I have been traveling around the country presenting Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Workshops. In many instances, I’m asked what to do when a board, or members in general, are resistant to change. The phrase, “We’ve never done it that way before!” is often repeated.


Change is a fearful thought if other changes in life are too stressful. Change is not an option when there is no understanding of the value of the change. Change for the sake of change is a generator of confusion.


However, the only constant in life is that there is change. We are all getting older every day. We change without even trying.


Having said those things about change, let me point out that understanding history and tradition are important to the continuity of work within any organization. When working with lay leaders in the church, I find that many of them are not aware of the denominational traditions and theology that have shaped our worship, our programs, and our work in the community. We are informed by learning about the past. We don’t, however, need to live in the past.


It is the leader’s duty and delight to observe what’s happening and how it happens, and to respond in a thoughtful way by engaging members in conversation about desired results. Have we defined the desired outcomes from our work and programs, or are we just running on autopilot without thinking about what or why?


In Seth Godin's blog post, “Because it has always been this way," he points out that making a change means that we are responsible for the results. I’d like to point out that if we don’t make a change, we are likewise responsible for the results as the leader.


Not making a decision is a choice.


Leaders ask good questions and listen carefully to the answers. Here are some to ask yourself and your team:



  • Are we (Am I) bound by tradition?

  • What are the consequences of staying with the status quo?

  • What are the different results we desire and what changes will lead us in the appropriate direction?

  • What are the risks on both sides - making a change and not making any change?


Sleep on the answers.



Hugh Ballou


The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM


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