The Risks to the Change Agent

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this luke-warmness arriving partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had an actual experience of it. Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, the opponents do so with the zeal of partisans, the others only defend him halfheartedly, so that between them he runs great danger.    Machiavelli’s The Prince

Resist Change? Or Resist the Changers?

A recent conversation with a senior vice president of a company prompted these thoughts.

Note to consultants and folks in organizations who fancy themselves change agents:

People resist change for all kinds of reasons. But did you ever think it was you employees were resisting?

When you denigrate everything people did before you arrived, you demean them.

When you brag and try to impress people with all your past successes, people smell b.s.

When you manipulate people’s emotions to get them to buy into what you are selling, people resent you.

When you criticize other consultants and vendors the employees use, they want to defend them and resist you.

When you try to bully people  to get them to do your bidding, people will sabotage you.

When you “Monday Morning quarterback” everything that goes wrong instead of asking, “What happened and what can we learn from it,” people will quit telling you about problems.

When you then blame the employees for resisting change, you are mindless of your impact on others.

I’m not innocent. I did most of  those things at one time or another as a leader and as a consultant.

How about some simple rules for consultants and change agents:

  • Treat people like adults,
  • Tell the truth,
  • Be honest about your agenda,
  • Share information openly and widely,
  • Listen to employees; they know what is wrong and how to fix it,
  • Lead with your values, not from your need to collect a fee or desire for a promotion,
  • Insure that people feel valued, involved, and informed, and
  • Involve people because they will support what they help create.

If you do these things, you won’t have to motivate people to change, they will motivate themselves and you will be a good leader of change.