Don’t be Afraid of Change

When most people think about change, there is this feeling inside their gut. For most, it’s a feeling of anxiety and fear. That fear and anxiety comes from an age old quote, “People fear what they don’t know.” It’s so true!

We have to remember that change, be it for good or for bad, is always scary. We don’t know the outcomes of change and, as much as we try, we can’t always predict the effects of change. Have you ever noticed, though, that when something becomes routine, the level of fear and anxiety significantly reduce? Something as common as forecasting for your business, or planning for organizational changes or even resetting expectations of your associates; they all have varying levels of anxiety, but when we believe they are the right thing to do we move forward.

I was reminded the other day that people go through the phases of change at different speeds and our goal as managers is not to manage to whatever phase we are in, but to manage to each person’s individual phase. If you are one that moves through the phases faster than others, pulling others to your phase creates additional resistance. We need to resist the urge to say, “Just get here!” It won’t work. The phases of change and how to manage each person to them are:

  • Anticipation – Expecting something to happen. Leader Action: Communicate
  • Letting Go – Facing the truth that things are changing. Leader Action: Listen
  • Disorientation – Things are no longer the same. Leader Action: Direct
  • Reappraisal – Putting a new view on the situation. Leader Action: Engage
  • Recommitment – Finding a new sense of purpose. Leader Action: Coach

As leaders, we have to be cognizant of our associates’ change phase. We also have to be willing to take the time to understand their phase. Otherwise, we manage, coach and lead with the wrong perspective.

Change for the sake of change is usually not good. Change with a specific goal or sense of purpose behind them are driven by our need to be “better” at what we do. As you make changes, ask yourself, “What’s the purpose for this?” and “What’s our goal?” If you can answer those questions, you will have an army behind you. Just remember that army doesn’t move at exactly the same pace. You can only move as fast as your slowest tank. Take the time to understand what phase that tank is in, use the right tools and drive your army together toward your purpose and goal.

Lee Hecht Harrison. Retrieved from

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