10 March 2016

Managing Change: Protect Your Tender Ideas

boots 2

Over the years I’ve noticed that people respond in one of two ways when you share with them that you’re considering a big change, like leaving your job to start your own business, deciding to have a 4th child, hiring an assistant, stepping away from the leadership track you have been groomed for, or taking some other risk.

People will either engage with you in a supportive, interested way, or they’ll tell you why it’s a terrible idea. I always encourage my clients, when exploring new possibilities, to avoid sharing their thoughts with the people in their lives who will tell them right off the top why it’s a terrible idea (we all have some of these people in our lives). Hearing why it’s a terrible idea is not only not helpful — it’s actually harmful because it can close down your own important process of exploring and thinking.

While the naysayers generally mean well and may really care about you, their “concern” generally comes from a place of fear, and probably sounds something like this: “What?  Are you, crazy? Why would you leave a great job like the one you have? Where else could you get paid so well and have all those benefits? I think you’re making a big mistake that you’re going to regret.”

When you are considering making changes, your “considerings” need to be treated very gently. They are fragile organisms, like the little not-yet-green shoots that come up from underground in the spring. They are not strong enough to withstand being stomped on by big boots. You very likely already KNOW (or are finding out) all the potential downsides of your new idea — you don’t need to hear their stories of gloom and failure. You need intelligent, open-minded encouragement, informed dialog, and friendly questions that come from curiosity rather than a place of “I know better and you are wrong to do this.”

I suggest waiting until your ideas and thoughts are a little clearer and stronger before sharing them with the people in your life who wear those big boots. You know who they are.

And by all means, examine the pluses and minuses of any big move, and play out for yourself the many possible outcomes. Get inputs. Talk with people who know the terrain. But keep Uncle Fred out of your process.

When my daughters were growing up, they named a dear, well-meaning family member, “The Dream Killer.”  They supported and reminded each other not to share with this person their more out-of-the-box ideas for themselves.  It was one of the few things they agreed on in those years!

Please beware of the Dream Killers in your life, and protect your fledgling ideas from them until you’ve been able to safely, sanely, and fully investigate them. Think ahead about how you will respond to their negativity so that when it comes at you you will be prepared for it.