Change is hard. How to handle fear and channel into positive change.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I love that line from A Tale of Two Cities, it represents the daily challenges of transforming an organization. I prefer to look at the macro view of how we get somewhere but as a leader, you eventually will have to deal with people’s fear of change.
The status quo is safe. People get comfortable. As an engineer, I embraced change as an exciting step into the unknown. It is why the Apollo astronauts chanced their lives to get to the moon. It is why few people step out of their comfort zone to do something they have never done before and risk certain aspects of their lives. If you are in a position where someone challenges you with doing something “different”, before you shut it down, be open to how it can fundamentally change your life.
Change is hard. It’s hard on you, it’s hard on others and it affects everything that relies on you. In order to understand why change is necessary, you have to believe that it is necessary. Normally, that would sound backwards but you have to be invested in growing and learning or else you wont jump on board. But you must believe.
I am not oblivious to the fact that not everyone can be as comfortable with change as I am. So, I try to find ways to reduce fear through communication and transparency. But, no matter how much you communicate, sometimes it is not enough to get people to embrace change.
Here are a few pointers on understanding and accepting change.
1. Not everything will be the right decision.
No one can predict the future. No one can predict human behavior. Our entire lives, we are only making informed decisions based on our experiences. Think about why you have leaders.
Simply put, leaders have had many of the same experiences so they know what you are going through, professionally. Good leaders will apply their experience effectively by combining that experience with listening to those around them (you). Trust that if 80% of all those decisions turn out well, you are doing better than most.
2. Focus on how you can make change today.
If you are trying to massively change, you do not get there overnight. Just like how you dig yourself out of credit card debt, you can use the snowball method. You have a goal, you start with breaking it up into manageable, measurable objectives and you start taking action. Over time you realize you are much better off than you were before.
What can you do today to provide business value that helps the larger plan of change?
3. Communicate with your manager/leaders often.
Above all else, communicate. Consistent engagement with leadership and peers to understand the goals for change. This will also serve as a way to hold leaders accountable for too many changes. If you feel like you aren’t working toward the goal, bring it up. You need to feel comfortable reaching out and discussing goals with your leaders. Having a leader who is accessible/approachable is critical to trusting and believing in change. Your voice matters. But remember, not everything will turn out your way. Wise people (my parents) once told me, “Don’t ask a question if you cannot accept a no answer.”
4. Provide alternative solutions where the outcomes match the goals.
If you complain, have a potential solution ready. Leaders love problem solvers and surfacing issues is great for awareness but if they aren’t solved, they are just excuses. I have noticed a big problem that many times people discuss issues as a group but never have a single decision maker. Committee decisions are doomed to fail because no one owns it. There is no emphasis on completion and zero accountability to the goal. That accountability is necessary for change to occur. Ownership, pride and commitment can be a strong signal for one’s willingness to accept and enact change.
It is improbable to think that you wont be afraid. The key is channelling that into excitement for what change can do. We can create new opportunities and new experiences that help us grow into the leaders of tomorrow. What change will you bring? How will you be a catalyst for positive change in your organization? Start now.