The Major Obstacle to Successful Change – FEAR

The DNA of the Resilient OrganizationFear is a potential problem with any change or new direction. The reaction to fear is what differentiates organizations that consistently succeed with their initiatives. Fear can disable us or spur us to creative action. When people and organizations respond negatively to fear, the fear factor becomes a stronger force in the environment and a more likely reaction for future initiatives. The reverse is also true: The more people and organizations practice positive responses to change, the more innovation and creativity can grow within the organization’s culture.

The fear of moving from the secure known to an exciting but insecure vision inspires and drives those with courage and spirit to create new solutions but immobilizes others. Many people are tied to the status quo, even though they realize it doesn’t work well, because they don’t believe that the change will bring good results. They don’t know enough about the change to understand it and they don’t trust their leaders, so they are afraid. An environment of trust supports the kind of courage and spirit that enable creative responses to fear. The job of leaders is to build an environment in which trust is earned, fostered, and sustained.

The fears of individuals, such as fear of failure and fear of catastrophe, prevent them from performing at their best and from acting independently. Leaders are responsible for replacing individual workplace fears with trust, but leaders have three misplaced fears of their own that halt their ability to self-confidently lead their troops through successful change efforts:

  • Fear that the change process will create more internal tension
  • Fear that the majority are opposed
  • Fear of “troublemakers”

What’s common to all three of these fears, and how do leaders build courage, rather than fear, as a management habit? They prepare well, they communicate significantly, and they MOVE FORWARD confidently.

“Confidence isn’t the absence of fear; it’s how you act in spite of the fear. Confidence isn’t waiting until you feel totally ready to do something. If you’re waiting for that feeling, you’ll never do anything.” — Barbara de Angelis, in Women of Courage  by Katherine Martin

“He who hesitates is lost” is especially true in times of rapid or major change. If leaders don’t move forward expeditiously, dissidents build on the fear of others to promote greater fear, which erodes support within even the most convinced of troops. 

Fear is the villain in change efforts; courage is the champion trait required for success. Courage grows as Trust grows. Relevant information (vs. data) and effective communication are the biggest antidotes to fear, mistrust, and jealousy. They are the best tools to use to combat fear and to build Trust.

How many times do you think that fear has negatively impacted the success of change initiatives you have led or participated in?

 Excerpt from “The DNA of the Resilient Organization – How One Collective Heartbeat Creates Continuous Competitive Advantage”, by Sandra A. Suran, copyright 2014.

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