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Leading change you don’t agree with? Rise above your emotions

Follow the LeaderI frequently blog about leading change, and in the past I’ve explained how people’s reaction to change follows a classic model (How to manage change in the workplace).  What happens though if you are responsible for leading and implementing change that you don’t agree with yourself?  What then?  Leading change you don’t agree with is not as unusual as you might think, and the bottom line answer is that you have to rise above your own emotions.  Yes, I know, easier said than done, but getting past your own reservations is critical if you’re going to maintain your credibility with your team.  You can’t move forward until you do.

Three strategies if  you’re leading change you don’t agree with

You have to start first by looking inwards at yourself.  How do you really feel about the change?  You have to come to terms with the change yourself before you can play an active and positive role in implementing it.  How do you accomplish this seeming impossible task?  Here are three ideas.

  1. First, make sure you understand the reasons for the change, even if you don’t agree with them.  Every decision or change has reasons behind it; you may not always agree with them, but they are always there.  So ask questions, not in an aggressive and threatening way, but with an open-minded approach with a goal of understanding.  It is possible to disagree and understand at the same time.
  2. Second, engage in some self-reflection step – uncover your own reasons for resistance.  Honestly look within yourself and try to understand why you are resistant to the change.  Is it because it affects you personally?  Will it make your work life more difficult?  Do you shudder at the thought of dealing with the negative fallout from angry clients and co-workers?  Is it because it is directly against what you suggested as the right approach?  Be honest with yourself.  I’m not asking you to share this with others, just be brutally honest with yourself.  The reality is that organizations make decisions that you may not always agree with, but if you’ve been charged with implementing, or perhaps even communication or leading it, you need to get over your own reservations about it.  And understanding, really understanding your own reasons for resistance will allow you to get over it and move forward.
  3. Third, identify the pain of not changing.  What would happen if you dug in your heels and refused to accept this change?  Again, be completely honest with yourself.  Will your manual process become unwieldy because everyone else has moved to an automated system?  Will you be the only person not coming on board and therefore branded as not being a team-player?  Will it affect your year-end performance ranking?  Honest answers to these questions will put things in perspective for you.  It will help you decide whether this issue is worth taking a stand on.  It will help you decide whether this issue is the hill you want to die on!

At the end of the day, if you’re going to cope with and thrive in times of change, even those you don’t agree with, you will have to find ways to rise above your own emotions.  It’s either that, or leave, or get left behind.  Your choice.

Agree or disagree?  Your thoughts?

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