by Des Walsh
In my coaching and social media consulting, I remind myself regularly that
there are many people who do not share my enthusiasm for change.
I suspect that, for the most part, the people in business who really like change
are business owners, consultants, coaches and trainers.
For a large proportion of the rest of the working population, the word “change”
can trigger anxiety attacks about job restructuring or worse (as in sackings),
about fresh demands for more productivity without commensurate pay or other
rewards, about keeping up mortgage payments or children's education and a plethora
of other fears, especially in the realms of financial survival and personal
So when, as coaches or consultants or trainers, we share our insights into
the possibilities and challenges of change, we need to be very alert to pushback
or even sabotage from our clients, and have strategies to deal with those.
And although executives may be publicly quite bullish about the value of change,
it's not uncommon for the resistance or sabotage to come from high up in the
company. Some executives who have established a nice little routine and don't
want the even tenor of their life disturbed will be quite assiduous in undermining
change processes, all the while paying lip service to the official line.
But we only have to read the newspapers, watch the news on TV or pick up the
trending topics on social media to know that in business, in government, in
education and in other spheres of our lives, change is a constant and we need
to deal with it or it will deal with us.
And it's not just now, not just a technology thing. Change has always been
a constant, but not previously on such a global basis, with the speed and unrelenting
severity that we have now come to regard as “normal.”
Which means there is even more motivation for some, in both their business
roles and relationships, to try and hold onto what they know and resist strenuously
the endeavours of others to promote or create change.
Good coaching will, of course, elicit an awareness of such resistance and seek
to help find a way through that resistance, a way that is right for the client.
If we are coaching business owners or senior executives, we may have to help
them understand something of the possible motivations behind the resistance
or sabotage they are observing. That can include helping them with strategies
to manage their own emotions and actions about what is happening. They may feel
personally undermined and even betrayed by formerly trusted staff, even when
this is not what is happening.
If we are coaching a group that includes the change-resisters, we need to find
ways to help the whole group, including the resisters, understand what's going
on. It's not our job as coaches to fix the problem, but as coaches we have the
skills to help bring the real issues to the surface, maybe make a few suggestions
drawn from our training and wider experience and then let management find solutions.
An appropriate and strategic response might be to spend some time listening
to people's concerns and allay, if possible, their precise fears, such as being
made redundant or having to re-locate.
There is a bit of a gray area here, one of those classic situations where coaching
can morph into consulting, sometimes without our being highly aware of the fact
at the time.
As a former executive, often with responsibility for quite disruptive processes,
I know how astonishingly determined, devious and influential some people can
be in resisting and undermining change—and frequently with an attitude
that suggests a strong belief that they are on the side of the angels. We owe
it to our clients to help them understand how deadly those attitudes and behaviors
can be to change and growth, and to help them find smart ways to either bring
the resisters onside or at least neutralize the negative impact of their attitudes
If the client does not want to know about that and is just determined to push
through and crush the resistance, we may have to ask how coachable they really
Des Walsh is a business coach, social media strategist, LinkedIn specialist,
author and international speaker. Formerly a senior government executive, Des
has been in business for over 20 years. He is passionate about helping people
achieve exceptional results in the new social business environment. DesWalsh.com