The common belief is, people don’t like change. If that were true, no one would ever have a baby or get married.
The truer point is: people don’t like change that makes them feel unsafe. Change we don’t choose, or can’t control pushes our buttons. For example, deciding to get married can be exciting. Having someone tell you, you’re getting married and I’ve chosen your spouse, is terrifying.
In business, people deal with change and challenges every day. I’m lumping change and problems together because they’re both disruptions. From legislation and regulations to competitors and mergers to mistakes and scandals, problems and changes happen every single day.
The primitive part of our brains doesn’t like it one bit. Your lizard brain thinks, no change, no risk. I was safe today, so if I want to stay safe tomorrow, I should do the exact same thing.
Unfortunately, listening to your primitive brain is quite risky. People and organizations that don’t proactively address change and challenges become obsolete. To be clear, being proactive doesn’t mean embracing every harebrained idea someone puts in front of you. It means recognizing new circumstances and dealing with them.
If you do cool things, in work or life, change and problems are inevitable. You can be the person who resists, who must be dragged kicking and screaming into a new reality. Or you can be someone who makes thing happen, and who helps others.
Here’s a simple three-part technique, we teach our clients for dealing with change and challenges. We call it the AMB method.
1. Articulate reality.
If something is changing, acknowledge it. For example, if you notice a competitor taking away business, simply say, ”We’re losing share, we’ve lost three deals. Let’s discuss how we can stop this. If there’s a problem, state it without shame or blame. If someone made a big mistake, say, “The customer is upset, she didn’t get her order. Let’s talk about how to fix it.”
If you are caught off guard by someone else introducing a change or problem, instead of emotionally reacting, ask a question. For example, if you hear, “We’re merging” ask, “What’s the timeline, and how will it impact the organization?” This helps you clarify exactly what is going on.
As a leader, be factual. This is especially important if the issue has potential negative consequences. Your team will have emotion; don’t amplify the intensity.
2. Move it forward.
We began using this phrase a few years ago to describe how you can add positive energy and momentum to a situation, even if you can’t control the change itself. Language like “How can we still reach our goals in the face of this change?” will make a change feel more manageable. Instead of feeling paralyzed yourself, or asking others to blindly accept, find a place where you can take positive action.
3. Build confidence.
This is particularly important for leaders. If your team has made an error they need to fix, or you’re asking them to do something challenging, you want them to be confident. Ask questions like, “What will it take for us to get this done. How can I help you? Do you want to practice in advance?”
You want people to leave the conversation confident they can handle what’s next.
Remember, AMB. Articulate reality, move it forward, and build confidence. It’s the best way to deal with this ever-changing world.