As change leaders, you are not immune to the emotional impact of change. To lead others, you must understand the role and importance of resistance, manage your own reactions and overcome your opposition first.
Major change is often accompanied by a great deal of emotion. Negative emotions about change, such as fear, manifest as resistance, while positive emotions energize you towards action. All of your emotions are valid, important, and necessary to the change process, because they provide clues and signals that direct your path through transformation.
The more negatively you view a change, the more you will resist it. But resistance can be a good thing. It is nature’s way of helping you navigate perceived dangerous situations with caution. You have to understand and value the role of resistance in keeping you and those you lead safe—without judging or labeling it.
It is also true that the more you perceive a change as positive, the more excitement and energy you feel towards making the change—even though you might still experience some fear. Positive emotions like hope motivate you and those you lead towards constructive ideas and actions.
The key to mobilizing for change is to transform negative emotions into positive ones by addressing fears and concerns.
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions and recognize them as protective, self-preserving signals from your subconscious.
- Accept your emotional reaction to change and give your feelings expression. Expressing your feelings is healthy, as long as it is not at anyone else’s expense. Cry if you are sad, laugh if you are joyous, and scream if you feel frustrated (you may want to consider screaming into a pillow or when you are alone in your car!). Talk to someone you trust or write or “journal” if that is more your style. You need to give yourself the opportunity to release emotional energy before you can get logical and practical about the change.
- Explore the messages your emotions are bringing to you. Ask, “What are my feelings telling me?” Be nonjudgmental and honest with yourself—especially when you examine your negative emotions.
- Write down your hopes as well as your fears and concerns. Things are a lot less scary when they are not whirling aimlessly in your head. Sometimes your fears have no basis in reality, but you can’t see that until you look at them closely.
- Write down your questions about the change and try to find out the answers to as many of them as you can. Remember—less “unknown” means less “fear”!
- Study what you have written. Doubtless, all the outcomes you consider are possible—but which ones are most probable? Identify and focus on those that are likely to happen and let go of the far-fetched concerns for now.
- Prepare yourself the best way you can for the likely outcomes. Control and influence what you can in the process and let go of the rest. There is no point in wasting energy on something you cannot do anything about. Make a transition plan that considers all your options, your support system, and your behavioral response to change.