How to Control a Change Reaction

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.Management, Strategic Intuition


According to change management specialist John Kotter, of every 20 change initiatives only 2 or 3 will fully succeed. Many will be abject failures, not because the mechanics of the transition haven’t been thought out, but because of resistance. I think those numbers are about right, whether we are talking about business reorganizations, new product launches, or executives transitioning into a new role or profession.

Does this mean we should go back to bed and pull the covers over our head? Not at all. Increasingly, in business and in every aspect of our lives, constant and accelerating change is the new normal.

High performance mentor Brendon Burchard identifies ten predictors of whether we will take action to change:

1. We see the future value of our actions
2. We see an intrinsic value to our actions
3. We believe our actions have a utilitarian value
4. We believe our actions are worth the opportunity costs
5. We believe the payoff will come within an acceptable time
6. We have personal control of the process
7. We have social support and connections – we don’t have to go it alone
8. We have the bandwidth to take it on
9. We have the right resources for success
10. We believe it will result in greater autonomy

Remove any of those ten and you risk resistance. Many change initiatives stumble because they haven’t taken the time or created a safe environment to surface and address these concerns. Usually, everyone knows there’s an elephant in the conference room, but no one is willing to talk about it.

Here’s the funny part though: We can be all for change and still resist when it calls upon us to actually do something differently. Resistance often has nothing to do with rational analysis, but with something called mindset. Mindset consists of all the rules and beliefs we use to guide our life, and for the most part it operates on autopilot, in the subconscious. Because our roadblocks are often embedded at a subconscious level, they can be very difficult to uproot, but here’s one practice that can help:

First, define your goal, not just in terms of tangible outcomes, but in terms of the emotional or spiritual drivers that connect it to your vision for your life. You may have to go several layers deep to get down to this bedrock, but when you do you’ll know by your emotional or physical reaction: You will want to laugh or cry. You’ll get goose bumps, or your heart will open. Also, as you dig down to the deepest level make sure that you frame your goal positively. Define what you are going toward out of love or passion, not what you are running from out of fear.

So, for example, when one client went through this exercise around the goal of financial security, here’s where he ended up:

Financial security >> lots of money >> freedom from financial anxiety >> an abundance mindset >> confidence in an abundant future.

He discovered the size of his paycheck wasn’t actually the point. What he sought was an attitude of trusting that the universe would provide for his needs, and that whatever he had would be enough. This doesn’t mean that money is irrelevant, but it was important to understand that more of it wasn’t necessarily going to make him feel any better. It’s fine and desirable to strive toward goals, but the essence of happiness is learning to be appreciative of what you already have.

Lastly, look at your rules and beliefs around that deep driver. Some rules support your success, but I’ve yet to work with anyone who wasn’t held back by at least a few that needed to be rewritten or deleted. Many of our rules date back to early childhood. They aren’t necessarily rational, and they don’t necessarily serve us well now.

If deep down you don’t believe you’re deserving, you won’t be.

Might not the rule “Do it perfectly” hold you back when you’re learning something new?

How exactly do you “Speak your truth” in a highly political environment?

“Get it done” is a fabulous rule – until you burn out yourself and everyone on your team trying to achieve an unrealistic goal.

Rewrite the rules that need to be updated and delete the ones that no longer serve you well. Then post the goal and your updated rules where you see them daily. This constant reminder makes you very aware of what drives your behavior, and your success.

If you suspect that some unwritten rules may be sabotaging your success, or the effectiveness of your team, contact me to discuss what’s needed to bring those dynamics to the surface where they can be addressed.

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.
Managing Partner
The Cogent Executive LLC

Ann Hollier provides strategic consulting and performance coaching to high achieving senior executives and management teams. She specializes in change management, strategic planning and implementation, leadership development, and building world-class collaborative teams. Learn more at


E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.How to Control a Change Reaction