Why is change so exhausting?

by Elise Stevens | Futureproof Your Career Podcast

What is it about change that we find so difficult? Why is it burning us out and making us depressed?

Neuroscience tells us that our brain simply hasn’t evolved much over thousands of years. Even positive change can trigger the same fight/flight/freeze reaction our ancestors may have had to a lion prowling around outside the cave. So, as project managers, how do we overcome this primal stress response in ourselves and our colleagues and move towards lasting change?

In this podcast, Elise Stevens speaks with organisational change coach and project manager Jay Stone about the way our brains are wired to respond to change. Jay is the founder of Stone Changes, which supports women change leaders, and has been profiled as part of Elise’s Celebrating Women in Project Management series.

Points raised in this podcast:

  • Our brains instinctively treat change as a threat. This stress response is exhausting and manifests as resistance or pushback to the change.
  • Change reduces our sense of control and certainty.
  • People process change in a similar way to grief. All change, even positive change, comes with a sense of loss.
  • To better accept change, people must understand the “why”; the purpose of the change, as well as how it relates to them, their team and how it fits into the organisation’s bigger picture.
  • People feel more threatened when change isn’t well communicated.
  • Lasting change only happens when it occurs on an individual level. Projects fall apart when leaders face too much resistance and can’t bring people along.
  • Project managers are uniquely positioned to be fantastic change leaders because they have an individual connection with people.
  • Busy change managers may struggle to acknowledge the value that well-managed change brings to a project and may not spend enough time focused on “soft skills” like empowering people to work independently and managing the energy and enthusiasm of the people in their teams.

About Jay Stone:

Jay Stone is a wife, world explorer, female empowerment and youth development advocate, change rebel and environmental enthusiast. But formally, she’s a Change Project Manager and qualified Corporate and Executive Coach, leading international project teams in the Media and Entertainment industry.

She has experience delivering tradeshows of 56,000+ attendees from 150 countries. Some of her proudest achievements include co-creating a Women’s Leadership Programme in partnership with Imperial College London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council, addressing the widening inequalities for women. She produced and chaired a series of Diversity and Inclusion sessions with speakers from ITV, Britbox and BAFTA, exploring how diversity in media produces innovation. She delivered a series of change resilience workshops to young female adults from disadvantaged backgrounds. And recently, she was a winner of the #BackHerBusiness Funding Competition by Natwest and Crowdfunder to create a social change project for 2020 to safeguard women in business from burnout.

The #MakeChangeYourBtch Online Toolkit, A Woman’s Way to Master Change at Work will help female managers navigate change in a volatile business world.

You can connect with Jay on LinkedIn.