Managing Resistance To Change: Seven Techniques You Can Start Using Today

Change Isn’t Easy But It’s Not Impossible

I recently had the pleasure of participating in the first cohort of Change Ambassadorship with the state of Nevada. Our certificate program was facilitated by Dr. James R. King, PMP who is currently our Organizational Change Manager with the Nevada Department of Administration. The program was developed to support one of the largest IT initiatives the state has undertaken to date, SMART 21 — Nevada’s response “to serve Nevadans with an efficient and responsive State government by modernizing Nevada’s Enterprise Resource Planing (ERP) ecosystem.”

This post is inspired by some of the lessons we learned during our 3-day course and I hope you gain as much value from it as I have because change isn’t easy. Whether your next, or current, change effort is in the form of a project or an organizational transformation, leaders should arm themselves with the proper techniques to help their employees or customers adopt, utilize, and become proficient with the change. To do that, leaders need to approach their people and:

  • Identify the barriers to change,
  • Focus their change management plans and activities,
  • Diagnose resistance factors from critical people,
  • Understand and measure work-group adoption rates; and
  • Identify opportunities to strengthen the desired outcome

Below is a list of techniques that you, as leaders, can start using today to start managing resistance to change.

Listen And Seek Understanding To Objections

  1. Listen
  2. Acknowledge their desire to be heard
  3. Seek a path that leads to a desired resolution for both parties.
  4. Identify any miscommunications

Listening and understanding are two different things. While being a vocal and active change agent is important, there are also times when you need to just keep quiet and listen to what others are saying. Acknowledge where they are coming from and look for a path that gets them to the desired outcome of the change. I’ve found that just keeping quiet practicing empathy, most objections come from miscommunication.

Focus On The “What” And Let Go Of The “How”

  1. Focus on the desired outcomes
  2. Let your employees own the solutions
  3. Focus on involving each employee

Note that I say, “involve each employee” and not all employees. This means you need to tell a story for each employee and tell them how their participation and involvement is critical to the change. Don’t tell them “how” they’re going to do things different, tell them “what” their involvement will mean for the organization and how their life, or the life of the customer (hopefully), will become easier as a result of the change.

Remove Impediments And Be An Enabler For Success

  1. Consider family, personal issues, physical limitations or finances
  2. Seek to understand each person; impediments may be disguised as resistance or objections
  3. Identify impediments clearly
  4. Determine your ability or the organization’s ability to address the impediments

Part of listening and understanding, is getting to know your people. Perhaps they don’t have the skills necessary for the change so there’s a training deficit? Perhaps that training deficit, to them, reflects on their ego or makes them fearful of losing their job? Your job, as a leader and mentor is to give them the resources they need to be successful and enable their success.

Convert The Strongest Dissenters

  1. Consider special interventions to convert vocal dissenters
  2. Make strong dissenters, strong advocates — they are often equal in their support as they were in dissent

I’ve always felt that ignoring the nay sayers is bad advice. Dissenters have usually been around the block, seen past failures, and experienced a variety of initiatives from different management regimes. Over the course of their careers and tenure, they’ve accumulated sage like experience. Just because they are a bit jaded and skeptical of a new “initiative” doesn’t mean they won’t come around. It just means they likely understand the risks far more than you do. Convert these folks, consider what they have to say, and brainstorm solutions with them and they’ll become your biggest supporters.

Create Hope For The Future

  1. People respond to the opportunity for a better future
  2. Leaders create desire by sharing passion for change, creating excitement, and enthusiasm
  3. People follow leaders who inspire hope and whom they respect

Inspiring hope for the future and getting people to look forward to the change can be tough. While resistance is a natural part of change, you can help people get through that resistance by being a leader they respect and trust. Use the JEDI JED BHUCKLIT acronym to remind yourself of the kind of traits you should be demonstrating to be a leader your people respect.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”


Make A Personal Appeal

  1. “I believe in this change”
  2. “It is important to me”
  3. “I would like your support”
  4. “You would be helping me by making this change work”

Sometimes people will make the leap simply because they trust your judgement and believe in your leadership. Making a personal appeal signals your people that you are committed to the change and seeing it through. Asking for their support and demonstrating why you believe in the change can help nudge people in the right direction. Ask for their help. Be genuine. You can’t fake this.

Show The Benefits In A Real And Tangible Way

  1. Show how the change will improve a current process or help the organization stay viable in the long term
  2. Be an information radiator by sharing information and lessons learned
  3. Gather and communicate personal testimonies
  4. Visibly demonstrate the success of pilot programs or trials

Most people can conceptualize why a change is needed. However, having some hard facts, lessons learned from other organizations, or using real and relevant data builds confidence in the change. Pilot programs are a great way for organizations to engage in validated learning before rolling the change out across the entire organization. Go big or go home is risky. Managing organizational change should be done strategically and smartly.

If you’d like to discuss more about managing resistance to change, I’d love to hear from you! Connect with me on social media as well!

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What Is SMART 21?


Photo Credit: Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Managing Resistance To Change: Seven Techniques You Can Start Using Today

  1. It’s so easy to forget to listen and wait, especially during an “off” day or when a “fire” appears and a solution needs to be offered. We forget to take a moment and ask the people who may have dealt with said fire in another form or at another time. Like most leaders, I think it’s important to keep improving this skill but still recognize that no one is perfect and no one can be 100% “on” 100% of the time.


    1. Well said! I know I have my off days at times. Personal issues can creep into the workplace or maybe it’s just a Monday. Practicing empathy is always my golden rule! Thanks for the comment


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