Last week we looked at the need for a constant connection with the organization’s mission, priorities and goals. It’s the foundation for a sense of purpose during change, and absolutely critical when change is difficult. Why?
Sometimes a constant reminder about the goal can have an effect opposite to what we want. When the future looks radically different, fear creeps in. The journey is too far and filled with too many unknowns.
During a hiking trip in Banff, I fell into a crevasse. Up until then, it was a magical walk with amazing mountain views up close and personal. But then came this huge crack in the glacier we were crossing. Our guide crossed a thin bridge of snow safely, but it broke when I was halfway over and I went through it. Thank goodness I was roped in for safety and didn’t fall more than a few feet!
Once I was pulled out I had trouble getting moving again. I was scared of falling in another crevasse. At my slow pace, how would I make it back? My guide said: “Okay Jeff, just focus on one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. Let’s just work on getting off of this glacier. You’re roped in. We’ve got you.”
I shuffled along carefully, feeling my way through. It must have been so painful for the guides as I trudged along. But they were patient. And as we progressed I got faster as my confidence rebooted.
When change looks impossible some people will want to curl up in a ball and wait for it to all go away. That’s understandable. Tell them so! But don’t let them stay there. Direct them to the first step and make it safe to proceed.
- “Before trying this, why don’t you chat with Sam about her experience? Then we can look at the next step.”
- “Take the first module of the training and tell me what you learned.”
- “Try completing one of the new forms. I’ll check it before you send it to finance.”
- “Don’t worry about all of those other functions. All I want you to do is x for now.”
It’s OK for your employees to take their eyes off the goal for a little while when they are afraid. Point them at their first step and ensure it’s successful. All we need is a bit of momentum to get beyond the crevasse.