Albert Bandura is probably the most influential psychologist you haven’t heard of and yet he is actually the 4th most cited psychologist of all time. In one of his most famous studies he had participants who had a fear of snakes go through a series of incremental steps and eventually be able to touch and hold a snake. Organizations looking to improve their change management can significantly benefit from studying Alfred Bandura’s studies. Participants of the phobia study went on to not only be better able to cope with their Ophidiophobia, but were also more equipped to face other fears. The study revealed that taking steps to overcome a problem or fear left people feeling they had the power to affect their situation and effectively handle their challenges. This empowerment is known as self efficacy.
Promoting Self Efficacy for Effective Change Management
Practicing self efficacy will help make people more proactive, self reflecting and self-organizing. These traits are highly valuable to an organization and to the individual themselves but are difficult to cultivate. People generally have problems with accepting, managing or facilitating change. Whether coping with a disaster or trying to implement beneficial change, people often fail at changing their habits. Most people will fall into the trap of being reactive. It is much easier to stay within one’s comfort zone and resist change than to try to adapt or strive to be better. Change management is often a neglected, or even resisted, process within organizations.
Promoting a culture of self efficacy will help effect the action of desired changes. Effective change management can help navigate around people’s innate resistance to change and motivate people to take control of challenging situations. By demonstrating the value of making a change, whether for improvement or to solve a problem, and by laying out steps people can take to implement change, people are more likely to take action. Change management fails when people feel they lack control over a situation. By empowering people to take on steps they can control, they will be much more motivated to take on challenges that are larger in scope.
To start taking steps to implement effective change management, leaders within organizations need to cultivate a culture of being proactive. Albert Bandura’s experiment with the snake yielded impressive results with participants, in part because the study showed no harm would come to those who faced their fears.
An honest mistake should not necessarily be punished and could instead be a teachable moment. People are usually keenly aware of their limitations and only by accepting and improving on them can progress be made. Punishing mistakes will discourage people from venturing beyond their comfort zone. Firing for mistakes means your organization will have to replace an individual who is unlikely to repeat the same mistake and will be essentially rolling the dice with the replacement; you have just fired someone who has learnt an invaluable lesson. By allowing your team to fail, you will be effectively raising their potential and capacity to do great things.
The Value of Change Management
As people become more comfortable with change they will be more proactive with situations within their control and better able to accept external factors beyond their control. This will lead to more adaptability, innovation and productivity. Effective change management can help spark small positive changes in the team’s mindset. Small positive changes over time can add up to significant growth across entire organizations, while small negative changes or stagnancy can result in massive problems.
Results may not always be immediately recognizable but change is happening whether you choose to believe it is happening or not. Many people are unable to grasp the effect of little things and their effect on the bigger picture. We see superstars in sports, or masterpieces from artists, or see the genius behind our great thinkers but rarely are we exposed to the day to day grind these people must endure. All we see is their moment of glory.
If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.
Change Management Starts With You
Positive change management can be initiated by anyone. Whether it comes from new hires challenging others to be better or it comes directly from the executive team empowering their staff, the invisible ripples that start to spread from person to person will change the organization for better or worse.
Look at your organization and see what could be improved. Think about how you can make a difference with change management. Set a plan to empower others to do the same. The longer you wait the more time your natural aversion towards change has to convince you it’s not worth it.
Do it now!