Business changes can raise natural fears about the future, especially when there is a poor track record or unknown circumstances. It is imperative that leadership develops a plan on how to deal with fear of the future due to business change. This includes outlining and communicating the path forward.
Many big changes begin with small steps. Change requires both traction and momentum. It requires traction to get started and momentum to maintain it. Leadership must balance the two with the right timing.
This is the fifth blog in my series, Building Trust and Embracing Change.Â We now want to look at the issue of fear. Fear comes in many forms and has many causes. Some fear is rational while other fear is totally irrational. Both are real to the person and have similar results. It is difficult to build trust in an environment engulfed by fear. It is important to identify the cause of fear and address it if change will be embraced. Fear of the future may not strike everyone, but it does require leadership to address it.
Living in a snowy climate, I have a lot of experience pushing cars with bad tires. People get stuck despite gunning their engine trying to overcome the ice upon which their tires are sitting. They sit in their car and spin their tires. Moving an organization forward will never happen if you are in a position where you just sit and spin. Overcoming this position requires your full expertise to develop traction and momentum. Similar to the car sitting on a patch of ice, you have to find the traction points that will allow the tires to grip. Once they grip, you have to provide the pressure to gain the momentum that will get things unstock and moving forward. There are so many ways to do this that an analogy will better serve as a thought provoker than specific examples. As always, leadership needs to identify and be able to implement solutions.
Here are three starting points on how to deal with fear of the future due to business change.
- Clearly address the need and benefits of the proposed change and why contentment with present conditions is no longer adequate. This must include clear steps that will be taken by the organization and each person’s responsibility in it. Change can upset people’s comfort levels. Leadership should be open about and empathetic toward the comforts that may be permanently lost, yet try and convince them that the overall situation will be better.
- Listen and understand the bad experiences and false beliefs people fear will be repeated. Taking time to learn about past failures, especially of others, can be invaluable information. An unknown person stated, It’s not the future that you’re afraid of; it’s repeating the past without making progress that worries you. This is a nice twist upon the topic of fearing the future. Leadership should see this concern as an opportunity to learn from their past experience.
- Address doubts about the future path and a lack of confidence in the outcome. Fears may indicate issues with the decision and may provide a final opportunity to make sure everything is well thought out. It could also be a sign of a lack of confidence in leadership or the ability to make decisions. The doubts may be real or conceived, but reality to the one who fears. Proactive leadership should always take these concerns seriously, while trying not to focus on the personal nature of the doubt as this will only further feed the doubt.
Having a plan about how to deal with fear of the future due to business change is an important step in managing change. By addressing concerns in a straight-forward and honest manner, leadership should be able to achieve both traction and momentum.
What are some ways you get traction and gain momentum when dealing with a fear of the future?