How to Overcome Resistance and Lead Change Like an Irish Octogenarian

If you had to choose a country that would resist gay marriage, Ireland would be a safe choice.  At least in the western world. 

Yet somehow, in 2015 a national referendum legalizing gay marriage miraculously passed.

As Seth Godin writes in This Is Marketing, it was a heartfelt video made by Brighid and Paddy White about having a gay son and what the referendum meant to them that broke through the resistance and inspired this change.

Incidentally, the Whites are Roman Catholics in their 80’s. They’re also human.

There are different ways to approach resistance to change. As illustrated in the gay marriage referendum, a good and human story is one.

However, before you can overcome resistance or expect your team/s to embrace change, you’ve got to understand the reasons behind it.

Is it skepticism due to change fatigue? 

“Oh, not another one!”

Is it fear due to expected or unknown consequences?  Ones that MAY NOT be true.

“They won’t need my skill set after this merger!”

Perhaps it’s a fear of losing one’s voice during the transition.

Whatever the reason/s behind the resistance, the best way to deal with it is to understand where it’s coming from.  That is, if you really want to lead people through it.

Where to start? 

First, you need to be aware of the “Emotions, Needs & Drivers of Your Team”, as seen on LEVEL 2 on THE AWARENESS PYRAMID:

OK, how does one go about that?

Here are a few practical examples of what I mean:


If you want their active support, you’ve got to know how to inspire them.  To inspire people, you’ve got to get the narrative right.  What’s the story behind the change?  Where did it come from and what’s the purpose?  What are the intended benefits and how is it going to work, i.e., the WHAT, WHY and HOW.

To activate the emotions, there’s no better way than a good story.

Do you think the referendum would have passed without the White’s story?


Coming back to the fear of losing one’s voice, the need to be heard is human. Under any circumstances, change or no change. 

Therefore, they need to know that during the transition and potential chaos, there will be mechanisms for their voice to be heard.

For a change to be successful and really “stick”, it needs a sound Communication Strategy – one that is flexible and is built to be adapted to new and emerging needs and concerns. 

For example, make a part of the weekly team meeting about the change and have a platform to voice needs and concerns.

Warning: If you listen to these needs and concerns, you need to act on them, i.e. “follow up”.  Otherwise, they’ll quickly see their voice and your concern as meaningless.


If you want them to embrace and, in the best case, help you drive the change, they’ve got to be aware of its benefits.  For you to know what benefits to communicate, you’ve got to know what drives and motivates them. 

For example, if you know a few reports want more responsibility or authority, tell them there’s likely to be a leadership vacuum during the transition – “a fantastic opportunity to step in and take a leadership role”.

To review, here are 3 actionable strategies –

  1. Get clear on the WHAT, WHY & HOW and inspire them with the story.

2. Create ways for them to voice new needs and concerns (e.g. time slot at weekly meeting).

3. Highlight the potential benefits at every chance.

This is the first of three articles which address specific Pain Points as reported to me by Path To Peak Performance readers in the summer of 2019.

All three articles feature THE AWARENESS PYRAMID in the suggested strategies to addressing the top Pain Points.

THE AWARENESS PYRAMID is a simple visual tool designed to help leaders focus on what key elements they need to be aware of at SELF, OTHER and ENVIRONMENT (e.g. “Emotions, Needs & Drivers of Your Team”) .

Here it is in full, LEVELS 1 – 3:

The next two articles will look at “how to inspire and motivate others to act” and “how to manage the growing team/stakeholder/organizational expectations around you”.

What is a current personal Pain Point you’d like to read about?