How to Deal with Resistance to Change in Your Organization

(Episode 2 of 2 with Jake Jacobs)

How to Deal with Resistance to Change in Your Organization
Welcome back to another episode with Jake Jacobs. In the last episode, we discussed three ways we can leverage change in our businesses. Today, we’re going to explain why we should learn to embrace change and how we can work with people who are resistant to change.  

Key Takeaways

Here are today’s key takeaways:

  1. Organizations likely have to continuously change to be successful. 
  2. We should learn to love the people who are resistant to change. As we listen to them, we are probably going to find value that’s going to aid us in our change efforts.
  3. When people understand the why, they are usually more than willing to do the what.
  4. Focusing on the future benefits makes it easier to accept change. 

Why do we need to embrace change?

“At the end of the day, [organizations] need to change to be successful,” Jake said. “Sometimes they need to change culture, so they have better retention and recruitment efforts. . . . Sometimes they need to change their strategy because in the marketplace, their competitors are eating their lunch.”

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There are so many reasons why change is essential. For one thing, our customers are constantly changing. Trends are constantly changing. New technologies are constantly released. If we want to optimize our strategies and connect with our customers, we should be changing too. 

“What our customer wanted from us 10 years ago, is no longer what our customer wants from us [now]. And so if we keep delivering what [our customers] asked for 10 years ago, we’ll end up calling them ex-customers,” Jake said. 

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Jake believes that one of the biggest business tectonic shifts or changes happening in today’s marketplace has to do with the people coming into the workforce. Millennials and GenZ expect different things from their employers and they have higher demands. 

“The demands they have for the amount of say that they get in important decisions in an organization is way higher than baby boomers or earlier generations, and they are much more based on purpose than they are based on salary,” Jake said. “They’re a lot less worried about staying in the same organization and having their 401 K stack up at the end of the day than they are about making a contribution to the planet and making a difference in the work that they do.”

Jake added, “People aren’t even necessarily going to be employees of your organization. They’re going to be working on specific projects for a period of time, and then they’re going to move on to another organization.”

Understanding and adapting to these changes is essential. As new people enter the workforce with different expectations, our organizations will have to change in order to accommodate them successfully. If we don’t change, we will likely have lower retention rates and employee satisfaction. 

How to Work With People Resistant to Change 

As I go into organizations and help them leverage tectonic shifts, there are often some people that are resistant to change. Jake likes to call these people “troublemakers.” They typically always have one more question. They often have a different point of view than everybody else in the meeting and they aren’t afraid to vocalize it. When it comes time to form a consensus, you always know that this person is going to stick out and resist. So, how do we effectively manage those relationships? 

“Troublemaking is in the eye of the beholder,” Jake said. “If I [see] you [as] a troublemaker, I will tend to see you cause trouble. If I [see] you [as] a valuable member, contributing to our team, I’m going to tend to see what you say and do as valuable contributions to my team. So, rather than seeing troublemakers as people getting in the way, we [should] see troublemakers as watching our backside; they’re paying attention to something that we’re not and in doing so, they’re actually allowing us to make better decisions.”

Troublemakers can help us navigate risk mitigation. They help us see the situation in a different perspective than our own and in the process, may help us avoid falling into a hole. We should find the people who are contradictory and we should listen to them. 

“Learn to love your troublemakers. Put an arm around them. Love them, pay attention to them, listen to them, ask them questions, give them time,” Jake said. “Try and see the world through their eyes.”

We can ask them, “Could you say more?” Instead of ignoring their resistant comments, we should encourage them to say more. Likely, they don’t share their opinion to cause contention, but to add more value and insight to the situation. We should try to help them feel safer and more confident so they’ll share more. There are likely other people in the world thinking the same thing as this member of your team. 

Our responsibility as an agent of change, is to make sure that we find the people that might be feeling a little contrary to that change, and we need to listen to them. We need to see the world from their perspective. As we do this, we are probably going to find value that’s going to aid us in our change efforts.

“When you listen to these people [and] you integrate their thinking, what you find is there’s a lot of wisdom there that you weren’t paying attention to because you were too ticked off at these people getting in the way of your progress,” Jake said. 

To get resistant people onboard after listening to their concerns, we should first explain why. People don’t change just to change. Organizations don’t just change to change. When people understand the why, they are more than willing to do the what. We should take the time to tell our employees and team members why we are making certain changes. When we do so, people will likely be more willing to jump onboard. 

The next thing we can do is ask, “What’s in it for me?” from our employees’ perspective. What’s in it for them?  It’s in our human nature to be selfish so we shouldn’t fight against it. We should lean into it. Rather than making them wrong, we need to develop a future people will want to call their own. We should show them how the change will benefit them. Then, this “what’s in it for me” problem disappears. 

Focusing on the future benefits gives people freedom. “It’s an invitation to be creative and innovative and engaged because at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be part of creating their own future, right? But that’s the difference between complaining at the individual level and creating at the collective level,” Jake said. 

Connect with Jake

Thank you so much Jake for sharing your stories and insights with us today. To learn more about or connect with Jake:

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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