Ask any group what stops them from bringing about change and you’ll get a long list of obstacles: things like silos, hierarchy, tradition and good old-fashioned politics.
But on every list, usually near the top is FEAR.
Here are four classic fears that block change, and what to do about them.
1. Fear of ambiguity. New ideas tend to be light-on for detail and some people hate that, so be careful who you involve in the early stages. Not everyone likes ideas served raw.
2. Fear of being an old dog faced with a new trick. Most people underestimate their ability to learn so give them plenty of support and patience when trying new things. Remind them of all the changes they’ve embraced over the years; they may have forgotten.
3. Fear of losing power or privilege. Machiavelli said ‘He who innovates has for his enemies those well-off under the current regime’ and it’s as true today as it was in his time. People in power expect a key role in any change and may even have something to offer the ‘new regime’, so if you get them involved early they can make great allies.
And the Big One:
4. Fear of failure. This one comes up all the time, even though it’s usually mislabelled, as the real dread here is blame and ridicule. We can’t protect people from ‘failure’ (whatever that is) but we can all resist the temptation to make them feel bad when things don’t go to plan.
Ultimately, all fears are variations on the deepest dread of all: The Unknown.
Give people the truth and see how fearless they can be.