Leading Change – dealing with fears and facing up to resistance

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of F...

Recently I’ve been writing about John Kotter’s eight stage process for leading and managing change.  Stage 5 is about empowering action, over coming resistance and getting rid of obstacles to change.

This is where your investment in Stages 1 to 4, begins to pay dividends.

Kotter himself states that when Stages 1 to 4 are skipped, resistance is inevitable and this can destroy your change.

People resist change because they fear loss.  They believe they are defending something they value which feels threatened.   This can include loss of security, power, resources and overall loss of control.  Most of us fear the unknown.

If you have followed the earlier Kotter steps when you reach this point, you will have been talking about your vision and building up buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your group will want to get busy and be out there achieving the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But there may still be some resisting the change!  There may be people (individuals or groups), processes, structures and even organizations that are getting in the way?

You not only need to put in place the structure for change, but check continually for barriers and blockers to it.

Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision and it certainly helps them move the change move forward.

To remove obstacles you should

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organizational structure, job descriptions and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognize and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action quickly to remove barriers (human or otherwise).

To remove barriers of the human kind

  • Help them understand the logic behind the change.
  • Give them an opportunity to contribute – to help design and implement the change (e.g., ideas, task forces, committees).
  • Provide facilitation & coaching to help them adjust to the change.
  • Offer incentives to those who continue to resist change.

If all else fails, and this change is critical to the organization, use authority to get people to accept the change or to move sideways and, possibly, out.

This can be one of the most challenging stages for the Change Leader but – as I’ve written here many times before – no one told you change was going to be easy!

A Kotter Reading List for you;


Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you.  Email her at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Share