5 Ways to Overcome Resistance to Change


Change, as any leader knows, doesn’t announce itself with a polite knock on the door, waiting for us to be ready. More often than not, it barges right in and demands to be acknowledged.

When executives feel that sudden shift, it can be pretty unsettling because change often introduces a lot of unknowns, with unpredictable outcomes and the potential for unintended consequences weighing on our minds. Our team members feel these shifts, too. And in these moments, they look to us, seeking direction and reassurance.

If you’ve ever wondered how to rally your team around a new direction or wished for less resistance to change and more receptiveness, you’re in the right place because that’s exactly what we’re covering today!

Start With People, Not Procedures

The first step is recognizing that your business is not defined by the processes and procedures that make it run. Instead, humans with their own aspirations and anxieties determine whether your organization flourishes or flops. 

Resistance to change rarely springs out of nowhere, so it’s your job as a leader to speak with the team to get to the root of their pushback.  Is it fear of the unknown? Concerns about job security? Or perhaps the discomfort of moving away from familiar procedures?

When you dig deep into those sources of apprehension, you’ll notice that every team member brings a unique perspective to the table. 

Rather than making blanket generalizations or assuming one team member’s anxiety is the same as another’s, give everyone individualized reassurances. It shows your team that you are committed to their well-being, which makes them more receptive to enthusiastically participating in new initiatives.

You should also reflect on the kind of corporate culture you’ve nurtured and its effect on how your employees react to change.

A workplace that values communication, trust, and continuous learning will be far more adaptable than one that operates from a more traditional viewpoint of top-down, authoritarian leadership. 

Build Trust Through Open and Honest Communication

Leaders sometimes keep their cards close to their chest, often with good intent to prevent undue anxiety. However, there’s a difference between caution and concealment, and your employees will know which you’re operating under. 

When you foster trust through open and honest communication, resistance wanes. People need to know where they stand, what you expect of them, and that their leaders have their best interests at heart. 

Remember that communication is a two-way street, so you must be just as willing to listen as you are to speak. 

Something as simple as clarifying that your team is welcome to chat with you about feedback can do wonders in eliminating resistance to change because when team members feel heard, it kindles their sense of belonging, making them more likely to stand behind your initiative wholeheartedly. 

Empower Your Employees By Involving Them

One of the most common reasons people resist change is because significant decisions that can have a far-reaching impact on their jobs tend to come from the executives within the C-suite who hand them down from on high with no recognition of how your team feels.

If you want to fix how your employees look at change, you must start by proving they are just as essential stakeholders as anyone else. Empowerment shifts the narrative from “This is happening to me” to “I’m an important part of this.” 

An employee who has a hand in crafting a new strategy or process will naturally feel a sense of ownership, which translates to enthusiasm and a genuine interest in seeing the change succeed. 

Invest in Education and Training

Something I’ve learned as a business owner is that the gap between reluctance and readiness often boils down to knowledge. Employees who know their stuff are more productive and tend to feel good about their work, which has a ripple effect on the people around them. 

One of the best ways to help your employees feel prepared for a shake-up is to invest whatever is needed into equipping them with the resources they need until something new feels more like second nature. 

Before you print off copies of the official training manual and expect everyone to glean everything they need, know that taking a passive, one-size-fits-all approach is as helpful as providing no training at all.

Are you rolling out a new software? Get some hands-on workshops on the calendar and let your future leaders take on a mentorship role, helping struggling team members learn the ropes. 

What about when you’re shifting the company’s direction? Create a series of insightful seminars where everyone can share their feelings and align their vision. 

Even if you don’t have a significant shakeup on the horizon, you can work now to kindle a culture that treats flexibility and adaptability as an ongoing celebration. When leaders instill a love for learning, your team will see change as a challenging opportunity to conquer instead of a hurdle to avoid.

Celebrate Small Wins Along the Way

It’s easy to lose sight of the little moments in the middle of a chaotic change, so make it a priority to find ways to celebrate the “mini victories” that fuel the fire behind significant change initiatives.

You can start by acknowledging that the path to a successful change initiative is paved with countless work hours. Recognize when a team member gives you a well-executed presentation or assists a colleague in meeting a deadline because being seen keeps motivation high when times get tough. 

By highlighting and celebrating these wins, you can create an environment where progress feels more tangible and, thus, more obtainable. 

Let your new habit of acknowledging and celebrating small successes lay the groundwork for a culture that thrives on recognition and motivation. It’s a reminder that individual contributions are seen, appreciated, and celebrated even in the face of change.

Final Thoughts

Lori Moen at Catalyst Group ECR is passionate about teaching executives how to cultivate a leadership style that manages resistance to change and thrives within new opportunities.

With her 35 years of experience as a business owner and training in corporate sales and sales management, Lori can give you the tools and techniques to become a leader who champions change without the usual hurdles and hesitations.

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