A few days ago I received a call from a manager I coached in the past. He wanted my advice on a work situation. He found himself with an opportunity to apply for a higher position in his current company, but was afraid of the negative reaction of his current boss (who is a bit unpredictable). Though he wanted the job and believed he had the credentials and experience to handle it, he was concerned about his unpredictable boss and didn't want to "rock the boat."
How many of us have been in similar situations where we were concerned about what others might think or do in reaction to our choice to move ahead or grow? When I ask audiences how many of them are conflict avoiders the majority usually raise their hands. Yet a more subtle challenge is that many of us are change avoiders. We love the regularity of our lives and willingly put up with some fairly untenable situations because we are unwilling to change. Sometimes we are uncertain about the future, but many times we know our growth will challenge our peers at work, or our relationship at home. So the old adage "s#*t is warm" applies since many of us willingly put up with bad situations because we are unwilling to face the uncertainty or the people who might be upset with the change. We are not willing to rock the boat.
Okay, let's face it, the only time a boat is not rocking is when it is in dry dock and not going anywhere. If you want to move forward, or move at all, the boat will rock. So given that, how do we create the best change we can?
First, identify where you want to go. This has to be a positive destination. I've consulted with people who want to escape a bad situation, but running away is not a direction. It helps when people can identify where they want to go.
Second, identify all the things that could get in your way as you move toward the new goal. These obstacles include your own internal challenges (fear, lack of confidence, etc) as well as people and situations that might challenge you. Don't try to fix any of these challenges, just identify them.
Third, envision your ultimate goal. What does it look like ideally? What will it feel like when you get there? Be as specific as possible.
Fourth, start moving toward your goal and KNOW that the boat will rock. But you will be moving and once you are moving toward a goal it is easier to deal with the obstacles along the way.
The manager who called me realized that his fear of rocking the boat was keeping him from moving toward what he knew he could do. He acknowledged that applying for the job might mean leaving the company if his supervisor got in the way, but ultimately realized he would be resigned to years of misery if he didn't make the move.
For many of us rocking the boat is not a pleasant idea. But if we examine our lives, most of us have rocked the boat in different ways every time we grew, succeeded and moved on. We did it, and we survived. So, go on. Rock the boat. You'll get somewhere.