The Change Refusal

How to deal with your sponsor’s change of heart?

Photo by Sarah Wolfe on Unsplash

Ask, to understand

Cat Barnard, Working the Future (UK) co-founder & partner, suggests a wise first step, which is to “get guidance from client as to what they like / don’t like”. Andi Roberts recommends to “stay humble and inquisitive — what is going on and what is causing the resistance? Is it vulnerability, lack of commitment, too much risk (personal or professional)? Be there to uncover and help the client work through what is going on for them or their organization”. Andi’s comment reminds me it is time to re-read Edgar Schein’s excellent Humble Consulting. Rachel Happe, co-founder & principal of The Community Roundtable, advises “a direct heart to heart with the client. Having a client with whom you made no impact (regardless of whose responsibility that is) does you no good in the end. It’s opportunity cost.” So true. Jillian Reilly suggests to “have a courageous conversation — honest, empathetic. Basically, trying to answer the question: ‘what are you afraid of?’”. Jillian is an outstanding coach in this field — check out her Antacara and spread the word if anyone may need help with taking “small steps” or “big bounds”. Also, this reminds me to re-read Difficult Conversations.


Now, a big part of the work when it comes to resistance is to examine your own beliefs and your own role in the process.

Reframe together

After you’ve asked questions to understand better, after you’ve honestly challenged yourself, it is probably a good idea to reframe the project together with your sponsor, in partnership. Or, as Stowe Boyd says: “Create a new first step. Doesn’t have to be a denial of what occurred, but stepping back to reframe the situation”.

Let go

“I’ve been into a few of these convinced the job is over and it’s been the turning point. In a way, I’d let go, stopped trying to own someone else’s problem and by giving it back to them, the door opened,” John Atkinson writes.

Step back

What if we’re more radical and, instead of letting go but remaining involved, we step back? It might actually be a good tactic.

Fire the client!

Some of us may not have the patience. Other projects to support, other people in need of impact. Life is short.

Avoid the client

“The trick is to ‘fire them’ before they become a ‘client’,” says Valdis Krebs (or to NOT join that team, that company…). “That ‘sixth sense’ comes with experience… but alas, is never perfect”.

Create conditions for success

This online discussion uncovered a few tips that might be useful at the onset of a fresh relationship with a new sponsor.

A passion for modern leadership, corporate activism, engagement, social collaboration. Still learning.