11 ways to help stakeholders overcome resistance to change

When a business rolls out new initiatives, buy-in from its stakeholders is essential to helping those initiatives succeed. However, people can sometimes be unwilling to try something new.
The Business Journals

This challenge provides leaders with an opportunity to help stakeholders overcome their resistance to change. Here, 11 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their advice for leaders who are facing this challenge.

1. Use human-centered design thinking.
Use a human-centered design thinking approach. The best way to handle resistance is to prevent or lessen it. If these are truly stakeholders, they stand to win or lose as a result of this initiative. Getting clear on desired outcomes and how the stakeholders measure success is key. Resistance usually is a result of being dictated to versus being consulted, considered or co-created with. – Kim Baker, Vivid Performance Group

2. Communicate change in clear terms.
Effective leaders communicate change in clear and tangible terms, not just ideological perspectives, sharing each new initiative and how and when to measure success. Such communications must be concrete, honest and frequent. And if a new initiative doesn’t succeed, it is imperative to communicate openly with the rest of the team so that future experimentation is rewarded, not punished. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.

3. Ask a small beta team to try for 30 days.
Change is always hard. When I introduce a new idea that I know my team will resist, I ask a small beta team to try it for 30 days. If we scrap it after this beta test, it means we didn’t see the results we were looking for. Most of the time, I win champions for the change and then the rest of the team jumps on board. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

4. Get them to participate in ideation.
Buy-in doesn’t imply simply getting stakeholders’ endorsement and support once you have a new initiative to approve. It means getting stakeholders involved from the beginning of the process through the execution and promotion. If you get stakeholders to participate in the ideation, they will be as convinced of the need for change as you are and will be your best supporters. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

5. Make it clear how change is beneficial.
Find a way to help people buy into the change. Make it clear to those who are resistant how the change will benefit them. By highlighting potential benefits and instilling excitement in that group of people, they will be ready and willing for the change to occur, as the change will be seen as something that will bring value rather than a burden they have no control over. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

6. Discuss the pros and cons of change.
Present a comprehensive argument to stakeholders to discuss the pros and cons of moving forward with any new initiative. This will ensure that all sides are being heard and a path forward can be determined. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Demonstrate the cost of passing on it.
The best way to make a change, or at least gain support for a new initiative, is to demonstrate how the cost of not implementing the initiative is more costly than actually embracing it. The challenge is to quantify how the current way is sucking resources and profits compared to the alternative. Incentivizing teams to implement changes typically helps as well. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

8. Socialize big ideas before jumping in.
Bank of America taught me to socialize big ideas before heading into a larger meeting. Determine stakeholders’ concerns, figure out where they can add value, express the tremendous value they add and use their words to create the connectivity and feeling that it is their idea. Directly ask for their support as a favor in upcoming discussions and ask them to help lead the conversation to drive this change. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

9. Involve them in the decision-making process.
Normally stakeholders from multiple departments are involved in the decision-making process, each coming with their own priorities of importance based on how they’re impacted. I make sure I’m doing my homework and am coming prepared to overcome any objections that might be shared by each member. This includes if accounting wants to know the cost to implement, sales needs to see how it impacts revenue, etc.. – Messina Truttman, Beck Flavors

10. Get stakeholders’ perspective on strategy.
Gain stakeholders’ perspectives when devising a strategy. Be prepared to provide examples of the challenge that lies ahead or of a solution that was successfully developed due to an initiative being rolled out. Also, encourage questions up front and make all affected parties aware that adjustments may occur along the way as the initiative takes better shape. – Carlos Munguia, Amegy Bank

11. Ask key questions about desired results.
Nobody likes to change if they think the current way of doing things is fine. That is human nature. Leaders need to discuss why the current way is not the most effective. This is not just telling but asking key questions about whether you are getting the desired results and whether there is room for improvement. Once people understand the why behind the change, they are much more likely to “buy in.” – Gary Braun, Pivotal Advisors, LLC