What do you do when your change initiative is facing resistance?

Unless you are an owner-manager of an organisation, you probably have to report to someone else that is higher than you in the organisation’s hierarchy. What do you do when you have this brilliant change initiative that they are resisting? You need their approval and explicit support to implement the change but it is simply not forthcoming. How do you help your counterpart change their mind? Here is a simple technique that you can try out.

Step 1: Put yourself in their shoes and try and see things from their perspective. Here are some questions that could help frame your thinking, and an example, admittedly one that is a little extreme.

Who are you?

To yourself: I am an agent of change, an innovator

To your counterpart: You are an over-ambitious, over-confident disruptor

What do you want?

To yourself: I want progress and improvement

To your counterpart: You want a promotion, more money and a bigger title, perhaps you are even angling for my job!

Why do you want what you want?

To yourself: I see the potential to make meaningful change. I believe that I am here to help the organisation and that we have what it takes to do it.

To your counterpart: You think that you are better than the rest of us. You think that you are smarter than us, or more capable. You have a chip on your shoulder.

Tip: Be very honest as you answer these questions. Assume that your counterpart has extremely irrational fears.

Step 2: Help them see things from your perspective by validating their fears, and countering them. Validating their fears makes them feel heard and more amenable to compromising. Countering the fears dilutes their power.

Tip: Speak in an upbeat voice. Be respectful but casual, and extra friendly (even if it feels a little uncomfortable).

Step 3: Present the change initiative in a way that addresses their fears, showcases the value of the change, and highlights the critical help, input, or support of your counterpart. This gives them a sense of ownership and emphasises the value that your counterpart stands to gain, which makes it easier for them to continue supporting the change initiative as it is being implemented.

Tip: Aim to address specific fears that you think your counterpart may have.

Here is a brief example demonstrating how you can put the three steps into practice. 

Even if your counterpart does not immediately say “Hell yeah!” to the idea, their resistance would have mellowed out and the conversation can continue in future.

By Brian

I’m Brian Gachichio. I advise and consult on strategy design and execution, performance measurement in organizations, and business process management.

My goal is to provide the innovative thinking that leads to high-impact solutions to business problems and help produce above-average results.