Almost every debate about organizational change begins with the obvious statement that “change is difficult.” And, on the surface: change as its name implies necessitates effort.
The problem with this mindset, which permeates our workplaces at all levels, is that it correlates “hard” with “failure,” stifling our change projects, which have a greater chance of success than we lead ourselves to believe.
Costs of Stopping Change
There is a substantial cost associated with halting your change efforts. If you are like most of the over 80% of companies that fail at change, you are among a sea of weak leaders; you give in when people don’t want to continue the process, and in the process, you lose the respect of employees and continue to embed a culture of passivity and entrench dysfunction.
Great leaders push forward with great resolve and consistency while still acknowledging and respecting individuals who are hesitant or even scared of change.
Even when firms make significant progress in developing a changing culture, fatigue can undermine even the most committed change initiatives—forcing leaders in a company to bring them to an untimely halt.
People become skeptical when past change efforts have fallen short. “Here we go again…” or “Here comes the new flavor of the month…” or, as one middle management put it to me once, “We’re lying low till this trend blows over.”
Managers and employees find it challenging to stay motivated when they assume that the latest project from above will fail the same way the last one did, no matter what they do. While it is okay to have concerns, halting change efforts midway will not reflect positively on you as a leader for the following reasons.
Stopping Change Shows Your Weakness
Leaders risk becoming entrenched in their ways, resulting in stagnant management. Teams should resist becoming comfortable, even if the existing methods are working.
Successful businesses can become stagnant and lose their will to develop if people in leadership or management positions are resistant to change. It shows weakness, and everyone on the team becomes comfortable in their skin and is unwilling to take risks.
What is the outcome? Employees are not motivated to innovate or change their ways, which affects their growth and company.
You Eventually Will Become Obsolete if You Stop Change
Fear of the unknown is among the most prominent reasons for resistance. People will only take active steps into the unknown if they genuinely believe – and, perhaps more significantly, feel – that the risks of remaining stationary are more significant than the risks of going forward in a different direction.
If the reason behind your resistance to change is fear, then you need to know that not accepting change will eventually cause you to become obsolete.
Teams who perform the same task every day will never have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities or learn anything new to contribute to the company. People will never learn to build new skills if they perform the same thing every day, causing them to stop growing and eventually become obsolete.
The Fabric of Your Culture Will Erode if You Stop Change
Employees love working for a leader who has a clear vision and a plan for getting there. Employees may be ready to accept lower pay if they trust in the company’s mission or prospects. A lack of vision is a common shortcoming among leaders today, and this is evident whenever change becomes necessary.
It may be associated with leadership flaws such as a lack of focus, failure to motivate, or prioritizing. If the leaders don’t have a sense of direction, neither will their employees, and the fabric of your company’s culture will erode as a result.
You Will Lose Trust and Respect if You Stop Change
Although it can be tough to persuade employees to accept change, those with a positive attitude will benefit significantly from working with new ideas in organization development.
Being a guide of change, where you help people work through their issues, will place you in a much more advantageous position. But, what if the leader does not allow any of this by being resistant to change? Team members will see the leader as weak. It will ultimately cause you as the leader to lose the trust and respect of your team.
How to Overcome Your Resistance to Change
Being resistant to change is a problem for leaders as you pay a heavy price for halting any change efforts going about in your company. The good news is that you can overcome your reluctance to change by understanding your objections. Perhaps you don’t want to be consistent? You don’t want to be a great leader? Maybe you would rather sail into the sunset without any impact on your company, never leading any positive change. You may not care that you are perpetuating a dysfunctional system. Or perhaps it doesn’t matter to you even if you are entrenching dysfunction. Why leave the world worse off due to you being in it? Fight for positive change. Don’t embrace the aspects that hold back progress. You will most likely regret it.
Have a Plan and Process for Change and Stick to It
Figure out what’s bothering you. Is it the change itself or something else entirely? Is it the prospect of having to retrain or find a new job? Is it the threat of being laid off and the accompanying financial costs? Is it merely apprehension about the unknown?
Whatever your worries related to the change are, once you acknowledge them, you can confront them. After you’ve encountered them, you can begin to address them. Face your concerns front-on and work through them by creating a plan and process for change and then sticking to it.
Stay Strong in Your Convictions for What Is Right
When people dissent, do not give in to being the most “popular person.” You likely will want to be their friend or the “good person” and cave. Not standing your ground is a surefire way to eventually lose their trust and respect. Giving in may have short-term benefits. However, the long-term effects will be catastrophic. Instead, be a change guide, helping others realize and overcome their objections.
One way to have a high-performing team, including when change is necessary, is by building trust with them. And “trust” means doing what you say you will do and expecting others to do the same.
When people respect their leaders, they have earned their trust through time. Leaders may earn people’s trust by being open and honest and then include them in the transformation process. They can also foster an environment where people believe the change can be accomplished and managed for everyone’s benefit.
Take On Conflict and the Discussion Head-On
It is vital to include stakeholders and change implementers in the change process. People will be more engaged in the change and identify potential challenges and solutions if they work together. People are significantly less inclined to oppose change they have assisted in bringing about.
Therefore, you must take any discussion or conflict related to change being imposed head-on.
“Playing the good person” is not always guaranteed to garner your employees’ respect. The contrary may be true. Great leaders aren’t scared to face or bring forward sensitive subjects (when necessary).
You send the impression that you don’t trust yourself or your decisions if you repeatedly avoid conflict. A strong leader does not avoid difficult situations; instead, they tackle them with confidence and resolve the problem.
Do Not Offload Blame
When things go wrong, a true leader gracefully accepts their due share of the blame. Taking blame does not imply making oneself a scapegoat, but it does mean taking responsibility for your faults. If you blame others for not continuing the process or blaming outside consultants for whatever reason, you are blaming the WRONG people.
Accepting change, growing, and developing from new opportunities you offer is critical for you, your employees, and your company’s success. Resisting change will inevitably result in a slew of issues for everyone involved. So, do not be resistant to change—be the mentor and guide of change, help others through it, and take it head-on. You will leave a positive legacy, and your company, and indeed the world, will be better off for it.