Summary: Leading through change can be challenging. Even the most well-intended, thoughtful leadership decisions requiring change can fall flat without buy-in, acceptance and advocacy across all layers of the organization. This article outlines insights and ideas to help overcome the resistance to change within organizations.
As we look back over the past 18 months, that old cliche, “The only constant is change,” has never been more true. As humans, we long for certainty. When it comes to change, too often people focus on what might be lost, rather than what might be gained. As a result, resistance to change ensues.
Yet that initial resistance could be a good thing. It sparks opportunities for growth, innovation and resilience as leaders ask once more, “How can this change drive growth for my organization?,” then craft a better answer. In fact, when properly channeled, this initial fear can fuel new energy and conviction across the whole company. When handled well it can ignite people’s imaginations of what’s possible, allowing them to plan strategically to create even more value based on anticipated shifts ahead.
Yes... it is possible for companies to turn that resistance to change into the warm embrace of receptiveness. Here’s how.
1. Understand the True Nature of Resistance
By definition, resistance means the refusal to accept, comply with or prevent something by action or argument. Some believe resistance is a natural human response to change because oftentimes change is not a choice. Change can trigger uncomfortable emotions in people, a sense of lost control and overwhelming uncertainty. In fact, a person’s resistance to change often sheds light on their blind spots and / or fearful attitudes about new ideas and / or some insight into their personality (some personality types are more comfortable with change versus others). Once leaders understand this, they can create a plan for change that encourages team members to think differently, focusing on the positive aspects of change, including ways it can make life better for them and the organization.
2. Communicate Why Change Is Happening
Apart from explaining why your company might not thrive unless you pivot, adapt and innovate, effective communication begins by sharing with people the reasons behind the changes and how it will benefit them. Focus on information they care about, what affects them directly and what they need to know. Give them the Five W’s: Who, Where, What, When and Why... and don’t forget about the How. It’s important to include the steps, goals and milestones that person might be expected to do to help ensure a smooth transition for both themselves and the entire organization.
3. Let Employees Initiate the Conversation
People want to be heard by their leaders and peers. Give them a chance to voice their opinions and concerns, as well as their thoughts and suggestions, about the proposed change. Higher levels of transparency and communication can help transform that initial resistance into receptiveness. Open discussions and feedback can also help to provide valuable insight on what may be required to help steer your change toward success.
4. Create Enthusiasm and Anticipation for Good Change
Creating a positive buzz around change – and the good that comes from it – gets people excited and enthusiastic about it. Having a clear vision helps. Leaders can inspire people to start anticipating all the new things that are on the horizon for them, how great it will be, just by how you communicate the news.