I woke up early, quite excited. I had an idea that I thought would bring our organization to a higher level of performance. I could not wait to share it with the rest of the staff. I was sure they would be as excited as me in embracing the new way of doing things. To my chagrin, a number of my team didn’t see it that way. They posed numerous obstacles which they saw as insurmountable. What I thought was a slam dunk became a back-breaking struggle.
As a leader, I am sure you have had similar experiences. There will always be naysayers in an organization, be it in the office or ministry context. Social scientists try to explain this phenomenon with the diffusion innovation theory, among others. According to this theory, innovators and early adopters comprise only about 15% of people. In contrast, nearly half are usually late adopters and laggards.
It must be pointed out that people who are slow to embrace change do not mean harm. Their concerns help check the feasibility of the change proposed. They help temper the over-optimism of leaders.
In the Bible, the ushering in of the new covenant created quite a stir. Those who grew up under the pale of Judaism wanted to stick to the old ways of doing things, such as requiring gentile believers to undergo circumcision and abstain from certain foods. The old guards were resisting change and were pressuring new believers to conform to their convictions. In the book of Acts chapter 15, the apostles made it clear that Christians are not bound to these old rituals. Christ is the fulfillment of all the prophecies and types in the Old Testament.
So how does a leader react to those resisting change? First, a leader must listen attentively to those opposed to change. He/she must accept valid concerns and use them to assess whether the change is needed. Second, a leader must seek to win those who are opposed to change by gentle communication and compelling reasons. Lastly, the Christian must seek the Lord’s will in prayer. God has His own timetable, and you must be sensitive to it.
Shepherding a change process is never easy. Those who mishandle it, reap the whirlwind of broken relationships, even organizational collapse. May the Lord make us effective change agents wherever we are.