How to Plan for Resistance to Change
Have you ever implemented something new in your organization, thought everyone was on board, and then, soon after faced growing resistance? All leaders will face resistance to their ideas and plans one time or another. For example, have you ever instituted a new policy you thought everyone would love but then quickly heard complaints or noticed people weren’t embracing it according to plan? Or you may have installed a new system, believing it would provide greater efficiency, only to hear excuses why staff and others weren’t using it. At times, there can be resistance to new hires because staff members aren’t sold on the idea of bringing in additional help or using resources this way. In your mind, you’re thinking, “What’s happening here?—I’m only trying to help.” The truth is that resistance to change is a normal human behavior and your job as a leader is to sponsor and manage the change effectively. Take steps to manage change every step of the way and create buy-in that will break-through resistance.
Here’s how to manage potential resistance by beefing up your ability to build buy-in:
Communicate. You may think you know what’s best for your people—and perhaps that’s quite true. However, it’s both safe and smart to discipline yourself to use communication strategies that help you lay the groundwork new ideas, plans and possible change. It is important to open up the communication lines to get a pulse on what people are thinking and feeling when it comes to change. You can create transparency in a number of ways, such as employee meetings, written communications and surveys that give people an opportunity to express their views and concerns. You can do this more informally, for example, by walking around and talking to people individually or in small groups, asking them for their thoughts on a potential solution, alternative ways to fix a problem, general feedback, etc.
Be front-and-center. With any kind of change, you will be more successful at implementing it if your employees see you sponsoring the change from the start. Demonstrate your passion and commitment, remaining present and involved in the change itself, educating people about why it is taking place, modeling the expected change, enthusiastically talking about any results, and rewarding those who both embrace and do it well. Be front and center throughout the whole process, from the rollout to the execution and even beyond, when the change has become internalized, or part of the culture. This may take some time and commitment, but if the change you’re suggesting is both truly needed and likely to work, you’ve got to stay invested and drive it, start to finish.
See resistance in a different light. It’s natural to want people to embrace and be excited about your ideas, plans or suggestions for change. But as I stated resistance to change is also quite normal, too, and you can save yourself a lot of grief if you simply acknowledge this fact and expect that you will experience it at times. You can make great choices around how you handle the pushback as soon as you spot it. For example, always keep your focus on the problem. If someone doesn’t like what you’re proposing, try not to take it personally yourself or make it personal about someone else. Ask questions, dig deep, and work to uncover as much truth and information about it all as possible. You’ll come away with greater insight and the ability to truly develop the right solution or direction for change. Finally, resistance can be an opportunity to grow a culture of trust. When people push back on something you’re leading, if you manage it in the right way, they’ll respect you more for it.
What else can you do to build buy-in?