Leaders seeking to drive change in their organization inevitably elicit the fear response of others. It whispers of momentary incompetence and of the fear of the unknown, causing people to move through the three f’s of fear — freezing, fleeing, and fighting.

Freeze. Ignore it. “Maybe,” they think, “If I ignore this thing it’ll just go away.” And sometimes they’re right. Many project initiatives have failed before ever leaving the starting gate.

Flee it. Once the initiative progresses to where you are asking something of individuals, you move to next stage of fear. In this stage, individuals will perform work that looks like it’s related to the change you’re seeking, but contributes nothing to the bottom line. And they’ll give you excuses for what they must do before they can get to the changes you’re asking for.

Fight it. Persisting further and allowing individuals to churn through the meaningless work, and they’ll eventually have to confront the problem head-on. This is when they tell you that the project you are working on won’t work or won’t fit their needs. It’s when they try to point out bugs and exceptions to see if they can directly contradict the project and throw you off your original aim.

Corporate change agents face a tough battle from the Field

The skilled change leader intentionally moves people through these stages, knowing that they’re part of the path to creating organizational change. Effective corporate change agents understand the power in utilizing basic analytics to assure success adoption. Listing names and reporting actuals help to short-circuit the process of moving through the three f’s and instead get right down to the core of the change you’re seeking.

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