Overcome the Four Barriers of Change
By John Baker
the opposite of growth? Some would say it is “status quo,” but
that’s not true. The opposite of growth is death: Whether in your
personal life or work life, if you’re not growing you’re dying. The
business organism must grow to survive. Even if we could
miraculously hold everything steady – costs, margins, productivity –
our value proposition immediately degenerates due to the unyielding
forces in a competitive marketplace.
the miracle that stimulates growth? It’s called change. Change is
the sharp stick that moves us out of our comfort zones, and forces
us, as George Lucas would say, “to do dangerous and scary things.”
Change creates opportunity for growth. But why do we resist change
so much? Why is it that when change happens oftentimes our first
reaction is to dig in our heels?
people don’t react this way … these people consistently find
winning strategies during times of uncertainty. They see change not
as a threat, but as an opportunity, not full of peril, but full of
possibility. These people avail themselves of change, taking
advantage of new opportunities that emerge in evolving times. And
they do this by asking better questions of themselves.
Instead of asking defeating questions that start with negativity,
such as, “Why is this happening to me?” they ask empowering
questions like, “What positive things can I do?” Instead of asking,
“Why change the status quo?” they ask, “What’s right about this
change?” Instead of asking, “What has been lost?” they ask, “What’s
been gained?” Instead of asking, “What will this change do to me?”
they ask, “What can I do with this change?”
Asking yourself constructive questions allows you to
overcome the following four barriers of change:
Barrier #1: Fear. New things threaten both old practices and
tightly held beliefs. When we feel threatened, we feel fear,
which affects us both physically and emotionally. And, if we
perceive the change as personally targeted, our sense of fear
magnifies. Peter Senge said, “People don’t resist change. They
resist being changed.” Once we feel the “victim” of change our
perspective becomes narrow and self-centered: that’s why people
going through change frequently seem self-absorbed. “This change
is all about me.” In this state of mind, our response to change
is often irrational.
can be managed. Using reasoning skills, positive self-talk and
other support systems – encouraging friends, supportive family – we
can achieve our goals despite the presence of fear. Companies
manage fear as well. Kodak Company was adrift when their
traditional film products were threatened by the digital age. Kodak
had to re-think their entire corporate purpose or die. They
concluded that they weren’t just a film company as much as a company
committed to saving memories. With this new mindset, organizational
fear evaporated and a new energetic focus on innovation emerged. To
confront fear and overcome the first change barrier, ask yourself:
fear change if it leads to success just around the bend?
are my talents, strengths and contributions that survive the
value can I add? How can I be of service to someone else?
Barrier #2: The “What If” Game. When things begin to change we
waste an enormous amount of time looking back and reminiscing on the
question of “What if…?” What if I hadn’t made that terrible career
move? What if I had gotten my degree? What if I invested in better
ventures? What if I had been a better parent or spouse? The “what
if” game is like a big penalty box, paralyzing players from moving
forward and taking action. To stop playing this game, fill your
mind up with forward-looking, solution-centered questions.
positive effect on my life does going back to school deliver?
favorable outcome would result by committing more time to an
resources are available to me?
do I go for help? Where can I help out?
Barrier #3: Labels. So you’ve lost your job and you’re no
longer the VP at Widget Inc. Your role has been outsourced. Your
corner office is gone. Your secretary is gone, too. You feel
defeated by the events the world has thrown at you. But wait:
You’re not your job. You’re not the corner office, or the title on
your business card, or the plaques on the wall. These are just
labels. You were an effective, happy, productive person before you
acquired these accoutrements, and that hasn’t changed. You still
have skills and experience that serve you well. Your labels control
you like a dog tethered to a tree: It’s easy to confuse your
reality with the length of the leash. Let go of the labels and be
the CEO of your life. Ask yourself:
are my core competencies and how can they serve someone else?
do I find value in life, and where do I want to spend time?
I enhance my existing talents and be more useful to others?
Barrier #4: Lack of Focus. Change clouds perceptions like a
suddenly shaken snow globe. It seems that a clear course of action
is needed, but swirling information and too many variables confuse
the situation and push resolution just out of reach. Establishing
an action plan is a great strategy during times of change, but
oftentimes, poor execution hamstrings our best planning. The
problem: not enough focus. Focus means having greater impact on
fewer things. You cannot execute without focus. Those who survive
change know that to deliver on essential goals; you have to decide
to fail on non-crucial tasks. Ask:
am I going to fail in order to maximize my chances of winning?
is imperative? What do I absolutely have to do to succeed?
is the very first thing I need to do? When do I need to get it
change happens to you, the questions you ask yourself are as
important as the answers you seek. Some folks ask themselves,
“What’s to become of me?” Those who are successful ask, “What will
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