Unraveling Resistance to Change

Leadership isn’t difficult. It’s dangerous. Resistance wears many masks. It could smile, nod, and stab you in the back. Resistance could show up with lead boots on. Sometimes resistance shows up like an angry mob.

“… about 70% of all change initiatives fail.” HBR*

Leadership quote: Find ways to open your heart when you encounter resistance. Image of an open sign.

Unraveling resistance to change:

#1. Complacency.

Change is hard because complacency is a warm fuzzy blanket. Disruption makes us cling to our blanket. Panic intensifies in proportion to perceived disruption. Big disruption – big panic.

Struggling to preserve the status quo is panic in disguise.

Tip: Integrate ‘change’ language into daily conversations. Ask questions like, “How could we make this a little better?”

Leadership quote: Comfort may obstruct growth and solidify the status quo. Image of flowers.

#2. Focus.

Change is difficult when leaders polish the wrong diamond. Polish yourself before selling the shiny change you dream of making.

“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” Aldous Huxley.

Tip: Begin with yourself. What needs to be true of you for people to charge into hell at your side?

Change is stubborn because the challenge is people, not systems or structures. Don’t show up like a magician. “Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.” No one cares about your damn rabbit.

The trouble is within not without. You are doomed until you focus on people.

Tips:  Spend as much time dealing directly with people as you spend planning execution. Get unofficial leaders on board. Be humble, curious, and open.

Leadership quote: Improvement means change. If you aren't changing, you aren't improving. Image of fall leaves.

#3. Winning.

Change efforts are difficult when viewed as events instead of a continual process. Many small wins over time come easier than one giant win on July 31.

Tip: Cut the elephant into small pieces.

What types of resistance do leaders face when leading change?

What have you learned about successfully leading change?

Still curious:

Leading Change: Why Things Get Worse Before they Get Better (90 second read)

*Cracking the Code of Change (hbr.org)