5 tips to help overcome fear of change: It’s going to be (more than) OK

It’s unrealistic to think that business users will ever jump up and down when faced with a big technology change. But by using these five tips, you can help them overcome their fears and bravely face new frontiers.

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Ask your office-mates how they feel about changes to at-work technology. The general response will probably be, “I'm OK with change; just don’t mess anything up!” Most of us feel lucky to keep our heads above water on an average day, and the thought of introducing something new can cause shivers of dread.

So how can technology departments help end users overcome fear of change when trying to take business to the next level? As I mention in my book The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind, many people harbor either a fear of failure, fear of success, or both.

We’re all familiar with a fear of failure, but aren’t as in touch with our equally limiting fears of success. Here’s a sample thought along those lines: “What if the product launch is so successful that we can’t meet demand and receive poor customer ratings?” Whatever the fear, through proper planning, a productive mindset, and empathy, it can be handled. 

Here are five tips to help your stakeholders and users overcome their fears and move forward:

1. Be compassionate. You have a job to do and deadlines to meet. But it’s crucial to be consciously aware of why others are feeling resistant. At the same time, be genuinely compassionate and understanding. Compassion builds trust, which helps eradicate fear.

2. Keep talking. Help your clients take leaps of faith by providing them with facts that transform the unknown into the known. Be transparent, work as a team, and keep talking! Neuroscience findings prove it’s OK to repeat yourself. Frequently, people don’t truly listen to what they're being told. Their minds fill in the gaps based on their perceptions (interpretations), which are based on their perspectives (experiences), and that results in alternate facts. Also, don’t assume that, just because you said something once or twice, everyone understood your message. Bonus tip: Alter the way you communicate your message to cater to different learning styles. Use visuals, such as infographics or flow charts, when needed.

3. Shift the vocabulary.  Rather than seeing their initiatives as means to an end, technology experts need to take the lead in helping stakeholders see and feel the bigger picture of the coming change. Shift the vocabulary from one of fear to positive wording that paints successful scenarios and outcomes. The focus needs to be shifted to that of the larger goal from the (potentially) painful milestone tasks.

4. Nothing is perfect. In my latest book, The Dance of the Business Mind, I examine the importance of helping others realize that the end goal is not perfection, but improvement over what currently exists. Sheryl Sandberg displays a favorite motto on a wall at Facebook headquarters: “Done is better than perfect... aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”

5. Celebrate milestone successes. It is important to make a habit of taking special notice of small milestone achievements throughout the change process. Celebrating positive experiences causes the brain to release serotonin, a “feel good” hormone. Continued presence of serotonin causes another hormone, dopamine, to kick in as the brain craves more serotonin. That process keeps our drive alive by making us “addicted” to successful outcomes. Those two hormones work hand in hand to create good moods, provide boosts of energy and push for more productive results.

As Tony Robbins once said, “By changing nothing, nothing changes.” It’s unrealistic to think that business users will ever jump up and down when faced with a big technology change. But by using these five tips, you can help them overcome their fears and bravely face new frontiers. 

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