Working brainRemember when we used to talk about change as something we went through? Typically, a consultant would arrive at your company with a flashy or boring PowerPoint presentation. He would then proceed to administer advice on how we should behave during times of change—as if change had a beginning, middle, and end. The focus was on how we, as managers, should deal with resistance and help staff cope with change. 

From the get-go, it was a pretty negative or grim view of change. Of course, there were always a few of our peers or maybe a leader who would declare, “I love change.” Sure they did, as long as they were the ones orchestrating the change. The bottom line? Most people really do like change; they just don’t want to be changed. 

So, what’s a manager to do? 

Regardless of the change—whether a restructuring, conversion to a new system, or taking on a new job—it all begins with our mindset. Stanford professor and author of the bestseller Mindsets Carol Dweck has been studying how people face challenges for over three decades. It turns out that people with a growth (or what I call a “learner”) mindset are more willing to take on challenges. They also bounce back more quickly when they make mistakes. 

How can you cultivate more of a learner mindset—and not just survive change but thrive in it? Start by changing the questions you ask yourself: 

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  • Future perspective – What would you say about this change 20 years from now?
  • Past perspective – Looking back, when have you conquered a similar situation?
  • Severity perspective – How bad is this compared with other situations you’ve faced?
  • Distance perspective – How would this change look from 30,000 feet in the air? What’s the bigger picture here?
  • Extremes perspective – What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? What’s the best thing that could possibly happen? And then, really, what is the most likely thing that will happen?
  • Best Friend perspective – What would your best friend advise you to do? (From page 40 in Profit from the Positive.

I like to use the metaphor that managers only need to be “one chapter ahead” when it comes to leading change. Notice, I don’t say managing change. You can manage projects, but you can’t manage the people part of change. You can only lead it and coach people to adopt a more learner mindset. Once you get your head around how the latest change is affecting you, try one or more of these same questions to help your team do the same. 

Want one more tool to get your team to adopt more of a learner mindset? Do what Chip Conley of Joie de Vivre Hotels did and create a Mistake of the Month Club. Simply offer an award each month to the employee who made a mistake, but whose learnings far exceeded the cost. 

My next post will explore three things you can do, right now, to be a positive deviant. Stay tuned.