PLAY is Serious Business! – July 2017

It’s vacation season and hopefully you’re getting some well-deserved rest and relaxation. On vacation it’s easy to switch into play mode – chillax, unwind, and have fun. But what about at work? Doesn’t seem to evoke those same ways of being. Especially for those of us in the trenches charged with the demanding task of leading our people, teams, and organizations towards new directions, we can often find ourselves in the stress, tension, and overwhelm mode instead. As neuroscience research clearly demonstrates, to the brain, change equals pain. When we’re in pain, stress hormones ravage our bodies – and the good stuff that feeds our brains (oxygen, glucose) gets sucked away. Our cognitive capacity greatly diminishes – just when we need all our smarts the most, we actually get dumber! Conversely, when we’re in the “play” mode, we breath better, make “happy hormones” (oxytocin, etc.) that enable us to collaborate better with others, and feed our brains causing us to bring our best and get results.

How can you use this brain-based research as a Change Intelligent leader? Here are some actionable suggestions:

  • Sit back and reframe the situation. Remember that our stress reactions evolved to keep us safe from life-threatening threats, like tigers in the jungle at night! At times, our brains and bodies highjack us, and we experience reactions out of proportion to the severity of the situation. Just keeping this dynamic in mind can at times settle our systems.
  • Experiment with new behaviors. Successful change necessitates that we as leaders start with the Heart (focusing on people), engage the Head (focusing on purpose), and equip the Hands (focusing on process). Yet, many of us have a dominant style that we rely on. During times of stress, we tend to revert to our go-to style, and very literally forget that we have other options. Yet, we all have Heart, Head, and Hands and we can do all three – literally and figuratively. When you feel frustrated, remember that there are other and perhaps more winning tactics you can test-out. They may not be normal or natural for you, but they are tools in your Change Leader tool bag available to you at any time.
  • Play! Mergers, reorganizations, technology upgrades – all serious business with enormous consequencesYet, as shown, sometimes our own seriousness can get in the way of our being optimally effective in playing our parts and making a positive differences for our organizations, teams, and careers. Most likely, a tiger isn’t about to pounce. How can you make a game of the change – or use the analogy of a game to help reduce fear and threat at least for a while, to enable yourself and your colleagues to get smarter and see new and more productive possibilities? How can you take a break from “the change,” and do something completely different, alone or with your fellow key stakeholders, to banish the toxic chemicals and get the creative juices flowing again?

One such specific example is the Lego Serious Play Method, which I was reminded of when speaking at the recent ACMP Global Conference, by Rob Odi who facilitated an excellent workshop sampling a variety of fun and meaningful exercises that are extremely relevant to facilitating change, building change teams, and developing change leadership capacity. The Lego Method is one of many examples I’ve experienced in my career, and I’d love to learn about yours as well, so we can continue to foster our CQ learning community – please do email me back and share! Remember: Boost your CQ to boost your IQ! And ask yourself and your teams: Are you having fun yet?!