Shweta Handa-Gupta

The Science of Change Leadership

Look around you. How many people follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen despite knowing the benefits of it? How many people adopt healthier day to day habits even when new habits can mean the difference between life and death? Behavior shifts aren’t easy.

It’s easy to believe that if we know the benefits of changing, we will be able to keep ourselves and others committed to the change. Many organizations, too, build change plans believing an exciting vision of the future will lead to successful transformation. Unfortunately, that is often not enough.

A recent transformation coaching project began with introductions to the top leadership team that was quite excited about the new organization vision and strategy that they had defined. They seemed quite confident that they were committed to it. Yet, on the ground, the vision was failing.

These brilliant individuals had not been able to align their own behaviors to the new vision they had agreed on. Sounds familiar? Studies over the past three decades show we’ve lived with a 60 to 70% change failure rate in organizations resulting in the loss of millions.

In organizations, as much as in individuals, we notice the same patterns of behavior seep in repeatedly despite a genuine need and desire to change. What keeps us from making the shifts in behavior that we so desire?

The root of behavior patterns can be found in our brains, in our neural networks. Think of a neural network as well worn, familiar pathway in the complex maze of our mind. Our response pattern is determined by neural networks or pathways that are stimulated and repeatedly reinforced. Just like an often-used pathway gets etched deeper and deeper into the ground each time it is walked upon.

The key to change success lies in being able to identify and alter the mental pathways that hold back change and growth. It is important to remember that Knowledge alone cannot create change. The Knowledge that leads to insight which in turn provokes action creates the conditions that are necessary for developing new mental pathways.

Effective coaching offers the ideal tools to enable the identification and shifting of beliefs and mental frameworks. Here are some key ideas that will help you significantly enhance the pace of acceptance, adoption, internationalization, and stabilization of any transformation endeavor:

  • Use coaching to enable “sense-making” during periods of extreme ambiguity – Individual, group and team coaching have all contributed significantly to my work with personal change, reframing resistance as well as enabling change leadership in organizations. Effective coaching enables the identification and shifting of worldviews. It enables sense-making (Weick) – the process of structuring the unknown by fitting it into a mental model that enables us to understand, explain, and predict. These elements are essential for the brain to accept new experiences and take new actions.
  • Deploy Brain-friendly Transformation methodologies such as the Kubler-Ross Change Curve and the QuadraBrain® NACL (Neuro-Accelerated Change Leadership) toolkit that gently guides teams and individuals through the stages of sustainable behavior adaptation.

The NACL toolkit has helped organizations and leaders deliver 100% success rates for business transformation using proprietary Change Leadership & Behavior Modification methods based on 15+ years of published research and applied practice.

  • Take Charge of the Change Story – Our structure loving Brains are addicted to complete stories. As researcher Brené Brown described, “Our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognize and complete patterns. Stories are patterns. The brain recognizes the familiar beginning-middle-end structure of a story and rewards us for clearing up the ambiguity.” Discover the stories about change in your mind and, as a change leader, in teams and groups within the organization.

What do you/they believe the change will bring? How do you/they feel about the change? What are you/they afraid might happen? What more needs to be said about the change to create an inspiring shared story for everyone?

Remember, people do not resist what you are doing; they resist what they believe you are doing.

  • Create Structure and Certainty in the Change Experience – Our brains have evolved to minimize threats and maximize reward. Unfamiliar, unexpected, or sudden experiences activate a threat response in the brain. Many change efforts fail because the need for certainty is not addressed quickly as we launch the change endeavor and even during the change process.

Effective change leadership involves expanding your foresight to predict the progressive impact of the change. Planning for and clearly describing the impact, scope and process of change is not only a sound business practice; it helps to create the essential sense of predictability for the brain.

Change success begins with the ability to impact the behavior of the individual and the collective. Most of us are aware of the behavior desired to achieve positive change. Brain Science and Coaching can help engineer the shift and foster the right behaviors.

About the Leader:

Shweta HandaGupta, MCC, has been recognised as the India #1 and among the Global top 6 CEO & Leadership Team coaches. She is currently coaching the promoters of some of India’s top business houses, CEOs, entrepreneurs as well as Fortune 500 business leaders. Her experience of over 20 years includes a senior role in a Fortune50 organisation and as the CEO of a small business group