Acceleration vs. Exhilaration. By Merci Miglino

It’s all how you choose to experience it.

Accelerate means to make anything in motion move faster. We are constantly accelerating in our business, and that means constant and rapid change. Such change can cause those in the organization to experience change fatigue.

This has been referred to as the acceleration trap, according to Heike Bruch, a professor of leadership at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and Jochen I. Menges, professor of leadership and human resource management at the University of Zurich and a lecturer at the University of Cambridge.

According to Bruch and Menges, accelerated firms fare worse than their peers on performance, efficiency, employee productivity, and retention. The problem is pervasive, especially in the current world of 24/7 accessibility and cost-cutting.

That’s the bad news. The good news is the acceleration trap is not escape-proof. Companies can encourage high performance over the long term without taxing their employees or confusing their customers.

What happens if we focus on making the acceleration exhilarating? Making the unexpected welcome and embrace the energetic spark of the unknown?

In executive coaching, we often encourage leaders to support their troops in reframing events to address any resistance or push back to the norm of constant change and inviting a new reaction to acceleration. In this case, exhilaration is a new way of looking at acceleration.

This reframing helps all stakeholders to move easily and constructively by shifting one’s perspective to a more empowered one and reinforce a new, more open way to experience accelerated change. Consider the roller coaster analogy. When you buy a ticket, stand in line and hop aboard, you are looking through the lens of both fear and excitement – and the experience is exhilarating. Of course, not everyone is a fan of this wild ride, and you don’t have to be. Thriving through workplace change is actually less frightening and perhaps more rewarding than a 2-minute theme park ride.

Using “emotional accounting” and “cognitive reframing” from the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model, you can move from resisting change (and the negative thinking patterns that come with it) to being exhilarated by the undiscovered possibilities. Emotional accounting is the process of transforming negative thoughts to be more positive. In contrast, cognitive reframing allows the broader picture to be transformed from a negative interpretation of what is happening to you to a more positive interpretation. 

It helps to understand how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected.  When a triggering event happens i.e., there’s going to be a change, we tend to have an automatic thought or reaction about the event based on a primal drive to survive and often related to our past experiences or irrational core beliefs like, “I cannot handle this change”. 

Once we are aware of and accept that this is normal, we can choose how we will respond going forward.

There are a few ways to swiftly shift from reacting to responding, including

  • Becoming more aware – actively working overtime to lessen the intensity of our triggered reaction to change.
  • Shorten the time devoted to the emotion by labeling the feeling and then letting it go in favor of a more chosen response.
  • Exercising your VETO Power in the space between the urge to react and thoughtful decision to respond.
  • Reappraise the reaction, asking, “Could there be another interpretation of the situation?” or reframing the negative thought – “What would be a positive outcome from this situation?”

And if you think staying cool under pressure is about suppressing emotions, extensive research has been proven this does not work and, in fact, inhibits cognition.

When we consciously reframe, look for patterns, examine our filters, and question our perceptions, we can emerge with a new picture of reality. Companies can sustain high performance over the long term without taxing their employees or confusing their customers. Ideally, a company supports the thrill and urgency among employees that never burn out.  If we share our new perceptions with others and listen to theirs, we can shift perspective into an enlarged reality, into our vision.  It can create change and movement forward. And, indeed, it can change the future.

Fully Charged: How Great Leaders Boost Their Organization’s Energy and Ignite High Performance

By Heike Bruch and Bernd Vogel

The Acceleration Trap

by Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges

Cognitive reframing – it’s not about what happens to you, but how you frame it

By Blaz Kos

Why Do We Love Roller Coasters?

By Trace Dominguez