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Winning Influential Resisters in Times of Change

by David Swain

You know the influential resisters in your organization. If you don’t, you need to find out! These are important people to identify in any effort to change. These are the people who will help (or hinder) the transition. What I’ve found is that in any organization about 20% of people are ready and eager to make changes. Another 20%, though, are going to dig in their heels and resist change with everything they have. The rest, the remaining 60%, are somewhere in the middle, and probably unsure which way to go or they don’t have an opinion. I see this over and over again.

So where do you focus your efforts? 

1. Pay attention to the Influential Resisters

What I see is leaders spending too much time trying to convince the stuck in, die hard 20% to get on board, and not enough time with the 60% of neutral employees. Start by identifying the influential members of that bottom 20% and listen to them. The rest, it’s not that you ignore their negativity, but you don’t devote all of your efforts to a group that may not be willing to listen.

2. Acknowledge Concerns & Ask for Feedback

Acknowledge that these “influential resisters” have some valid concerns and there is a grain of truth to what they say. Acknowledge the grain of truth and invite them, publicly, to be a part of shaping the changes. If they accept then you have a powerful convert. If they don’t accept your invitation, but instead show their aversion to work towards a solution, their influence will decline. People only stick with naysayers for so long if all they do is criticize and are not willing to help make things better.

3. Focus on Connecting with the Middle & Communicate Early Successes

Don’t forget you cannot please everyone, and some people will never be convinced that change is for the better. While they may be a vocal minority, they don’t deserve all of your attention at the expense of the non-vocal majority! More than half of the organization is waiting to be convinced about the change. Communicate early success stories to all employees. Have your ‘influential adopters’ present the benefits of the change(s) and reinforce the importance of these new ways of operating. Work to build positive momentum that can shift the neutral majority into adopters of the change.



David SwainDavid Swain, BSc Mgmt., MSOD, CEC, PCC with over 30 years’ experience in both coaching the leaders of large organizations and leading them himself.




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