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Overcoming Resistance to Change

September 30, 20228 min read

5 Great Ways to Generate Support Rather Than Resistance When It’s Your Turn to Lead Change

If you’ve ever led or implemented a change with your team or business, chances are, you’ve encountered resistance.

Perhaps a ton of it… Even if your change was solving a problem or making things better.

Some of it you expected. Some of it surprised you. But it all took energy and persuasion, (and then some), to overcome.

Fact: People resist change.

They tend to view it with apprehension and reluctance, if not covert or outright resistance. The bigger or more sudden the change, the greater the resistance.

But that doesn’t mean you have to live with it.

Here are 5 ways to generate support, rather than resistance, when it’s your turn to lead change.

(Click here for your FREE PDF Guide.)

1. Involvement

People support what they help to create. This fundamental law of human nature puts Involvement at the top of the list for business leaders wanting to gain support for important changes.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. People tend to resist, or even resent change put upon them, that they’ve had no hand in deciding or shaping.

Their reluctance and negative viewpoints are often expressed overtly by doubting, questioning, or challenging the value or necessity of the change openly to supervisors and colleagues. Or covertly, by withholding support, foot-dragging, spreading cynicism, or outright dissent among co-workers, subordinates, and yes, even complaining to customers behind the business leader’s back.

"Cynicism, once established, is a hard root to pull."

While it’s not often possible, or even advisable to involve everyone who may be affected by the change with its creation, (especially with larger teams and organizations), it IS possible to involve key opinion leaders by asking for their input or assistance with aspects of the plans for change.

  • Like where and when to start?

  • What will be the team’s concerns or challenges?

  • Ask for their ideas or recommendations on how to best proceed and succeed.

Take their recommendations to heart (even if you already had the same ideas). Thank them for their helpful input and ask if you can count on them to assist when it’s time to rollout the change.

Having had a hand in it, they will often typically become a reliable supporter as the important change(s) are implemented.

2. Great Communication

“Poor communication is at the heart of every problem.”

This is nearly always the case when business leaders experience a lack of support and struggle with essential changes.

Importance and Meaning

Going back to human nature, people tend to support what they believe is important. They also want to make an impact and know that what they are doing or being asked to do has meaning.

So, the savvy leader will effectively communicate the importance and positive impact of the change for the business, and for them. And how meaningful their enthusiastic and ongoing support will be for the organization, for the team, and even for customers.

Going a step further, you can also communicate the risks or consequences of not changing - or failing from a lack of support.


One other important item to communicate is timing.

In general, people don’t like surprises. Especially when it comes to unannounced change.

Take the lead and control the message.

Let your team, stakeholders and even your customers know WHAT change is coming. WHY it’s important. WHEN it will happen. And HOW it will make things better.

The amount and timing of the information you share may be different for the groups listed above. But the key is to understand the importance of being a thoughtful communicator.

A great example of this is communicating price increases:

As a founder, leader, and consultant to many high-service-level businesses, I know from experience that, increasing prices with little or no notice to your team will leave them flat-footed and defenseless when they encounter reluctant customers. Especially if they are still accountable for maintaining or increasing sales!

Conversely, letting your team know that price increases are coming and why … (i.e., costs increasing to the business, maintaining margins, fund improvements, and/or continuing to offer employee benefits or wage increases) will help them to understand the basis, and be able to support, or even be proud of the new pricing.

You can also let customers know in advance [perhaps as a custom or courtesy} that prices will be increasing and give them a chance to “buy now and save”.

This will not only create an immediate surge in sales but also build customer loyalty and appreciation. Win-win.

To go one better, invite your sales staff or your entire team to inform customers about the upcoming increase, making them a hero and making it easier for them to support the new prices when they hit.

"It’s not just that you communicate, but what and how you communicate, to whom, and when that makes all the difference with the success of your change."

(Want help? Book a FREEOvercome Resistance Strategy Call)

3. Autonomy & Responsibility

Autonomy and responsibility are some of the most valued rewards in any role.

Supporting the change may be non-negotiable. But giving people the right to decide how they do that can be a powerful resistance-buster.

Here are some steps to do that and build momentum for support:

1. Meet with your key people, individually, or better yet, in a small group setting.

2. Reinforce the importance and value of the change, along with their support.

3. Ask them each to imagine and share 1 or 2 ways that they can help the change to succeed.

4. Then do a final round of brainstorming and solution pitching to build support from the rest of the team or stakeholders.

The question is not “if” they will support the change, but “how”. And the “how” is largely up to them... Autonomy.

Letting them know you believe and trust them to do their best work will breed creativity and commitment that will leave you impressed. It is also infectious. Enthusiasm for the change will compound as ideas are shared and inspire the team with innovative ways to succeed.

The value of this “can-do” approach cannot be overstated.

Responsibility is another great "Resistance-Buster".

Offering or delegating responsibility for one or more aspects of the change you’re planning is a great way to build a team of champions.

Done right, it will be seen as a sign of growing trust and stature.

As with any granted responsibility, make sure that it comes with the guidelines and authority to make it happen. Responsibility without authority is no picnic.

Express appreciation for their willingness to step up, and your confidence in their ability to succeed. And let them know you’re available for insight or assistance if they need it.

A very big benefit of this approach is that you’re not just generating support. You’re developing successful change agents and future leaders for the business.

4. Mastery & Improvement

Mastery is among the top five priorities people seek in their careers.

(Meaning, Mastery, Autonomy, Appreciation, and Growth)

Change typically requires or provides opportunities for people to learn and improve, allowing them to increasingly master their craft… One of the big 5.

A savvy business leader will make clear, how implementing the change will provide opportunities for new experiences and improvement for individuals, for the team, or both.

5. Rewards & Incentives

I’m a big fan of bribery - because it works. Especially when asking people to adapt, adopt or lead essential change.

To be clear, I am NOT a fan of bribing people to do their job. That should be expected, and already a fair exchange.

Done right, offering incentives and rewards for achieving milestones and goals related to your change is one of the best ways to overcome resistance, and get people pulling together to get it done.

Incentives are what you offer, in advance, to gain buy-in, commitment, and perseverance.

Rewards are what you offer, after the fact, in appreciation for what has been achieved.

While often financial, as in a raise or bonus, incentives and rewards also come in many forms that are valued as much, or even more, than their financial cousins. Here are some proven examples:

  • A heartfelt verbal or written thank-you

  • Public recognition of achievement or contribution, especially before their peers or company leaders.

  • Offering or assigning additional responsibility, along with your confidence and trust, is both an incentive to succeed and a reward for past trustworthiness.

  • A promotion or additional time-off with pay

  • Invitations to executive summits or company retreats

  • Treating individuals or entire teams to lunch, dinner, or a celebratory happy hour;

  • Or something as simple as asking them to explain their approach and success to the team, the next time a change is in the works.

In conclusion:

Resistance to change may be common. And like The Force, it may be stronger in some than others.

But that doesn’t mean you have to live with it.

Business leaders who want support and progress with change can use involvement, communication, autonomy, mastery, incentives, and rewards to overcome resistance, accelerate progress and reliably achieve new levels of success.

Need help?

Are you anticipating or already experiencing resistance to important changes that need to be made in your business?  Book a FREE “Overcome Resistance Strategy Call.

On this call, I will help you to decide which of these 5 Great Ways will work best for you.  And create a quick strategy that will enable you to Avoid or Overcome Resistance.

Click here to get: The Business Leader’s Guide: 5 Solutions to Reduce or Eliminate Resistance to Change

...With 5 great exercises you can use, and share with your team to build support, rather than resistance, when you need change to succeed.

Let's keep the conversation going… Share your comments, ideas and experience.

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Tim Rhode

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