Don’t Change for Change’s Sake: 7 Tips to Overcome Fear of Change

April 2, 2014

Independent Thinking 2Our natural, human reaction is to avoid change and keep the status quo.  However, the world is a dynamic place.  The world presents us with opportunities or threats that force us, despite fear of change, because we recognize that “doing nothing” is riskier than changing. Legal technology is a great example, and it’s true: don’t change for the sake of change.  Only change for the better.

Maybe you are planning to branch out into other areas because of the profitable opportunities; or raise rates; or adopt a new technology. In my current job, I help firms implement changes.  These tips will help you lead your firm in adopting change:

  1. Be Committed and write down the vision You are the leader of your firm and you cannot expect anyone to be more committed than you.  You decided to make this change.  Take ten minutes to write down why you decided to make the change now.  You will need this later.
  2. Recognize the realities of changing – Change is viewed in one of three ways: 1) scary, 2) exciting, or 3) no big deal.  Take 20 minutes to get an idea how your people view this change.  Write down who in your firm is affected by the change(s).  Pick three people on the list and have three, 5-minute conversations with them.  Don’t “sell” them on your vision, but ask them what they think to get a feeling whether they view the change as scary, exciting, or no big deal.
  3. It is your firm, lead it. Too often a managing partner makes decisions to change and “expects” the staff to implement the change(s).  Show your firm that this change is important to you.  Schedule a “kick off” meeting AND start that meeting with the vision created in step one. You may be there for only the ten minutes, but your firm will know that this is important.
  4. Don’t focus on the “change”  Often I relate change(s) to tasks that the firm already completes and help the firm to realize that this isn’t a “change,” but a different way of completing the tasks they already do every day.  Remember the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  That is true for your change too.  Relate the change(s) to something familiar.
  5. Consider starting small Circumstances may require you to implement change(s) all at once.  However, those circumstances rarely occur in real life. Most of the time, our human nature causes to want to S030190implement the change(s) all at once.  Instead of “flicking the light switch” and implementing the change(s) all at once, consider “raising a dimmer switch” to full power over a period of time. A phased implementation approach provides two benefits for your firm: 1) they build change(s) into the ways they complete their work and 2) they experience fewer problems.
  6. Expect things to go wrong Remember, a phased implementation approach causes “less” problems.  That does not mean “no problems.”  Things will go wrong; just more things will go wrong if you try to “flick a switch” and implement change(s) all at once.  Expect things to go wrong but realize that you can lead your firm thru these problems.  Pick up the vision that you created during step one and use that as a guide for what you are trying to build.
  7. Know where to go for help  Leading your firm doesn’t mean you have to personally fix things.  However, it does mean you have to keep momentum and implement a plan to fix problems. That usually involves calling the right person.  In the change game, “it’s not what you know, it is who you know.”  At the start of the project, take 10 minutes to find out who is available to help when you have problems.  Use that person to help you create a plan to fix problems.