Yesterday, in a meeting with the senior managers of my business, I rejected a new marketing idea.
Everyone except me liked the idea and I think the team was surprised at how unwilling I was to consider new tactics. I thought the team was suggesting a high-effort promotion plan, not likely to pay off.
After the meeting, our company president pointed out that I might be “comfortable with doing things the old way” and therefore resistant to the new idea. It dawned on me that I had turned down the ideas out of fear, not good business judgment.
My fear was that we would not be able to do a good job with a new sales approach even though my team made a strong case for how we would successfully integrate the new tactics.
Innovation is key to keeping a small business moving forward, and giving in to a fear of change can thwart your efforts to build your company.
The key to avoiding this pitfall is to differentiate between fear and resistance to a bad idea. One way to make the distinction is to look for phrases in your conversations that reflect psychological barriers to change.
Some that I commonly hear from entrepreneurs are, “That won’t work,” “We don’t know how to do that here,” and “We aren’t familiar with the technology we need.”
Use these tips to determine if fear of change is holding your business back:
– Record your objections. Create a list of the reasons you are rejecting an idea so you can objectively evaluate them. You can then determine if the challenges you raised are strong enough to merit rejection of an idea.
For example, some of the objections I gave to my staff were vague “I don’t think that will work.” Others were based on barriers that are easy to overcome “We don’t have an outside resource for that.”
“Our customers don’t want to buy from us that way” or “That takes us away from our core competency” are more weighty reasons to oppose implementation of an idea.
– Imagine the worst. As a means of determining whether or not you are willing to implement a new idea, consider the consequences of failing. Determining how you would recover from a worst-case scenario will enable you to assess the risk in change. An action plan for addressing a poor outcome may also put you at ease if you decide to go forward with the new approach.
– Reduce risk. Contrary to popular belief, successful business people aren’t risk takers. They’re bet hedgers. When they take risks, they arm themselves with an arsenal of tools to help them reach their goals.
You can reduce the risk associated with addressing a fear by setting up a scenario for success. For instance, if you fear a new product or service offering will fail, do market research to evaluate its potential, then poll existing customers to determine their level of interest in the offering.
– Visualize success. It may sound corny, but positive thinking can be powerful. If you imagine yourself succeeding, you raise the chances that you will. When you catch yourself questioning your abilities or the outcome of a situation, immediately visualize it working out in your favor.
– Describe your success. Approach someone you know who is a good listener and who isn’t a naysayer and tell them how you plan to overcome a challenge that is holding you back. Verbalizing your plan will make you more committed to it.
– Applaud your progress. As you move toward a goal, write down the steps you’ve taken that have allowed you to make progress. When discouragement hits, look back at these notes and remind yourself how far you’ve come.
Alice Bredin is author of the “Virtual Office Survival Handbook” (John Wiley & Sons) and a nationally syndicated columnist.