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How do we overcome fear?

“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.” _ Heraclitus

In the last blog post, I wrote about how our bodies are used to constant change, and yet we still fear it. Especially when change is being thrust upon us by external sources, like the workplace!



So how do we manage people's fear of change at work? How do we help people to overcome their fears, and to lift the shutters juuuust enough to let new ideas come flooding in?


We have to get creative.

We know that everyone is different, and that there are many, many reasons they are experiencing fear - all of which are perfectly valid, by the way. So we know that there can't possibly be a one-size-fits-all, corporate business process that works for everyone.

And yet, when I ask project managers and business analysts, "what is the most creative thing you've done to help people on the change journey?" all I hear are regurgitated textbook answers. "Oh, we do stakeholder matrixes." "We plot graphs. We test this and that." "We do step one, then step two and step three."


Guess what? People don't work like that! We are humans, and we don't fit into steps one, two and three.


When I say "get creative", I am talking about creating a catalyst event. Something unusual. Something that will shake up the routine and allow each person to create the space they need to take in new ideas.


It doesn't have to be much, it just has to be different to the usual graphs and tests and processes.


Some of the techniques I use with people simply involve giving people time and making things a bit more relaxed and fun. We hold "w(h)ine and cheese" sessions, where everyone can whine about the things they're cheesed off about (whilst drinking wine and eating cheese). We make time for people to play with new technologies before they are forced to use them as part of their job. If you know about video games you know they generate buzz through “Early Access” teasers.


And then there's the weirder, hippier stuff - like gibberish meditation, where everyone can let out their emotions through meaningless words. It's a great way to clear your head and make space for new thoughts.


Because when people step out of their comfort zone, relax, and make space - that's when they have the biggest potential for change, but most importantly, change of mindset from I can’t to at the very least…. Maybe


Out with the old

I remember working with an incredible sales professional. She was a little wiser than the rest of the group - very experienced, extraordinarily talented at what she did and well known in the industry. One day she sashayed over to my desk in tears about having to use a new IT system to manage her relationships.


I sat with her as she told me, "this is not how I work! This is not how I do things!" She didn't want to sit at her desk typing information into a computer - she wanted to continue using her little black book, networking and connecting with people. She was afraid of losing that control.


She wasn't afraid of the tech, though.


So we let her play. Instead of dictating how to use the new system, and telling her what to do, we helped her to make time to get to know it on her own terms supported by one of the implementation team.


Given the space to play, and to take control of it herself for a while, she started to see the potential.


Years later when I caught up with her, she loves her technology, she is an advocate and cannot understand why others don’t use it in the same way she does! She understands the benefits and uses it to help her become even better at her role.


She can still go and have a coffee and lunches with her clients, but now she uses her phone to set up lunch dates, and manages every account online. The new system has also helped her to understand her customers better, reminding her of conversations they've had and even alerting her to signals that they may be ready to buy.


So what made her overcome her fear? Well, it certainly wasn't a matrix, or a graph, or a step by step process that her boss told her to follow.


It was a creative catalyst event. A bit of fun. A bit of weirdness that allowed her to open the shutters and find a bit more space to think differently. The space for change.

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