Leading change and transition is what leaders do every day. In fact, we are change machines. Constantly moving the organization from a place of good to (hopefully) great. But… leading change is probably the hardest thing we must do. In fact, most leaders that lead change, are also uncomfortable with change themselves.
Why are we so uncomfortable with change? Why do we fight it so much? Why do our people get so upset with even the talk of change?
Quick answer… People don’t want to be seen as being stupid. And it’s not the ‘being seen’ as stupid that is the problem, it’s the feeling that others might think they are.
Let me explain… The feeling of ‘stupidity’ is often the way we feel when we are facing a new challenge, something that we have never seen before or have had experience with. The unknown. I have felt stupid countless times in my career. I felt stupid just this morning in fact.
I remember when I first took on a leadership role and was sitting in meeting rooms with people that I thought were incredibly brilliant. I thought I could NEVER be as brilliant as they were. With time and experience and lots of mistakes, I realized that I was as smart as they were and… they were just as stupid as I was.
The reason we feel ‘stupid’ is that we were schooled (wrongly) that we need to be smart. “Look at you. Aren’t you smart. You got that without even trying!” was something that we heard or longed to hear. To prove to ourselves that we weren’t stupid.
Stupid is actually a state of ignorance. Ignorance is not bad. It simply means we don’t know something (yet).
The desire to avoid the feeling of being stupid is rooted in fear.
When it comes to change, we all resist it because we don’t want to look like we are stupid (afraid). Leaders drive change and berate those that resist change because the leaders have had the luxury of time and information to move past ‘stupid’ thus allowing them to feel that they are ‘smart’ because they understand the problem and see the path.
Here’s the simple way to look at the resistance to change and transformation: ‘Change = fear’ (because I don’t want to look or feel stupid).
The way to lead through it… Embrace the fear (embrace your stupidity first though) that others have or are showing. Come from a place of understanding (without actually being stupid and saying something stupid like; “I know you must feel stupid right now…”). Lead with purpose and help your team understand the purpose behind the need for change and how it will help them. Explain why in terms that relate to them, not the money the company is going to make or save. Once they have had the luxury of time and information, they will see that they are not stupid (fear goes away) and they will begin to move forward.
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, partner at Incrementa Consulting Inc., #1 Best Selling Author, and International Keynote Speaker. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, follow Robert on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
The audio version of Bob’s #1 best seller It’s Already Inside is now available on Audible.Business, Change, It's Already Inside, Leader, Leadership, Robert Murray, Robert S. Murray, Success, Team, Transformation