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Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill

Entrepreneurs and companies that are change adept are best equipped to successfully deal with the ever challenging and transforming business environment that we operate companies within.

Dirk Coetsee




“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” – Ghandhi

Entrepreneurs and companies that are change adept are best equipped to successfully deal with the ever challenging and transforming business environment that we operate companies within.

Adapting rapidly to industry changes and disruptions in the market place has become critical when sustainable business success is considered. Considering all the above, a potential debilitating and powerful negative force to overcome, is the resistance to positive and useful change initiatives.

The ability to facilitate the transformation of mindsets from resistance to change, to a strong commitment to the proposed change intervention, is a complex yet much needed leadership skill to have in your companies’ arsenal.

vanilla milkshake

To paint a clearer picture, follow the practical example of the fictitious company called Holy Cow Milk!

Holy Cow Milk! have suffered poor quarterly results due to productivity challenges. A large proportion of the employees working for this struggling company, have developed constricting habits over time, that mar the productivity of this past industry leader in Milkshake production.

Related: How To Be A Great Leader When Leadership Doesn’t Come Naturally To You

Bad habits such as frequent, long, and unproductive meetings, doing everything extremely slowly, and too much regulatory paperwork has contributed to this slump in productivity.

The CEO of Holy Cow Milk! Mr. Shake , over time came to realise what the main culprits were in his companies’ bad performance. To soften the blow of his companies’ undesirable performance he resorted to humour and started to refer to his employees’ bad habits individually as “the meeting sacred cow”, “the speed sacred cow”, and the “paper holy cow”.

He referred to these staff routines as “sacred cows”, because when he dared to reprimand his team members about their undesirable routines they defended themselves with great passion. They succeeded in rendering their beloved long meetings, very relaxed work pace, and mountains of useless paperwork as untouchable.

Mostly they were willing to defend these habits because they became very comfortable and even came to love their “sacred cows”. They proceeded to resist every proposal of change that Mr. Shake championed in their own way.

Some were “passive” in their resistance by having negative perceptions and attitudes. A small proportion of team members were even “active” in their resistance and boycotted the CEOs’ mandatory meetings. Mr. Shake always attempting to “see the glass as half full” was at least happy that he was never met with “aggressive” resistance during this ordeal and was not submitted to sabotage or any sort of physically destructive behaviours.

He was perplexed but knew he had to act for the sake of his companies’ survival and met with a wise change leadership consultant who assisted him in devising a master plan.

[At this juncture, the reader is asked to take note that several prior steps might be taken and adjusted according to situational and strategic demands and considering the various sources of resistance. In this article, we will cast light on one very potent strategy that the reader can employ to gain commitment to a change intervention over time].

Related: 6 Funny Leadership Tips That You Should Actually Follow

After following several steps Mr. Shake proceeded to execute the “aligned commitment” equation that the master tactician taught him. He was very careful to remember that all the elements of the equation needed to be incorporated to increase his chances of success:

The aligned commitment equation = Knowledge x Information x Empowerment x Rewards and Recognition x shared goals and values.

(Prof. L.D. Coetsee, January 2011: Peak Performance and Productivity)

He carefully and meticulously applied the equation in the following way:

He firstly ensured that knowledge creation amongst all his team members was a reality by constantly reminding everyone of the very good reason why changes should be applied. He ensured that all stakeholders were highly informed in relation to the progress made and was transparent in terms of the challenges.

Mr. Shake especially focussed on ensuring that the early adopters of the change intervention received the information first and within an inspirational context, so that they in turn could positively influence other team members.

He consistently empowered his team by ensuring that they were coached, mentored and received practical training as well as all required resources needed to execute the change initiative as and when they needed it and delivered on his promises.

He ensured that the rewards given in relation to performance were equitable and personally valued by his team members. Verbal recognition was offered on every occasion that it was warranted. Shake took steps that all team members did not only understand the teams’ collective goals but also knew exactly what needed to be done to attain the targets and were empowered to do so.

Most importantly Shake was a living example of the company’s values and taught by example that the teams’ collective shared values were operational instruments and not only written and empty propaganda.

Many challenges were faced during the change intervention that Shake championed yet he immediately pursued creative solutions involving his team mates at all times. It took some time to gain traction yet eventually productivity dramatically multiplied. The “meeting sacred cow”, the “speed sacred cow” and “paper sacred cow” was successfully slain!!!


Change Leadership skills such as managing resistance to change have become critical factors in ensuring business success and sustainability.

Managing resistance to change requires knowledge of several steps and strategies that can be applied as varied circumstances demand it.

The “aligned commitment equation” is a powerful strategic tool that can be applied in conjunction with other steps and tools to assist in the transformation of resistance to change to commitment over time.

Dirk Coetsee is the president of Curator South-East Asia a consulting firm that has a proud twenty year history in scaling businesses through franchising or other vehicles. Curator helps entrepreneurs to ‘Survive and thrive’ by scaling their businesses through franchising or securing funding and sales channels for them. You can contact Dirk at: or browse through @ curators’ website:


What A Grade 1 Sticker Business Taught Me About Business

It’s the very fundamentals that are frequently overlooked amid ambition and “blue sky thinking” – yet, these remain the most crucial element of any business.

Grant Field




When I was a kid, my father believed that instead of getting pocket money, my brothers and I should learn how to make money. Stickers were the school craze when I was in Grade 1, and we wanted a collection for ourselves, so Dad said if we wanted to buy the stickers, we needed to make the money. So, logically, we started a sticker trading business. Dad gave us the start-up money and took us through the basics of business.

We had a cash float for purchases, and learnt about cost price, mark-up and selling price – very basic accounting. We kept recycling that money, making extra and using it to buy more stickers. Then we worked out that if we increased the mark-up, we’d make a bigger profit – so why not make the mark-up as big as possible? The obvious happened. Our prices were too high, and we lost customers.

Valuable business lesson learnt, we came back down to a mark-up that other kids were willing to pay for.

More lessons to learn

Then people came to us and asked if they could take a sticker today and pay us tomorrow. We saw no reason not to trust them. Guess what? They didn’t pay us back. We had bad debt on our hands. When we sold out of stickers, we had cash-flow issues and couldn’t buy more stock. Dad was there to help us out, though, so we received another capital injection to get back off the ground. And this time, if we did extend credit, we loaded it for the privilege of “buy now, pay later” – another lesson learnt.

We ran a proper ledger for the business, tracking our inventory, sales and profit. Even if our “bank” account was a piggy bank, we had a clear record of what was going on. When I look back on it, none of what I learnt was irrelevant.

Today, I run a leading financial services company with billions of rand running through our bank accounts. Even though the finances of the business are run on a much larger scale, the principles of business – those basic principles that we learnt trading stickers – still power our company. And when I see entrepreneurial ventures failing, or when friends come to me for advice because their business is struggling, it’s almost always because they haven’t got these basics right.

Related: Successful SA Entreps Share Their Most Valuable Business Advice Ever Received


One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that if you don’t fully understand how the money is being made, walk away. Whether you are dealing with stickers or financial services, the business principles should be straightforward: money coming in, money going out, and profitability.

Every day, I look at an Excel statement of my company’s forty bank accounts. Every day, I look at the cashflow, and unusual big-ticket items get a note so I know what’s going on. It’s just like that Grade 1 business, only on a bigger scale.

Entrepreneur, thwarted

Once the other kids saw the success of our sticker business, they started to want to get in on the action, so they came to market with their own competing products. At first, we were able to innovate as the competition squeezed our margins and started to impact on our profits. Eventually, the whole situation got completely out of hand and the school banned sticker trading for profit.

While I didn’t become a sticker magnate, the lessons I learnt in Grade 1 remain central to every business I am involved with – get the basics right.

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How To Handle A Director Who Always Says No

Diverse opinions on a board is a good thing — but is it boosting your business, or hindering growth and decisions?

Carl Bates




Do you have that director on your board who always says ‘no’? Regardless of what the issue is, regardless of the context, who raises it or whether or not it is indeed a good idea, their response is either a simple ‘no’ or an elongated perspective on why they disagree? It can even feel at times that they are actively working against the company and against the board. Although they obviously do not see it that way.

Experienced directors will have multiple war stories related to this subject. Aspiring directors should be aware of how to approach these situations when they arise and how to avoid becoming the subject of such stories.

Develop a culture of trust, candour and professionalism

A board’s conduct must be characterised by trust, respect, candour, professionalism, accountability, diligence and commitment. It is the board’s collective responsibility to build this culture and to engage with one another in a productive and effective way.

Dissent should be welcomed when it is constructive and engaging. The idea of being the ‘devil’s advocate’ for the sake of it however, is not the best way to approach this. Dissent should be based on a real belief that the issue has not been fully debated or creates a real challenge for the company going forward.

If you have a director who genuinely believes a different path is right for the company, hear them out and engage in the discussion. In my experience, this often opens up an issue or changes a detail that when taken as part of the whole, improves the decision-making outcome for the board and the company.

Related: Contributing In The Boardroom

Remove the politics from the boardroom

At the heart of this issue is often politics. Politics between directors, who are also shareholders or executives. Politics between the ‘new guard’ and the ‘old.’ Regardless of the genesis, politics really do not have a place in the boardroom and directors who engage in it should be called out by the chairman or another senior director.

In local government I have heard stories of councillors who always vote ‘no,’ so that whenever something goes wrong, they can say “I told you so,” and show the public why they should be re-elected. But that is indeed politics. The boardroom is a very different space. It is private and discussions should be confidential.

Board rotation, a simple solution

While the removal of an errant director should never just be left to resolve itself, there is a simple solution that can support the easy removal of the most difficult directors. The challenge is that it requires forward planning prior to the appointment of any new director.

Directors should only ever be appointed for a predefined term, with automatic rotation at the end of that term. This does not stop you from reappointing a director for a further period. It is, however, always easier to ask someone to consider a further term than it is to tell them that their time has come and they should resign from the board.

Having a predefined term for a director essentially ensures an automatic resignation period. A simple rotation policy for directors is not just good governance, it is a practical step you can take to provide a way out of a sticky relationship.

Ultimately the board as a whole must address issues that detract from the board fulfilling its function as and when they arise. A rotation policy might provide an effective backstop. A high-performance board is one that will tackle the issue head-on.

Read next: How Diversity Drives Board Performance

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The Power Pose: Using Body Language To Lead

Use the way you move and stand and interact with others to become a better entrepreneur and leader.

Howard Feldman




In 2012, the power pose became a global sensation. A Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy hit a staggering 46 million views and became the second most popular Ted Talk in history. The premise was simple – hold a powerful pose and it will not only affect the way you behave but it will even change your body chemistry. Since the talk, the power pose has met with heavy criticism and been labelled as nothing more than pseudoscience. Fortunately for believers, they were proven right. Amy Cuddy released further research this year and it fundamentally proves that this bold stance works exactly how she said it did back in 2012.

The power pose isn’t something that you’d adopt in a meeting or around the office but the science behind it shows how important it is to pay attention to your body language as it can fundamentally change how you are perceived.

Notice how you are noticed

People spend a lot of time reading one another’s body language and the way a person stands or holds their hands or moves can influence how others see them. It’s very natural to judge someone else’s posture, but what about the way they are judging yours? Few people look at how their body language is affecting the way people engage with them.

Related: [Quiz] How Good Are You At Reading Others In Business?

So, what are you supposed to do?

Fake it until you make it

Want to know how can you adapt to become a better leader? You can fake it.

The power pose isn’t the only way to change your mood. Research has shown that whether you laugh naturally or put on a smile and make yourself laugh, your body still releases the same levels of serotonin.

Whether you are really laughing or just pretending to laugh doesn’t matter – they both have the same impact on your demeanour.

Change how others see you

Think about the pose that every athlete adopts when they win a race or achieve something that’s been physically taxing. They hold their hands outstretched in the air. Even blind athletes hold the same pose. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s a physical manifestation of success.

Now consider the defensive pose. The tight hunched shoulders or inward curve of the spine. These poses immediately make a person look nervous, afraid and lacking in confidence. Like the porcupine curling in on itself for protection.

The same ideas apply to daily business life. While the power pose and the athlete pose are not necessarily a team activity, ensuring that you hold your body upright and with confidence means that you’re conveying an attitude of strength. You come across as confident and capable and positive. You are ready to take on anything and overcome the odds.

By contrast, if you are hunched and withdrawn, you come across as nervous and lacking in confidence and these are not the qualities you want associated with you as an entrepreneur and a leader.

Related: (Slideshow) 5 TED Talks That May Change Your Perspective on Life

Body language for entrepreneurs

  • Shake hands like a hero. The way you shake hands with someone is very significant in terms of establishing equality. Be even, be firm but don’t pull people towards you or turn their hands under your own. This makes them feel like you are trying to establish dominance.
  • Create an atmosphere of openness. Maintain eye contact, say hello to people with warmth while holding a strong posture. A warm and open greeting is essential to establishing trust.
  • Do the power pose for two minutes before any meeting or interview. This will get those chemicals stirring and make you feel confident and in charge.

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