Do What Scares You (AKA Managing Change) Part 1
*This is the first part of a two-part blog post focusing on how managing fear successfully can lead to a better outcome for your SME. The change process can be imposed on our businesses by external circumstances or sought out when we want to take our small to mid-sized company through a growth phase. In this post, we’re looking at the experience of fear in the change management process.
On late night television I caught an interview with Kim Catrell ( “Sex and the City”). One thing she said stood out for me. When asked about how she chooses her roles, she advised, “Do what scares you.” Do what scares me?! Some of you may feel scared constantly. Maybe you’re apprehensive about a new offering or attracting a different kind of customer. You’re On the Doorstep Of a New World and it sounds so easy to just act. The thing is, managing the change process is a full-on experience.
Where does the change process begin?
Maybe you’re doing the same thing day in and day out but it lacks freshness. It’s one big feeling of “meh.” Now, this doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or broken in your business. Perhaps your product or service has gotten stale or that you have been playing it safe. Given all the pressures experienced by small to mid-sized companies, is it any wonder that things may have slid under the radar? You don’t want to lose your position in the market. You have something good to offer already. On the other hand, it may be time to spice things up with that new product you’ve been working on.
But it’s scary!
Like all emotions, fear is on a spectrum from concern to terror. When the more intense end of the spectrum is activated, we start thinking in a more limited way. Our irrational side starts to play the “what if” game. As in, what if this brings financial ruin? Or, what if this means I’m really a fraud? When this script is activated, there is a tendency to behave as if all of your fears are true. Some are based on good information and others are just not reality-based.
The expression of fear can take many forms so, as the leader of your SME, it is important to keep your eyes and ears open.
The most common outward expressions of fear are:
1. Denial-It is common for people to believe that the change has nothing to do with them. This might manifest itself as “that has nothing to do with me or my work here.”
2. Anger-This can be seen if there is more quarreling or unspoken hostility. It might even be seen if there is excessive complaining or criticisms.
3. Disengagement/Fatalism-This might be seen in the attitude of “well, you’re the owner, you do whatever and we’ll just cope with it.”
4. Disorientation-This is the feeling that you just don’t know what to do anymore. Productivity can decrease because there is uncertainty of where to put one’s attention and energy.
Before you think that fear is just experienced by your staff, any and all of these can be seen in the business owner/CEO. Anyone can have their past history and negative thinking habits triggered.
What do you fear the most about the change process?
Sure, you can conduct a SWOT analysis. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Under the water, is the human stuff. Everyone in the organisation has emotions, thoughts and past history. Often all these internal experiences get boiled down to the question, “Will this work?” Encapsulated in this question is the list of things you and your staff fear the most.
Talking about fear isn’t easy.
There is this belief that we will appear weak if we verbalise our fears. For pragmatic purposes, it may be better for the SME owner/CEO to journal his/her fears. This way you can use your experience discreetly and still stay present with your staff. For everyone, getting the fears out of our heads reduces how they limit our thinking.
What are the challenges faced by the SME owner/CEO?
What fears do you hear others expressing?