Pressure Felt in Leading Change and “The Wall of Worry”

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Often, part of the “madness” we find ourselves struggling with in complex change scenarios is of our own making.  That’s right, we sometimes “do it to ourselves.”  We attempt to drive positive change and optimism as part of our initiatives, but others may discount our message because we look haggard and frustrated.

How do you know when you’re in need of new perspective?…Take a “sideways” look at the simple parts of your change process or experience to reveal sources of “madness.”  Today, we’re going to take on the madness of pressure on change leaders and the cost of worry.

While not an identified part of the OMC “process” (pick your model, I don’t care), the Change Leaders I work with, like a parent or a nervous inventor waiting for the moment of lightning to enliven his Frankenstein report worry as a primary part of their experience—heart, mind, and soul.

To examine the cost of worry (or build your personal Case for Change and adoption of these disciplines on the path to change success), let’s take a “sideways” look that this bugger.  What I have learned in coaching Change Leaders for over twenty years is that carrying a burden of worry, wasting too much time at the Wall of Worry has two significant costs:

1-Feelings of worry or dread can unwittingly move you to shrink your field of vision or even “make like an  ostrich” to avoid bad news.  The biggest cost that results is that your perspective on success and solutions gets overly narrow.  You tend to look for confirming information and only ask for feedback or evaluation limited to a few formal measures (e.g., “Are we still on track?”) and your range of responses to problems gets limited because the prospects of making a small issue into a bigger one or placing importance on areas that include ambiguity seems like a huge risk.  This is one reason why project leaders can appear pretty “mechanical”—erring on the side of managing to the process rather than keeping their eyes and ears open for opportunity.

2-Extend the reference to building a “Wall of Worry” to four walls that make a box.  The higher you build these walls (more worrisome you get), the greater the distance you put between yourself and you’re your stakeholders (sponsors, your change team, key partners, your audience).  You may not notice this if you can still look over the wall (still see them), but they will notice the walls and as a result, perceive you as less accessible and less receptive to inputs. 

So…how can you adopt a more constructive, liberating mindset (not bogged down by worry)?


__When I look in the mirror, do I see optimism or dread?

__Is the source of worry something I can influence?

__Have I sequestered myself with Walls of Worry so I appear inaccessible?…uncaring?

__Am I finding it too easy to throw new concerns on that big, growing, and scary pile of worrisome things, or am I taking them on and taking action with the same vigor I began my project with?


__On balance, where could the “tone” of our interactions around this project benefit from more positivity and optimism?

__Is my team and I as open, listening, and attentive now during the change as we were when we were soliciting your inputs in the planning stage?

__Are we giving off any signals that we don’t have time or interest in listening to feedback or concerns?

Like a Chief Executive, the Change Leader can feel surprisingly isolated.  Recognizing this risk and building in some processes and trusted feedback channels throughout the change journey can help you avoid the great costs that come with worry and isolation.  This approach and asking the questions outlined above are a clear sign of a constructive Change Mindset.

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Dalip Raheja
Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.

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