I remember working in a start-up, many years ago, and going through a period where we were having to pivot significantly. It was scary. Let’s face it – many of us go to work because we like what the organization does. I certainly did, in that situation. When we were pivoting away from the direction that excited me so much, it felt like the company was becoming a different company – one that I might not like.
I remember going into brainstorming meetings, and being asked to remove my ‘critical thinking cap.’ The owner wanted a day-long session where we just came up with as many ideas as we could, regardless of their quality. I understand that. But removing my ‘critical thinking cap’ was hard. Nearly impossible. Was I impeding progress?
I don’t know. I left the company pretty quickly. It was significantly underfunded, and ultimately ran out of cash. But one lesson lives on. Change is demanding and demanded.
So, what can organizations do to keep change resistant people from impeding progress? Here are a few ideas.
Encourage people to focus on what is within their control.
Since fear is often at the root of change resistance, it can be helpful to remind your team members that there are things that they still control (hopefully). Challenge your teams to focus on what they can control, rather than directing energy at things that are beyond their control.
Use a documented change management process.
Often times, change resistant people are fearful because they see change creating chaos. That may be because you are not using a documented change management process. I’ve written about how to create a change management process here.
Build a growth focused culture.
When people are focused on learning and growth, both personally and as teams, it can take the focus off of the changes that are occurring in the organization. Start a book club and meet to discuss once a month. Sign up for educational programs in the community that are of interest and go as a group. When people begin to hear about change in other organizations, they may relax about the changes in their own organization.
Seek out ways to reduce the fear related to a change.
If someone doesn’t like change, maybe they can help write the training or procedure manuals for the new process or product. Many times, fear is at the root of change resistance. By tasking someone with documenting a process or product, you might remove some of that fear.
Keep the communications coming.
One of the factors that makes change so hard is that it can be tempting to wait until you have things figured out before you tell people what’s going on. That fear of the unknown, of what is about to be, can make things harder. It’s okay to tell your team that you don’t know how things will be – that the team will figure it out together.
Another communication often needed is the reason for the change. Most change resistant people are reasonable. If they understand a valid reason for change, they can accept it, even if they don’t really love the idea.
Part of the communication challenge is to keep the message positive, even when there may be temporary and significant inconvenience. Here again, focusing on the benefits that will be gained helps.
How are you handling change resistant people? Share your comments so that others can learn.