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Fight or Flight Response

Call us today to discuss the impact of this response in your change programme and how we can help you.

All animals have a built in survival instinct that has helped ensure that the fittest survive to propagate the species. The slowest wildebeest in the herd is the one that becomes supper for the lions! This instinct is alive and well, and functioning in each and everyone of us.. and our companies. In order to mobilise our bodies to meet the perceived threat, we prepare for either fight or flight (which we choose depends on our natures and our circumstances). Our body begins to close down all extraneous functions, blood is pumped to the main muscles and away from the skin (we go pale) sugar is metabolised by the adrenalin, pupils dilate, digestion stops, skin sweats, breathing becomes shallow Ö In this state we are only fit for survival. We canít listen, we canít be creative we are a victim of this mechanism.

You might wonder what this has to do with the modern board room, but if you are either very honest, or very observant you will know that it is more than just a metaphorical jungle in there! In this state we will do (or say) whatever it takes to get out of the situation. You can not reason with people in this state, you can not build true consensus, you wonít hear the truth. You only have access to about 10% of peopleís abilities. In other words, you canít proceed with change (or even with business as normal) unless the Fight or Flight mechanism is disarmed. The bad news is that because of the ancient herd mentality if one animal 'scents a lion' than all the other animals that don't want to be lion food also prepare for flight (if you stop to ask why we are running you might get eaten!)

It is not only possible but imperative to pull people back from the edge if you want to be part of a high performing team with access to all those expensive brains and capabilities. The good news is that there is a polar opposite to the Fight or Flight response called the Relaxation Response. In this state people are super creative and very receptive to change and innovation; creativity is high. This is where people make their personal breakthroughs and 'Ah-ha's!' The great news is that the brain rewards you for this important survival behaviour (creativity and learning) by flooding the brain with endorphins (brain chemicals that create a natural high)* So work becomes more productive and more fun as you escape that jungle!

* Research by messrs de Weid, Schally and Routtenberg

Here are a series of mini-articles on Fight or flight you will find helpful

Call us today to discuss the impact of this response in your change programme and how we can help you.


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