Change is never easy. People tend to avoid it whenever they can and resist it when they can’t. Any of your requests that people do things differently has the potential to be met with resistance, either passive or active. As a leader, you need to understand where the resistance is coming from, address any strong emotions head on, and focus on finding common ground. Resistance usually comes from a place of fear and uncertainty. The resistant individual is not trying to be difficult or make your day miserable, he or she is simply scared of the unknown and needs reassurance that you are on his or her side.


At work, you must be skilled at overcoming resistance in order to effectively align teams with organizational strategy, increase customer satisfaction, and implement new systems and processes. If you don’t address sources of resistance early on and show people that you’re on their side, their negativity can spread. What started as a single resistant individual can grow into an entire resistance movement in the organization and undermine your ability to achieve organizational goals.


Overcoming individual resistance means eliminating people’s reluctance to change by addressing their fears and objections and convincing them to take actions. In our extensive research and testing of nearly 800 executives for my book “The Leader Habit”, my team and I discovered the micro-behaviors that effective leaders do when they overcome resistance:


  1. Explicitly address people’s fears and reluctances by acknowledging their negative emotions and helping them to name those emotions.
  2. Sell people on the benefits of change by highlighting how they will personally benefit from the change.
  3. Facilitate the discussion to mutual agreement; periodically check the understanding of all parties involved and summarize what has been agreed so far during the discussion.
  4. Convince people to take action by highlighting shared goals.


Once you understand that these behaviors are the key to overcoming resistance, you will need to internalize them for yourself, turning them into habits. Based on our finding that it takes 66 days to turn a behavior into a habit, there are three steps that will help you improve your ability to overcome resistance:


  • Address fears
  • Highlight benefits of change
  • Find two areas of agreement


Next week, we give some ideas about how to put these steps into action.


For more information, or to order a copy of Dr Martin Lanik’s Book ‘Leader Habits,’ please contact


4 April 2018