Practice of the Month

Increase Your Productivity Targets by Stretching Your Goals!

Increase Your Productivity Targets By Stretching Your Goals

Happy New Year!
A new year is frequently seen as a time of fresh starts and new opportunities. We are also regularly reminded that it’s a great time to make both personal New Year Resolutions and to introduce corporate change initiatives: Time to eat less, exercise more, time to implement new policies, increase productivity targets, set stretch goals, and so forth.

Certainly, these are good objectives set with the best intentions. And so many of them are also doomed to fail! You know this to be true from the many resolutions you’ve made–only to realize after a few weeks that you have kept few, if any, of them.

But don’t blame yourself. It’s your brain’s fault! And by understanding how our brain works, we can be smarter about how to succeed at both personal resolutions and large-scale change initiatives.

Time to eat less, exercise more, time to implement new policies, increase productivity targets, set stretch goals, and so forth.

Our Brains Resist Change

Our brain (particularly the amygdala which is one of the oldest parts of the brain in evolutionary terms) is designed to perceive change as a potential threat and immediately sets in motion an array of protective defenses. This threat-response is automatic and happens without thinking (i.e., without waiting to check with our neocortex whether the change is good for us or not). Even after a logical assessment is made by that more thoughtful part of our brain, the amygdala remains on high alert, monitoring the change lest something detrimental slip by unnoticed.

Some changes, even though they are good for us in the long run, involve short-term pain, frustration, and other physical and emotional side-effects that we’d rather not have to endure. One can imagine the back-and-forth between our amygdala and our neocortex (it happens in a nanosecond) over the unpleasant aspects of a New Year’s resolution to lose weight:

Amygdala: I’m starving. I’m going to have a second helping of those mashed potatoes and gravy.

Neocortex: Are you kidding? You know how many calories that will add to your meal.

Amygdala: Yeah, but I’ve given up desserts. Come on, give me a break. I’m really hungry.

Neocortex: No way! You’re already over your calorie limit for today, and you skipped the gym yesterday and today.

Amygdala: I’m not listening. I’ll just have a small portion to finish off the green beans and that last bite of meat. I need the energy tonight to work on that project deadline for tomorrow.

One of the core imperatives of the Resilient Leadership model is to Stay Calm.

Effective leadership in many ways depends on this key skill, both in terms of the discipline needed to stick to a difficult personal resolution or when seeking to act as a “step-down transformer” of the systemic anxiety in an organization dealing with significant levels of change. Strategies meant to keep a New Year’s resolution or manage a company-wide change initiative too often focus on strengthening resolve, pushing through the resistance, removing obstacles, and adding external incentives. Resilient Leadership’s “New Way of THINKING” suggests that it is better to focus on lowering anxiety, which is the root cause of failed change initiatives of all sorts.

Strategies that lower reactivity, foster thoughtfulness, and ultimately reduce anxiety carry much greater punch than strategies that force compliance in overt or subtle ways.

If you are curious about knowing more about getting a stronger grip on self-management visit our FREE RL Self-Assessment:

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

To learn more about how to SEE, THINK and LEAD more effectively using the principles of Resilient Leadership, please contact us at: