Even Change Experts Worry: Managing My Own Reactions to Change

I’m in Asia to meet with a small international group of top entrepreneurs. It’s fabulous!!

Having never been here before, as the date for departure got closer, nerves began creeping in. Why? As an expert, shouldn’t I be immune to the effects of change?

When I assess the impact of change on stakeholders, I ask them what obstacles exist between them and success. The higher and more significant the number of obstacles that could cause them to fail, lose face in front of peers, reduce their power, or threaten financial security, the greater the chance they will fight, flee or freeze instead of flourishing (see my article on the 4 Fs). Risk makes us nervous and triggers our threat response.

For my travel to Hanoi and Tokyo, there were many unknowns that made me nervous – that could derail my “success.” How would I haggle a taxi rate to get to the hotel? Would the language be a big barrier? How would I know what to eat? Could I successfully cross the street (a bigger challenge than you’d expect!)?

These are all potential barriers to having a great time (success!) in a new country.

When I’m working with clients, we reduce the impact of change by building capacity for change through practical assistance (training, extra resources, new tools) and shifting perception (growth mindset, reflection on comparable success, rewards).

So, what did I do for my trip?

  • Researched Hanoi to learn how the culture worked
  • Called a friend who had been there and received guidance on what to do and where to go
  • Tested out how to use Google Maps to navigate the train system
  • Pulled up images of locations so they wouldn’t look so foreign
  • Recalled my struggle getting oriented in London, stranded in Italy and what I learned from navigating those trials successfully

Even when we are envisioning the most positive outcomes, working through change causes stress and trepidation for everyone to different degrees.

Smart leaders build capacity for change by providing practical assistance and shifting the focus from potential failure to real successes and the opportunity to grow. It even works on experts like me.

Xin chao from Hanoi!

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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.