Effectively Handling Internal Resistance When Leading Change
As an executive or a leader in any capacity, you’re going to seek innovation and change in order to continue growing as an organization. Change can be scary, but as a leader, it’s your job to shepherd people forward into the future.
Every time you try to institute change or propose a new way of working, you’re going to come across a handful of people who try to negate your ideas or who refuse to incorporate the new processes. Many employees and your fellow executives will experience (and voice) their insecurities and concerns, while others will actively try to prevent progress from happening.
To prepare yourself for this, you should understand the basic types of resistance and how to work with these individuals or learn how to work around them.
The Types of Resistance You Can Work With or Around
Within an established institution, it's natural to "kick up a little dust" when you start recommending a change. People will naturally be worried, but not everyone will try to undermine your suggestions. The people who do put up a fight will do so in a few ways:
1. "Things are working just fine for me the way they are."
2. "I’ll help you institute these changes if you throw me a bone."
Sometimes, if the demands aren’t like a hostage situation, you can consider meeting them. Other times, you will have to seek peers or other executives support to help you address the situation by, in effect, out numbering them. They may need to see that the boat is leaving with everyone else on board and they will be left behind if they don’t climb on board too.
3. "I’m not going to help you, but I won’t stand in your way."
While they’ll never admit that they are trying to resist, you will have to either give them harder deadlines or more specific responsibilities. Passive aggressive people hate being publicly held accountable. Knowing that they will be called out usually does the trick.
4. "I know more about this company and its processes than you."
This will prevent the “more experienced” individual from miscommunicating to others and will allow your process, logic, and answers to be visible to the group. Address the concerns the team (and this individual) has head-on, and show the resistant person that the team is behind you after this. This person is not going to back down until he or she sees that they’re in the minority.
Embody the Idea That Change is Good
The most important role you will ever have as a leader is showing people that change will be beneficial. No matter what kind of resistance you are met with, the base of it all is fear of the unknown. As the capable leader you have planned and plotted in the face of the unknown. It’s your job to show people how you’re going to move forward and overcome obstacles and mitigate risks in ways that benefit the business and everyone involved.