If you’ve been an association professional for any length of time, you’ve no doubt tried to institute change within your organization.

How did that go for you?

Not so well? Knowing you’re not alone probably doesn’t make you feel any better; however, knowing the human brain is hardwired to resist change may give you some comfort. You see, the scientific odds are 9-1 against you that you, your team, and your organization will change, according to leadership and change thinker Alan Deutschman.

Smart, brain-savvy leaders, however, use neuroscience insight to replace bad change management systems, contended Jeff Hurt, Executive Vice President at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, during his session at last week’s ASAE Great Ideas Conference.

Jeff outlined what he called, ACE – a “sticky” change management strategy that will help you effect change at your association:

A – Appreciate Why the Brain Resists Change

Based on proven neuroscience, our brains …

  • Look for menace and warnings before logic
  • Respond first with “low road” (non-thinking, faster fight, fight, freeze syndrome)
  • Naturally fill in information gaps with fear
  • Poorly forecast how well we can face change
  • Feel before they think

C – Create a Brain-Friendly Change Buy-In Plan

Too often we as association professionals get caught up with the details of change; we focus on all the micro-tasks and events needed for the change. However, equally important are the plans we develop to invite, lead, and empower others through change.

  • Walk in their shoes! (What are your employees’ concerns? How will they feel about the change?)
  • Describe the benefits of change – When the brain knows the benefits of change, it’s more likely to engage and welcome it.
  • Consider the power of your employees’ expectations.
  • Invite input.
  • Create an association culture with a change mentality. (Help people get comfortable with change by making changes regularly within your association.)
  • Include aspects of change in all plans.
  • Start with key leaders – Get them involved, help them understand why and the benefits, and then put them out there as champions.
  • Discuss how change is a normal process of life and growth.

E – Engage Brain-Friendly Messaging

An effective change management communication plan addresses why our brains avoid change and how to empower others. When communicating change, over-communicate. Remember, you’ve spent more time thinking about this change than your employees have. Give them adequate time to adjust.

  • Use approach-focused or avoidance-focused messaging. Approach-focused framing says, “We need to do this change so we can have this benefit.” The motivation here is to get a reward or experience a benefit. Avoidance-focused framing says, “We need to do this change so we can avoid this bad thing.” The motivation being to feel relief from avoiding something bad.
  • Use motivational messaging. This addresses the “why” of the change.
  • Use instructional messaging. This focuses on the “how” of the change.
  • Our brains need to know the “why” before the “how.” If the brain doesn’t know the why it doesn’t care about the how. Share big picture first, details second.

How we face change and help others face change is absolutely critical to our success. And, if you’re not convinced, consider the risks of not changing.

Download Jeff’s full presentation at Slideshare.net/Jeffhurt/aceing-change-leadership.