Tag Archives: change

Racism: How Can We Influence Change?

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It’s taken me a while to write this blog about racism because I really didn’t know what to write.  I had so many things to say but I was afraid to say the wrong thing.  I am not alone.  I hear this a lot, especially among white people who are in support of black people.  Speaking up these days seems to be very risky.  People are losing their jobs, being shot at, and receiving death threats on social media for stating their opinions.  A person is convicted before being heard and people immediately call for expulsion before engaging in dialogue. “You’re either with us or you’re against us.”  There is no gray area, no room for compromise, no room for mistakes.  And when I say “people” in this instance, it’s people of all colors on all sides.

There are a few social psychological principles that help explain what is going on here.  The first is group polarization.  This occurs when like-minded people collect in a group and individual members want to stand out as being very supportive of the group’s position and they take more extreme positions.  The group gradually moves further away from its original viewpoint to a more extreme version of it.  This is what has happened to both Democrats and Republicans in America today; they both have moved further away from the center.

The second principle in effect here is groupthink.  There are many aspects of groupthink, but the driving force is cohesiveness.  People within the group feel the need to agree with each other unequivocally to keep the peace in the group.  People in the group think they are morally superior to the morally inferior people outside the group and they shut themselves off from dissent and from outside opinions and data.  They get caught up in their own self-righteousness and begin to think they are invincible, and they make irrational decisions that tend to be one-sided and lead to costly mistakes.  The mishandled Bay of Pigs invasion is the most famous example of groupthink.  It happens in the business world too, with the collapse of Swissair being one of the quintessential examples.

How do we avoid these costly group tendencies?  We must not only embrace but seek out different opinions.  If we only stick to what we know and people who make us feel comfortable, we will not grow, and we will likely fail.  We have to prepare ourselves to be uncomfortable and help others around us understand they will need to be uncomfortable during disagreement and change.  We have to stretch the boundaries of safety to be vulnerable, to be hurt in the process, and to be resilient enough to get through it.  Running to safety is not going to help.  This is where I diverge from a number of my peers who are also trying to support black people.

My father once gave me some very sage advice.  He said, “You don’t want to marry someone you never argue with.  You want to marry someone who you can work through your arguments with.”

I did my master’s thesis on dissent.  I looked at how true conflict was necessary to change other people’s beliefs and that just taking the position of the Devil’s advocate was not enough.  You need to rock the boat, to create discomfort, and get people to start questioning what they are seeing as the truth if you want them to change their minds.  There is a ton of research on productive conflict that will tell you it is uncomfortable and you may run into friction with others, but the key is to keep the disagreements on the issues and not turn them into personal attacks. 

This brings us to another place where I diverge from current trends.  I believe that to make positive change, it is imperative to forgive mistakes along the way and learn from them.  There is an abundance of research that shows behavior change is a process and we usually don’t get it right the first time.  Think of how hard it was to adjust to the world of COVID-19.  How many times did you reach out to shake someone’s hand, touch your face, forget to bring your mask, or mess up a zoom call?  Now think about what it was like to adapt to the sexual harassment laws.  It was confusing at first and people wondered, what is okay to joke about?  Can you compliment someone’s new clothes?  Can you hug a coworker?  Is it okay to ask someone you work with out on a date?  All of us had to shift our thinking to adapt to this new way of being and it’s clear that we are still in the process.  The same is true for extinguishing racism.

If we are all putting up walls and are refusing to listen to “the other side” and are incinerating people who disagree with us who are on the same side, we will fail to make progress.  Let’s continue with Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream and employ dignity, respect, discipline, and nonviolent debate to mobilize our society to make change.

Joanie Connell, The Resilient Entrepreneur

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Show Highlights

Do you wonder what type of career or business is right for you? Joanie shares the types of assessments she uses to help people to find out what motivates them and discover their self-awareness so they can find out what fits them.

Entrepreneurship requires many different skill sets besides your particular talent. Find out how Joanie learned to master these skills that are needed such as promoting your talent, online marketing and more.

When you change career paths you’re going to be dealing with a lot of discomfort. Find out how to deal with the discomfort and still plow ahead. Listen here.

The Quest for Comfort is Killing our Ability to Adapt

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  –Viktor F. Frankl

geometric-chair-1425313-639x619The principal of a school was concerned about a complaint from a parent regarding the size of the desks in the third grade classroom.  “Some of the children are this tall [pointing low] and others are that tall [pointing high], but the desks are all made for kids of this [average] height.”  “Therefore,” she continued, “some of the kids will be uncomfortable. Are you okay with the kids being uncomfortable?”  Feeling trapped, the principal wondered if he needed to go out and buy new desks of varying height.

school-1465744-640x480If I were the principal, my answer would be very simple: “Yes, I am okay with them being uncomfortable.”  Yes, it is important for kids to learn how to adapt to their environment.  If we keep customizing the environment to make each person comfortable, not only will we go bankrupt, but we’ll also keep them from being able to adjust to the world around them. Continue reading The Quest for Comfort is Killing our Ability to Adapt

How to Change Bad Habits

burnout 2Over the years, we have developed deeply ingrained habits of how we react to things. These habits are often formed in childhood and may not be useful to us as adults. The following diagram shows how a habit plays out. We react to a trigger in the environment (or sometimes within ourselves) without thinking. Our impulses take over and the behavior just happens.

For example, if you were taught as a child to appreciate praise, your reaction to someone praising you might be “thank you.” If you were taught to be humble, you might automatically blurt out “you’re too kind.” If you were taught that you weren’t worthy of praise, you might have a different visceral reaction and say something self-deprecating.

Habit

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To change an automatic response to a trigger, you need to be aware of your response to it. When you are aware of your response, you can make a choice of how to behave. See the diagram below.

Changing a Habit

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To become aware of your responses to triggers, you need to slow things down. It’s like a moment in a TV show when the action freezes and the actor talks directly into the camera about the situation. Once the actor has talked it through, the action continues.

To improve awareness, start with reviewing situations after they have happened. For example, after a meeting, sit down and go over what happened, what the triggers were, how you were feeling in response to them, and how you behaved. Then think about how you would want to behave differently next time and make yourself aware of what the triggers were and the feelings you had in response to them.

For example, if a trigger is your boss taking control of the meeting from you, note that down. Your feeling might be angry and your behavior could be to shut down and stop participating in the meeting. The first step is noticing what the trigger is and what your impulsive reaction is. Then you have a choice.

The next step is to decide on a new behavior that you would like to do in place of the old one. For example, instead of shutting down, you might want to thank your boss for her input and take control of the meeting back. If that’s too much, an interim step could be to ruminate for a moment then pull yourself out of it and get back into the meeting as a participant instead of a leader. (If you could talk to your boss offline about it, that would be even better.)

Knowing what you should have done in hindsight is easy. Doing it in the moment is harder. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to change your behavior instantaneously. It takes time and practice.

The next time you experience that trigger, try to recognize it and put your new behavior into play. More likely, you’ll recognize your behavior to the trigger as you’re doing it and realize you should have done it differently. That’s okay. You’re making progress. Keep it up and you’ll eventually become aware as the trigger occurs, giving yourself that brief moment necessary to make a conscious choice on how you will behave in response.

As an interim step, don’t forget that it’s okay to go back, to redo, to stop things and say you want to do it differently. For example, when the boss takes over the meeting and you shut down, you could become aware of your behavior then stop your boss and say, “I’d really like to lead the next piece if you don’t mind.” If you had said something negative in your impulsive response, you could stop and say: “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. What I mean to say is…” People are often very forgiving when you admit you made a mistake.

You’ll know you’ve successfully changed your habit when you see yourself behaving in the new way automatically.

This  post was inspired by Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers.

Trying Something New? Deal with the Discomfort

uncomfortable business peopleExperiencing the discomfort of trying something new is not fun. Surely you can think of numerous times you have avoided doing something because you didn’t want to feel the discomfort. For example, it is not easy to fire someone. It’s heart wrenching to discipline your child. It’s scary to go away to college. We sometimes find ways around doing what we ought to do to avoid the discomfort.

We ignore bad behavior, invite others along to accompany us, or decide we didn’t really want to do it anyway. We conclude the person’s performance wasn’t really that bad or choose to go to college closer to home. By doing this, we limit ourselves (and others) to being dependent and accomplishing less.

It takes courage to break through the discomfort. Bill Treasurer describes three primary types of courage in his book, Courageous Leadership. One of them is particularly important in this context: “try courage” (Treasurer 2011). We need courage to try new things. It may be scary, but we need to be brave to be independent.

“Courage is acting on what is right, despite being afraid or uncomfortable, when facing situations involving pain, risk, uncertainty, opportunity, or intimidation.”  —Bill Treasurer

How do you develop the courage to try new things? I know a child who is afraid to try new foods. She’s more afraid than the average person. She will avoid it if at all possible, even if it means missing out on a treat or a meal. When the consequences get so grave or the incentives so great, she might venture out to taste something new. She starts by portioning off the smallest morsel she can possibly get onto a fork without it falling through the cracks. Then she sniffs it. She slowly counts to ten, makes sure no one is looking, and trepidatiously puts it in her mouth. She then chews for what seems like an immeasurable number of times before swallowing. It is certainly a sight to see. The fear and discomfort she experiences from trying a new food are impressive. It’s easy to see why she avoids it. Yet if she doesn’t try new foods she’ll have to live in a very small and lonely world.

For some people, trying new things is invigorating. That’s probably why the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans jelly beans from the Harry Potter series have been successful. There’s always someone who is willing to try the earwax flavor. There is a point, however, where we all experience a certain level of discomfort. There is no easy way around it. Get used to it.

The first step to building independence is to get out of your comfort zone. If you are used to being taken care of by someone (parents, manager, spouse, etc.), that will mean to start taking risks and making decisions on your own. When you feel yourself staying inside your comfort zone, ask yourself what you can do to get out of it.

Dealing with Resistance to Change

no on the handBy Joanie Connell

Change is inevitable, especially in today’s business world. Yet so many people resist it! On the one hand, it is natural because change often requires us to grow and we, as humans, are built to be comfortable in homeostasis. In other words, it’s easier to stay the same than it is to change. Change is scary and new and we don’t know if it will be better or worse.

Modern organizations are looking for “change agents”—people who embrace change and facilitate it in other people, structures, and processes. As a change agent, however, you will undoubtedly receive lots of resistance from other people who like things as they are. It’s important to be able to identify resistance and work through it with others. Here are seven typical forms of resistance for you to recognize. Continue reading Dealing with Resistance to Change