to contribute, to collaborate.
Change is the verse of new, it's also the death of old. And that means that when people expose to change to some kind of news like this, they go through the five stages of grief, which you've probably heard of. So you've got denial, then people get angry, then you sort of try to bargain. Then they can be a bit of depression until eventually you reach acceptance. This is inevitable in time of change. Some people will go through those five stages in a few seconds, some people will take a day, a week, a month.
But what is important to remember is that during that time of grief, during that time of transition between the old and the new, there's a couple of things that leaders and managers can do. First of all, it's very important to acknowledge emotions. There is nothing more powerful than a leader who says to his team, "I know you're worried. I know you're concerned. I've heard you and I understand where this is coming from. Let me work with you on trying to dissolve that problem."
This comes from a place of authenticity and if people feel heard, they're more likely to in turn here you. So one of the biggest tip, most important tip in time of change is for leaders to acknowledge the emotions that are running wild in the team. That will also diffuse the risk of gossip because if you tell them that you heard them, that you know that they're worried, if you give them opportunities like workshops or commonly all hand Q&A sessions where they can express their concerns, where they can share them, you are going to sort of lower the need to gossip and to be negative about something.
The second thing that leaders can do in a time of change is to offer a little bit of a break. As I mentioned earlier, our attention is not an infinite resource. If we're focusing on a change, we're not focusing on what remains business as usual. So what leaders can do is to offer a bit of a break so that instead of just thinking about the change all the time, people will have something else to look at that will make them feel good. Now, that break can be anything.
It can be a company wide event. It could be the imminent launch of a new product or offering, choose whatever it is that is positive, that is big enough that you can occasionally shift the attention to so that your team takes a break from that focus on the change going on. Now, let's talk about information. A recent study showed that even the most negative piece of news is less stressful than not knowing. And that's a study that was done in hospitals where people were waiting for pretty dramatic medical test results. Not knowing was more stressful than to get a negative test result.
Knowledge is reassuring because knowledge sort of puts you in a position of action. If you know what's going on, you can start strategizing. If you don't know what's going on, you're just a victim, you're just waiting for someone to do something behind your back. So as a rule for leaders, when you're driving change, share as much information as early as possible during the process of the change. And there are sort of four rules to remember: announce, explain, update and comment.
So first of all, announce the change. When the decision has been made, let's say to do a reorganization, don't think that's by magic it's not going to leak and you can work on it behind everyone's back without anyone knowing. That's just not very realistic. It is going to leak. So you might as well grab that piece of news and own the narrative and announce it to your team as early as you can.
Even if it's just superficial at first, "We're looking into a reorg because we've realized that we're not as efficient as we used to be, our revenue per head has gone down. We need to do something about it. If we don't, we'll never be on track to IPO for instance. So I announce to you today that we're looking at a potential reorg and I'm going to keep you posted." Second point, explain. You're going to have to do that again and again as I already said.
But explaining the rationale for the change is very important. And you probably will need to explain it to different audiences at different time using different terms so that your message is really relevant to the audience that you're addressing. And you may need to explain it verbally at a meeting, in front of the whole company at an all hand, on email, cut some little reminders on Slack. Use all the media available to you so that your message is repeated again and again, and the explanation eventually hits people and they get it.
Number three, update. My thumb rule for leaders is that if you are asked by a member of your team for an update, you're late. You need to update very often when people are a bit worried about something that is changing. Even if your update is quite empty, if you promise them a weekly update, give them a weekly update. And that means it's okay to say, we didn't make much progress last week, so and so was in town. That was very disruptive. No big update this week, but there's going to be one on Monday.
And number four, commit and respect your commitments. It is very important that you give people dates at which they're going to get an update and that you respect those dates. Don't ever say, "This will be unveiled on the 1st of November and then the 2nd and the 3rd of November pass by and you still haven't made an announcement. Make a strong commitment about sharing information, about dates and stick to it. Let's talk for a minute about reward, the pillar number three to creating a sense of belonging and driving change in a very sort of human and reassuring and efficient manner.
So there are three kinds of things that you can do. There's reward, there's recognition, there's appreciation. But first and foremost, let's talk about the reason behind this. Even in times of change, your team still needs to be reassured that it is a good team, that they're doing good work, that they're being noticed and appreciated, that they're not just a number on a chart. So for that reason, rewards are very important.
Whether they are company awards that you create or little kudos bonuses or pay increases. Recognition is also very important in shape of promotions or even just a mention and saying to an entire team, "James last week did amazing work. Without his contribution we would not have achieved this." And then don't forget one thing that a lot of leaders forget, it's appreciation, which is about appreciating the person, not just their work.
It's about saying to someone, "Your contribution to this kind of meeting is always really appreciated and efficient." You've got this touch or you've got these quality that really makes you stand out, and I noticed you. I appreciate you as a person regardless of the fact that you reached your goals or not last week, last months. So remember: reward, recognition and appreciation. Because in time of change, people need to feel secure and this is something that makes them feel a little bit more secure.
And then the fourth pillar is storytelling. So stories have been used for centuries to explain very complex concept to children, for instance. Through stories, children start understanding things like courage, fairness, justice, generosity, et cetera. And storytelling is therefore really ingrained in our culture and in the way that we understand things. So for a leader to grab storytelling and use it as a tool to drive a message and to drive change is really powerful.
Storytelling is about telling your own story, it's about showing transparency, clarity, authenticity. It's about telling the story of a change that you experienced a few years ago in another company and how it was scary and how it turned out all right. Or it's about telling the story of that change that you're introducing today. And for that, there is a model that I particularly like, it's called the intentional change model. And it goes like this. First, you talk about the ideal, the goal, the ideal self.
So we want to become the leader in this within the next two years and change the life of millions of people by making this and that accessible and easier to find and so on and so forth. This is the big dream. This is what you're leading with because it's going to make everyone think bigger and be very engaged and excited. Number two, where we stand today. So today we're not number one but we're number three but we're doing very well. We've got a few things to fix but dah, dah, dah, this is where we stand.
Number three, this is our agenda, our learning agenda. This is our journey that is going to take us from where we are to where we want to be. Number four, those are the experimentations. The testing that is going to have to be done. Basically, what you're saying is that at that stage there's going to be test, there's going to be failures and successes, and that's perfectly all right. You want to talk about psychological safety and the fact that you're all learning a new way of functioning. So there's going to be room for experimentation.
And number five, remember people of the resources that they can tap into. Resources can be as simple as the fact that they're a community, they have colleagues, they can collaborate, they can ask for help. There is HR, there is legal, there is finance, there is training, a whole lot of resources are available to them. So let's recap how to drive change for a leader when you want your entire team to in time go through change well, go through change again and become very agile.
And for this I like using William Bridges transition model because I like the phasing of it. Let me show you why. So there's three phases, the endings, the sort of the neutral zone, and then the beginning. And I'm going to recap everything that leaders and managers can do in each of those stages. So stage number one, the endings. It's time to listen to and acknowledge emotions in your team, it's time to repeat again and again the rationale behind the change.
Remember that people are not going to pay attention to you every time you speak, they're not going to listen, they're not going to understand. You need to repeat it. It's time to share information and to explain to your team how often they're going to be updated, about what. It's also a time to show respect for the past as well as defining what's over and what's not because change doesn't mean that everything is changing, it's just one thing that you are changing.
Maybe you're doing a reorganization, but you're not changing the values of your company, for instance. Then there's the neutral zone, which I call the in between. So that time is well used to acknowledge the fact that, "Okay, we're in limbo. We're in transition phase. It's not particularly comfortable. It's not going to last forever. But at least we acknowledge that this is a bit uncomfortable."
It's time to use storytelling so that you focus very much on where you're going and not the fact that you're in limbo zone, time to use recognition, rewards and appreciation so that your team keeps feeling good and reassured that there are great people who deliver very well. It's time to encourage testing, experimentation, and create psychological safety within your workforce. And also it's time to give them a few breaks so that they stop worrying about that change.
Occasionally, have a good time, focus on something else. Maybe something exciting that allows them to come back refreshed and tackle the change again. And then the last phase is the new beginnings. So that's where you change your vision again, because you're getting much closer to it. It's getting really exciting. That's where you start planning the future together. So that change may have been driven by just the management team, but now what you're going to try and do is to make sure that people have an opportunity to contribute to that change and shape it in some form.
You want to celebrate early success because they're proof that the change was worth it and that it's working. And very important in the end, something that leaders often forget to do. Recap the change process that just happened because there'll be more. The message you want to convey at that time is, "See, that was not very comfortable. Everyone was a little scared at the beginning, but we did really well. We did it fast, we did it efficiently. Look at us, we're becoming really agile. There's going to be more changes coming. I'll use the same process and I count on you."
And that's it. With practice, change becomes easier. In a nutshell, the more changes you drive well amongst your workforce, the more your workforce is going to become agile. So we've talked about what happens in the brain, what is change and what are the things that people need in order to go through change. They need time, they need repetition, and leaders need to remember that attention is not an infinite resource.
Then we talked about driving change, the different things that you can use, storytelling, acknowledging emotions, sharing information and so on. And eventually I gave you sort of a condensed way of organizing all those activities by phases. Considering that in a period of change, you have three phases, the ending, the in between and the beginning. I hope that was helpful and I look forward to your questions. Bye.