Change Resistance – The Watchdog of Change

Change Resistance – The Watchdog of Change

Believe it or not, standing firm against change can be valuable to a change initiative.


Resistance to change can come from deep within. In Michael Crummey’s novel Sweetland, a contemporary Newfoundland community explores the possibility of being resettled. Specifically, the government requires that one hundred percent of the community must agree. One person refuses.

The novel mirrors reality. In the 2016 census, fifteen people called the tiny Newfoundland settlement of William’s Harbour home. Ninety percent of the residents were required to agree to resettlement before it could happen. This change process differed significantly from the forced resettlement of outpost communities that took place between the mid-1950s and 1970s. 

When power to William’s Harbour was finally turned off in the late fall of 2017, only one family remained.

If you were a member of one such community, what change role would you play? 


We each play various roles in change. We may prefer a particular role, identifying as a Leaper, a Bridge Builder or a Tradition Holder.


Perhaps you would be a Leaper, restless and bored with the status quo. You are enthusiastic about change and excited about the possibilities ahead of you. You might even initiate the idea to resettle. 

Maybe you would be a Bridge Builder: waiting to see details of what is being proposed and how others react before signing on. Once on board, you suggest improvements to the change initiative and become a spokesperson, sharing the idea with others in your community. 

Finally, you might play the role of a tradition holder, like Moses in Crummey’s novel – suspicious of the change and labeled as ‘resistant.’

The role we play will also depend on the specific change proposed to us. Whichever position we take, it’s important to be aware of the role we embody – to intentionally leverage the strengths and minimize the challenges of our role and that of those around us.


All too often, when we stand as Leaper or Bridge Builder, we dismiss the value of Tradition Holder.


Yet this voice is significant. Many successful change initiatives are only realized once those who step into Tradition Holder have been honoured.

It takes courage to stand firm in the face of change. When Tradition Holder strengths are leveraged, they act as watchdogs of change. If we are in danger of losing the integrity of our culture, they sound the alarm. 


What’s at stake if we do not honour our Tradition Holders? They become ferocious protectors, guard dogs rather than watch dogs.


They can change a gateway with access and entry points to a fortress, a stronghold that is fortified and heavily protected.

Instead, appreciate the role of the watchdog in the process of change. A Tradition Holder, speaking with courageous authenticity and championing the traditional ways, helps to ensure that nothing of value is lost. 

Once honoured, they share the knowledge of who to talk to and how to get things done. Now, there’s a big difference!


Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems. 


Question | When has a tradition holder proved valuable to your change initiative?

Leading Change with Core Value Stories

Leading Change with Core Value Stories

“At the end of the day, you just ask yourself, ‘How did our vision and values influence decisions I made today?’ If they did not, then they are pretty much BS.”
• Peter Senge, systems scientist 


Core values are vital to engaging your team and creating a culture of positivity, productivity, and purpose. Yet all too often, organizations create a set of values that grow dusty on paper and are rarely expressed through their people. So how can change leaders place core values at the heart of a vision for change? Consider using value stories, a key tool in integrating core values into your change initiative. 


Stories that highlight and honour the expression of core values speak to the heart as well as the mind. 


Value stories are short narratives that focus on a moment where an individual, team, organization, or community fully honours and expresses a core quality or strength. Values that may have been invisible become visible.

The strategies for involving this tool are only limited by your imagination. Weaving value stories into the process of leading change helps to embed core values in your organization’s culture. For instance:

• Start or end meetings with the sharing of personal, team or organizational value stories.
• Share value stories in communication messages.
• Dedicate meeting rooms or hallways to a particular value and the story that accompanies it.

Leading change is all about developing new norms in attitudes and behaviour. Weaving value stories throughout the transformation process of changing climate, mindset and culture allows each person to live and breathe into the change. Here we explore how value stories might be incorporated into a change initiative.


Use value stories to establish a sense of urgency.

Clarifying core values is the first step in inspiring change and moving forward into a new way of being.  To understand which behaviors can take you forward and which ones need to be left behind, first examine your organization’s existing value stories. Honour old value stories for their usefulness in the past, and use them to address any ‘ghosts.’


Previous managers and social norms can haunt an organization, long after an individual has left or standards have outlived their usefulness. 


Change leaders can use this history to push the level of urgency up. Ask questions of your team, such as
• Why is it important for transformation to happen?
• What’s at stake if we remain complacent?


Use value stories to create strong change leadership teams.

New habits and attitudes are often required to develop teams strong enough to lead lasting behavioural change. Value stories can be a tool in creating a safe and courageous space. This helps team members to get up close and personal to new behaviours demonstrated by change leaders, without having to take the initial risk.


“Stories are the flight simulators of social life.”
• Keith Oatley, psychologist and novelist 


The flight simulator effect of creating, collecting and honouring the value stories now becomes paramount. Include value stories about leading change through teamwork. These stories help teams understand how to guide others to and over the edge of change.


Use value stories to reinforce your vision.

Vision and values are intricately woven. Core values complete the portrait of your organization as you develop a vision and strategy for moving forward.

Develop value stories that highlight your organization’s future potential. This helps to ground the vision for change, highlighting how stepping into intentional attitudes and values can overcome challenges to a desired change.


Use value stories to communicate a vision for change. 

Now, use those future potential value stories to reinforce your vision, showing others a portrait of the attitudes, behaviours and actions required to implement change. Communicating the change vision involves much more than simply sharing through words. Your vision must be communicated through deeds. Values in action say more than words, and the actions of your change leadership team must be congruent with the change vision.

Your team is watching! At this point, value stories are useful in acknowledging and appreciating those who honour core values. Showcase individuals and teams who are already demonstrating required behaviours. Sharing these values stories heightens the awareness of others to what is expected and needed. 

At this stage in a change initiative, nothing disempowers change leaders and change leadership teams more than an individual not fully on board with the need for change. Those unable to demonstrate the required values in action must be confronted, and either demoted or asked to leave.


Use value stories to generate short-term wins.

Story plays a huge role in acknowledging wins. Remain aware of the story arc of change, be clear on when wins are needed, and acknowledge those wins. Sharing short-term wins helps your team to see progress, shows the required attitudes and behaviours required, and encourages your organization to keep supporting the change initiative.


Use value stories to consolidate gains and produce more change.

Hiring and supporting people and teams who can implement the change vision is essential at this stage. The beauty in fully honouring core values is that hiring and succession planning becomes easier. Individuals with core personal and team values that align with core organizational values can be quickly welcomed on board.

Ask potential change leaders and change leadership teams to use value stories to express how their personal and team values align with the values of the change vision. This easily highlights who you should hire, promote and develop, and sends a clear message of what is required.


Use value stories to anchor your evolving culture.

John Kotter, a Leading Change expert, warns against the myth that the biggest impediment to creating change is the organization’s culture. This myth leads to attempts to change corporate culture right from the beginning of a change initiative. 

However, values can’t be forced. Instead, amplify them through expressing and honouring value stories. Keep in mind that without values in action, there can be no stories to share.

Remember, creating, collecting and sharing value stories throughout the process of leading change will serve any change initiative well. At the end of the process, remember to record your value stories, creating a portrait of a change leadership team and an organization transformed.


Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems. 


Question | Where do your personal values intertwine with your organization’s values?

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