Roots of Resistance to Change

Roots of Resistance to change—yours and clients’—can cause problems and distractions.

Reactions to change, whatever they are based on, are most disruptive when they arise between professionals and their prospects and clients, especially when a transaction is involved. Resistance to change is usually grounded in frustration, vulnerability, past experience, or miscommunication, not in change itself:

  • Resistance can arise when the interests of one individual or group seem to be, or are, ignored, misinterpreted, or disadvantaged by others.
  • Entrenched roots of stereotypes and prejudice in one group may lead to other individuals or groups being labeled “resistant to new ideas or procedures” before they actually reveal their true reactions.

Roots: Resistance to change is not always the wrong reaction, nor is it always negative.

Restraint may be the right approach when the change in question is not an improvement, carries overlooked ramifications, is not the best alternative to achieve desired results, or is more about professional gain than benefiting clients. Expertise and Forward Thinking are common resources for constructive resistance to change.

Predicting how individuals and groups will react to change remains a challenge for even the most sophisticated professional.

To anticipate and constructively respond to client resistance to change, you must be conscious of how you react, especially when you don’t initiate the change:

  • Have you always done it this way?
    Expect to uncover more opportunities and possibilities for yourself and your clients when you investigate the relevance of existing standards, policies, and other aspects of delivering services or products. This review of effectiveness may also reveal refinements that will improve delivery and client outcomes.
  • Take a fresh look at what you do and why.
    Too often, incorporating technology, online options, and mobile computing does not capitalize on fresh new delivery and communication opportunities. For instance, incorporating social media and online networking, without shifting from an advertising “I pay, I say” or “I’m number one” attitude to one that is genuinely open and interactive undermines the communication opportunity. Liberate your thinking from dated constraints and ensure context is aligned with clients’ changing needs.
  • Do you go beyond the expected in every aspect of service?
    Do not expect clients to modify their needs, so they can squeeze into your existing standard products and services. If you do, how do you rationalize the fact that clients will not be fully satisfied? Your competition may see your policy as their opportunity even if you miss the point.
  • Is time on the job—being in business for a decade or two, or outliving the competition—the main reason you’re a success?
    Time-built “empires,” particularly when saturated with “we’ve always done it that way” thinking, can be quickly undermined by shifting economies, converging trends, and innovative competition. After years establishing your reputation and your practice, it’s easy to become complacent, even arrogant. Add to this pressure, the increasingly-changeable interests of clients themselves.
  • Is chronological age the most significant target characteristic?
    Why do so many organizations and professionals persist in categorizing clients and themselves—by chronological age? Chronological age is irrelevant in this century.

    1. Do you believe that broad demographic similarities in target clients and their situations tell you all you need to know to retain business and attract new clients?
    2. How do you ensure you don’t miss significant opportunities arising from subtle differences in target clients and their situations—some they may not be aware of themselves?

New roots: This is the Age of The Individual.

Emphasis should rest on “individualizing” services and products, online and off. Use technology to tailor content and process to individual goals, needs, and styles. Engage social media to make your listening and clients’ feedback more effective. Demand more from your contributions and expertise.

The economic turmoil of this century was caused by the flawed thinking of individuals who had power and felt little accountability. The mediocre who followed them added to the collapse. A lot has happened since then. In your industry or profession, what has really improved for clients?

Experience may teach some professionals or clients how to set the stage when fresh thoughts and clear analysis—Forward Thinking—are required. What we experience raises awareness of how various aspects of life influence us as individuals—our thinking, self-worth, values, sense of humor, productivity, decision making….

For other professionals or individuals, similar experience may obscure the why behind how they act and react, and what they believe and value, and, therefore, entrench resistance to change. How we consciously react to what happens to us can build barriers or open minds to influence behavior and decision making. It’s our choice.

Excerpt from “What’s Your Point?” by PJ Wade

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