Are You Ready to Embrace Change?

Embracing change

Overcome fear and embrace change to make a leap forward / Photo: iStock; Olaser

The summer vacation is a chance to step back and take some time to reflect on your next move. Whether it’s in terms of your own executive trajectory, or what’s next for your organization, assessing the future also means opening up to the possibility of change.

Change always comes. But it doesn’t always come easy. And fear of change can be paralyzing.

There are, however, a number of practical tools to help you conquer anxiety and get ready for change.

Conquer Your Fear of the Unknown

In his book of tips for conquering fear of change, IESE Prof. Pablo Foncillas advises leaders to “keep alert and ready to move geographically, or change companies, or lifestyles, as soon as you find yourself somewhere that no longer suits you or you sense changes afoot that are not going to benefit you.”

The key to cultivating such a flexible attitude toward your circumstances, he says, is pragmatism. Being pragmatic requires that you:

  • Say goodbye to nostalgia. “For life” or “until death do us part” are not realistic concepts in today’s business environment.
  • Anticipate change. Being on the lookout for small changes can help you predict major ones.
  • Don’t resist. Focus on what you can take on and ignore that which you cannot.
  • Take the reins. You don’t need to wait for a change to happen to anticipate, manage, and make the most of it.

Conquer Your Fear of Failure

A common block to change is fear that a new venture won’t work out, that we will fail. The remedy is to stop thinking of failure as a defeat, and start thinking of it as simply a “non-victory,” and a learning experience.

This framework can melt paralyzing fear and activate “mobilizing” fear which lights a fire under us to put worthwhile changes in motion. (Don’t let that fire burn too hot or spread too quickly, leading to recklessness, though, Foncillas warns. “In all things, moderation.”)

Self-confidence can help squelch a fear of failure. You can develop yours by honestly assessing your own strengths and problem areas, and making a step-by-step plan to improve weaknesses.

Conquer Your Fear of Responsibility

We might crave power and prestige in the abstract, but then decide they are not worth the price of extra responsibilities. That’s because we fear we won’t be capable of carrying them out successfully.

Foncillas suggests that you establish a protective circle of people who will help reduce the risks inherent in decision making and who will accept errors as normal, and maybe even constructive.

When starting a new job, for example, shift your focus away from your fear of not being up to the task and toward presenting yourself in a positive light.

Prepare for Unexpected Changes

Change can happen to us, whether we’ve decided to embrace it or not. Statistics show half of all senior executives are replaced every 18 to 24 months.

That’s why you should always stay on your toes by researching companies and jobs that might be a good fit for you, and compiling lists of contacts to develop and stay in touch with. Foncillas recommends taking at least 15 minutes a day to catch up on opportunities and connections.

Look Inward, Around, and Then, Upward

It’s often said that changing the world can only begin with changing one’s self. That concept can apply to the internal and external obstacles to effective transitions which play out on a personal, organizational, and global level.

IESE Prof. Julia Prats and Remei Agulles break down the many internal and external factors that impede learning from experience to drive meaningful change in their article, “Change, Growth, and Learning.”

At a personal level, they say, we might experience a lack of attention or goal clarity, an inability to accept criticism, too much or not enough confidence, or inappropriate expectations. We might neglect to think about change from a long-term or big picture perspective.

Organizations battle these same challenges on a larger scale.

And when we pull the lens back a little further, we can see the external environmental factors that can make meaningful change hard for organizations, such as market conditions, political instability, and government regulations.

With so many factors to consider on the individual, organizational, and societal levels, it is vital to have a solid framework to reflect on your personal professional needs and organizational.

As you can see change can happen in many forms: new positions, mergers, layoffs, transitions… IESE executive education programs deliver clear roadmaps to help you navigate change successfully.


Foncillas, Pablo. “Tips for Conquering Your Fear of Change.” IESE Insight Knowledge Portal. Posted on 2016.

Prats, Julia et al. Change, Growth, and Learning. IESE, DI-955-E, 05/2012.


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