3. Foster relational connection

Content champion Sofie Halkjaer

“You can’t just give up on someone because the situations are not ideal. Great relationships aren’t great because they have no problems. They’re great because both people care enough about the other person to find a way to make it work.”

Why it matters

In change processes, it is our responsibility to discover and explore the resistance that naturally comes up in teams. The ability to see through and act on what disrupts transformation is paramount to success. Many live in what I call the “KPI tunnel” and are well trained in putting on blinders and ignoring what is really happening in the organization.

We have a tendency to underestimate resistance, the power of resistance and how these emotional reactions come as a surprise despite the fact that resistance is the most natural reaction to change.

The more resistance, the bigger the decrease in productivity and sometimes for a far longer period than necessary. Resistance is often the elephant in the room – we all see it but no one talks about it. Let’s look at three common sources of resistance.

Lack of coherence. People need a sense of identity and belonging; above all, they need to be able to trust their leaders and other team members, but also to build a strong coalition across the organization.

Lack of consensus on the nature of problems. Even if we agree on the symptoms, we may disagree and fail to talk about their underlying causes.

Lack of safe-to-speak atmosphere. If no one dares to share their reasons for not adopting the change, challenge obvious faulty assumptions or put forward better options, then the net effect is often a slow rate of change.

Let’s make an analogy to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, both psychological needs, safety needs and love/belonging must be in place for effective change.

Transformational leaders know they cannot make this transformation alone. They need allies to make extraordinary things happen in the organization. Fostering a relational connection is key for a leader to be able to see and successfully problem solve the sources of resistance.

How it works

A connection is the energy that exists between two people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

First of all, our ability to connect is closely linked to the ability to connect with ourselves – our self-awareness, our ability to recognize and understand personal moods and emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others.

The door to change must be opened from within and in the end, it is an individual’s choice whether to change or not. The safer your environment is, the stronger the foundation for change as trust and relational connection both build courage.

Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. They actively involve others. Leaders understand that mutual respect sustains extraordinary efforts. They strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity.
They strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.

As a change leader, consider how you can demonstrate that you are trustworthy of a relational connection:

  • Could you share more of your own thoughts and feelings?
  • How do you reward risk taking?
  • Are you non-judgmental and fair?
  • Are you really interested in this person and your relationship?

There is a lot of fuel in emotions and we can use them proactively in change processes.

Be present

Free up time in your calendar for change conversations. If you are heading a change journey, find time to be present as it is the first sign of commitment. If you do not find this important, then who else will?

Make your personal choice explicit

Make it a personal choice to support and participate in the change. For people who repeatedly find faults (look for the reason why they really can’t), ask them, “what is the better option?

Kill the rumors and correct misinformation

We are hardwired to foresee and predict dangers. We all carry biases. Help each other identify and explore blockers and energizers for change.
Do this by encouraging dialogue, ask candid questions, provide feedback, raise questions and concerns about the change. Kill the rumors, correct misinformation that may be circulating. Set a good example.

Express it from your heart

A good relationship connection with team members always starts with a dialogue with team members expressed from the heart. In this way, it is both authentic, honest and open. This builds rapport, security and trust.


Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership – How to Make a Difference Regardless of Your Title, Role, or Authority”, Kouzes James, Posner Barry, Wiley, 2021

Seizing Moments of Possibility: Ways to Trigger Energy and Forward Momentum on Your Ideas and Plans”, Maurer, Rick, Maurer & Associates, 2021

Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators”, Lencioni Patrick M, Jossey-Bass, 2007

“Resistance to Change – Why it Matters and What to Do About It” , Rick Maurer

Viral Change – The Alternative to Slow, Painful and Unsuccessful Management of Change in Organisation”, Leandro Herrero, Meetingminds 2008