Uncertainty of Change

I must admit, it caught me totally off guard. It snuck up on me at the most inopportune time. It was my first call with my new boss. As a result, I didn’t represent myself in a way that I wanted. It  caused me to act out in ways that reminded me of my kids. Yet, I remind myself even more that could be exactly how I make others feel when trying to push change through an organization.

I’ve been evangelizing Web 2.o and Enterprise 2.0 behaviors at Alcatel-Lucent for over 2 years. Throughout this process, I realize that I’ve been communicating and helping ease the fear of doing things in new ways by explaining the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) factor to further facilitate adoption. By focusing on that bridge between people and technology, I hopefully make some of these new tools and behaviors a little less scary for the community that I am trying to influence.

As a change agent in a large company, you are constantly challenging people to adapt, develop new behaviors and ultimately follow your lead. It can be quite rewarding, but also quite lonely and uncertain. In my particular case, I am now working for my 4th organization in the past 2 years*. I’m really excited for this opportunity, but admittedly perhaps a bit scared too. You see, I’ve been an IT Guy for over 20 years, and now find myself is a totally unfamiliar area of  Corporate Communications. How I ended up here is a different story, but I will admit that I am both flattered and terrified. There is a lot of energy required in dealing with organizational change. Understanding the people, politics, processes, etc. In my case, the fear comes from thinking that this energy will take away what I can devote to the community, or worse that I may push change too hard and not have someone who has my back. (not saying they won’t, just that it’s an uncertainty).

With this very large change in my professional life, it made me realize something that I tended to overlook as a change agent: Change is scary. I realize now that what I ask people to do is often times outside of their Comfort Zone. Sometimes it is just a little, but other times it’s way outside.

How do you ease this Uncertainty of Change? Simple answer; acknowledge it, let people know that you are here to help and don’t leave them alone to face it by themselves.  (The actual process can be much more involved, and these are only the high level steps). Once you help people through this very difficult process, make sure to recognize the success and help them realize how/why things are better than they were before.

As this uncertainty flows through me, I realized one very important fact. The more I fight the change, the harder it is to actually change. Even the smallest changes in our daily lives can be insurmountable if we fight them. The effort and energy in resisting change can often be channeled to adapting. I find that once I stop fighting the change, that things are rarely as bad as I project and often times lead to better things and greater opportunities.

I believe that this event has led me to a better understanding of the community that I am trying to change and will help me empathize with the fear and uncertainty that change brings.

How do you deal with uncertainty? I’m really interested to hear others methods for dealing with and overcoming this very powerful emotion.

* This is not unusual as companies look to figure out where Enterprise 2.0 fits in the organization.

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