If you think that fear of change is normal human nature, you’re wrong. That’s especially true for the leaders you select. For example, Harry was slated to move up to Senior Vice President in a few years. In the meantime, his division needed to change its direction and way of doing business. He must groom a great leadership team and weed the appropriate people.
To read the rest of this article from the Denver Business Journal, see: Select leaders who are excited by challenge, change http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2007/03/12/smallb8.html
One member of Harry’s present, six-person team had to be let go. He was an excellent project manager and he liked being custodian of repeatable processes. However, he couldn’t handle the changes required. His need for controlling every detail led him to resist fluid goals, processes and relationships. He got rattled, constantly threw up roadblocks and underperformed. In order to solidify his position, he also tried to sabotage his competition.
Another member of the team felt threatened because there wasn’t enough lead-time to prepare for shifting hurdles or moving targets. She found a cookie-cutter job with fewer challenges.
Harry got the standard leadership advice:
- Change makes people fearful. They feel like victims.
- Normal people are slow adapters or resist change forever. They’ll be negative, critical and complaining.
- People must go through five psychological stages before finally accepting forced change.
- Don’t expect too much during a transition. Before your staff performs at high levels again, they’ll need lots of pampering and time to feel safe and confident.
I disagree. While resistance may be the norm in our society at this moment of time, that doesn’t make it normal. In other cultures and in America in the past, “normal” was to be excited by change. That’s where the great rewards are. Think of Edison, Rockefeller and Ford, for example.
Whenever our ancestors came to America, last year or 30,000 years ago, they faced huge changes and took great risks. They thrived, or we wouldn’t be here. We have those hardy genes. People who thrive today will have the same qualities their ancestors had. They won’t be brainwashed into feeling fragile.
Our normal reaction to change can be eager anticipation; just as we had before our first day of surfing or skiing. Like life, these activities are inherently dangerous and exhilarating.
In truth, our only security is in ourselves; not in false guarantees of employment for life. Anyone who needs guarantees will fight to make an organization stay the way it is, which will kill it. They won’t rise on their teams.
If we try to force things to stay the same, performance decreases. Behavior sinks to the lowest level tolerated. Narcissists, incompetent, lazy, gossip, back-stabbing, manipulation, hostility, crankiness, meeting sabotage, negativity, relentless criticism, whining, complaining, cliques, turf control, toxic feuds, harassment, bullying and abuse thrive. Power hungry bullies take power.
The higher you go in a company, the more you have to keep your head in the game when things change suddenly. Harry’s company isn’t downsizing, but most people who stay will have to learn to function well in continual change. He’ll provide training, consulting and coaching – but not hand-holding. And he won’t be conflict-avoidant in protecting the high standards he needs.
Of course, there’s tremendous risk in moving ahead. But there’s more risk in fighting to stay the same. A static organization will become unprofitable and all staffers will become unemployed. Since only a few basic processes will stay the same, people who are comfortable only when repeating a known process will become uncomfortable.
Get over discomfort. Our feelings aren’t handed to us in stone. Don’t wait until we’ve developed a sense of safety and confidence, or an abundance mentality. Take responsibility right now.
Life is an open system. Get used to it.
High standards for how to respond to challenges and change protect everyone from unprofessional behavior. You can learn to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.