Revolving door managers and overcoming resistance to change

This is the last in a the series of of blogs relating to change, more specifically Dannemillar’s formula for sustainable change (D x V x F) > R.

Where – D = Dissatisfaction, V = Vision, F = First Steps, R = Resistance

If this equation is correct then, ‘resistance to change’ can be overcome…

  • If Dissatisfaction exists with the status quo or the desire to move is high/growing
  • The organisation, department, team Vision is clear and people see themselves within it
  • And the first steps toward the new world are both understood and manageable

You may question, why would people not want to change if all these things were in place? Why is there resistance and what do we do about it?

For this blog I’ve turned to the world of football, to be more precise the premier league and the managers/footballers within this high pressurised and transient of landscapes.

Imagine being a player in a football team in the premiership, where the managers dismissed in 2017-18 season were in post for an average of only 1.18 years (up slightly on the 2016-17 record low of 1.16 years) and the average tenure for all current managers is 1.53 years.

As a player, this would mean that every year you are likely to encounter change, and change of a dramatic effect. With every new manager through the revolving door, (often) comes a new set of back room staff, a new philosophy of working and a new way of even playing the game.

So what is it that ‘good’ football managers do to bring players with them?… to help them overcome their personal resistance to change.

Below are some reflections from a variety of practitioners and authors in this field of play.


Cary Cooper, co-author of “Business and the Beautiful Game”, and Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, believes that passion ‘feeds’ football managers and that despite the pressure to win and job insecurity, mangers seem to enjoy their work. The ability to communicate this with passion is what makes managers different.


Ed Weymes, co-author of “Peak Performance: Inspirational Business Lessons from the World’s Top Sports Organisations,” and pro-Vice Chancellor International at the University of Waikato, says that managers focus on building trust. “(if) You feel safe within the organisation in which you live, you trust the individuals you work with and you are inspired by the people with whom you work”.

Credibility of Intellect

John Neal, Director of the Sport Business Initiative at Ashridge Business School notes that we have recently seen several top managers (Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, David Moyes of Everton and Arsene Wenger of Arsenal) gain the respect of players by their intellect and not necessarily their previous sporting prowess.  (They may have played the game but not at the level they are managing at.)

Know their own weaknesses

Dr. Cooper of Lancaster University says “really good managers know where their Achilles’ heel is, and they will appoint other people to pick up their weaknesses. They don’t think they have to do everything.” In times of change, you may find that those team members who are ‘resistors’ become great collaborators as they spot and support the areas where you as a manager may not have strength.

Know their team

Dr. Weymes of Waikato University makes the proposition that sports managers seem to go to extraordinary lengths to learn much about their players. Knowing what makes them tick on a personal level and how to connect/communicate with them specifically is of great importance.

What is clear is there is a real need to work well with team members on an individual level, in order to firstly understand and then be willing to challenge and support their exploration of resistance.  Underground resistance is undermining… we need to encourage more revelation of resistance in order to be able to align our team members to change.  And you must workout how to make that activity ‘yours’ – your authenticity must shine through.



by Kurt Lindley




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