How to Prevent Managers from Resisting Change?

A Leadership Article for Change Leadership

Every change manager will have a day where his or her change program has stalled because one manager is resisting change. Instead of letting this manager derail your change there are some positive steps that you can take.

Why do some managers resist change?

There are three elements to every change program that may trigger some resistance, these three elements are:

  • The change itself
  • The change agent
  • The change strategy

When confronted with a manager resisting change the change manager can either assign the “resisting Change” label or the change manager can look inwards at their own approach and consider alternative approaches to find the solution.

If you make the assumption that the manager is not resisting the change and instead assume that they are resisting your change approach then you will be better placed to find a way forward.

From my 22 years of successfully driving change I have discovered that you can almost entirely eliminate resistance to change by focusing all of your change efforts on building relationships with key stakeholders and being flexible with your approach.

Great Change Leaders

One of the things that will make you stand out as great change leader is to accept accountability for resistance and for taking action to overcome resistance to change, accept personal accountability and assuming that the reason the change has stalled is because you yourself have failed to deliver the change and then with a humble determination try again with a new, fresh approach.

When we coach change leaders to manage manager’s resistance to change we encourage them to focus on “your sphere of control” and making changes to the things that you control. You have 100% control over your actions and your relationships.

Managers do not resist change, they resist

  • people who they do not trust
  • projects that are not communicated well
  • projects that have not engaged the manager required to action the change in the way the person likes to be engaged

How to Stop Managers from Resisting Change

Eliminating resistance to change is a lot easier if you proactively eliminate the resistance to the change before it materialises. You need to sniff out potential resisters and possible barriers to the change and adapt your change strategy to influence and engage all stakeholders before they have a chance to resist the change.

Here is how

Tip 1: Know your stakeholders

  • Some managers will be early adopters, others will be in the middle many and some will be laggards. Where possible, start your change program with the early adopters in your business. (Laggards are always accused of resisting change)

  • If you want to get something done you will need to push the right buttons, you will need to know what motivates each stakeholder and leverage that motivator in your discussions. You will need to build a relationship with your stakeholders to understand their motivators.

  • Some managers will want to know every detail of the change whilst others will only require a broad overview. The information that each manager requires will vary based on the type of change. You will be willing to provide each manager with a tailored communication that meets his or her needs.

  • Meet your stakeholder’s communication needs. Each stakeholder will have their way of wanting information, some will want a conversation, others will want a one pager whilst others will want an in depth power-point slide pack. Give them all what they want.

Tip 2: Communicate Strategically

In every conversation about your change, link the change back to the business strategy, make sure everyone knows why the business wants this change and how helping to deliver the change aligns the manager with the business strategy.

For example:

    The business has a strategy to differentiate us from our competition based on offering superior service. To deliver on this strategy there are a number of change initiatives being implemented across the business, one of these change initiatives that will assist us to achieve our goals of service differentiations requires your support.

Tip 3: Start with an Informal Conversation

Have an informal conversation with your stakeholders, one on one, and find out what they already know about the change, and how they feel about the change, their initial reactions. Do they have any concerns?

This informal conversation is to give you insights into the change strategy that you should adopt for this stakeholder on this change.

(Change is delivered formally in meetings and informally over coffee or in corridor conversations)

Tip 4: Listen for Resisting Change Cues and Explore Them

In your informal discussions with your stakeholders if you hear something that suggests that the person has a concern or may not support the change then you should explore their views, discuss their thoughts and feelings and take some notes.

As this is an informal discussion it is not critical for you respond directly to their concerns at this point in time, however you will need to respond later.

This initial reaction to the change is not likely to be the person’s final response to the change. The person that you are trying to influence may need some time to digest the change concept. However, these initial reactions and concerns should be addressed in your change strategy and communication plans.

It is extremely important that you do not assume that resistance in an informal discussion is going to be a persistent resistance to this change there is normally a difference between a persons first reaction and there response the next week. A good change agent will give people the space and freedom to change from their initial reaction in subsequent discussions without reference back to their early reactions.

Tip 5: Take Accountability

If you really want people to back your change you need to take complete accountability. “If this change fails it is because I failed to deliver the change”. It is vary rare to find a manager resisting change when the change leader has taken accountability for delivering the change.

Moving Past Resisting Change to Delivering Change

Now that you have done your groundwork, you know your stakeholders, you have communicated strategically, you’ve had informal conversations you have adapted your change strategy to prevent resistance and you have taken personal accountability.

The change should go smoothly, however, all great change agents possess a good deal of tenacity, they never let go of the bone, and no barrier is too big no resistance is too great. There is no shame in having two or three false starts before you find the path to success.

Good luck and add your tips to successful change management below.

Consulting Australia

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Ian helps leaders to motivate and inspire their teams through a combination of developing strong operational management systems aligned to your strategy and a focus on leading people using techniques that we know improve employee engagement and lift team’s performance by between 30% and 220%. To find out how you can benefit from Ian’s expertise select the “leading for performance button” and begin your journey to higher performing team.