Last week I felt very nervous about having to walk through the metal detector at the airport before my flight. I knew it was going to go off. It will go off every time from now on. And I know it’s just a process. One designed to keep everyone safe. Yet even though I have a valid explanation for setting off the metal detector I was sweating it too.
There’s just something nerve wracking about knowing that you’re going to set off the metal detector when you walk through the security check at the airport. You almost feel like you’ve done something wrong.
And so as I walked through, predictably, it beeped. I had already taken off my belt and shoes, had nothing in my pockets and of course put my bags, laptop separately, through the x-ray machine. I was sent back to try again. And yes, it beeped again. Then I had to ‘explain’ why I had failed the metal detector test.
From there it was having the ‘wand’ waved all over me and being patted down.
And then it was over. I could collect my things, put my belt and shoes back on, pack up my laptop and stop feeling like everyone was looking at me.
I’m kind of glad that I’ve got the first one out of the way. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I’m pretty sure not too many people were looking at me! And, I did get through it, so next time I’ll feel better prepared and even more sure about what’s going to happen.
On reflection, I realised this is a change for me. I need to change the way I go through security at the airport. It’s not good or bad. It just is. And yet I did get nervous, even though I had a pretty good idea about what was going to happen.
Imagine now though, that someone is expected to cope with a significant change at work. Perhaps their role will change, perhaps the processes for doing their job are changing. Perhaps the technology or tools they use to do their job are changing. Or maybe they will have a new leader and/or team to work with. Logically, they know what will happen, and yet is it any surprise that people get nervous, reticent, reluctant or even resistant to change that will have an impact on them?
So how do we as leaders make it easier for people to cope with change?
Rather than challenging them to step up and just get on with it, maybe we should let them know it’s OK to be ‘nervous’ about the change. Perhaps as leaders we should support and encourage them to acknowledge that they are ‘nervous’ or unsure about the change, let them talk about what is changing, help them learn how to cope with the change and create opportunities to practice so they can become more comfortable.
Then, when the time comes for the change they will know more about what to expect, and that they can get through it, follow the process, do their part and know they can cope. They’ll learn they can do it and that next time it will be easier and more comfortable.
I, for one, feel much better equipped to try something new or different when I’ve had the opportunity to talk about and practice it than if I just have to do it ‘cold’. I’m sure there are others in the workplace who might feel the same as me. If this helps people to cope with change, and helps more of the intended outcomes of change to be realised, perhaps it’s worth trying.
What do you think?
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