The Manager Dilemma: How do I lead others when I don’t even agree with the change myself?

Change management is fast becoming a competency required by managers given the amount of organizational change underway in the workplace.  In response, managers attend change management training that will transform them into effective advocates for change.  In theory, that sounds great.  In practice, I haven’t seen it work.  The problem lies in the assumption that managers fundamentally believe in the change or corporate direction.  What if they don’t?

According to Prosci, organizational change requires individual change.  Managers need to personally understand and embrace change before being expected to advocate for change with others. The opportunity lies in our ability to help managers to frame the change in ways they can personally act upon and believe in.

Managers are making the most out of every workday.  They need simple and readily applicable tools that will make a difference in their daily lives. The tools described below are examples of the types of personal exercises that managers can use to identify concrete actions to apply to their own situations.

Taken altogether, the tools provide ideas and insight to help managers take personal charge of change and manage their own roots of resistance.

Here’s a sampling of four (4) tools for managers:

Tool A:  Interpersonal Skills for Managing Change Checklist  

Purpose:  This checklist helps managers at all levels reflect on their own interpersonal skills. It is primarily based on self-perceptions.

How to use it?:  Management teams may also use the tool to provide feedback to colleagues regarding their interpersonal skills.

Instructions:  Managers check off the most appropriate response in order to identify the specific interpersonal skills requiring improvement (i.e. weak). Once completed, priorities are identified and action plans are developed and implemented.

For example (5 of 26 skills shown below):

No. Interpersonal Skills Strong Moderate Weak
1 I listen attentively to others
2 I respond positively to other’s ideas
3 I am able to be open and share my thoughts with others
4 I articulate clearly when speaking to others
5 I can sustain and defend my ideas when talking with others

Tool B:  Personal Steps for Managing through Uncertainty  

Purpose:  This tool helps managers reflect on their current daily behaviors related to managing their time and work deliverables.

How to use it?:  Managers work independently to identify their own behavioural changes. They also work with others where indicated to clarify or communicate changes as required.

Instructions:  Managers follow the steps in order and identify action to be taken within each key area.

For example (2 of 6 steps shown below):

Step 1: Synthesize information

  • Action: Identify sources of data overload and subsequent daily behaviours that should change, allowing more time to think, plan, etc.
  • Purpose: Manage cognitive overload stemming from continuous technology interruptions, information, and multi-tasking.

Step 2: Set clear boundaries

  •  Action: Identify and re-establish boundaries or work preferences, i.e. hours of work, last minute requests, planning preferences, approach to deadlines, etc.
  • Purpose:  Realign differences around work preferences in order to reduce the instances of conflict, resentment, anger, anxiety and stress.

 Tool C: Personal Change Management Survey

Purpose:  This tool helps managers reflect on their current attitudes towards the implementation of change, or a specific change.

How to use it?:  Managers work independently to identify their responses to the questions presented.

Instructions:  Managers answer the questions and identify new ways of perceiving the change(s).

For example (2 of 6 steps shown below):

 Step 1: Think positively about the implementation of change

  • For any specific change, what are the positive reasons for this change?
  • What benefits may be gained through this change? For you? For your team?

Step 2: Link the change vision to your individual aspirations

  • Which elements of the change vision appeal to you?
  • Look ahead 2 years – how could the work environment be improved for you?

Tool D:  Readiness for Change Assessment

Purpose:  This checklist helps managers gauge how ready their team is for embracing a specific change (i.e. that has been announced). It is primarily based on perceptions.

How to use it?:  Managers or management teams use the tool to assess whether they have a common view of where their particular staff  stand in terms of readiness for the specific change.

Instructions:  Managers check off the most appropriate statement – preferably one in each row. Guidelines are provided to assess results.  Once completed, solutions are developed and implemented.

For example (4 of 14 statements shown below):

1 In the past, new policies or systems introduced by  management have been: Seen as meeting staff and physician’s needs Not well understood Greeted with some resistance Vigorously resisted
2 Employees may currently be best described as: Innovative Independent Uncommitted so far Resistant to change
3 Previous changes implemented by the organization have beenviewed as: Successful Moderately successful Having only partial success Not successful
4 Expectations of what this [specific change] will lead to are: Consistent throughout the organization Consistent across senior management Not consistent Unclear



Managers are natural problem solvers.  They thrive on challenge and are skilled at implementing action that is clear and logical.  The tools are designed to identify actions that: make sense to managers; are readily implementable; and re-frame how managers perceive and believe in change.

This is just the first step.  Success lies in managers first embracing change at the personal level before being active collaborators and/or ultimately leading others through change. There are three steps in the journey.

This blog discussed the first step. Future blogs will focus on the ‘collaborative’ and ‘leading others’ steps.




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