womanReading a request for help from a LinkedIn Change Management group member on ‘how to handle people that will never support a change initiative’, I replied with some thoughts that I am happy to share with you on my Bayard blog:

Having years of experience with (DISC) behavior style assessments, I learned that people with high Social/Stable (S) styles and or Compliant/Conscientious (C) styles often show a higher resistance for change than people who are driven by fast results/goal settings (D styles) and even interaction/persuading (I styles).

People with a high behavior score on S and/or C have indeed a strong preference for stable, secure, non-conflicting, well organized environments. As a consequence they can indeed be extremely sensitive and generate stress (caused by fear or anger) when loosing security, especially if they have to work ad-hoc and adapt to ‘difficult’ new ways of working; receiving criticism, where they risk losing overview & credibility. However, their primary goal is not to work ‘against others’, but rather act ‘in favor of themselves’ in order to reduce stress/frustration.

Working with ‘S’ and/or ‘C’ types in a change project can indeed be very challenging, the more that a (Change) Manager has often an opposite behavior style: drive for moving fast, high level of interaction, goal oriented, direct, enthusiastic,…

If you want to inspire the others for change, the trick is that you will most probably have to move them to the change side by their own will/motivation and not ‘force’ them, as this will only be of very short influence, often not enough to finalize the change project.

For so far there is no option for putting strongly change resistant people on a side track until the change becomes an operational reality, here are some proven tips which can be helpful when team working with people who are highly resistant to change:

(Beware that this approach will most probably ask you to move out of your own comfort zone 🙂 )

In general:

  • Before talking with people be sure that you did your homework about finding out their most important strong/weak points, preferred/disliked environments (possibly via HR)
  • Take your time to listen, rather than convincing (talk less, listen more)
  • Compliment people for their work and accomplishments
  • Build in silent pauses so that they start talking first
  • Avoid at all-time attacking/judging them!
  • Do not feel offended by the fact that they can come over as pessimistic, it is simply a part of their personality to not always see things as bright as you do, but perhaps they can help you finding out weak points in your plan J

Related to the change:

  • Explain the importance of the change in terms of to the point people and organizational advantages:
    • For very analytical people (high C): be prepared for discussion and show details & facts, but do not exaggerate and give time for reflection.
    • For very social people (high S): be friendly, avoid discussions and talk about positive elements with regard to themselves and the team.
  • Let them speak about their comfort zones & strong points, ask them about their preferred/disliked environments (beware for not judging them)
  • Ask them if they have own proposals about avoiding unforeseen problems and if so would they be prepared to play a role in avoiding them? Try to define together with them well defined (change) activities in which they can contribute. In doing so, avoid activities in which have high risks for being criticized or are too difficult.
  • Use the technique of listening -> summarizing -> questioning: let them make proposals about their contributions, reach out some ideas but be aware for too much forcing, instead, coach them in making conclusions.

Another recommended action is to foresee coaching sessions for people with high resistance to change: a matter of helping them with better understanding why they react stressful on change and how they can feel more relaxed in our continuously changing organizations/world. Some easy to learn techniques as Relative Emotive Therapy (RET) can do miracles in days/weeks and form a perfect solution for as well the change project as burn-out prevention. However, this is content for another subject 🙂

Happy change & team working!