Most change occurs because of disruption. In fact, change is a form of disruption - quite often, not one we choose. It is, however, inevitable. So why are most of us (yes, including me) resistant to it?
Change in life is a certainty: as the seasons; as the cycle of life. Yet it is met with trepidation and hesitation. One of the reasons this fear arises is due to a sense of a loss of control over outcomes. Yet we volunteer away our power in the guise of resistance.
My work involves supporting business leaders through situations where they have to redesign how they work, most often in situations of career progression. Once again, while we seek progress and promotion, we sometimes fail to realise that underneath that is that "C" word again.
Most people are happy enough to get the promotion, make the VP role, or secure that new job – but they're not delighted about the prospect of the actual differences in circumstance and processes that will entail.
So, what are the reasons that "change" is so daunting? And how can you ensure you transition with confidence? These are some of the questions I would like to explore with you here today.
There are many reasons why we are resistant to change. One of these is a fear of failure. What if I am not as competent in a new situation? What if I am not as appreciated with the new boss or team? When things are moving along as they always have, we get comfortable. Then, along comes an unexpected situation, lifting us right up and throwing us into the unknown - and out of our comfort zone.
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor: "Change is resisted when it makes people feel stupid." Stepping into the unknown can give rise to a feeling of being out of control, with a loss of autonomy - not a good place to be for the control freak in us. We invest a lot of time in planning everything. Therefore, when something off-plan presents itself, it takes us aback. Right here is the reason why it becomes important to develop skills and build the ability to roll with the punches and expect the unexpected.
The cycle of change
There are many models out there for change, which all express a similar pattern. When we find ourselves in a new situation in our lives, whether seeing it through the Transtheoretical model or Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey model, we begin with denial and resistance; a state of denying whether we are indeed willing to accept this difference. But sometimes it is not a choice. Oftentimes, even when denied, the call to change does not go away.
Resistance then turns into curiosity and an exploration of how to go about implementation. After a period of trials and tribulations - learning new skills that are needed and trying to understand how to be in/ with the new- we move to commitment and acceptance. We are ready to repeat the cycle again.
Understanding where we are in this cycle at any given time can give us the knowledge to deal with change confidently.
To give you an example, one of my clients was working on a huge new project - "new" being the operative word. He was overwhelmed with the project, claiming he just didn't have the time, feeling resentful for the immense workload. Once he identified his place in the model he felt reassured that it was indeed a process. Today, he has come through the other side, his resistance and frustrations are now behind him (by at least one or two months).
The clients I work with are all in processes of change of varying degrees. Some are going through substantial organisational changes, many have been promoted, and many are seeking their next promotions.
Confidence is about accepting that there will always be a need to rework, modify, redesign, improve or amend. It will come from letting go of the absolute need to be in control of situations, and rather controlling our reaction to situations.
Part of the fear is that when anything is different it will be so forever. Given change is a constant that is unlikely to be true. It is worth recognising that there will be some upheaval, some chaos, and a painful shedding of the old skin, before the new becomes the now, and we become more evolved as business leaders.
Suparna Malhotra is a highly qualified and effective career progression coach with over four years international experience of working with clients in FTSE 100 companies, in a wide range of industries, including top tier FMCG, banking and technology. She specialises in supporting professional women to develop their unique leadership identity, foster positive relations with peers, cultivate authentic decision making in all aspects of their roles, support key transition stages in their careers, strategic decision making, talent management and leadership development. www.suparnaway.com