Change is everywhere. It is a thread which runs through every aspect of our lives, and so to be able to deal with change creatively is of vital importance. Not only do we need to be able to handle change that happens to us, but all of us have parts of our lives (often our jobs, but also in many other arenas involving relationships – family, friendships, etc.) where we need to influence others to think or behave differently – in other words, we need to be able to be the agents of change. Whether these changes are small and local or far reaching and profound, all of us can benefit from developing better skills in change management.

Getting other people to embrace the changes you feel are necessary can be very difficult, and it often seems that people are very resistant to even the smallest change. Bearing in mind the following points will assist you in getting change to ‘stick.’

Although it often seems like it, people don’t resist change. It’s a common misconception that change is always resisted, and that hard work is required to force change. But forcing change is always counterproductive and never leads to any lasting benefit. People only resist what they perceive would have a negative influence on their lives. This makes complete sense – who would welcome a change which makes their lives worse?

Shifting perspective is the key here. One of Steven Covey’s famous ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective people’ is ‘first understand, then seek to be understood.’ This means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. A change might benefit you or your organization; you might even think it will benefit the other person, but unless the other person clearly sees a tangible and personal benefit, change won’t happen (or it won’t last).

The key to effecting lasting and meaningful change is to convince people that they will personally benefit. The reason people often appear to resist change is that they don’t see any benefit in the change – they are doing just fine, and change might upset things, cause them more work or make their life more difficult.

It is useful to be frank and honest about the downsides of any changes which are being introduced. It’s often the case that change brings additional work, a period where new skills have to be learned, and where people will need to step outside of their comfort zone. This can be deeply unsettling for many people, so it is very important to consider how other people might feel about this.

Change works better when it is a collaborative process. It is important to value to opinion of others. People who feel that their contribution is important, that they have ownership of any planned change will feel better about the change. We all want to feel empowered, and when people feel they have a greater degree of control over a situation, they are more likely to get on board.

It is also important that you be ready to adapt your on ideas about what is best based on the opinions of others. There are many ways to achieve a goal, and being open minded about how your desired outcome can be achieved will help a great deal.

According to management consultant Peter Drucker, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ and in any situation, is vital to build a culture where risk taking is encouraged. Learning usually involves mistakes, and many new innovations fail, so you will need to convince people that mistakes and failures are not only acceptable and normal, but a desirable outcome in the sense that they provide evidence of attempting to improve. When people feel they can try out new things safely, without risk of criticism if things go wrong, they are far more likely to develop and grow, and to embrace change. The most successful companies are those where employees are encouraged to try new things and ‘think outside the box,’ even if their ideas come to nothing.

Be aware that everyone is different. Some people relish change and will be ‘early adopters.’ These people may be easier to convince about the benefits of change – they may simply enjoy change for the energy and challenge it brings. Most people will be more resistant. Again, this really boils down to people seeing the benefit of the change more or less clearly – some people will take more convincing. Not everyone moves at the same pace. Be realistic. Some people will never accept certain changes, and even innovations with potential benefits for everyone just don’t happen for all kinds of reasons.

Finally, keep chipping away. Revolution rarely leads to lasting change. But slow evolution can, in time, bring about profound and persistent change to a situation. Persistence is often the magic ingredient which brings about astonishing results.

Being an effective change agent takes patience, emotional maturity, resilience and tenacity. Developing these qualities will assist you in bringing about effective change in your life, your relationships and your place of work.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Harrison is the author of several books, including 30 Days to Change Your Life and Sail With the Wind. Visit him at