Overcoming resistance to change – 7 powerful steps forward

It’s perfectly natural for your team members to resist change. We all like to feel safe, secure and within our comfort zone (some more than others!). Overcoming resistance to change within your team involves tapping into another aspect of human nature: the desire for learning, growth, exploration, and discovery.

In this article I share 7 powerful steps to help your team embrace change. Actions that you can take to overcome resistance to change within your team and get them moving forward with purpose.

1. Overcoming resistance to change with market insights

Are your team members aware of the drivers of change within your marketplace? Overcoming resistance to change is going to be much harder if your team don’t realize what is going on in the broader marketplace.

They need to see (and feel) the change in the market in order to understand the need for change within your business.

Take a little time to explore the marketplace with your team. It doesn’t have to be often, maybe once every 6 months. Ask your team to consider what is driving change in the marketplace.

You might want to give them a framework for considering possible sources of change, PESTLE for example (PESTLE stands for: Political, Environmental, Social, Technical, Legal & Economic). Ask them to do some preparation and share their thoughts.

Some team members will be more open to doing this type of analysis than others, but that’s the benefit. It’s much better that they’re learning and persuading each other!

2. Show your team a better future

This is the essence of leadership. If you can’t show your team a better future, why should they change?

And spare them the corporate bull. Talk to them in practical terms about how the change will help them. Perhaps it will save them time? Free them up to do more interesting work? Give them opportunities to learn?

Practice your leadership skills:

Show them a better future, show them the path, and help them see how they can contribute to the journey.

3. Involve your team in creating the change

Change that is forced upon us feels very different when compared with change that we have shaped ourselves.

Naturally, there is a limit to your circle of influence (and that of your team). Help your team to focus on what they can influence and you’ll be helping them to embrace change.

Maybe it’s the timing of the change. Or how you implement the change within your team. Or how you choose to communicate the change to others. Or who leads which workstreams. There are always some elements of change that you can control. Focus on what you can control and involve your team in the decisions.

They’ll be more open to change when they’ve had a say in shaping it.

4. Communicate: early, often, authentically

A lot of managers that I talk with are uncomfortable about communicating change. The concerns that I hear are:

I don’t have all the information yet

It’s not finalized

We don’t have all the details

There’s never going to be a perfect moment to talk about change, because change is messy and unpredictable.

Share what you do know, share what you don’t know. Use positive language and help your team make sense of it.

5. What if the change really isn’t to your team’s advantage? Have the difficult conversations

There are times when change sucks: redundancies, relocations that don’t work for anyone, business closures. At times like these there may be the feintest of silver linings, but nobody is ready to look for them.

Overcoming resistance to change requires that you still to communicate. To help, prepare yourself for difficult conversations.

It’s these ‘crucible moments’, the moments that really test you, that build trust in your leadership.

Likely there will be some strong emotions. You’ll need to stay calm and demonstrate compassion.

6. When overcoming resistance to change, ask “how can I help you?”

Some time ago I was consulting with the Sales teams of a software company. The company was experiencing rapid change, in a declining market. As a result, there was enormous pressure on the frontline to hit targets.

The working relationships between the frontline teams and their managers had become dysfunctional, my role was to diagnose the problem and propose a solution.

During one conversation with the frontline teams, an Account Executive said:

My manager has forgotten the two most important questions: ‘how are you?’ and ‘how can I help you?’

That has always stuck with me. During times of change don’t forget to do the simple things. Ask you team ‘how are you?’ and ‘how can I help you?’.

7. Cultivate a growth mindset within your team

What would life be like if we did the same thing every single day? Some kind of ‘Groundhog Day’ nightmare.

We need growth and new experiences in our life, and yet we also have a need for routine and structure.

Unfortunately, many of us lead a life with too much routine and we fail to seek out and embrace new experiences.

The result? Change becomes scary.

Cultivating a growth mindset helps us all to recognize the benefits of change. A growth mindset helps us to learn, grown and enjoy new experiences. If we can do this through-out our life, and get a little more comfortable with change, we’ll all be more open to change when it’s required of us.

Take the time to learn about growth mindset and encourage your team to do the same.

Overcoming resistance to change – additional resources

Leading your team through change is one of the greatest challenges you’ll experience at work.

It will help you if you explore your own personal barriers to change.

The 5 responses to change, including how to become a ‘navigator’ will also help you in you understand your own reactions to change (and those of your team too).  

And finally, the House of Change is another tool to help your team to navigate change.