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How to Choose Who You Lose When You Change

Many leaders are great with the idea of change until it involves losing people. At that point, for many leaders, a paralysis sets in.

The  No. 1 question I got asked about change when we were changing everything in my first season of ministry is this: “How many people did you lose?”  

It’s like people desperately wanted to hear we were able to change everything and lose no one.

The truth is, you can’t navigate real change and keep everybody you have. The people you have today are the people who like things the way they are. Change that, and some will leave.

Chuck frames the tension well:

Some are set in their ways and refuse a new perspective, no matter how awesome it is. At what point, and how, should the proverbial bus leave the station? When do you and those with you press on with the change and leave the stubborn ones behind? This task requires compassion, but at some point, the bus has gotta depart.

What leaders forget is you’re always losing someone. You just need to decide who to lose.

Think about who you would rather lose.

You can lose a few opponents to change, or you can lose:

  • The people who dreamed of a better tomorrow
  • The progressive leaders in your church who are waiting for someone to lead. (Trust me, they will leave. They’ll find someone to lead them, and they’ll go quietly.)
  • People you are trying to reach (who will never come as long as your organization is the way it is)

Which group would you rather lose?

Ask yourself, five years from now, “Who are the people I want around me—the opponents, or these groups: the people who dreamed of a better tomorrow, the progressive leaders and the people I’m trying to reach?”

By the way, you can still love the opponents, you just don’t need to allow them to control the agenda of your organization.

Once you’ve decided who you are ready to lose, you can put the organization in gear and get moving.

If you want more detail on who to lose and who to keep, the first, second and third strategies in Leading Change Without Losing It offer specific strategies on whom to lose and whom to keep (and how to do that) when navigating change.

What are you learning about whom to lose and whom to keep? What questions remain for you in this area? 

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.