Some Ground Rules for Overcoming Resistance to Change

By Harvard Business Review
October 27, 2017

Among the suggestions: Listen to the obstructionists respectfully, ensure they feel heard and take their opinions seriously.

Usually, the biggest hurdle to organizational change is people. So in order to make change happen, you first need to identify which individuals and groups are thwarting positive change.

Then you need to unstick them.

The solution is to listen to the obstructionists respectfully and to make sure they feel heard. As you begin talking to those who are resisting, keep in mind four ground rules.

FORGET EFFICIENCY: Motivating true change requires unhurried, face-to-face, one-on-one conversation. Email doesn’t do it, nor do memos. If a specific work group or person is very important to your organization’s future, and they are resisting needed change, you have to take the time to talk with them in person, with as little time pressure as possible.

RELATED: Leaders Who Get Change Right Know How to Listen

FOCUS ON LISTENING: No matter how brilliant your plan or persuasive your argument, you must make everyone feel understood. That starts and ends with listening. Make sure to take up no more than 20 percent of the airtime in these conversations, and try to repeat back what you’ve heard as much as possible.

BE OPEN TO CHANGE YOURSELF: You must have an open attitude — be ready to learn something new and, if necessary, modify your plans. Show that your colleagues’ opinions and feelings matter to you and will shape your thinking and actions.

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HAVE MULTIPLE CONVERSATIONS: Effective dialogue to overcome resistance typically requires a minimum of two conversations. In the first conversation, you should listen and diagnose the roots of the resistance. In the second, your goal is to make clear that you have reflected on what you heard. The time in between these two conversations is critical; try between two and seven days.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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