Last week in my column regarding ‘Fear of Failure’ I promised to write about fear of change.  If you have the ‘fear of change phobia’ and you are living on Planet Earth you are facing a very hard road ahead in your professional life.

Several years ago, during a merger of two very large companies, I ran into this first hand.  I worked for the company being acquired.  Top management really wanted to see the management of the acquired company prevail (and it did).   But the controller of the acquiring company was vehemently opposed to this and in numerous ways attempted to thwart the consolidation of the two separate systems.  It was not an act of direct intent but his inability to accept the fact that his world was going to change in a big way and he may or may not survive that change.  Granted, he was close to retirement age but he was intelligent and, more importantly, had a major role, if he wanted it, in creating a new company emerging from the consolidation of two companies.  Instead, he dug his heels in and eventually paid the ultimate price which was the loss of his job.  How sad that after a career of years with the same company that it ended that way.  The company survived and moved on.  But it had to be painful for him.

It does not matter your age, or whether you are male or female.  It does not matter if you’ve been there thirty years or you personally oversaw the design of the current systems, practices and procedures.  In business, as in life, nothing ever stays the same.  I have always told people that I tried to calm myself during some particular storm or other by telling myself that in business, it is not life or death.  But, in life it can be.

What are some of the ‘common denonimnators’ in business people who are opposed to change, especially CFO’s and Controllers:

  • Number One Reason:  They are not interested in learning anything new.  In other words, they do not keep up on changes in their industry and/or profession.  They avoid attending webinars, seminars, etc. and perceive them as a waste of time.  The last time they bought a book about their profession was when they paid for a college textbook.
  • Number Two Reason: They are not interested in acquiring new skills.  If you find a CFO or Controller who cannot use Excel to some extent or never heard of Power Point they are probably change averse. (Do not assume all of them are ‘old people’) There are a lot of younger employees you would expect to be proficient who are not.
  • Number Three Reason:  They do not enjoy collaborating with staff or colleagues.  They view all meetings as a waste of time and see no reason to communicate or share their thinking.  Controllers and CFO’s who exhibit these characteristics are generally very rigid in their thinking and are not at all open to proposals for changing anything.
  • Number Four Reason:  I find this to be a painful one and that is insecurity or low self-esteem.  I have run into this in my career.  Someone who is constantly afraid of losing their job will not be able to even deal with change.  They are too busy keeping a stranglehold on the status quo.  The concept of ‘the Gold Watch after fifty years’ is dead and gone and is not coming back.  If this describes you, it is unlikely you will ever become an agent of change.
  • Number Five Reason:  They are not strategic thinkers.  Unless you can look ahead, whether it’s for your Finance Department or your company, if you cannot formulate a strategy to achieve growth  in your sphere of influence once again you cannot be an agent of and for change.

If you find yourself guilty on any of the above counts, where do you begin to change yourself…… to leave behind the mindset and habits that will eventually hold you back?  I firmly believe it is in the classroom wherever that might be.  Pay attention to your surroundings at work.  Search the internet for trend analysis related to your industry or profession.  Take some online courses.  Buy a book.  Have an ‘out of body experience’ and pretend that you are a consultant newly hired to help streamline your company (see my earlier columns on this).  Make a list of what you see.  Oh, and by the way, if your company has already hired consultants to streamline your business, get involved.  And even, perhaps, be concerned.

Have a productive Work Week!

Judith D. Sherling, CPA, CGMA



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