AAEP Business Coverage: Master the Chemistry of Change   
At the 2023 AAEP Convention, keynote speaker Cassandra Worthy delivered a compelling presentation on Change Enthusiasm®.
Keynote Speaker Cassandra Worthy
Keynote speaker Cassandra Worthy presented on Change Enthusiasm® at the 2023 AAEP Convention.

Cassandra Worthy holds a degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech, and she spent more than a decade working for Fortune 100 companies before founding and becoming the CEO of the consulting company Change Enthusiasm Global. The Change Enthusiasm® mindset she pioneered was inspired by her experiences in the workplace, which she shared with AAEP members during the Keynote Address at the 2023 AAEP Convention.  

Worthy started her presentation by explaining that the Millennial generation was programmed for change because the age of technology caused continuous changes in communication. From pay phones to smartphones, social media and the internet, these advances in technology all required adaptability, resilience, and perseverance. Those three skills are essential and can be learned, she emphasized. 

“Change is here, whether you want it or not,” Worthy noted. Most people dislike change, she said, and initially experience an emotional response to it. Generally, these are negative emotions, and the emotional response occurs much quicker than the cognitive response. This means “emotion is happening right now, whether or not you want it,” she said, because “you can’t schedule when a horse gets sick.”  However, Worthy added, “the emotions of change fuel growth.” 

Change in Equine Practice

Change in equine practice is underway due to changing demographics. With most new equine veterinarians being women, needs and perspectives are evolving, and “the industry will evolve with or without you,” Worthy warned. To change in a positive way, you must get in touch with your deeply held beliefs and biases. “What needs to shift for change to arise like a beacon?” she asked. “The workforce is ready, and the market is ready.” By harnessing the power of your emotions, you can launch change more readily. 

The Change Enthusiasm® Strategy

Worthy then explained the strategy of Change Enthusiasm®, which comprises three steps: signal, opportunity, and choice. She used the metaphor of a traffic signal, with red being the signal, yellow being opportunity, and green being the choice. Emotions are the signal, and “it means something big.” After telling a story about a difficult situation at work, she recalled her mentor’s advice: “You can get better, or you can get bitter.” Suddenly, she realized she had control and say over her own work experience. This catapulted her into the opportunity moment, as she weighed her options and thought about different perspectives. By realizing she had a choice in how to respond, she made a conscious productive choice that led to a successful result. The opportunity of choice paves the way for emotions that are much more positive than those of reactivity.  

Using an illustration, Worthy talked about a person experiencing a change or event that elicits emotions like fear, frustration, anxiety, grief, or anger. This emotional signal requires the person to recognize and allow the emotions they are feeling and then create space between the conscious negative thoughts and the emotional energy, she said. In that space, recognizing the emotions exist propels that person into change. Accepting that opportunity leads to considering options in a new mindset. “How can I use this moment to help me learn more? Grow more?” Recognizing the opportunity and allowing the emotions to guide us is the key, she explained. 

By practicing the three steps continually throughout every day, in the face of each emotion you experience, you will ultimately rewire your brain and strengthen your resiliency muscle, Worthy stated. You can help others in your workplace by understanding resistance to change. Eighty percent of workers will change more easily in a culture of psychological safety and authenticity, where they feel heard and understood. “What does or should support from me look like?” is a question leaders should ask.  

Resistance to Change

Because resistance to change is so common, it’s important to understand why people resist it in the first place. Generally, resistance is due to fear. Older generations fear their successful practices will fail with change. Younger generations typically fear they will fail if they try something new. “Get curious about that resistance,” said Worthy. Regular and clear communication about the change progress is also critical. Asking staff for their input and insights on changes can help empower them and engage them in the change effort. 

Worthy offered hope for change because her strategy of Change Enthusiasm® encourages people to choose how they show up and lead. She suggested, in closing, that each audience member consider the change impending in their practice that causes them the most negative emotions, then explore their options and commit to at least one action item of change.  

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