Leaders: Can a Change Resistor Get You to Oz?

Leaders, are you conflicted when your best performer is change resistant? As I highlight a change resistor to leaders who engage my consulting and training, many have said to me “but this person is our best performer!”

Behind that short reply from leaders is great risk to the success that lies ahead. Because of this, I ask leaders, can a change resistor get you to Oz? No and neither can denial.

Leaders, Can a Change Resistor Get You to Oz? Image by: Adam N. Ward

Leading to Oz

  1. Leaders, your shock and disappointment are normal. Your denial, deadly. Any employee can be a change resistor. Occupational performance does not guarantee change-ability.
  2. Be ready for a show down in the evil forest. Some top performers believe they are indispensable and can resist the change. Before initiating significant change, know what internal and external resources you have to keep everything moving ahead. It also helps the resistors see they are not indispensable.
  3. Replace your fear of performance loss with courage and belief in your vision. Most team members will buy into and even contribute to organizational change if they see that it is not debatable and understand what the vision means for them.
  4. Redefine performance to include change-ability. Long term success means adapting to change. Discuss this with your team members and let them know that their skill is valuable if they apply it to a changing vision.
  5. Top performers and high achievers sometimes want an extremely clear picture of the change before they buy into it because they want to be seen as a high achiever throughout the process. That is not always available. Other high achievers trust in their ability to succeed even in ambiguity.

    Let everyone know that you trust in their ability and know their will be ups and downs throughout the change. Commitment and focus is the key — not perfection.

Lead change with vision, courage, and communication.

What other factors contribute to a top performer resisting change instead of helping to lead change?

From my experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2011-2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers consulting, training, DVDs, and keynotes that turn interaction obstacles into business success especially in tough times. Leading change, employee engagement, customer service experience, and teamwork. See this site for workshops outlines and customer results.

12 Responses to “Leaders: Can a Change Resistor Get You to Oz?”

  1. Joe Williams says:

    A way of addressing change-ability with a change resister is to focus on the aspects that will remain the same. I used this approach earlier in the year when I was leading a team through a problem that required creative thinking and willingness to challenge the status quo. By understanding who were the change resisters on my team, I could focus them on what needed to remain the same, such as value propositions, key principles, and the other sort of enduring factors, and do so that provided a sanity check against the new work.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Excellent idea Joe. It gives them “grounding” — as you say “sanity check” so all can feel secure as they make changes.

      Many thanks for your visit, insight, and experience.

  2. Dr. Ada says:

    Another way to deal with resistors is to acknowledge that they have valid points of caution. Involving them in planning how to take their concerns into consideration while planning the implementation of the change, can help them come onboard.
    Also understanding that by nature some people will be early adaptors and others have more difficulty with change. That does not necessarily means resistance. It just means they do not like change. With them, Joe suggestions work especially well.
    Thanks for your good points!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Dear Ada,
      People do adapt at different times — I agree. I have also seen situations where slowing things down is not an option. In cases like this, a leader’s belief in the vision and the team’s ability to adapt more quickly is critical.

      I truly appreciate your contribution and welcome your comments on any post.

      Many thanks!

  3. John Wenger says:

    Kate, good to read your post. Change, being the only constant, is a challenge for all managers and organisations, I suspect, and working in this area is one of the most rewarding and interesting for me. I find it useful to remember that systems (and people are systems in themselves) inherently exhibit that paradox of a)resisting change and striving to maintain the status quo and b)striving to improve and grow.

    It’s a fine line we tread when we work with people through change, trying to warm them up to take the steps necessary, while honouring their feelings of reluctance. It certainly challenges me to find new ways to approach people. I try to remind myself of that adage, “People don’t resist change, but they resist being changed.”

    Keeping in mind that people will be vigilant for the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ (even subconsciously), getting them to see this, as well as warming them up to the big picture of why change is necessary seems to ease things somewhat. I remember a person who grumpily attended every session that we facilitated with his organisation, as part of a major culture shift process, and at the end reporting, “I didn’t enjoy all this stuff you did with us and I tried to resist it, but I can see that I’ve changed despite myself, and that’s no bad thing for the organisation.” As far as he and the organisation were concerned, that was good enough.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Great story John. It speaks volumes. Many many thanks for adding to this discussion. It is evident that you and I both love the topic of change!


  4. Jesse Stoner says:

    Great advice, Kate. If this is a top performer that you are invested in, it might be worth taking the time to surface their concerns. They might have views/information that will help make implementation more effective. Or it might be that they are struggling with what the change will mean for them personally. Sometimes just being heard can make a big difference. I find the “stages of concern for change” model helpful. http://www.nationalacademies.org/rise/backg4a.htm

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks Jesse. I think it is valuable for people to surface their concerns and work them through. It also strikes me that some people start to voice their concerns so quickly that others think they are resisting change instead of considering it. The link you offered gives tangible steps on this.

      Thanks for expanding this discussion.

      • Jesse Stoner says:

        Great point, Kate! Voicing concerns is not always a sign of resistance, especially for people who tend to think out loud. Sometimes its a sign of considering the situation from different angles.

  5. Great post Kate. It’s especially valuable because many organizations are dealing with this issue everyday. In my mind, many leaders try to ram change down the throats of their employees only learn that’s they’re being fought every step of the way. I believe it’s preferable to establish a vision, set goals and then seek the employee’s help in preparing an implementation plan. This ensures buy-in. Furthermore, it’s critical that the compensation plan reinforces the new goal. Thanks again for sharing Kate. Have a great day!


  6. Pete Friedes says:

    Very thoughtful post, Kate. I, like Jesse Stoner, tend toward “asking why” when I get resistance. Asking what are the resister’s concerns will either 1) get something that we should be concerned about, giving us the chance to prevent the concern from having a negative impact, or 2) give me the chance to argue why these worries shouldn’t be a concern. In the end, I will have the opportunity to say something like, you may be right, but since we’ve decided to make this change, I hope you can see what we are trying to accomplish by it, and I really need you to be onboard with it.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Pete,
      I like your balanced two part approach. “Why” alone doesn’t keep the change moving forward and yet with no understanding we may miss the chance to clear up and remove a block. And as you say, the change is happening I need you on board.

      Many thanks for contributing to this discussion. I welcome your comments on any post of interest here at Smart SenseAbilities.

      Warmest regards,

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