In 1945, following FDR’s sudden death, Harry Truman became President of the United States. What a life-altering change Truman faced! The office of the President always carries an overwhelming amount of responsibility, but this is most certainly magnified when someone is thrust into the job mid-stream.
In this case, the US was in the midst of fighting World War II and there was no shortage of life-altering decisions to be made. I think it is fair to say that Truman probably felt a bit fearful. In fact, in his biography of Truman, David McCullough recounts a statement the new President made to reporters the day after he took the oath of office: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets fell on me.”
Change is inevitable in life and in any organization. Change is natural; but change can also be frightening. Like Truman, many of us know the feeling of being burdened by the weight of an uncertain future and new reality. Simply put, change often produces fear. And fear, while not a bad thing in and of itself, can be debilitating and destructive if allowed to flourish.
As leaders and team members, we need to cultivate the ability to successfully grow, change, and adapt.
I hope the following four thoughts will serve you well the next time you lead yourself, or others, through a time of change.
1. Change is an opportunity to be courageous.
Do not be discouraged if you feel fearful when facing change. Many years ago, I heard a speaker say that courage finds its definition in fear; that truth has remained with me. It is not a lack of fear that characterizes great leaders and successful team members; rather, they are characterized by the way they respond to that fear. Courage inspires others; so the next time you are feeling fearful about change, remember to be courageous!
2. Every improvement requires change.
There is no improvement without change, and while not every change is an improvement, we must embrace change if we want to get better. It is easy to feel nostalgic about “the old days,” but if we are honest with ourselves, it is unlikely we would choose to turn back time and throw away the progress that brought us to today. Rather than resisting change, add your voice to the chorus of those who are creating solutions. Articulate reservations and concerns in a constructive way and be a vocal champion for the things you believe will ensure success.
3. Change provides a chance to serve others.
We often fear change because we primarily focus on how we will be personally impacted by the new direction. While this is a natural tendency, it is important to take a step back to see the bigger picture. The best leaders are servant leaders and the most effective team members are those with a driving motivation to serve and create value. As we shift the focus from self to others, the ceiling rises and the opportunities become vast. Change often requires personal sacrifice, but sacrifice plays a recurring role in our most worthwhile endeavors.
4. Focus on what will be gained, not what will be lost.
If we focus only on the negative aspects of change, it is easy to paint a bleak picture. It is important to identify and address relevant challenges and implications; blind optimism is rarely helpful. However, we must resist the temptation to be consumed by this part of the process. Along with change, comes the chance to create a new future; this is exciting! When we fix our eyes on this new vision, it is much easier to stay motivated through the bumps in the road.
A better future is out there and there is no reason that you and I can’t be the ones to create it. Don’t let fear stop you from pursuing what’s next.