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How to Combat Resistance to Change
25 May 2016

How to Combat Resistance to Change

3884856705_0a98cdc5f4_mAs I have been reading through Building Dragons (Newman/Blanchard) I have had two overwhelming sensations duke it out in my head. The first is, “Wow, this is all so exciting! I can’t wait to dig into all of these changes. Customer experience, employee experience, the Internet of Things – it’s all so interesting!” My other sensation has been, “Ye gods, do I have to? I just got used to social media!”

There are likely people on both ends of the spectrum in your company. There are people who probably grumble about how you are doing things the same way you’ve done them since 1987. There are also likely people who turn into turtles when you say the word “change.”

Our brains are hotwired to avoid change

A few years ago, Rebel Brown, an expert in neuroscience as it applies to business scenarios, wrote a fabulous article titled, “NeuroBusiness, Leadership, and Business Change.” Rebel writes,

If our unconscious mind sends an error message every time we focus on change, how can we positively focus our attention on it?  That’s a good question.  The key is to distract our unconscious mindware so that we can focus on the change.

What exactly does this mean if you run your own company or if you are trying to win more people over to your “change the world” team?

Rebel suggests three steps that can make change a little easier to digest. Those steps are making the expected feel unsafe or uncomfortable, focusing on solutions, and asking questions rather than statements. So, how can you apply these if your company is facing some of the digital transformations that are happening now?

Make the expected feel unsafe or uncomfortable

One of the first examples used in Building Dragons is the battle that occurred between Blockbuster and Netflix, short-lived though it may have been. Blockbuster was fairly hesitant to overhaul their business model, although towards the end they did start mailing DVDs to members. Netflix was and is all about change. Who is still around?

Use this example to make your employees understand that changing is not necessary just so everyone has more work to do. Companies that remain stuck in their old ways can die, plain and simple. If that doesn’t create a sense of discomfort, I’m not sure what will!

Focus on solutions

Change can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve been doing your job the same way for decades. Pressure to remain productive does not diminish just because new tasks are being added to your plate. One way to help ease employee resistance to big change is to frame it as a solution. Building Dragons emphasizes fixing pain points, and that can be motivating to employees. “If we fix xyz, that problem our customers constantly complain about will be eliminated.” That is a tangible, easily understood reason to make significant changes. When employees can see a point, or as Building Dragons says, when they have a mission, change comes much easier.

Ask questions, don’t just dictate

Rebel points out in her post that inviting insights is a great way to get people to buy into the change that is happening. Instead of saying, “We are going to change xyz because it will fix this problem,” ask your team how they feel a certain problem can be fixed. Once you have a conversation going about change, you’ve already won half the battle.

Have you ever had to instill major changes in your company? How did you handle people who were resistant to those changes? Do you think any of these tips would have helped if you did not implement them?

We’d love to hear from you!

Image Credit: via Creative Commons

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