Brighton Leadership Group

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Reduce Mental Friction

During times of change a leader will always encounter mental friction.  This is the resistance the new belief or thinking encounters when moving over the current thinking or beliefs inside the mind.
Mental friction reduces energy, engagement and ultimately productivity.  It increases the time it takes to implement the change and increases the cost of the change.
One way that change recipients reduce their mental friction is to “reduce the surface area in contact.”  That means denial or avoidance of the change thinking and sticking with their current thinking. While this may help reduce mental friction, it is counterproductive when you are leading through change.
Here are three tips to productively reduce mental friction:

  1. Add Lubricant – trust is a mental lubricant that reduces friction.  Trust comes from keeping your word (do what you say you are going to do) as well as being honest and authentic.  When you’ve broken trust, own your mistake and make amends.  Increase trust to reduce mental friction.
  2. Reduce the Heat – when emotions get involved the mental temperature increases. Take the emotion out of the change and cooler heads will prevail.  However, change must come from a place of passion and commitment.  Removing emotion means getting rid of the automatic negative emotions that change evokes versus becoming passionless about the change.
  3. Smooth the Surfaces – examine both thoughts that are creating the friction and determine where the differences exist.  Perhaps there is a lack of clarity in the change that has created a rough spot.  Getting clarity on the case for change and the definition of change success makes the change thought smoother and reduces the friction.

Change leaders are pioneers moving into uncharted territory.  As they challenge their followers with new thoughts they will encounter mental friction.  Add trust, remove emotion and clarify the change in order to reduce resistance from mental friction.

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