Breaking Out of the Attractive Trap™ – Embracing The Freedom of Change
Updated: Aug 7
In 2016, I authored and published a book called, The Attractive Trap™: Freeing Yourself from an Unhealthy Relationship. While the context of this work was focused on personal relationships, “the attractive trap” is a concept created based upon a much broader meaning. It can apply to any relationship or situation.
How can a trap be attractive?
While toxic, unhealthy or unsustainable, there are just enough positive or attractive parts of our current state to keep us there. To our detriment, we often stay. Or, if we have the courage, we choose to break free from the place that can no longer serve us.
Why do we stay?
Intellectually, we wrestle. We know cognitively that staying won’t end well. However, what we are comfortable with, although not ideal or even toxic, is often the most comfortable. As the old saying goes, “The devil we know is better than the one we don’t.” Remaining status quo means we may make the ultimate sacrifice in losing our authenticity, our identity, a business, or, the opportunity to grab the potential that exists.
As I work with organizations and leaders, manifestations of The Attractive Trap™ are more pervasive than ever. Many crave the “beforelands” or the old normal. The required shifts in 2020 have been radical for many. The leaps that organizations and leaders must take today to continue growing or even survive may likely be unprecedented. Holding onto the mindset of, “this is what’s worked in the past”, “we’re still relevant”, or, “we need to wait, it will get back to normal,” represent many of the delusions that keep us tethered to the familiar.
Dr Shaul Oreg, from the University of Haifa in Israel, published research on what he calls, “dispositional resistance,” supporting why we resist even the most needed change. Greater known giants in the field of change, Lewin, Bridges and Kotter, maintained there is an innate or natural resistance to change. Oreg shakes this up by arguing that our disposition to change is more linked to our personality. Our approach to routine, our emotional response and our focus on short term inconveniences vs. the longer- term payoff is what matters. His research shows our mindset or what he labels as ”stubbornness” tendency, all play a role.
Given these findings and the reality of workforces with diverse strengths, emotions and mindsets, how can organizations create the conditions that help leaders break out of the trap? The following three areas and related points can hold the answers to freedom from the trap.
In a recent meeting with a group of executives leading transformative change within their firm, it was innocently shared that the group rarely communicates as a team. With this void of communication protocol, expect silos, continued pushbacks and resistance. Here are some ways to use communication to elevate buy-in:
Taking the cues from Dr. Oreg’s research, step into each person’s sensitivity to change by acknowledging their profile or Strengths™, and how they typically respond to change. If empathy is the secret sauce to a leader’s effectiveness in leading change, then putting yourself in the other person’s mindset in communicating change is the first stop on the path.
Collaborate frequently with legacy team members who aren’t as experienced in change or may have a disposition to resist. It’s not just the CEO, CSO or strategists’ role to create and publish a strategy. Similarly, loop in potential change champions throughout the firm to heighten buy-in.
Do you have a shared firmwide execution process roadmap that highlights the agreed upon goals, priority action steps, responsible stakeholders and deadlines required for the needed changes?
Leadership Competencies and Performance Management
Are competencies such as strategic agility, dealing with ambiguity, innovation management and managerial courage embedded in the hiring, assessing and developing of leaders and team members?
When hiring new talent, explore their track record in managing or leading change. Probing into the amount of change they’ve led or experienced, provides strong clues about how they’ll navigate within a dynamic environment.
Are performance management practices in place that support accountability in these areas? If those primarily responsible for championing change aren’t assessed and rewarded based on related core competencies, don’t count on them to be part of the behavioral code needed.
Holding consistent check-in meetings as well as timely curbside coaching both serve to convey the importance of and needed reinforcement for the required M.O.
You can hire and develop agile leaders and engage in solid communication practices. However, if you have a non-supportive or incongruent culture, the culture will win every time.
Do core values align with change? Values such as curiosity, courage and entrepreneurial spirit all support the expectation of openness to or driving change.
Are tough questions invited, asked and embraced at the risk of escalating disagreement and pushback? Is it safe to question each other?
How are key leaders empowered to make the decisions needed to lead the charge toward the required shifts? If it’s too complicated, the path of least resistance will win.
Is there continued narrative tied to small wins that minimize resistance and increase motivation for change?
Now, more than ever, how communication, competencies and cultural tendencies are navigated will either embolden leaders to break free from the old traps or further entangle them. When we lead to consciously break the attraction to what is no longer relevant, our team members can experience the transformation, growth and freedom that are available only through change.