In my executive coaching practice, my clients spend a lot of time on the topic of change. But I have never had a client say “I am so excited about this change in my company. We are shifting our strategic direction, and the organization restructure totally makes sense!”
Instead my client would say “Of course I am willing to change. But regional doesn’t understand our market. This may work elsewhere but not here.” This is a typical respond signaling resistance to change but my client would interpret it as simply being “rational and practical”.
In the HBR article, How to Embrace Change Using Emotional Intelligence by Kandi Wiens and Darin Rowell, they offered a tip on questioning the basis of our emotional response.
“Our emotional reactions to change often reflect our interpretations – or “stories” – that we convince ourselves are true. In actuality, our stories are often subconscious and seldom in line with reality. Ask yourself: What is my primary emotion associated with this change? Is it fear, anger, frustration? Once you identify the emotion, ask what that’s about? What do I believe to be true that’s making me angry/fearful/frustrated? This type of questioning helps to illuminate the stories driving our emotions and influence our perceptions.
One reaction offered by the group of leaders I worked with, is the feeling of being invalidated, “what I used to think as right, is now wrong and useless”.
Accept that it is normal to have such reactions when change is forced upon us. Denying the emotional reactions will only prolong the resistance, whether subconsciously or overtly. Our goal is to shorten the resistance period.
The ability to quickly and easily adapt to change is a competitive advantage for a leader. Embracing change is an intentional choice. You make the intentional choice not just to cope with change but to embrace change.
- Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity
- Shift focus from identifying threat to identifying opportunities
- Where are the opportunities with this change?
- How will these opportunities help me and others?
- What new skills will I gain?
- How can I contribute and be part of this change?
Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity
When I work with corporate professional executives, we seem to start from the basis that change is forced upon them and they therefore need to be pull into the change process. However, when working with youth leaders and entrepreneurs, we see them as the agent of change and encourage them to be the change they want to see in the world. My take on this is that change is happening all around us, and we can choose to see it as a nuisance or be curious about the new and unknown.