starting a fire

How To Make Change Catch Fire While Quashing The Resistance

How did you feel the first time you went to the airport with an e-ticket instead of a paper one?

Pretty naked if you started traveling in the 90’s like me…

“Never leave home without your ID, money or ticket.”

I realize there’s a whole generation or two who might laugh at this 20th-century “Golden Rule”.

However, the e-ticket was revolutionary at the time – unwelcomed by those of us who’d grown attached to the paper ones, as well.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the first e-ticket was issued in 1994. 

Despite a slow start, this is a change that caught fire. 

But not without resistance, I’m sure.

So the question is: How do you effectively lead change while minimizing with the inevitable resistance?

What Does It Take?

A leader is chosen or self-appointed to help an organization grow.

Anyone who’s ever been part of a great organization knows that change is vital to growth.

Nevertheless, people are resistant to change.

Reduced job security, loss of status and responsibility, fading career opportunities – a few of the real and imagined risks when it comes.

So what kind of leader does it take to convince a customer base to abandon their secure paper? 

A leader who can inspire a shared vision and communicate the shared benefits of the change, i.e. build a compelling case for it.

A shift in the way people treat the environment doesn’t hurt either.

3 Ways To Ignite Change

Here are 3 simple ways to help you approach resistance and make change catch fire in your team, group or organization:

  1. Share your vision and the attached benefits, i.e. make the change compelling for all.

Some people my not see any clear benefits or advantages of the change. It’s your job to paint a clear vision.

In some cases you need to sit down with and have a one-to-one conversation – talk through their resistance help them find a silver lining.

If it benefits only a few, it won’t catch fire!

  1. Acknowledge the real and perceived risks – don’t avoid the elephant in the room.

    Again, take the time to sit down with resistors and listen to their fears and concerns.

    Once they’ve had a chance to express their feelings and see that you really hear them, they’ll be much more open to what comes next.

    PRO TIP: People prefer honestly, even when it’s hard. Talk straight, build trust.

  2. Make the opportunities outweigh the risks.

    Increased responsibility, higher profile, better career prospects. These are a few classic change opportunities.

    It’s your job to make them stand out especially when resistance is high.

    Think about it – if people were so attached to the status quo they’d still be at their first job.

Lead With SMART Communication

Make the change compelling to all by clearly communicating how it will specifically benefit them.

Here are 5 SMART communication strategies to lead with:

  • Swift – if something changes or emerges address is swiftly.
  • Mindful – be mindful of what people feel – listen to their thoughts and feelings, don’t dismiss them.
  • Authentic – don’t adopt “corporate speak”; if you want people to hear you, be your true self.
  • Regular – check in with people on a regular basis in case of new concerns or developments.
  • Transparent – in everything you do, do it transparently; don’t sugarcoat or mislead people.

If there are no clear or immediate benefits, get creative and dig deeper – every cloud has a silver lining…and not always on first sight.

Remember, change is vital to growth. However, people are resistant to change. Therefore, you have to build a compelling case for it to catch fire.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. To make change catch fire in your team or organization, book a FREE call with me today

  • Hi Tim.
    thanks for the article.
    Although all these communication strategies aren’t that new to me I think it is a really nice acronym that helps leaders to keep in mind these essential aspects when communicating!
    I will definitely use them with my participants.

  • Hi Tim, I’ve also read the “70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their goals” statistic. The main reason is the wrong type of communication. Too many executives go for either a mechanistic, top-down (i.e. one-way) approach to communicating or launch a marketing campaign to “sell” the change. It’s as if they are scared of the authentic interactions you talk about. At best, this becomes a high-quality monologue; at worst, an echo-chamber. Either way it leads to failed change initiatives.

    I really like your SMART acronym. You allude to what I say is one vital element in successful change: dialogue. A mindful, regular and transparent (to borrow your terms) dialog with all stakeholders is the basis of winning change initiatives. A dialogue builds the basis of trust and motivates employees to change. Better to have an imperfect dialogue than a high-quality monologue.

    • Yes, absolutely agree. Also, a dialogue is 2-way, monologues 1-way. 2-way dialogues make people feel like they have an equal voice. THanks for your comment, Steven!