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How To Create An Environment Where People Can Thrive

“What if I fail?”

“What if I can’t change?”

What if I’m left behind?”

Have you ever had thoughts like this?

Because you’re human, I’m sure you have.

I certainly have.

Here are 4 common fears you might have felt at one time in your career:

1). Fear of temporary incompetence:

“I lack the competence to deal with the new situation.”

2). Fear of punishment for incompetence:

“I’ll be punished when my incompetence is discovered.”

3). Fear of loss of personal identity:

“My skills are no longer required.”

4). Fear of loss of group membership:

“I’m no longer relevant to my group.”

Any one of these can cause extreme anxiety.

In this post, I provide 2 principles, 2 questions and 2 actions to help you understand and face your specific fears head on.

Once you begin to understand your fears around change, you can move past resistance and move toward lasting positive change.

2 Key Principles

According to former MIT Professor Edgar Schein, the brain reacts to unwanted or unexpected change in 2 ways.

The first reaction is called “learning anxiety”; the second “survival anxiety”.

For change to take root, Schein emphasizes 2 principles:

  • Survival anxiety must get greater than learning anxiety.
  • Learning anxiety must be reduced (not survival anxiety increased).

In place for over half a century, Kurt Lewin’s Force Field Analysis sees ‘Driving Forces’ as positive forces for change and ‘Restraining Forces’ as negative. 

In other words, he saw survival anxiety as a positive ‘Driving Force and learning anxiety as a negative ‘Restraining Force’.

Lewin believed that whenever the positive forces were stronger than the negative ones, the status quo could change to the ‘Desired State’.

2 Critical Questions 

Anyone wishing to drive change in their team/group/organization, should start with this question:

  1. What can I do to grow the driving force (+), and reduce the restraining one (-)?

Two actions that Schein recommends are:

  • Create a compelling vision of the future
  • Put in place effective feedback systems

The second question is to you:

2. What key elements or actions can support the learners in your team/group/organization?

Here are a few elements that can help people grow and develop with change:

  • Formal training/upskilling
  • Practice fields & coaching support

2 Immediate Actions

  1. Think of a difficult Change you had to make in your organization and ask yourself these 3 questions:
  • What were my survival anxieties?
  • What were my learning anxieties?
  • What helped me to change?

2. Ask your people the same questions (don’t assume you know their anxieties!).

PRO TIP: DO take the time to explore their relevant questions and concerns. DO NOT take their first answer and move on.

Take Action Today

People are capable of change. However, keep in mind that people change if and when they are ready, not you.

If you lead and manage people, you often need to look below the surface to uncover the real but hidden thoughts and feelings.

Keep in mind that every individual experiences change differently – everyone is on a different stage of The Change Curve.

Understanding The Change Curve will for sure help you increase the positive energy for change and decrease the resistance.

Once aware of where your people are, you can plan and implement effective interventions.

On this point, people require effective systems and strategies to respond positively.

“Healthy levels of open communication, and a positive regard for individuals and their potential contribution to the organization’s goals, contribute to creating an environment where individuals can grow and develop.” – Making Sense of Change Management

This environment will foster healthy a workforce that can survive and thrive in times of change.

If you’re currently going through a change and would like some my advice or direction, book a FREE Discovery Call.

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