On-Demand Webcast: Dealing with Unavoidable Change in Law Firms

May 27, 2020

Carolyn Dolci and Natalie McVeigh

We discussed how habits are created and ways in which you can effectively change habits to adjust to working in this new normal.

 


Transcript

Good afternoon. My name is Carolyn Dolci, and I'm a partner with EisnerAmper. I am the co-leader of our law firm practice group. Now, we provide tax, state/local, audits, reviews and other consulting services to law firms of all different sizes. Our forensic and our litigation group also work with law firms and their attorneys to support them on cases.

Carolyn Dolci:So this seminar we're doing now, or this webinar, is a little different than our technical seminars that we often offer at the firm. And this one: dealing with unavoidable change in law firms, and it's going to be presented by Natalie McVeigh. Natalie is a director in our Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence.

 So when I think of Natalie, I'm always thinking she does this stuff with the brain. And the best way to describe her is she is a practitioner of neuroscience. And after you see her presentation, you will understand why. And I'm looking forward to questions coming through and we can answer those at the end. Thank you. Natalie?

Natalie McVeigh:Thank you, Carolyn. It's great to be here, everyone. So before we jump in, one of the things I want to say is law firms, it's one of the older professions in history. There are ways that are done, things are done in law firms that have made a lot of sense. They're also quite structural and things that we enjoy.

And law firms, much like CPA firms, have a partnership, which means shared ownership and shared decision making. So to affect change in some of these institutions, that requires so many people to make joint decisions. It gets a little challenging. So we're going to talk about dealing with change in two ways today. We're going to talk about organizational change. We're going to talk about that model.

But more importantly, we're going to talk about individual change. We're going to talk about how to influence and instigate change in your organization just on the individual level, which is honestly where we have the most control right now, at a time where it doesn't sound like we have a ton of control to begin with. So please feel free to ask your questions as they come in the Q&A.

We will get to them after, but don't feel the need to hold them throughout. So I just briefly wanted to talk about how we're operationally defining change today. It's to make something different and it's a disruption to establish patterns. Now, not all patterns are great patterns. As Carolyn mentioned, I'm a practitioner of neuroscience. So our brain sees patterns.

It sees patterns when patterns don't exist, in fact. You can, and they've done this before, they put you in a study where they ask you a random assortment of dots. Will you find a pattern? And we will. In fact, it's why we see when we look at clouds different shapes, because we're meant to recognize patterns, see them.

And these patterns, these rituals, these behaviors really are psychological anchors for us. They're the way through which we make sense of the world. So change doesn't necessarily have to be bad, but it does disrupt things. And so often when our way of being is disruptive, we have some feelings or thoughts about it and it becomes negative in our minds.

Why is change hard? Change is hard because it involves so many different facets of how we think about ourselves and how we see ourselves in the world. Part of our self-actualization is really what we do is how we be. And they've also researched this as the more I do something, the more real it becomes to me. So we're going to talk about four components of individual change.

One is behavior. It's what we do. One is our biases. They're the things that we think and we believe. And then there are models for how we've made sense of the world. And then there's complexity of change. And this complexity of change also changes throughout our adult development.

We used to think, not even 10 years ago, that once you were 25 or 35, you name the age, that social psychologists would say is that we were done developing. That was it. We couldn't learn anymore. We now know, through neuroplasticity, that's not the case. But there's still a maturation that happens that is related to time, not necessarily age.

So we'll talk about these each individually. So first I just want to talk about behaviors. Behaviors are what we do, and they're neutral. They don't necessarily mean anything, but what happens is they become habits for us. So depending on the study, either 45% or 43% of our waking hours are spent in habit. That's most of the day.

And where we spend most of our time in life isn't work. So one-third of our life we spend sleeping. One-third of our life we spend at work. And then the other third of our life is everything else: marriage, children, friends, you name it. The lines are getting a little blurry now that we're working from home.

So we have a lot of habits related to our work life. And habits help us perform exceptionally, in most cases. I think all of you here are employed at law firms or other places. And so at the end of the day, you're quite successful at doing what you've done. And it comes from a different part of our brain. It comes from a part of our brain that's like pressing record on a VCR, where it just kind of automatically populates.

So habits allow us to be very agile, because we don't have to think about a lot of the things that we're doing. And at one point in time, pre first world problems, they actually could save our life if we can determine fight, flight or freeze. And in fact, that is where many of our habits come from. They're actually around this desire to protect ourselves. So they're not the most intelligent.

And we're going to talk about some tricks about how to evaluate our behaviors and habits that may or may not be serving us anymore. They may not be serving us anymore because the world we're living in is undoubtedly actually different than the world it was yesterday, two days ago, two weeks ago. And so continuing down that pattern that did make us successful might be hindering us.

So one of the things I want to mention here, and this probably remind many of you of your first year in law school or logical fallacies, these are the biases, the meaning we've made of things that really help us also be effective in some way, shape or form. These live in the part of our brain called the amygdala. It's the part of our brain that's instinctual, that likes defending ideas.

And so these biases that'll show up, especially in work, when we hear them coming out of other people's mouths, and honestly, I know a bias usually when it's coming out of my tongue first. We like to think biases are for other people, but they're really things we have, too. When we hear these biases coming out of our mouths or the mouths of other people, what we need to know is the first thing is we want to deeply listen.

We want to understand the person who's speaking or myself as I'm speaking it. We also know that our brain processes information differently as I speak it. So the moment it comes out of my mouth, it's more real. There's no fiction storage in the brain. It becomes encoded as fact. So the moment I talk about returning to an office or not being around my children or any number of things, there's a different response for me.

But what we want to do is want to deeply listen, because these biases are telling us what's important. So how we can preserve what's important while create new behaviors is this balancing act we're going to work on. So the status quo biases, again, you guys probably remember this from early law school, but I'll give them quite simple definitions.

The status quo bias is that everything's working fine. There's no need to re-examine. The not-invented-here biases that we've done things so well, we're going to keep doing them this way, especially because we're the thought leaders. We're the authority. An argument from authority, same thing is the person who knows the best should be the one who continues this.

And we, the more experience we get in life, unfortunately become the authority. So it gets quite challenging. And the overconfidence bias that it'll happen to someone else who's not me, but it does exist in the world. So there are some people who are trying to get back into the workplace who might not want to wear masks or might not want to take all the precautions that might be existing because it's not really relevant to me.

And then the confirmation bias is really looking to see all the data that confirms the belief I already hold. So I'm going to kind of not pay attention to the data that exists that disproves what I'm thinking, but also every dot that can go into the thing I already believe is there. And then the narrative bias. This is the bias that is going to be most important to you for change, is we actually are meant to hear story.

We don't get excited or interested in facts. And I know a few of you are saying, "Yeah, I'm already bored." But the narrative bias is really helpful for us, because if we can tell a story, a cogent, compelling story that explains why these changes are necessary and even helpful, the more likely we are to get underneath some of this reaction of denial. So this is a bias that is useful for us. It's also a challenging bias.

So I mentioned this a little bit earlier, but we try to make sense of the world and build models. We're quite good at building models. If any of you have children or nieces or nephews, you've seen them and they ask why a ton, which is really annoying, but it's great, where they're putting together the shape of the world, and they're quite elastic and they're quite able to take in new information, vast amount of information in a short period of time.

When you study children's brains, they're growing at enormous rates. And at some point in time, we start becoming model defenders. Now, that point in time actually happens twice in our life. What teenagers and people over the age of 40 have in common are that we do not learn from negative information. So I don't know if you've ever had a conversation with your teenage son or daughter and you say, "Don't do X. X is going to happen to you." And the X is a negative thing.

And they're like, "Fine." Well, people over 40 have the same response. We start defending our models and we don't really learn from the negative information. So again, that narrative and the positivity are going to be really helpful. And so the two questions I really ask myself is how to enhance scenario planning and decision making and how to make sure we're not just model defending throughout our communications.

And that's a balanced tightrope to walk, is to really question ourselves when the world seems to be changing constantly. Every day we hear new information about what will happen with COVID, what won't happen with COVID, and we're trying to exert our control. And one of the ways we believe we can exert our control is in ourselves. And that's not to say that we shouldn't spend some time in self-soothing.

There are some things right now that you should absolutely do that make you happy. But if we're reaching to grab and to hold on to all the things as the same, we're going to really run into some trouble. So this is that scale of complexity I mentioned earlier. And again, this is about time. This is not about age.

One of the things that we thought when we were studying human behavior is that people weren't changing. That they couldn't change and they didn't believe in changing, and we thought it was because people just don't change. And the research bears out that it's not that people don't change, it's that they're balancing their own internal complexity with the external world's complexity.

So the external world in this moment is probably more complex than it's ever been in any of our lifetimes. So the only thing we can do is really deal with our own internal complexity, trying to understand ourselves, trying to understand our mental complexity, what we need. And these three life stages are really about how we organize information flow, how we recede and attend to information.

Now, I'm not going to go too in detail into this model, because we have a bunch of other things to cover. But I'm interested to see if you see yourselves in any one of these phases. And it's not linear, so it can change based on a situation that you're in and role that you have. So there's the socialized mind, where you're a team player, you're a faithful follower, you seek direction and you're reliant.

Many of us have done this. It's kind of like being the good soldier. We take orders, we follow along, so on and so forth, until usually our boundaries are crossed. And then we start thinking maybe there's another way to do this or become a little more self-authorizing, where we have our own compass, our own frame of reference. We're becoming a little more independent and problem solving.

Honestly, we're a little bit more rebellious, where we're not saying so much, "Yes sir," Or, "Yes ma'am." We're saying, "let me see what works for me." And sometimes what works for me is the opposite of what you want me to do. and then we get to this self-transforming mind, which can hold contradictions. One of the most important things during a time of crisis or a time of conflict is to hold what I call inconsistent truths.

These two things that can both be true at once, where it might be inconvenient to work from home because my children are there, but it might also be great that I have more face time with my children. How do I balance those things? So how we get to solve complex problems is when there isn't a mismatch between the complexities in our world and in ourselves.

So what we want to really do is release the complexity in ourselves. We want to stop having so much cognitive dissonance, for lack of a better phrase. We want to stop fighting those things we don't know. So one of the first things to do is really to say, where are we today? What is known and how can I start effecting the change?

And why are we talking about change today? The world is already changing. It's been changing my entire lifetime. I mean, technology's speed, as you all know, has gone enormously. I hate to think of what would be happening during this crisis had technology not advanced. But adapting and pivoting and innovative behaviors are the only things that are going to keep us relevant.

And so now because of COVID-19, we can't ignore the changes that are coming and they're happening at this moment. Now, the question becomes, how do we make the change work for us and not us work around the change? Because that's one of the things we like to do when we think that we're able to solve problems, is we'll just work hard enough to figure it out. And we end up working against ourselves sometimes.

So here are some common reactions to change: we lose commitment, accidents increase, accuracy drops, morale is lowered, productivity goes down, increase in stress, increase in conflict, et cetera. A lot of these are also common reactions to stress. So we have an added stressor of the fact that these changes are happening in one of the most stressful times.

In fact, an epidemiologist said, even before COVID, that the 21st century's largest crisis was stress even before now. So some of this is stress, some of this is change. And one of the pieces that we want to think about when we're changing is finding a way to not lose the commitment. Yes, of course, in the legal field or any field, accidents and accuracy are a challenge.

However, we've shown studies with psychological safety that one of the best ways to increase psychological safety is to make failure and error okay. The highest performing teams, not only do they not have errors, but the way that they deal with errors is actually by talking about them, having good postmortems, making them information to build stronger teams.

So the morale and the commitment are really the places where we want to focus right now for how change can be done and how you can be a positive force for change in your organization. So this is organizational change we're going to talk about and how this happens. And I don't know if you're on the receiving end of this or on the creating end of this.

I don't know if you're the ones who are creating the change or if not. But there's this upstart of excitement and then there's kind of these drops of challenge. And then at the end, we end somewhere where we feel a little bit more positive, hopefully. And again, this model, sometimes you go from beginning to end at different times based on the change that happens.

So this is whether it's individual change or personal change, is it is not a process that ends. So life is changing consistently. In fact, you are a different version tomorrow than you were today just epigenetically. We have these transcription genes that change throughout our lifetime. So even if you make it to the very top of this inverse bell curve, doesn't mean that you are done. It just means that you know how to change with others.

So the first stage is denial. If you tell me I have to change everything, I don't really want to. So some ways that denial can be really helpful is communication. Communicating why the change is necessary, communicating the reasons, communicating the rationale. There's some great science out here about working from home, what it means, disabusing people of the ideas that you can be not as productive as working from home.

And there's also some great science about what it looks like to reenter the workforce, what the buildings need, what health can look like. Describe the change, the losses and the impact. Don't sugar coat things and say, "Oh, it's not that bad," Or, "It's just temporary." At the end of the day, be very clear about acknowledging. I absolutely understand that what you are losing is your office, your sense of sanity.

 Maybe you really needed that because you have children at home. And ensure that there's support for the change that's happening in the organization. Now, if you're not a person who is able to garner that support yourself, if you can't be the person who says that the support happens, we'll have a conversation about how to influence that later.

And ideally, you want to have a team that is in charge of the change that's happening. You want to have taskforce. My guess is many of you have taskforce already about what's going to happen. And sometimes these taskforces just listen. So yes, there's information you want to say. You want to give information as much as you can, because when we don't know things, we make things up.

But sometimes this taskforce is just there to listen. People need to air out their own concerns and their own grievances to make them feel real. And then there's resistance. Resistance is really the point in time in which, at first, I was saying I don't really believe it. And now I'm saying I don't want to do this. Like, I hear you sort of that this is happening, this is real, but it's impacting me as an individual now or the way that I come together with my teammates.

And so what do we do with that? How do we deal with that? And some of these you'll see go throughout. The idea of communicating and listening and accurately describing what's going on are going to run through this regularly. That's not going to change at any point in time. Those are important keys to being successful in the future. And then this is an interesting twist, is you enlist the aid of potential resisters.

When someone resists, they're trying to protect what's most important to them. So we don't want to gloss over what the resistance is. In fact, I get excited when people are resistant, because then I know that there's information there that'll help me be more successful. You guys are probably all, again, in law school. Had to take mock trials on the opposite side of what you actually believe.

Being able to understand the opposing side makes you, one, more empathetic, and two, more able to explain some holes in your own thinking. And in the mediation process, we have an activity where you do looping, where you actually say the thing the other person was saying out of your own mouth and it changes how you think about it. Acknowledge feelings. There's some research around the emotional temperature in the organization actually is a litmus for how healthy the organization is.

So to deny that people are having challenges is going to be really challenging for them, for lack of a better phrase. And then provide training in the long view. And these two are really important, because what we will get to is the hope. That's the piece in which we can get people to rally around a new idea to get buy in, and the training for them do things differently. We talked about habits before.

Everyone is habitual. And it may seem very simple. And we've all had varying levels of success at working from home. Some people were adept at it at a day. Some people read some articles and got better at it. Some people are still struggling with it. They hate it and they don't like it. But partly it's because our frame of reference and our ability to execute on something new is just challenging.

It takes practice. It's a skill to be learned. And so if you provide the right training and support, you're going to see that resistance go down, because one of the main things I'm resisting is looking in competent. That's really important here. It's not necessarily, can these things be done? But can I be okay throughout that crisis?

And then this is the fun part. Maybe not so fun. But it's experimentation. So when you're doing a change in an organization or a change in yourself, the idea that we will magically know the answer, we will have figured it out right away, is untrue. And so allowing yourself to experiment, allowing yourself to come up with different versions of how this can work.

Test them out, fail, succeed together, is very important. So a lot of this is temporary systems. We want to test something and be very clear that we're just trying this out for now. Figure out the span of time. Be clear about that. Find ways to get feedback regularly. Early and often, when you can create a culture of feedback, you would be surprised at what you see.

And there are reasons that we don't give feedback, but I think it's imperative now in your organizations to start getting feedback, for a few reasons, but one is collective intelligence research. The more people talk to one another, the more they can share about how they think. The more group intelligence you're able to use with one another to create this new normal more effectively.

If we all are holding our breaths, hoping that tomorrow will eventually look like something three months ago, it's just not going to work. So trying to get that feedback early and often. Foster innovative thinking. Now, in a lot of hierarchal organizations, in a lot of organizations that really do value the status quo or the not-invented-here, we don't actually foster innovation, because innovation comes at a cost.

Innovation means I'm going to be more successful in three weeks or three months than I am today. And at the end of the day, I work in an accounting firm. It's all about the billable hour. However, what's the ROI for testing out something new? And mix the short term and long-term goals. And try not to scrap the original concepts.

So there may be things that really don't work. You learn that it completely doesn't work. But in any post-mortem, or pre-mortems are really useful as well, what part of this worked at all? And can I take at least one of these parts and try it into a new process that we're having? And then be very consistent. And you'll see fits and starts with change management in organizations, where we're going to try this one day, but we're not going to continue.

Now, this is different than creating temporary systems. Because if I say for six months everybody wears a mask 24/7 in the building, right? I'm just making something up. That's a temporary system that ends in six months. Now, it's different when I'm talking about consistency, because consistency means one day I have someone monitoring it and the other day I don't.

And sometimes I wear my mask and sometimes I don't. So it's okay to have a temporary system and still be consistent in the processes where you're using. And then we have commitment. And commitment is multifaceted. We're going to talk about individual commitment as well. But this commitment is really organizational commitment. The idea that we're in this together and we're working on this together.

And what that commitment really speaks to is, how do we decide to co-create this? How do we get the buy-in? And feedback is often the way that that happens, where we say these are the changes we're offering or deciding to work through and we feel that they're not imposed on us. We're talking about COVID specifically and their regulatory it's things that you cannot change, right?

So the regulations can't change. But in the organization, what can change? What is the flexibility and what's the ability to come back through any one of these steps? Because if my people aren't committed, if we're not as a group following through on the things we decided, there might be a reason for that. And that reason might be that our experimentation process didn't go well enough.

Or go a step further, that I wasn't clear on the resistance that's happening here. I really was only looking at it through my lens. And that's something that I've been talking to organizations about, the coming back to the workforce. There are different constituent groups. There are people who really want to be in the offices and they're people who are really worried that they have children or autoimmune questions.

And so understanding all of the constituent groups helps you be more effective in your experimentation. So we're going to stop the organization part before we get into the individual part. And what I want to say about organizational change is, what we've noticed is that even if you aren't the person who authors this, even if you aren't the decision maker who gets to say we're doing an organizational change process, we're doing it this way, we're setting it up.

We have seen that individuals' impact can create an upstream impact in an organization. So it doesn't really matter what level you are in your organization. You can actually instigate this direct model by following some of these individual change pieces we're talking about. We talk about this in neuroscience and with emotional intelligence research, that this kind of behavior, this kind of change, this kind of resilience, it's catchy.

You actually can catch people in your behaviors. Now, the onus is on you to be a little more disciplined about them. Okay. So these are the impacts of change that we've noticed in individuals and why it fails so often, and where our focus might be a little bit off in some of these things. The area we most commonly focus on is technical change. When you hire an employee, we want to onboard them.

We want to give them the skillset to be able to execute Y and Z or the specific type of law you're going to focus on. That's the technical piece. Technical change is negligible. Almost everyone does it throughout their life. Job transition, you name it, learning a new skill. All of that is relatively simple. However, that's where we spend the most time focusing.

The part that's the most important around change are these last two parts. And one is the adaptive change. This is my ability to be mentally agile. This is my ability to take in complex information and do something with it, to see if I can make sense of the world, if I can understand and influence things. This is less easy to teach.

Now, inviting people into complex conversations is one of the ways that this can happen. Having people part of that experimentation phase is really useful. Asking questions that you don't know the answer to. My recollection, from some of my colleagues who are attorneys, is that's something we don't like to do as attorneys. We don't like to ask questions we don't want the answer to.

But that is one of the ways to start the adaptive process, to really be able to find out what might be necessary here that isn't just technical, that isn't just wrote, that isn't just something I can pull from all my pattern habits, because they're ideally not going to work at this moment. Now, I'm not saying to jettison all your pattern habits at all, because there's probably something in there that can be used right now.

But how we use that is going to be very important. And then there's competing commitments. And this is on the individual level. So I'm talking to you about you right now. I'm not talking about your organization. Although it's important to know in the model we just looked at, is what's competing with you around these new behaviors, these new habits internally? What are the things you're holding on to that are stopping you from creating these new habits?

And we're going to get into how to create some new habits in a minute. But I think that exercise is really important for you and it's simple, where you can just draw a line down a page and at the top, write whatever the habit is and figure out the things that are competing it. Are you just shooting all over yourself that you want to do this because someone else said?

Are you the person who's waking up early and going running because everyone told you should get fit while you have downtime and it's not sticking? And probably it's not sticking because maybe you don't feel like you have downtime and maybe you'd rather use that time to talk with your spouse or read a book. So getting clear on your competing commitments is going to be the most important aspect of being able to make any change habitually.

                                             So we call this a habit stack or a habit sandwich. The three keys for creating habit is context, repetition and reward. There's a part of our brain called the basal ganglia, which is this interesting little part of our brain that gets really strong around emotions, but it's kind of what holds our habit context. And it's close to the amygdala, so it has a reactive ability.

 So before we get into the like how to change a habit, we want to be really clear on what the context is. Many of us are unclear on the context or the cue for why our behaviors happen. So for me, I really like to understand things. And when I don't understand things, I ask questions. But I didn't always ask questions because I didn't want to look stupid. So when I didn't understand things, I used to kind of check out.

I just sit back, I get quiet and probably take a note to myself, "I'm going to research that later." Well, the behavior that I was doing was disconnecting and I'm quiet and I have dark features. So, apparently, people find that upsetting. They found it that I was disengaged. I had gotten that feedback early in my career. And I kept trying to not be disengaged.

The problem is, I didn't know why I was being disengaged. And so when I finally got very clear on the fact that when I don't understand things and I don't want to look stupid, those were the two contexts for me, I do this thing, which is I remove myself. I go to being a little more defensive. So when I got very clear on that context, I was able to create a new cue. And so I started asking questions.

And interestingly enough, when I would ask questions, other people in the room had the same question. Now, sometimes they didn't. I'm ESL and a little bit foreign. I was just wrong. Everybody else knew what they were talking about. But that was okay, too, because nothing terrible happened. And so at the end of the day, the context is going to take you some time as well to figure out.

It's not even a competing commitment, but it's the context, because we often mistake the context or the cue for our habits. And they're deeply ingrained in many of us. Some of these habits we've had our whole lifetime. We've done research into that. Some are newer. Our work habits, believe it or not, often have to do with our childhoods, because there's something called transactional analysis I won't talk about today. But that's there.

So getting very clear on the context of what's going on to create the new habit. Repeat it consistently and get the reward. So for me, even though, yes, it was a nice and fun when other people had the same question as me, my reward wasn't other people having the same question to me, which is what I thought it would be. I actually really thought that, "Oh, then maybe people will think that I know what I'm talking about when I asked a good question."

The reward was that I actually learned the thing I didn't know. And that was the way that you create a habit. Now, you've probably all read research that says habits take 21 days to create. That is not true. That's a subset of a smaller research study that actually says that somewhere between 66 and 99 days. The great thing about this is our context is now different as well.

So there's a research study that talked about Vietnam. Some large percentage did illicit substances while they were in Vietnam. These were narcotics, really high level illicit substances. And as you know, addiction recovery is very, very difficult. But when those Vietnam veterans came back, only 5% ever repeated the habit. They reused substances.

And that's the smallest percentage ever in any study of substance uses like that that's happened. It's because their context changed. They were no longer in the war. And so right now it's not exactly the same, but we're not in the office the way we used to be, doing things exactly the same. So it's a ripe time to actually start creating new behaviors because our context is different.

It is different because of all of this kind of chaos that's happening in the world. So taking advantage of that is going to be useful. All right. So what you want to do is you want to make a list of three habits you'd like to develop. Three easy enough habits, because we want to create small successes first. And that's where you want to start.

These are the three habits I want to do. Because we're talking about this in the context of law fields and employees in law, think about these habits relative to your employer, your boss, your own performance right now. I don't actually know why you came on this webinar, but it's probably one of those three things. So figuring out a habit that exists for you that you'd like to create, or doesn't exist yet, but you'd like to create.

Now, for each one of these habits, we want to put it with a habit you already have, because habits are really ingrained on us. So there's an example here about running and walking the dog. That might be something that you do. One of the things that we've seen people want to do is be on their phones less, because it makes them work so much.

So what they might do is say, every time I pick up my phone, because we all do, I'm actually going to call someone first, because social interactions are really important before I get on Instagram or get on Facebook. Now, you're already picking up the phone, so you have one piece. You have that context cue that you're creating. And then you get to add that.

 So you want to, then, find the stack or the sandwich. So what's the habit I want to create? What's the habit exists that are side by side? They can be neighbors so that I can sandwich them together. Now, you'll have to probably put some reminders around, here and there, to figure out if the first few times you do it, but at the end of the day, you're going to create a habit.

The great thing about habits, even though I mentioned the 66 to 99 days, is they don't fall to zero. So let's pretend this dog running thing is the thing I'm doing. I was great at running with the dog for the first three weeks, and for two days I just didn't do it. I didn't have time. Something happened. Big work assignment.

One of the things that happens when we're stressed is we often give up the things we need most like rest, like physical exercise, like connecting with people. So ideally, even though these are work-related, somehow you're going to create one of those habits to be one of the things I just mentioned. So I stop for two days running. It doesn't set me back to zero for my 66 to 99 days.

After my two days of break, I come back to that habit and I can reset it right from that moment. So it turns into day 17 versus day one. So one of the next processes of this habit creation is to really check on the habits, check on its development, see if it's working for you. So it's kind of like that direct model in which we're experimenting.

So the idea that I have to call someone every time I pick up my phone. After that first week, I realized it's not working out. In fact, I pick up my phone 50 times a day, and after 50 phone calls, I haven't gotten any work done. So what's another thing I can do? There's an app from UNICEF that the longer you leave your phone down, the more rice they donate.

There's a way to figure out how to work with that habit, how to play with it, and play is really important here. Great. And you'll have all these slides so you can create a worksheet out of this, if you want to. The most important thing for the change in the organization or within you is really look for what's working. What are the parts that are working really well? And focus on those.

First, you can get small successes, and two, you might learn something about the culture in which you're working, and your own impulses that are happening. It's also going to keep that momentum. Our brains work in future state, interestingly, but it's kind of an imaginary land when we create future state in our heads. So it also allows us to be much more generative, much more innovative and idea-oriented.

And what we're looking to get together, not just what we're looking to avoid. I mentioned earlier that many of us don't respond to negative information. So it's not very helpful. It's kind of like wrapping a dog on the nose with a newspaper. So what are we trying to create? And then how do we co-create that? The more ownership, the more we, the more buy-in, the more branding that people feel like they have as a part of this, the more these are going to become sticky, these habits, these new behaviors.

And then play. They've done research that for any new synapse in the brain, which is part of the habit building process, you need like 144 tries to create a new synapse in your brain unless you're doing it in play. If you're playing, it's between 10 and 20. Now, play may sound like a weird thing at work, but that just means laughter.

If you're laughing together, if you're having fun, if you're joking, if you're white boarding, if you're doing all of those things that engage adult play, we're going to actually be able to build those connections much more rapidly. They'll be much more effective and they'll be much more beneficial. Communication is going to be key when we're communicating any change, even if it's your own change.

So again, if you're not an influencer in the organization, they've done research that shows that people are much more successful at following through on New Year's resolutions, and you name it, if you just voice it into the air. So if you tell someone, "I'm trying to spend more time not on my phone. That means I'm not checking emails after 7:00 PM." If that's possible at your workplace.

What you're actually doing is priming them to think about that as a possibility for themselves, but also allowing them to join you in this new behavior. Maybe they won't email you after 7:00. But you want to use more frequent communications, more varieties of medium, making sure that that feedback is not just one way. I don't get to give everyone feedback.

So every time someone emails me after 7:00 PM, I'll pick on Carolyn, they call Carolyn and say, "Hey, I got an email at 7:00 PM." The opposite is also true. So what do you need from me, Carolyn, in our working relationship that might be really useful? And if the organization's creating change, these last two are very important.

If you're just an instigator of change, then it might not be as effective for you to use these. And these are the areas in which we really want to keep reminding, keep sharing, especially the last two questions. How's the change going to affect me and what am I expected to do? Is really the most important question for people as things are changing.

I thought we'd end with this quote. Only in growth reform and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found. So, as much as we believe that change is really difficult, our desire to grow together, our desire for impact is very much there. So the question is, how can change be a journey where everyone joins in together versus it being something that's done to them? And that's all we have.

Carolyn Dolci:Okay, Natalie. We have just a couple comments or questions. Can somebody gets stuck in a resistance stage?

Natalie McVeigh:Yes, absolutely. Many of us are stuck in the resistance stage, and there are two ways to get out of it. One is really understand the resistance. In my experience, the thing people are most resistant about, and I gave the example of myself with not knowing things, we're not even clear about. So it's a simple technique, but you can ask the five why's. If someone gives you an explanation, you can ask why a few more times.

There is a defense mechanism that goes up with why. So you might say something like, what about this is important to you? How can I support that? Ask a couple of questions that aren't why, but then really get to the why so that you can first understand the resistance. Hopefully, you can address it. It depends on what's going on, if you can or you can't.

 If the resistance truly is, "I don't ever want anything to change in my life," Well, that's a little harder to deal with. And then the other part of the resistance is you explaining this future vision and these pieces of success that you see. So the different version of the world that I see if we make these few changes.

I'm going to make up this example. A lot of people really believe that working from home means we're working less. That is categorically incorrect. Studies show that the biggest risk of working from home is overworking and burnout. So if that's the real question, how do we talk about it?

And then usually what people say is, "I just don't know that they're working." Well, then, the question isn't, can people work from home or not? It's, how do we measure that and how do we show that to people? And so when you understand the resistance, you actually get to find ways of dealing with it.

Carolyn Dolci:Okay. And some wrote bad habit. Too many interruptions, too many files open at the same time. How do I fix that habit?

Natalie McVeigh:I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear the beginning.

Carolyn Dolci:Sorry. Again, too many interruptions and I have too many files open at the same time. How do I fix this bad habit, if you can?

Natalie McVeigh: Yeah. So there is some research, it's called single focus research, that says that anytime we have our phone near us we lose 10 IQ points, and the same for every interruption that happens. So I guess the question I would ask is, why is it important to have all of those things open? What are you afraid of missing? And how you might be able to calendar that a little better. We don't do our best work when we're multitasking. It is just fact.

So the question is, how do you allow yourself space to single focus? Now, it is tough. I can tell you that I grew up thinking that multitasking was the best. And now that I've read the research, I've decided to create different things. So I do just actually close my email for two hours during the day. It's not open. And I spend 15 minutes per subject, because I have a shorter attention span.

So whether it's an article or a webinar, I'll do the one thing for a few minutes, move to the next thing. So you can still facilitate that creativity. There's also an importance in rest. We can't do 60 to 90 minutes of anything without kind of cracking. So in my experience, all of these habits we've created were around productivity, especially if they're work habits.

Now, when we understand how less productive they make us, it opens opportunities to change some habits. But I would start with closing the email. I'd make your keyboard louder. But anytime you double click on something, you then have to do X, and I don't know what that is. You would have to decide what that normal habit is that you do.

Carolyn Dolci:I'm finally getting used to working from home. I don't think I want to go back. I'm not sure if its fear or that I just like having my husband make me dinner every night.

Natalie McVeigh:Oh, that's a good question. Yes. And so this COVID situation is interesting. We're kind of in two phases right now. There was the we're all working from home and we all hate it and it's all traumatic for us. And now we're kind of in this honeymoon stage. We're also in the secondary stage, which is called the third quarter.

They've studied it in submariners and astronauts, where the longer you spend more time in isolation, you get a little cranky. So there are these two sets of people. Some people were really cranky and some people were really happy. My guess is the way that the world starts opening up is going to look very different than people believe it will look.

We're hearing that things are opening up, but the process will likely be much more gradual than people anticipate. And that's part of that transparency, that communication in the STRAC model that's interesting to consider as well as the idea of feedback, because the feedback to your employer about your anxiety is going to be really important.

My guess is its equal parts anxiety and equal parts comfort. We've now created a new habit. It's been a few months now. And so this habit might be just as hard to break, but there are real risks that many intelligent people are working on. I was just on a panel last week with a Harvard professor around healthy buildings and all of those kinds of things.

So the answer is probably both. But find out that commitment level, that activity where you put a line in the middle of the page. What's my competing commitment here? Is it my family or is it my health? And they might go together.

Carolyn Dolci:Okay. Thank you. We're coming toward the end of our seminar. I just wanted to remind everyone that we do have a coronavirus resource page. I think it's actually called coronavirus. And when you click on it on our website, it goes to the COVID-19, where we have resources and updated information that is posted almost daily. Thank you for joining us. Lexi?

Lexi:Thank you for taking the time to join us, and we hope you enjoyed today's presentation on dealing with unavoidable change in law firms. A special thanks to our speakers today for delivering this insightful program. The recording of today's session will be available on-demand later today and can be accessed using the same link you used to join. We would appreciate if you would complete our evaluation survey, which will pop up at the conclusion of this presentation, so please keep this window open. Thank you for joining our webcast today.

 

About Carolyn Dolci

Carolyn Dolci, CPA is a Tax Partner providing tax planning, compliance and advisory services with experience in corporate income tax, consolidated filings, partnerships, multi-state and local taxes and trusts.

About Natalie M. McVeigh

Natalie McVeigh is a Director in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence Group within the Private Business Services Practice and has more than 10 years of experience as a consultant and coach.

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