Five ways to win over change resistance

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I’m leading an organisational change programme with users and employees who oppose it. What can I do?

  1. Understand their fears

Our brains are wired to keep us safe and to respond to potential danger. Faced with a change, such as a new process or even a new office layout, our instinctive reaction kicks in; we know what we have, but we don’t know what we will get. Some may fear losing status, belonging or competence; others that they will not be able to adapt to the new ways and that’s understandable.

  1. Don’t broadcast, communicate

People don’t want to be sold to or manipulated; they want honest communication and are able to see through messages that are disingenuous. Engage emotionally with dialogue – listen to each person’s concerns, which is the opposite of ‘selling’ and ‘persuading’ someone.

  1. Create forums to build buy-in

Run workshops where ideas can be debated in a wider groups; use surveys that elicit opinions from staff; set up discussion forums. But avoid letting initiatives become mechanical - there need to be ways to process people’s feelings once they’re aired so keep it smooth and authentic.

  1. Build a vision for the future

Leadership is about taking people forward to a new place. What is the project trying to achieve? Why is a new process or system required? How will things work afterwards? What opportunities arise as a result? Corollary: why is the status quo not an option?

  1. Be honest about the gaps

If you don’t yet have all the answers, be honest and say so rather than saying nothing – or pretending that you know how everything will unfold. If you are genuinely open to answers, the four steps above might help you arrive at them – bringing employees with you on the journey.

 This article is adapted from Susanne Madsen’s column in the winter 18 issue of Project, the official journal of the APM. APM members can read the full issue. Or you can request a copy.

Susanne Madsen

Posted by Susanne Madsen on 5th Apr 2019

About the Author

Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognised project leadership coach, trainer and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership. Prior to setting up her own business, she worked for 17 years in the corporate sector leading large change programmes of up to $30 million for organisations such as Standard Bank, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. She is a fully qualified Corporate and Executive coach and a member of the Association for Project Management (APM). Susanne specialises in helping managers improve their leadership skills so that they can gain control of their projects and fast-track their career. She does this through a combination of training, coaching, mentoring and consulting. Read more on: www.susannemadsen.com

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