All progress is the result of change. Unfortunately, change isn’t all that easy. Change is always challenging and sometimes messy. You make a few changes in your business or in your life, hoping for better results, but you’re going to experience some obstacles and setbacks along the way. And if you’re not careful, you may get discouraged and quit, or you may not even try to change anything for the better. You just settle for things the way they are.
Change champions don’t QUIT and don’t SETTLE
As Arnold Bennet puts it, “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts”. You simply have to accept that fact and work your way through them.
To get you started on your journey to becoming a change champion, you need to…
1. Overcome the fear of the unknown
The fear of the unknown is normal. After all, when you leave the familiar, when you leave the status quo, when you step outside your comfort zone, you can’t be sure that your new way will be better or even work. So you’re bound to have some of this fear. You’re bound to feel a bit lost and disoriented.
Change management solution: “Choose growth”
Take a bit of advice from the greatest psychologist of the 20th century, Abraham Maslow. He said, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again”.
2. Eliminate The Fear Of Failure
This fear is also quite common and very normal. After all, when you set out on a new venture, when you try to change something at work or at home, you’re going to experience some failures along the way.
Unfortunately, change losers have the irrational belief that they should be good at something the first few times they try it. And when that doesn’t happen, when they experience some failure, they convince themselves they shouldn’t have bothered to try. They give up at the first signs of difficulty and quit the change process soon after they start.
Change management solution: “Get a healthier understanding of how change works”
Realise that the start-to-finish line in the change process is not a straight line to success. The line will almost always have some failure bumps along the way. As Susan Jeffers writes, “After serious consideration, I have come to the conclusion that if I haven’t been making any mistakes lately, I must be doing something wrong!” In her book, Jeffers advises us to “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”.
Change champions know this. They know that change requires risk, and risk involves setbacks … so they allow themselves some no-fault, no self-condemnation, trial-and-error learning experiments. They set their goals for change, but they don’t set their goals to be instantly successful in that change.
And if that sounds a little too soft for you, look at all the people you admire in your life or throughout history. You’ll soon learn that every one of them failed, but it wasn’t their failure that made them great. It was their ability to push aside the fear of failure and overcome their failure that made them great.
3. Fight the fear of commitment
To make change work for you, you must make a commitment to the change … but commitment frightens a lot of people. So they avoid it by using “mush language”, saying such things as, “I’ll think about it … We’ll see … and … I want to keep my options open”. Code words for fear.
I understand. Commitment is scary because it forces you to look at yourself and ask yourself some tough questions. You have to ask, “What do I really really want? And once I know that answer, what am I willing to do to get those things?”.
Unfortunately, change losers get sucked into this fear. Rather than get gut-honest with themselves, rather than decide what they really want, rather than commit themselves to doing what needs to be done, they find it a lot easier to whine about things than do something about those things. Commitment-averse people need to realise they don’t have to change everything.
Change management solution: “Focus on what needs to be changed and keep the rest”
It’s what change champions do. And it’s what effective leaders do. They make change but stand for values that don’t. As one very successful executive told me, “My job is to help people identify the habits and assumptions that must be changed for the company to prosper. At the same time, I have to help my people identify the values and operations that are so central to our core that if we lose them … we lose ourselves.”
4. Dismiss the fear of disapproval
Everybody wants to be liked, and everybody wants their efforts to win the approval of others. But when you start to stir things up, when you start to change some things, you can be sure some people won’t like you or what you’re doing. They may make cruel, critical remarks, or they may flood you with their forecasts of doom and gloom. And all that disapproval may stop you from starting or finishing the change process.
Change management solution: “Take in the disapproval with a grain of salt and an ounce of discernment”
In other words, some of the criticism is not worth your time and attention. As author and speaker Zig Ziglar says, “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”
Other criticisms may come from good-intentioned and well-experienced people. They may know some things about your proposed change that you need to know. Treat their comments with discernment. Take what is useful and throw the rest away.
And finally, in your quest to become a change champion …
5. Discard the fear of success
It’s a strange fear. Just about everybody wants to be successful … even more successful than they are now … at least that’s what they want on a conscious level.
Deeper down, however, success can be difficult to accept. When you’re successful, you stand out from the crowd, and some people would rather blend in. They don’t want the spotlight focused on them because that might feel uncomfortable and make others feel jealous.
Other people know if they’re successful, they’ll simply be given more than their fair share of the work. After all, when a manager wants to get something done, he’s much more likely to give the work to a person who has already proven he can and will it get done, than a person he’ll have to watch, goad, and push.
Change management solution: “Relish your success instead of settling for mediocrity”
Change champions do this all the time. When they look back over their careers and their lives, they know their best memories and best feelings are connected to achievements. They’re not connected to those times they did just enough to get by. So they discard the fear of success and relish the payoff that comes with all their hard work.
All progress is the result of change. So fearing change or fighting change is the wrong way to go. Instead, choose to change. Fight the fears that block your change. And look for the progress that will come your way.
Which of the five fears listed above gives you the most trouble when it comes to making a change? What are you going to do about it?
Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s ‘Tuesday Tip’. As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Zimmerman has worked with more than a million people, helping them become more effective communicators on and off the job. To receive a free subscription to his ‘Tuesday Tip’ articles, go to http://www.DrZimmerman.com
First published: 24 January 2011.