Change is a "thing"-so is Fear. Let's Talk about it.
Change is funny. We know it's a part of life. Unavoidable. Necessary.
But yet, no matter how familiar it is to our everyday lives, we often can't help but dread the changes to come.
Out of the many years of reading, learning and listening to leadership content on change, the single best thing I have ever heard came from a concept in Heifitz and Linksy's book, Leadership On the Line.
Here it is:
People don't fear change, they fear loss.
This means, we might be glib about how we talk about change but we know change is always going to happen. It isn't that we really
"hate" change-it's that we are afraid that by things changing, something that we VALUE is going to be taken away from us somehow.
It's such a powerful concept. I once consulted a credit union that built a beautiful new building and had these amazing windows that flooded the room with light-so much so that many of the employees complained that it was too hot throughout certain parts of the day and season. So to combat the heat, managers decided that they would rotate people throughout the year so that they could all "share the pain and relief" because there wasn't much else they could do beyond putting screens over the windows and no one wanted that.
One of the employees, though silent, was clearly not happy about this but didn't choose to say anything. One of the managers asked her several times if she was ok, wanted to stay, had something to say, you name it. The answer was the same: "No, I'm fine!" but she was moody, grumpy and it clearly was not fine.
Finally, I suggested the manager find a time to meet with her in private to specifically ask her if there was something more she wanted to talk about and give her the option to stay put. In that meeting, the employee admitted that it was hot and she wouldn't want to sit in the same spot all year but was feeling nervous because she noticed that all the sunlight was really helpful in her feeling more upbeat and her symptoms of winter blues disappeared. She was afraid that by moving, she would go back to feeling "in the dumps" during the long Michigan winter and was afraid that she wouldn't be able to be on the right rotation.
She valued the new windows and the impact it had on her mood-she was fearful that the change would take all that away but didn't want to betray her feelings in front of her colleagues or look like she was getting special treatment.
The manager understood right away and said she would work with her on the right rotation. It worked out just fine but it did require a little more digging and the ability to see that resistance to change (either verbally or non verbally) is a sign that something someone values feels threatened.
Think about how change efforts have impacted you in the past. Have you seen it in others? What was the reason? Think about this as often as you can-great leaders see the signs.