Fear and Pain

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“Change will only occur when the fear of change is overcome by the pain of remaining the same.”

–     Dr. Tom Graf, psychologist and business advisor

We touched on this a bit last week, and to kick off a short series on change this week, the Daily Diff wants to drive this point home.

Human nature is to resist change.  We drove the same way to the office this morning as we did Friday.  We probably stopped at the same coffee shop or had the same breakfast.  We listened to the same radio station, and we watched the same news channel while we got ready.  For some of us, we know it’s :08 / :18 / :28, etc after the hour if the local forecast is on the Weather Channel.

Each of those examples is minor, and those instances of remaining the same probably don’t produce much pain.

The fact remains, though, that even if they do, we’re numb to it by now.  Human nature is to numb ourselves to the pain, so that we don’t have to embark on change.  We all know someone who smoked all the way through a cancer diagnosis that ultimately took their life, right?  Or the person who had “just one more drink” several times a week.  The person who was going to get to the gym “next week,” or the person who figured that one more bowl of ice cream wasn’t going to matter, until it did.

But what about the business context?

The big changes are even scarier than taking a different route to work, of course.  Replacing a long-time member of the team who’s become the problem is scary.  Changing pricing, go-to-market models, the website, the name of the company or of the product — scary stuff.  Expensive, scary stuff.

We’re wired to see and feel the fear.  First, though, we ought to assess the pain.  What if we keep doing “this?”  Business is flat, our market share is down x%.  But we’re still cash flowing, we’re still paying a dividend, we’re still ok.  At least we’re pretty sure we’re ok. We pop a few more metaphorical ibuprofen and we go back to doing what we’ve always done.  But the anti-inflammatory masks the worsening of the pain and the pain deepens, sometimes without us realizing it.

Difference makers seek out the pain points.  We actively engage in regular “check-ups” and we honestly look at where does it hurt.  Some of us remember Hee Haw, and the skit in the doctor’s office; “Doc, it hurts when I do this…” the patient would say.  The “doctor,” played by Archie Campbell, would WHAP the patient with a rubber chicken and say, “Well, then, DON’T DO THAT!”

Difference makers stop “doing that,” and choose to do something different because they accurately assess the pain, and don’t give in to the fear.

Change for the sake of change is not recommended.  Change that addresses and corrects the business pain that is slowing us down, holding us back or pushing us in the wrong direction is what leaders are called to impart.  And knowing the difference between the fear and the pain is key to successfully leading meaningful change in our teams and organization.

 


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