How To Lead Change You Don’t Agree With

4 min read · 7 years ago


Leading change that you support — or, better yet, created — is easy. When it’s your idea or initiative, your energy is positive and you are 100 percent focused on successfully implementing the change. But what happens when you’re put in charge of implementing a change you disagree with? Consider, for instance, the following scenarios:

  • You have to downsize your department and terminate some great employees.
  • The organizational structure is being changed by your boss, and your responsibilities are changing along with it.
  • You disagree with a peer’s proposed solution.
  • Your boss tells you that you have to be a strong team member and support someone who you feel is incompetent, and shouldn’t be on the team.
  • You are asked to work with an Executive Coach, but believe your bosses recommendation is in direct response to your unwillingness to sugar coat the truth when communicating with others.
  • You are being asked to change offices or cubicles.
  • You are morally or ethically opposed to a change.
  • Your company is involved in a merger or acquisition.

Every leader, at some point in their career, will be challenged with supporting and implementing changes they don’t agree with. You may disagree with the change, but you’re stuck with it. As a strong leader, I know you’re committed to implementing the change as painlessly and effectively as possible. Here are eight tips to help guide you through:

Clarify the “why”

When it comes to changes that you disagree with, it’s important to understand the “why” behind the proposed change. Understanding the “why” behind the change, or the specific goals of the proposed change, will help you more effectively move forward with some of the changes you initially opposed.

Focus on what is best for the organization, not what is best for you or your team

In a perfect world, you, your team, and the organization would all be in perfect alignment. With competing resources, however, this is rarely the case. If senior management can count on you to implement the decisions that are in the best interest of the organization, the individuals with the most influence in the organization will respect you for your strong leadership and loyalty.

Recognize the difference between agreement and support

A leader sharing their concerns about, and disagreement with, the implementation of an upcoming change is honest communication. Honest and open communication is okay. In fact, it’s great. What is not okay is for the leader to roadblock the change, either personally or through their direct reports. Recognize that there is an important difference between your disagreement with the change, and your support of the change. Honest communication is good. Outright or passive opposition is very bad, and will get a leader fired.

Focus on a positive vision

When you don’t support a particular change, it’s because you have a negative vision of the outcome. With a negative vision, you believe that tomorrow will be worse than today because of this change. If you look at your track record for implementing changes in your life, I’m willing to bet you’ve been 99.9999 percent successful. Yes – almost every change you have ever incorporated into your life has been successful, regardless of how you felt about it when it happened. There is no reason for this particular change to not also be successful. Stop wasting valuable energy on negativity, and focus on your positive vision and goals instead.

Be flexible

If you have a significant other or children, you know there is a good chance that one of them will do something, or want to do something, that you don’t like. It might even be a frequent occurrence. Just the other day, my wife, Kathleen, recommended that we go on a 14-mile hike to see a particular waterfall. As physically fit as I am, I do not like, nor do I want to support, this change. I already have a clear view of the waterfall from the bottom of the mountain. To be a successful leader, you have to be flexible… even when presented with changes you do not like. Are you asking yourself, “how was that 14-mile hike, Peter?” I’m happy to report it was great!

Stop complaining

Some leaders waste an incredible amount of time and energy complaining about the change they are being asked to make. It would have been a lot less stressful if they had just implemented the change instead. I’m going to go ahead and throw this out there – 80 percent of the population doesn’t care how miserable you are about the impending change. The other 20 percent are actually happy that you are more miserable than they are.

Take action

Some people believe that by venting their frustrations they are being honest, and some believe venting is great therapy. Being honest is a good thing. But, once your team or boss makes a decision to implement the change, every word you speak to your direct reports and every action you take needs to be in alignment with the proposed change.

Make the change happen!

When your words and actions are not in alignment with the change, you will not be perceived as being loyal to your team or your organization. When you are not perceived as being loyal, your career will most often be frozen in its tracks. In some organizations, you will be fired for not implementing the changes quickly enough.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

It’s a fact of life – change is not comfortable. Changes you don’t like are even more uncomfortable. But strong leaders who embrace the discomfort and build a reputation for successfully implementing change (even the changes they don’t like) will have the greatest career opportunities moving forward.

Even change that you fully support can be difficult to implement, let alone a change you completely disagree with. Strong leaders take the challenge in stride, however, and remain focused on achieving the vision and goals they have for their team and organization. When you are capable of successfully and efficiently implementing change, regardless of your feelings toward it, you prove your worth as a leader and earn a reputation as a leader your organization can depend on.

This post originally appeared here.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: How To Lead Change You Don’t Agree With

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