Is It Possible To Change People’s Attitudes?

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Photo by Ryan Hyde

We’ve Always Done It This Way

I was having a recent discussion with a church staff member who has been encountering change resistance from some volunteers under his leadership. He acknowledges that these volunteers are good people. They desire to minister to others. He is convinced, though, that their style of service needs to adapt to the next generation. Unfortunately, these volunteers are too “old school” for the church’s current needs.

I believe every generation probably struggles with the attitude of “ … but, we’ve always done it this way.” All of us can get set in our ways. We can get hung up on one way to do something. We can become resistant to any kind of change.

Leaders are (supposed to be) change agents. We are the ones who must show and lead the way to those who follow us. The problem we sometimes run into, though, is when our followers don’t want to follow in the change path.

The questions then start. Why is this person resistant to change? Do they not understand the reasons we need to make these changes? Are they just set in their ways? Is this all my fault? Did I try to make too many changes, too quickly? Am I bad leader?

Changing People Is Hard

The reality for all of us who lead teams is that change is difficult. No one likes change. Everybody enjoys their comfort zone.

So, what do we do? How do we change these people?

Is there a training program you can implement? Is there a magical, inspiring speech you can give that will light a fire under these people? Can you give these volunteers a 5-point plan to accomplish the change you want?

Yeah, probably not.

Growth Is The Answer

The answer that this staff member mentioned to me is that you can’t change followers who are resistant to change. Realistically, it’s not possible.

But, you can grow right past them.

You can grow as a leader. You can facilitate the growth of the followers who have captured the vision you want to accomplish. You can grow your base of followers by adding people to the team who see and believe in the vision you want to accomplish.

If this kind of growth takes place, then what? What happens to those who continue to resist the change?

Well, there are a few possible scenarios in a situation such as this.

One, they keep hanging around, and you end up working around them with your other team members. Two, they observe the growth happening around them, and they finally decide to go with the change. Three, they end up quitting because they don’t like the change. Four, you end up letting them go.

Changing people’s attitudes is difficult, if not impossible to achieve. As a leader, don’t get stuck focused on a bunch of people who won’t make the changes you’re looking to make. Focus, rather, on growing past them.

Questions: Have you encountered similar situations in your organization? How have you dealt with this problem?

Leave a Reply