Release Fear, Embrace Change

How To Help People Release Fear And Embrace Change

“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, of course you have!

NEWSFLASH: Before you can embrace a change, you’ve got to understand and release the fear behind it.

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 your fears so you can release them and embrace change.

Understanding Fear 

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. 

force field analysis

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’.

Targeting Fear

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

Action For Change 

  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 questions and concerns. DO NOT take their first answer and move on.

When Do People Change?

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.

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

“…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…” – 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 my advice, book a FREE Discovery Call.

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