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Coming from Fear

I was interviewing a parking manager from a small town in the mid-west who was hired to convert the municipality from free to paid parking. The city had many parking issues, but they all surrounded the issue of employees parking near their work places (retailers) and taking space intended for customers. Instituting paid parking would solve that problem, but create another, where to put the workers, many of whom worked late shifts in clubs and restaurants.

The manager commented to me that everyone, the mayor, city council, merchants, residents, and employees were coming at the problem from fear. Each fear was different, and each had some basis in fact. The mayor and council were afraid for their jobs, the merchants were afraid the employees and customers would react negatively to the new program, the workers were afraid there would be no place to park and they would have to walk long distances late at night, and the residents  were afraid that they would have to pay for parking, which of course should be free.

So our stalwart manager set out to address the fears of each group. Not easy considering the conflicting interests of each. She met individually with the stakeholders and got a firm understanding of what it would take to allay their fears. She then set up a program that would address each one.

To find out what she did, you will have to read the February issue of Parking Today. Suffice it to say, fear can be a major factor in many problems. Fear of change, fear for your personal wealth, or health, reputation, or comfort. Its a very popular emotion. And it can be real.

The mayor and co were afraid for their jobs. The retailers were afraid for their livelihoods. The employees were afraid for their comfort and health, the customers were afraid for their convenience and the costs they would bear. Fix one, and your increase the problem on the others. She had some of the group berating her in public, but telling her in private they hoped she succeeded.

Our hero worked diligently to discover the basis for each fear and ensure the new program addressed each one. The biggest problem was getting each group to acknowledge what the true fear was, and then ensuring that they understood the solution and how it would benefit them.

Too often we simply address a problem with a solution without thinking it through, or seeing how it will affect those involved. An involved discussion can perhaps lead to an understanding of the solution that is positive for all concerned.

JVH

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