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It's scary because it's unfamiliar

When my daughter was a baby she went through a phase where men with facial hair scared her and she'd cry if they tried to hold her.

There was no reason for her to be afraid of these men, but her instincts said otherwise because they were unfamiliar. Encountering men with facial hair was just not something she had been accustomed to in her life at that point.

This is an old survival mechanisms hardwired into our brains, fear the unfamiliar.

In this day and age, such a reaction is usually a false alarm!

I recently worked with a leader who'd been navigating leadership changes in his organization. He was promoted, and the person he hired to fill his shoes is very different. Whereas he had a strong, directive presence in meetings, his replacement was more thoughtful, calm and discerning. These qualities were the reason he hired her for the job.

But the rest of his team struggled with the change. They wanted him back in these meetings because his style made them feel more comfortable.

He didn't know how to handle these requests, but he was clear about his boundary for two reasons. First, he wanted to empower his replacement to do the job because he believes her fully capable of performing. Second, he had new responsibilities and different priorities that require his time and attention.

"This sounds like a great coaching opportunity!" I reflected to him.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"What if the reason they're struggling with this change is because your replacement's style is unfamiliar to them? We're hardwired to be weary of the unfamiliar. So it makes sense they would be feeling worried and fearful. Sometimes when we bring our awareness to these kinds of predispositions, we are able to reframe the situation and redirect our focus."

So he shifted how he dealt with people's discomfort around the change.

He sought to better understand why team members were requesting his presence. Then he acknowledged that his predecessor's style was different and therefore unfamiliar, so it made sense they felt alarmed. To conclude, he illustrated the benefits of her style and asked them to consider the possibilities her unique approach could create for them personally and as a team.

My client turned everyone's discomfort with change into an opportunity for growth individually and collectively. He recognized that in order for his team to thrive, they needed to be comfortable with scary and uncomfortable things.

This is what wholehearted leaders do. Rather than try to fit people into acting like someone else, they enable them to leverage their strengths. Rather than ignore or appease others, they seek to empathize first, then encourage them to lean into the discomfort as a chance to learn and improve.

At the same time, they support the evolution of the teams' interaction dynamics.

This is what enables effective co-creating conversations to occur. Awareness of false alarms and the skills to quell such threats. Combined with agility and adaptability to effectively navigate the ever shifting landscape of work with greater ease.

Would you like to enable your team to more effectively navigate change so false alarms are quelled and they thrive? We are now booking retreats for the winter. Reach out here to start planning your retreat today!

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