Podcast EP 125 | What to do When Your Team is Resisting Change

Sometimes you’re clear about a change that needs to happen, but team members might resist that change. It doesn’t make sense. You understand why and how the change is required, but team members are fighting that change in an illogical or unreasonable way.

In this episode of the podcast, Kevin and Brad review what to do when your team is resisting change. Using Kotter’s Change Model, they discuss how to:

  1. Create Urgency. The first step is to create a sense of urgency about the need for change.
  2. Put A Team Together.
  3. Develop Vision and Strategies.
  4. Communicate the Change Vision.
  5. Remove Obstacles.
  6. Set Short-Term Goals.
  7. Keep the Momentum.
  8. Make The Change Stick.




Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Brad Giles  00:13

Hello, and welcome to the Growth Whisperers where everything we talk about is building enduring great companies, companies that last companies that you’re proud of, and that the team are proud of. My name is Brad Giles. And as always, today I’m joined by my co host, Kevin Lawrence. Hello. How are you doing today?

Kevin Lawrence  00:30

Doing great, Brad. We’re in the middle of our summer and have an amazing time. Life is good. How about down there in Australia?

Brad Giles  00:38

I’m same, coming out of winter. And life is good. So let’s move on to the thought of the word of the day. What do you have for us today Kev?

Kevin Lawrence  00:49

You know, it’s Greenlights. I listened to this amazing audio book, did a road trip down to California and back had an amazing time, and in some of those many, many hours, listen to a great audio book by Matthew McConaughey, the actor, it was just a freaking inspiring story of his life. We create a lot of philosophical discussions for us and thoughts on life and all kinds of awesome things. But every time he came up against a challenge, and then all of a sudden there would be a breakthrough, or almost like an affirmation from the world. When something went well, he calls green light in his amazing voice, which I don’t have like his, but his green lights with it was all celebrating these moments where doors open to the next level of the game of life. And it just makes me think about, you know, green lights, and all of the freaking amazing things that happened in this journey that we have. And the green lights that open up for us and how we should just note them, think about them. Be grateful for them. And then enjoy what that door open. So greenlights is just awesome. Getting to the next level. And yeah, and worthy of celebration. That’s it for me. How about you, Brad?

Brad Giles  02:11

Awesome. Yeah, I haven’t read that book. But I’ve skimmed it, and it looks really good. So for me, it’s been looking in the mirror, or are you looking in the window? So that’s a phrase, I got to see Jim Collins last week. And he’s really talking about responsibility. So when something goes wrong, are you looking in the mirror and saying, Well, I did it wrong. It’s on me? Or are you looking out the window and saying the team? Did it wrong? Or this person did it wrong? It’s on them. But equally and opposite? When something goes right. Are you looking in the mirror and saying, yeah, it was all me I did it right? Or you’re looking out the window humbly? And say yes. Look how good the team did. So yeah, I know that concept from before. But Jim was talking about level five leadership. And it was just a really good reminder of that.

Kevin Lawrence  03:05

Yeah, when we do talent reviews with teams, we use seven questions from Jim. And that’s one of them. And really, if they’re more of the window person, when things go wrong, that’s almost a fatal flaw for them to be on our teams. If we can’t fix it, we generally have to exit them. So the connection in terms of these two concepts is if you’re more likely to look into the mirror and reflect and learn, I think you’re going end up with more awesome green lights in your world. Right? Looking out the window when things go wrong, leads to red lights, looking in the mirror leads to green lights. Awesome. Let’s move on. So today, today, we got a really interesting topic. Now, in our mind most weeks, but today is one that we come across a lot. I had a conversation with the CEO about this last week. But and this is about change, and what to do when your team resists change. You’ve got a great idea. That’s an improvement for the company in some way. But you feel like you’re dragging the team almost like when you’re trying to take a dog for a walk that doesn’t want to walk and you feel like you’re dragging down the sidewalk, which we’ve had to do with my kids dog a few times. We’ve got an awesome dog with Baker’s dog. He’s a great dog. But every once in awhile, he decides he doesn’t want to walk and lies down on the sidewalk. Yeah. And the many times that happens with our teams is they just lie down. They’re like, we’re not standing for this.

Brad Giles  04:38

And you as the leader, you’re saying, but this is a great idea. Like no, I know it’s gonna work. It’s brilliant. Why are you being so obstructive? I don’t get it. Yes.

Kevin Lawrence  04:48

I’ve been working on this for months and working it out and thinking it through and validated. I know it’s an awesome idea and you don’t. Here’s the key. Yes, you have been thinking about this for months and working on it for months, and you have had plenty of time to get your head around it. They’re, well, they’re at Ground Zero, you’ve talked about it 14 times for four hours or 14 hours. And we forget. And it’s not that the idea isn’t good. But there’s a process for you to take an idea from being unacceptable to. I think there’s something here and you work your way through an idea? Well, there are at the beginning, like, they’re like a child learning to ride a bike for the first time, and your axe, asking them to go ride up and down a mountain. And they can’t even get the pedals figured out.

Brad Giles  05:48

So an example of this might be, if I said to you, Kev, we’re going to switch the podcast from weekly to daily. And we’re gonna record it at 6am Every day, and it’s gonna be awesome, let’s do it.

Kevin Lawrence  06:03

No matter how good, that could be a brilliant idea, but I’m gonna initially resist unless it’s something I already wanted. Yes. And odds are, it’s a new idea that you’re trying to get into people’s heads. So this is the idea of what do you do when your team resists change. And the reality is, we are change, we’re supposed to be change masters in our role. So there’s a number of great books by an author named John Kotter. And he has his 8-step change model. And we’ll talk through that a little bit today. But the main thing I learned about a decade ago, when I learned his principles, because I don’t know about you, if the team resists, I’m about as persistent as a bulldozer with infinite fuel. I’ll just keep going. I’m not going to stop. But it creates a lot of tension and, and destruction way of getting to the outcome. So what Kotter says, and I think about this, a lot, and we do a lot of this with teams that want to change isn’t working, we can go and run through the eight steps, or before we do it, ideally, we go and plan based on his eight steps. But the biggest thing is that initial buy in and if you don’t create the urgency, or don’t get that buy in it, they’re not going to do it. So we’re willing to explain it really clearly. Is that is that you know, when it comes to change, and you’re trying to shift someone’s perspective, unfortunately, most of our decisions are emotionally based. And executives or leaders try to justify things logically. So you’ve got an emotional problem. Because people have emotions, like fear, or anxiety, or distrust, they have all these emotions that are fired up when you want to talk about a change and how it’s going to affect them. And this isn’t right, this is fair, you’re trying to take away power, or you’re trying to give an unfair amount of work to me, whatever it comes up for them. It’s all emotional reactions generally. And but we have this emotional problem then we take a logical solution. And we wonder why. So first of all, sometimes we don’t even know that there’s a problem. And we’re just pushing ahead wondering why everyone’s falling behind, and not with us to even if we do when we realize a problem, we take a logical approach. And then we’ve doubled trouble.

Brad Giles  08:27

It’s like oil and water, you can’t get an emotional problem solved via logic, you’ve got to stop and go to the emotions. There’s a phrase that I like to say, the team who build the plan, don’t fight the plan. And so you’ve got to get the team on board in building the plan.

Kevin Lawrence  08:49

So in one of Kotter’s examples, and I love this book is this book called, Our iceberg is melting. It’s a story about penguins. I don’t think I have it in front of me right now. It’s a story about penguins. And it’s a cartoon book. It looks like a kid’s book. Now he has a book called The heart of change and a bunch of other deeper, you know, intellectual books, but we use the penguin book. There’s a book that used to be a great book about change. It’s a bit dated now, but it’s called Who Moved My Cheese? Yeah, but his iceberg book is way better than Who Moved My Cheese. In my mind. It’s outstanding. We’ve used it with hundreds and hundreds of leaders in different companies. And that’s a story about a penguins whose iceberg is actually melting. But what it actually is all the different characters which kind of show the different approaches that people take, but it’s about you know, what it actually took to mobilize the team and get it going and in the story in the simple essence is, they had the professor they call him in it, who tried to explain to people what was happening scientifically had charts and data and spreadsheets. And there was a You know, and in the end, they got a guy. I believe his name was Fred, who kind of was the ringleader on a bunch of this stuff. And it was Fred, I think was a different Fred was the ringleader who got it going. But the guy that they got to persuade and get the whole group of penguins behind this, the whole community was the guy who was the salesman all members name. And while he was the best salesman in a group, and he got up there and charged up people and move their emotions and got them to buy into it with some, I won’t tell the whole story. But basically, they used a very smart approach, which fell into quarters, eight steps. So there’s a great example he has one of his books about centralizing procurement. So imagine you’re a company with 10 factories around the country, whether you’re Brad’s country, Australia, or North America where I am. And imagine that you all have your independent pieces, and all the procurement people are doing a great job in their mind. But then head office wants to centralize it and centralize all the buying. So as soon as the procurement team hears about centralizing the buying, what can you expect is going to come up? They’re not going to be excited. You’re going to be taken away their power, taken away their authority, so whatever they call corporate, there’s gonna be all these stories about centralizing and whether or not they like the person, but it takes away their importance, their power, their authority, all this stuff, which is predictable. It’s not surprising, no different than if you took it from corporate and decentralized it, the corporate people are going to feel that way. Because you’re taking something away from them. It’s human nature, but not bad. But basically, what they did is that they’re the leader in charge was very smart. And he had all the procurement people in for a meeting at head office, and on a boardroom table, he had a big pile of gloves. Now the meeting was supposed to start at 830. But he artificially told them the meeting started at eight, so they’d be there early. And on the each pair of gloves had a piece of paper stapled to the glove with a location name and a price. So you will imagine that of all these different pairs, they’d have like San Jose 17 bucks, and then they would have, you know, Parsippany and it would be three bucks. And though they’re identical gloves, because they use the same gloves in their in their manufacturing facility. So what happened is the prices range from three to 17 in the story. And by the time the leader came in someone’s like, by gosh, we need to centralize procure, we need to work together here, we’re getting ripped off by our suppliers. This isn’t right. We could save 10s of 1000s of dollars, but we got to work together. And don’t let the supplier screw us anymore. Yeah, because Emotionally, it was embarrassing. For some, it was exciting. For others, it’s embarrassing, but it was a travesty to the company.

Brad Giles  13:15

And the team built the plan, I get back to the 10 to build a plan, don’t fight the plan, we’ve got to get that emotional buy in.

Kevin Lawrence  13:23

Exactly. So the idea here, and you know, we’ll walk through quarters, eight steps. But the essence is, is you’ve got to get people buying in. And so another example is, we were doing an acquisition. And in the market we were in we were number one. And we dominated like to the point where we’re aggressive and really hurt competitors. This competitor was relieved that we purchased them. But we also know that in this battle, we were the bad guys, they were relieved because we were going to kill their business. But at the same time, we were evil in their mind. So we had to create an activity to get them buying into because they had some amazing talent. Even though we beat them in the market, they did have some awesome people we wanted to retain. So we created a very special event. And this was in a very tropical location, a very special event where we brought people together. And we engineered who sat with each other. And we went through some things, doing some exercises to basically bond the team create human connections, we of course, we talked about our plan and what we’re doing as a company and how they were a critical part. But most of it was emotional bonding, getting them to go from being a foe to being a friend and making sure that people made deep connections. And basically the whole focus of it was to get to know those people, and we engineered a whole bunch of activities. So then they became excited about oh, these people aren’t jerks. We want to be a part of this.

Brad Giles  15:01

Going back to that the CFO, no disrespect to our good CFO friends could have gone out there and explained all of the merits of the transaction, the CFO, or even the CEO could have gone out there and said, This is why we’re doing it. And you’ve got no choice in it. But this is why it economically make sense. And these are all of the facts and all of the data. And it would be just again, like oil in into water, like it just won’t work. It just doesn’t mix exactly that with the emotions when you need to enact change.

Kevin Lawrence  15:40

Exactly. You know, the, the one that we were able to stop because of other ones, but there’s AI in IT systems. It’s a nightmare. Generally, the stats I’ve heard is most ERP solutions, and CRMs would be similar. There’s about a 50% failure rate. And these things in large companies are 10s of millions of dollars. It’s a massive failure rate. You know, what percent of time the software doesn’t work? It’s next to zero. Yeah, it’s a failure rate, because people are used to doing things one way. And then they’re asked the system requires them to do a different way. And they resist the change. Yeah, it’s because they haven’t bought into the change. And they’re often not educated enough on the system. But I’ll give you a really bad example is, so we had a company that did a Salesforce implementation, they were I think they were about $10 million into it. across the whole platform, and Salesforce salespeople are brilliant. And you can do this. And you can do that, that all the bells and whistles. And the IT guys, I think they were thinking that they were going to get an the equivalent of an Academy Award for their performance of building the system. And they were doing all the cool stuff that it guys and gals could do and had all the cool stuff. They you know, the vendors gave them an award for it, which is I’ve learned is a dangerous sign. But the root of it is they built this brilliant system without the operators. Yeah, well, the operators are the users are the people that use it. And they thought they knew best. So you go and design this system for millions of dollars with all this cool, sexy stuff that makes you feel loved by the vendors and up for awards for innovation. But the reality, the people who are going to use this system aren’t involved. And you basically build a complicated, sexy, but stupid system. That’s ineffective. So when they rolled out even if it was perfect, but when they rolled it out without any involvement, of course, people are going to resist because it’s your system, not mine. On top of it, they made a whole bunch of horrible choices. And again, after $10 million after trying to roll it out. It was a flawed system. Although technically cool, they put it in the bin and started again, they threw it away. Yeah, $10 million, and months and months of people’s time, because they just didn’t get people’s buy in, had another company. I got so many examples of this stuff. But they were just about to roll out a new payroll system. I’m in a meeting in the boardroom. And they said, and I guess, you know, the watch was that, yeah, yeah, we don’t we got that. Because there are a company with mobile technicians that are in the field and the CEOs, super smart guy, but as his head of operations was in charge of this, and I happened to be with a bonus, okay, great. So have you battle tested, so the basic was a system on the phone to manage all of the text time. So it’s really cool and slick and how it goes into the billing system for the customers. That’s all amazing. But the so they were excited about the internal efficiencies. So I said, Well, how many texts have you had battle testing this? And then the head of operations and none? Okay. How many? How much time have you spent educating the techs about the new system? Oh, they don’t even know what they don’t even know. It’s coming. And this is a national company. And I asked about a half a dozen more questions. And I’m like, okay, so I can pretty confidently tell you what’s going to happen. Yeah, you’re going to have an absolute nightmare. They are going to reject it like a virus because they haven’t been consulted. You’re asking technicians who are used to doing things on pencil and paper to do everything digitally? Yes, I know. It’s very convenient for you head office. It from a corporate perspective. It’ll be brilliant. It’s just not going to roll. Yeah, so I said I said and this is rolling out in 10 days, I said to the CEO said hey, you know, it’s your calls, but from my perspective, this is going to be a catastrophe predictably and I pulled out the eight steps a quarter and we talked about it because you have no buy in it’s hard enough to in the first place Anyways, long story short, they hauled off three months and went through us quarters, eight steps and then it rolled out just fine. So it’s although it’s Not rocket science, it’s just that they had been working on it. They were so they’ve been working on it for six months, they were so convinced that it was so good that they forget that the other people haven’t even heard of it and are at zero.

Brad Giles  20:12

And it’s an unmitigated disaster if you don’t follow this logical framework. So I want to bring us back to first of all, relative podcast episode that we’ve done, which is #114, CEOs must become meeting masters. Yep. So the CEO only has one tool. That’s episode 114. So let’s maybe step through these eight steps, no pun intended there. In Kotter’s change model. So first up, we’ve got creating urgency. So the first step is creating a sense of urgency about the need for change, going back to the example that you just provided, the end users didn’t even know that it was coming. So there was definitely no sense of urgency. So we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got that the people understand there’s a problem. We’ll go back to the gloves. Example. Those executives walked into that room, they saw all the gloves with the different prices, they understood the problem, and that created the urgency.

Kevin Lawrence  21:19

Yes. So again, easy to do, but it’s usually the step where people fail. Yeah, because the executives are so far down the road, or the team leader, and they forget to bring the team with them and warm them up again. The second is put together a team. Once you get we get the organization ready and feeling the need to make a change, pull together, a team of people are going to start to work on it. And often, like in that company with technicians, I said, Who is your most senior and or influential, influential technician? Get him or her? Right? Who is your biggest naysayer, get him or her. Because if you got your most influential, and your biggest resistor, involve them in it upfront, and you will end up with a better plan because their ideas, even the resistors ideas can often be valuable.

Brad Giles  22:10

Yeah, people who build a plan I fought it.

Kevin Lawrence  22:13

Exactly. And then and then develop the vision and strategy. Okay, what’s the vision of what we’re going to do and the strategy to get there? Once people are on this path, that’s fairly normal, but they communicate that vision.

Brad Giles  22:26

So that’s just for the points kept sorry. So we’ve just gone through a few there, I just for the listeners want to make sure. So number one is create urgency. Number two is put the team together get the person who’s most and least influential, or the biggest critic. Number three, you said there was developed a vision and strategy, like what will be the compelling thing that we’re working towards? Number four, communicate, communicate the change vision.  I love this one, because there’s another article from HBR, I forget the title, but what they basically say there is that leaders often under communicate by a factor of 10. And so I always say over communicate, like you’ve got to over communicate, so people really understand. So communicate, the change in vision is number four here.

Kevin Lawrence  23:22

Yeah, and just share that and rally the team. Often people will come up with a project name, you know, or a theme around it to kind of get people to grab onto that now, you got to make sure number ones in place they’re bought in otherwise, just having a theme isn’t that effective. But if it gives people focus and gets people excited about what we’re trying to achieve. Number five is just remove obstacles, there will be all kinds of issues. And one of the big things within removing obstacles, is to get everyone a job to do. Like try and get as many people as you can having jobs and it so goes wide throughout the organization, if it’s an organization wide initiative, have have strong short term goals that you continue to have them and are able to celebrate them and be able to get people excited about what happens like you, you need to pre engineer the wins. As in, you need to say okay, because we’re in the middle of it, you’re in the heat of the battle and you forget, and so positive things in this world get a lot of celebration and accolades. So you’ve got to pre engineer it and plan for all the little celebrations, all the little points of confidence and affirmation that we’re doing the right thing.

Brad Giles  24:42

That’s number six set short term goals. We’ve got to make sure that there are these milestones along the way. So we know we’re progressing and be like you said, we can kind of celebrate those goals as they occur. Number seven is keep the momentum. We’re going to make sure we’re working toward that goal.

Kevin Lawrence  25:00

Yeah, and there’s gonna be, there’s gonna be issues and frictions that happen in the organization. And you just got to be willing, and this is where you might use a little bit of a bulldozer to push through, you still have to be able to push through. And then finally, number eight, make the change stick is to try and then build it into your culture that you continue to change, because cultures get stagnant were nothing changes. So always trying to keep a little bit of change happening. So people are also used to change and becoming an organization that’s effective with change. Again, not too much, not too little, just the right amount.

Brad Giles  25:35

I love that coaches get stagnant when nothing changes. That’s awesome. Yeah.

Kevin Lawrence  25:41

So the essence of this is we’ve all had the experience where we feel like we’re dragging people. And generally, it’s our fault, not theirs. There’s nothing initially, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with them. And even your biggest critics initially, they’ll provide good feedback to improve your thinking. Now, once the decision is made, and we’re pushing ahead, those people need to get in line and support. But it’s our job to make it easy for them to get in line. And if you follow these steps, you’ve got a dramatically better chance of doing well, it doesn’t mean that the change disappears. It just means you understand what’s going on. And you know what you need to do to get there. And last story I’ll share with you over 10 years ago, my partner and I, I was thinking about moving probably 14 years ago, I really wanted to move. And I finally moved but the 14 I started, but I couldn’t get them convinced to move. Like there was no I was like I was the only younger in my career. I wanted the big house and the big property and all those kinds of things. But they didn’t want to leave the place that we’re in. And one day, and it took me a long time. I didn’t understand this stuff. I would do it much faster next time. But one day, they made a comment about how the kitchen we had friends over the kitchen just had some core issues with the kitchen. And then it hit me. And then I was like, yeah, that’s horrible. That’s right, we must change that we deserve better. But they had dissatisfaction with the kitchen, which opened up, there was now a reason to move. Where before everything was fine, there was no reason to move. And that’s what creating urgency or getting buy in, you’ve got to find that little thing. That that really rallies people and touches on a chord that either whether it’s fear or anxiety or dissatisfaction or whatever it happens to be, then you can start to make the change, which is create urgency.

Brad Giles  27:46

Yeah, exactly. All right. So let’s, let’s go back to the beginning, what do you do when your team resists change so people can often leaders make changes in a business or in an organization without necessarily the buying of others. And that can lead to ineffective execution or resistance. So as I’ve said, several times the team, we build the plan, don’t fight the plan. We’ve got another Podcast, episode 114, which is CEO has only one tool – meetings, that is relevant to this. So let’s go through those eight steps of change quickly. I’ll go through the first four Kev, and then I’ll ask you to close it out from there. So step number one, in Kotter’s change model, create urgency, the first step is to create a sense of urgency about the need for change, we’ve got to appeal to the emotions and not the facts. Number two is to put a team together, make sure that team encapsulates the influential people. And it also encapsulates or it captures the critics. So everyone has a stake in the outcome. Number three, develop the vision and strategy. If we do this, where are we going to be? What’s going to be better? What what will be different? How will we improve our situation? Then number four, communicate the change vision broadly to the people in the organization. Kev? Do you want to walk us through the back end of the eight?

Kevin Lawrence  29:15

Yeah, then remove any obstacles that come up because they will set shirt to short term goals to achieve so that you can have lots of celebrations of accomplishment. And when you do hit resistance, find a way to keep going push forward because there will always be a bit of that but just do it smartly. Going back to the the buy in upfront. And then make the change stick and try to make it part of your culture. And as Brad kind of highlighted, you know, when not a lot of changes in the business, the business gets stagnant and you want to keep the change and constant improvement. Peace alive. was awesome. Great conversation. It’s such a passionate topic. I just you know, it’s like you don’t know what you don’t know when you don’t understand this is what’s going on. You think people are crazy, when in reality, you just haven’t done your job well, you just didn’t know. So thanks for listening. This has been the growth whispers podcast with myself Kevin Lawrence in Vancouver, Canada actually today in peachland British Columbia where I am when not in Vancouver and Brad Giles down in Perth, Australia. If you haven’t yet hit subscribe button and you’re welcome to give us a great rating if you’re thrilled with what we’re doing. For the video version, go to youtube.com and just search the growth whispers. Brad has an awesome newsletter that he puts a lot of work into. And you can get that at evolution partners.com.au And you can also find out more about what he does. And our firm as well has a newsletter goes out every week. Lots of great ideas, content and things that we like to share. And that’s Lawrence and co.com. Have an awesome week and good luck being more successful getting people to follow you when it comes to change. Have a good one.