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7 Strategies for Overcoming Resistance to Change in the Workplace

Creating collaborative teams with collective goals

A short while ago I discussed the challenges and attributes of high-performing teams. In modern organizations with flatter hierarchical structures, these high impact teams are smaller, more agile, and themselves structured to benefit from individual specialization without regard for a ‘pecking order’. Even though these teams are designed to provide maximum flexibility in a constantly changing environment, it is likely that an organization will still experience resistance to change.

Overcoming resistance to change in the workplace doesn’t have to be a constant battle in a market environment where the only constant is change. With a forward-looking and proactive strategy, resistance to change is first reduced and then eliminated.

How to overcome resistance to change, in 7 steps

Leadership is an organizational imperative when managing change, and leaders who inspire a cultural shift in their staff have the greatest success in managing change. In a 2013 PwC survey, nearly two-thirds of staff surveyed felt that a top leader is in charge of change management, and almost half felt that top leaders should be in charge of cultural change. The good news here is that the same number of people felt that cultural change is also their responsibility.

The bad news is that only 14% saw any responsibility for change management falling on their shoulders. The harsh reality is that effective change is determined by having in place a corporate culture conducive to change. It is here that inspirational leadership in flat hierarchical structures is, perhaps, at its most potent.

Here are seven strategies for overcoming resistance to change in the workplace.

1.     Structure the team to maximize its potential

Give team members appropriate roles and responsibilities that use skills to their best advantage, while also providing the potential for personal and team development. After communicating the change initiative, consider the strengths and weaknesses of each team member.

In one-to-one sessions, establish how the team member is best suited to aiding with the change initiative, and consider ways in which it may help the individual improve personal weaknesses while simultaneously taking advantage of their strengths. Such a personal collaboration within the team effort will help engage each team member in the change effort.

2.     Set challenging, achievable and engaging targets

Be clear in guidance about goals and targets. Break change projects into smaller milestones, and celebrate achievements. Goals should be progressive and in line with values and beliefs.

Don’t limit milestones creation and goal achievement to the overall effort. While these are important team milestones, and will help to motivate the team to continue with maximum effort, it is also important that you consider individual progress. Seek ways to anchor personal development to the creation and continuation of team goals along the change journey.

3.     Resolve conflicts quickly and effectively

Utilize the seven methods of care-fronting to regulate and control communicative breakdowns. Encourage openness and honesty and engender an environment of mutual trust and respect.

It is imperative to engender a good team spirit, so you should consider ways in which you can do so. During periods of change, tensions may run high and personal anxieties will be heightened. Team meetings and team bonding sessions will help your people to understand and appreciate their colleagues more easily, especially if you ensure transparency of communication and a systematic approach to problem solving that encourages frank exchange of view to reach a collective and collaborative partnership.

4.     Show passion

Communicate passionately and be an example of belief in the future vision. When other people see leaders’ behaviors emulating those required by change, they more quickly come into line with the new behaviors and become change advocates themselves.

‘Where leaders tread, others follow’ is an apt edict for executives to live by. Only by being the change can you expect others to onboard the new values and behaviors expected.

5.     Be persuasive

Engage employees in change by being an energized leader. Focus on opportunities, and persuade rather than assert authority. Share experiences as you persuade change through stories that focus on positive change.

Train your storytelling brain to discover ways to explain culture, brand, and the future vision with similes that help employees relate to organizational motives and goals.

6.     Empower innovation and creativity

Give opportunities for feedback and remain flexible as you alter course toward your change goals. Encourage people to be creative, to discover solutions to unfolding problems, and to become part of the change process.

Remove the fear of taking risks by framing failure as an experience from which to learn, and a necessary step on the path to success. Help people to be accountable for their own actions, while also encouraging collaboration across silos. This will aid pollination of innovative ideas in an environment in which people develop greater knowledge and expand their professional capacity to think more creatively.

7.     Remain positive and supportive

People find change unsettling, even though change is a constant in personal lives as well as professional environments. They will need the support of a positive leader who inspires free thought, honest communication and creativity, as personal and team development is encouraged.

Employees expect leaders to manage change. Inspirational leaders create a culture where change becomes the remit of all.

Contact Forward Focus today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program that helps develop high-performing managers into inspirational leaders.

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