How to Succeed in Business by Overcoming Your Fear of Change

Our most fundamental need is to feel safe, after our physical needs are satisfied.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

That’s why so many business people are fearful during a bad economy – afraid of losing their jobs and of facing a future with a constantly changing landscape.

Change is inevitable. No one needs convincing that the days of working at a company from cradle to grave and then retiring with a gift of a gold watch are over.

The Era of the Intrapreneur

As companies trim their staffs, thousands of laid off employees are becoming entrepreneurs.

Not all employees want to strike out on their own, though. They need the security and sense of community of working within a company.

But make no mistake: if you want to build your career within a company you need to become an intrapreneur. That is, you’ve got to show the C-suite that you have the skills, the confidence and the personal traits to develop innovative ideas and take on projects that move your company forward – and help you to advance.

It can be frightening when you no longer have a predictable career trajectory. In the book Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500
the authors interviewed women who overcame gender and cultural barriers to assume the highest legal position in these leading companies.

Having mentors and the willingness to take risks were essential to the career paths of these women. They’re important for men, too.

Your Action Plan

You need to overcome your fear of change and begin to manage your career as if it were your own business.

How do you become your own boss? Here is a process that you can tailor to fit your own situation.

  • Do a self-assessment. Review your role and responsibilities within the company now. Where do you want to be in five years? Identify the gaps in your knowledge or experience that will get your there. Then develop a plan to fill in those gaps.
  • Get training. If your company offers training programs, be sure to participate. Don’t view training as just another distraction from your real work. Training is essential for you to learn new technical skills, but also the personal and presentation skills that build your reputation within the company. If your company doesn’t offer the training you need, make an investment in yourself. Retain a training firm to polish the so-called “soft skills” that are critical to success, such as learning how to speak before an audience and projecting a professional image.
  • Volunteer for a “stretch” project. Sometimes this means sticking your neck out and taking on an assignment when you don’t know everything. But this is how you build new skills that will leapfrog you to your next job.
  • Keep learning. Take outside courses that aren’t offered by your company. You’ll get the edge on your office colleagues who hang at a bar for a beer after work instead of attending a class in new media.
  • Network in the company. Yes, that may feel uncomfortable at first. You may be afraid to venture outside your designated space. Identify others in the company who know how to navigate the political landscape and can introduce you to people who might help further your career.
  • Find a mentor. Many successful business people will tell you that they had mentors who helped to guide them in their careers. Some companies have formal mentoring programs. But often the most successful and lasting mentor relationships happen organically. You are introduced to a senior manager and the chemistry is just right.

Embrace Change

Above all, stop being afraid of change. Embrace change as the “new normal.”

A number of CEOs we’ve worked with have used this quote in challenging their employees to persevere in the face of setbacks within their companies.

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident change is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better— King Whitney Jr.

What about you? Have you embraced change as an essential part of your life? What techniques do you use to overcome your fear of change?

We invite you to share them with us by commenting on this post.


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