Monday, April 6, 2015

Engaging Resistance to Change

You are trying to change things for the better, but you keep facing lots of resistance.  “If people would just go along then things would be a lot better!”

Well – maybe not.  Maybe their resistance will make your effort even more successful.

In their excellent article in Harvard Business Review, Decoding Resistance to Change, (April 2009) Jeffrey & Laurie Ford suggest that we consider using resistance as a “resource.”  Here are some of their suggestions:

*Resistance is a Resource.  “Ask yourself ‘If I viewed the resistance as feedback, what could I learn about how to refine the change effort?’”  What a healthy change in perspective!  All too often, we feel like we are sure what the change should look like and how it should unfold (I know I do).  When someone disagrees we can get defensive instead of trying to really listen and learn.

*Boost awareness.  Don’t be concerned about sharing your change ideas with various individuals and groups even if you think you will hear resistance.  Even if people share complaints you are still keeping the dialogue of change alive.

*Be open to changing the change.  Even though you thought you had figured out how the change was going to look, you might end up with better results if you keep an open mind to ideas from “resistors.”

*Focus on purpose.  Continually remind people of “why” the change is being considered.  If you can focus on agreement around “why,” then “what” and “how” can be less contentious.   

As Ford & Ford conclude “Resistance, properly understood as feedback, can be an important resource in improving the quality and clarity of the objectives and strategies at the heart of a change proposal.  And, properly used, it can enhance the prospects for success.”

Good luck with “engaging” resistance and making your change improvements even more successful.

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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