Stop Managing Change; Inspire It


Companies spend a fortune to overcome resistance to change, both externally in the form of marketing, and internally in the form of change management. But is this effort all founded on a serious misconception?

Resistance to change

You’ve heard that people are resistant to change, right? We have swallowed this lie together with a whole lot of other fallacies that are repeated so many times by “experts” that they become adopted as truth.

Just think about it. When you choose a restaurant for dinner, are you resistant to trying a new one? When you choose a vacation spot, do you insist it must be the same one that you have always gone to, or do you enjoy a change?

Most people are wired for change. We embrace it; we seek it. What we resist is monotony, and we go to great lengths to escape it. Consider the size of the adventure travel industry. That’s all for people who are willing to pay large amounts for a change because people love change.

What we resist is not change. We resist being told to change by people we do not trust to have our best interests at heart. If I trust my physician and she tells me to change my diet, there is a good chance I’ll follow her recommendation. If I trust a food critic and he advises me to try a new restaurant, there is a good chance I’ll heed his advice. It is when I don’t trust the person or company urging me to change, that I resist.


Advertising is a form of persuading people to change, and the world spends nearly $600 billion a year on it. An advertisement from a highly trusted brand is much more likely to succeed than one with lower trustworthiness. Marketing executives should be focusing as much on the trustworthiness of the brands they are selling as they are on the message they are communicating. Ask yourself, “How likely is it that our target audience will believe we have their best interests at heart?” If the answer is, “not very likely,” then there is some work to do, and the work is not in sales and marketing—it is in building trustworthiness.

Change Management

Change management is another area of major investment of corporate time and energy. Boston Consulting estimates that 50-75 percent of corporate change initiatives fail, and it is primarily because of employee resistance. The Firm estimates that the current global spend on change management is $10 billion annually.

Most of this effort treats the symptom, not the cause. The reason employees resist change and need change management is that they do not trust that the change will serve their best interests. Providing them with data to prove otherwise doesn’t help. We know that emotion trumps data in business decision-making, so why would it be any different for employees who are asked to make a choice to change?

When contemplating a change initiative, or merely asking a team member to do something new or different, consider the trust factor. As in the case of advertising, we should ask ourselves, “How likely is the individual or team to believe that I have their best interests at heart?” If the answer is, “not very likely,” then there is some work to do, and the work is not about change management—it is about building trustworthiness.

How to build trustworthiness

Here are three steps to building leadership trustworthiness:

1. Ensure that you are a values-based leader.
This requires a high level of self-awareness regarding your own value-drivers. It also requires you to consistently act in alignment with your value-drivers.

2. Be careful not to imply a criticism of the status quo.
Inevitably, requesting someone to change what they are doing implies criticism of their current activity. This is especially so when the person asking for the change is their boss, parent, or spouse. When people feel criticized, they usually become defensive and build up a case in their minds about why change would not be a good idea. Learn how to suggest change without triggering this defensiveness.

3. Appeal to the core values of the person whom you are asking to change.
If you can link the need for change to the other person’s core beliefs, then alignment occurs almost instantaneously. It is easier to identify the other person’s core beliefs than you might think.

For one-on-one Lead by Greatness coaching that will help you map your value-drivers and live them, learn how to inspire change without criticizing the status quo, and align the change with the other’s core values, please contact us.

There is no need to struggle so hard with change management. If you have built trustworthiness instead of just managing change, you can inspire the action in your team at lower cost and with quicker results.