A key person in my team is resisting change, what do I do?


A key person in my team is resisting change, what can I do about it? It’s become a real barrier to making any progress.

This is a really common problem – all of us at some stage have struggled with someone in our teams who resists change and yet is crucial to the current operation. We need them to change but we also need them to stay and be part of the change.

Fortunately there are a few simple strategies you can take to overcome this kind of problem and which will quickly lead to clear result – either they’ll change or it will become clear they never will, in which case you can move on.

The most important thing you can control is how you approach a member of the change resistance.

And you won’t achieve control of that in one sitting – so allow time for repeated contacts with them to break down barriers and make progress.

It starts not with you explaining how important the change is, why they should be onboard, etc… etc… but instead with putting yourself in their shoes: What is it that they currently value about their (or other people’s) work and how it is done that they fear will be lost with the changes?

Your immediate focus needs to be on fully understanding where they come from. You can do this without weakening your position by framing it as a joint undertaking, e.g. something like:

“I’d like this change to be an improvement for all of us and to make it that I really want to understand what you think about it and how we can shape it in a way that doesn’t sacrifice what’s good about the current arrangement”.

Seek first to understand and only then to be understood

Once you have a clear idea of why they are objecting, the next step is to explore their objections. Ask them for all the reasons why they think the change is a bad idea and why it could fail.

This turns vague objections into specifics and gives you a list of reasons that you can objectively explore together (or with others) to understand if there’s a real concern that you’ve overlooked or if the fears behind the resistance are unfounded.

Only when you’ve done this should you explain what you are trying to achieve with the change and why it is so important. Because you’ve listened to them first, they are much more likely to hear you. Remember always: Seek first to understand and only then to be understood.

Follow on with a session (perhaps just with them or involving a wider group) to take all current objections and work through them to identify which are real and which are false fears. For real objections, identify ways to mitigate them and improve the proposed change.

If its obvious their job or role will need to change significantly, focus on the skills and support they will need and do your best to make them a key part of shaping the new role and how it could work, drawing upon their experience.

Take all current objections and work through them to identify which are real and which are false fears

If by now there’s clearly no common ground and you are not getting anywhere then you know with a clear conscience that you’ve explored all the options and it is unlikely that there’s a future for them.

In this case, you need to focus on alternatives: who else can fulfil their role and how quickly can you put a contingency in place? Then you can help the resister move on to another position better suited to what they want.

Good luck helping them be willing to change!

Posted in Coordination, Trust.

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