5 Factors to Overcoming Change Resistance

A change process is guaranteed to have varying levels of resistance. To break up the routine, reduce fear, and challenge the status quo, a leader is most successful when focusing on transforming the employee’s change experience.  Many organizations approach to change result in negative experiences and slow implementation.  Business changes faster than ever before.  The five factors laid out here are meant to help increase the speed of change while providing a positive experience for the whole team.

To overcome the change resistance, focus on the following key factors that mean the most to the affected individuals:

  • State “What’s in it for me”:  This falls under looking at what the change initiative will do to the employee.  What is their perception of the final result?  How are they most affected?
  • Receive feedback to improve change.  As the change is implemented, revisit the various components as feedback is received.  Share the feedback and make adjustments to drive increased participation.  This will accelerate the change as people recognize that their inputs are valued and put into action to improve the change.
  • Face resistance openly.
  • Communicate:  clearly outline the change process
  • Avoid the traps

“What’s in it for Me”

Naturally, change evokes stress, fear, and concern for what it means to each individual.  Depending on the work environment, changes can mean layoffs, re-organizations, and tasks that require different skill sets than what current employees may have.  When introducing change, it’s extremely important to address the “What’s in it for Me” at the onset, so that people can focus on what this means to them and how they fit into the experience.  They need to understand why.  Answering questions and being open about the circumstances will best prepare the team for what’s to come.

Receive feedback to improve change.

A certain level of resistance will provide important and positive feedback to improve the concept.  A leader that reviews the resistance themes, implements feedback from employees, and shares where ideas came from, will strengthen the buy-in to the new concept and make the program more viable.  The leader is demonstrating that the change is not just a “driven from the top” initiative, but that the employees’ inputs are valued and implemented.

The original intention of the program may need to be adjusted to fit the culture of the workforce and that’s okay.   Resistance requires adjusting tools, tactics, and ideas to gain the commitment from the employees to be successful.  They are sure to challenge untested concepts that may not have been as strong in practice as they sounded in theory.  Positive resistance will give way to respect, loyalty and confidence in that their concerns matter, are being addressed and are playing a role in the change process.

Face resistance openly

Resistance will be prominent.  First, there will be constant comparisons to what was done in the past especially if success was fairly common.  People naturally resist what they don’t know.   When “we always do it this way” emerges, be prepared to describe what was positive about the past methods and how they can add new skills to propel even more success with a new change initiative.  If a leader is able to show employees that they are taking the best from their past experiences and applying them to the new experience, then this can create a common ground on how to improve current circumstances with better results.

The second resistance point will be from those that don’t participate. They are the bystanders waiting to see if this will be successful or not.  Help draw out the bystanders to actively engage them in the demonstrations, training, and results to keep.  Don’t let them take a backseat to accept success or failure of the rest of the team.  It requires pulling out their participation, questioning, and seeking their ideas even when they’d be happy to not participate.

Lastly, there will be those that resist because they’re not comfortable with the new approach.  The resistance may surface because they fear the shortcomings.  Help provide the training that supports any gaps that may result from the new change.  With a quality training program and positive coaching, these individuals will overcome their discomfort and hopefully become change advocates for the process.

Communicate:  clearly outline the change process

The underlying strategy for handling resistance is to proactively address the challenges that impact the team/individuals the most.  Clearly outline the concept, define the path and illustrate what success looks like.  Communications will continue throughout the change process and well into the transition period of acceptance.

Communication interlaced throughout the change strategy will be essential.  Additionally, training will be an integral part of the change success.  Training will include demonstrations, training, and a review process of performance.  The training will help employees see what they are capable of achieving and address challenges as they are faced.  With a combination of instructional and personal constructive observations, the team will continue to grow.  An important aspect of the training will be to focus on the positive scenarios publicly and work with those struggling privately.

Another aspect of the strategy that will solidify the transition will be acknowledging the success and personal achievements of the teams.  By recognizing actions such as successful tactics and improved metrics, a visual board and group meetings can serve as reminders of how the team is benefiting from the change along with recognizing team and individual accomplishments.  Genuine business results will occur with their personal success.

Avoid the traps

Remain conscious of traps that derail change success such as being baited into a debate that turns into personal attacks or raises defenses to remain defiant.  By focusing on results, team cohesiveness, and improvements emphasize the improved experience goals with sensitivity toward the successes of their previous work environment.

The other trap to recognize is that an initially smooth period of success does not mean that the team has reached the finish line for the change.  There are likely to backslide to old ways based on change cycles.  The team may dip into a downward spiral before achieving lasting results with the new change.

A final trap to avoid is being so set on one way to achieve results that an opportunity is missed to try new suggestions and ideas that improve the new model.  Be open to shifting tactics to achieve the best results based on feedback as discussed above.  At every opportunity, embrace an idea to collaborate and contribute which will increase their importance to further improving the new idea.

Resistance to change is inevitable.  Overcoming the change with the least resistance is possible.  A leader can be very successful by applying these 5 elements which focus on the people while maintaining a clear direction in achieving business results.

I firmly believe that if you provide people with the right tools to do their job and a commitment to treat them well, they will not fail.  Treating them well also means recognizing their shortfalls, challenges, and failures in order to provide the right amount of coaching and guidance to help them meet expectations.  Change isn’t easy, but with these five factors, you can overcome change resistance in a shorter timeframe and see positive business results in return.

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