7 Things You Can Do If You Want Things to Change…and No One Else Does

what to change when you can't change things

So what do you do if you want things to change and pretty much no one else does?

Your team doesn’t appear to be listening. 

The leaders or board above you are opposed.

The culture in your organization is stale 

That’s a tough situation in which almost every leader finds themselves from time to time.

Clearly, you should pray. God uses our circumstances to push us closer to him.  But what practical responses should you formulate?

Many natural instincts are unhelpful in situations like this. Being impatient, critical and blaming others is counterproductive.

So what do you do?

There are at least 7 things you can do if you want to things to change and no one else does.

1. Cast Vision

Nothing attracts people and resources like vision. And vision always precedes people and resources.

If you’re having trouble attracting people and resources to a better vision of the future, it might be because you simply haven’t cast a clear enough vision of a preferred future.

It eventually becomes difficult not to follow a visionary leader. And if your vision is faithful to scripture and a sensible interpretation of where to head in the future, it will likely be compelling.

Will it always work? No. (See below for that.)

But far too many leaders quit before their vision is even articulated in any kind of compelling way.

You shouldn’t get angry at people for not following a vision you never told them about.

You shouldn't get angry at people for not following a vision you never told them about. Click To Tweet

2. List All The Reasons You See For Change

Maybe change you want to make is obvious to you, but that doesn’t mean others see it.

So list every reason you see for the change. In writing.

You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just write it out for yourself.

This will do two things:

1. You’ll become privately convinced of the strength of your argument. Note: this cuts both ways. If there are few good reasons for the change, you could also talk yourself out of it (which would, of course, relieve your angst).

2. You’ll be more convincing when you talk about the change you’d love to see. Not that you’d walk around saying “And here’s another reason….” But if you’re cogent and make sense in conversation after conversation, you might change the tide of the discussion.

So grab a piece of paper or your Evernote, and make a list.

3. Change Yourself

You’re human. You’ll be tempted to focus only on the changes you’d like to see.

But the best leaders also see a great opportunity in a stalemate. They focus on changing themselves.

A stalemate is a great opportunity to grow in character and skill. If you become the healthiest, most self-aware, kindest member of the team, people will be attracted to you and what you have to say.

And you won’t be as busy trying to change them. Which might be a nice turn of events in some cases.

When you're frustrated that things aren't changing, change yourself. Click To Tweet

4. Change What You Can

So you can change yourself. And the best leaders will do that.

But there are probably some things you can also change. And yes, you’ll be tempted to rail against the things you can’t change. But again, why focus on that?

Ask yourself this: What can I change?

You’re in charge of something. Change it.

You might argue that you don’t have permission to change anything.

Sure you do. You can change the culture. Even if you’re in charge of a volunteer team of 5, make them the 5 best loved people in the church or organization. Create a super healthy team. Accomplish all you can accomplish. Do everything you’re capable of doing. Even a little more.

Others might sit up and take notice, realizing everyone would be better off if they did what you’re doing.

And even if no one notices, the 5 people you work with will notice. And they’ll be so thankful for it.

5. Publicly and Privately Support the Team

So you’ve got some personal growth happening and you’ve changed whatever is within your control.

You’ll still be tempted to rail against the leadership that just doesn’t get it.

Or you’ll be publicly loyal but privately critical—all smiles during the meeting but venomous over coffee.

Big mistake.

Integrity would demand that you be the same in public and in private.

Plus it’s a decent strategy. As Andy Stanley says, public loyalty buys you private leverage. When a leader knows you’ve been supportive, they’re more likely to listen to you, even if what you have to say (to their face) is critical.

If you’ve got an issue with someone, share it with that person directly. Otherwise, keep quiet.

Public loyalty buys you private leverage. @AndyStanley Click To Tweet

6.  Weigh Your Options

Does this always turn out well? No, it doesn’t.

But churches (and every organization) would be so much healthier if people followed the course above.

So what happens if you’ve done all this and more and, still, nothing changes?

At this point I think you weigh your options. You need to decide whether you can live within a glass ceiling (things above you will likely not change), or whether it’s time to move on.

This is the time to prayerfully weigh your options, call in wise counsel and get them to give you advice and look at the pros and cons of staying v going.

When things don’t change, it might be time for you to make a change.

If it helps, I outlined 5 signs it’s time to move on in this post.

When things don't change, it might be time for you to make a change. Click To Tweet

7. Make a Decision

Too many leaders I know get stuck in perpetual discontent because they refuse to make a decision.

When I ask them how long they’ve been disgruntled they’ll often tell me ‘for years’ or ‘since the beginning’. Really? Then why are you still there?

Either make peace with the limits you see, or move on.

The key is to make a decision. Decide to stay or decide to leave.

If you stay, accept the limits and play within them. Do all you can with all you are able to influence and control but know you’ve settled for something less than you once hoped for.

Or you might head into the brave frontier of the unknown.

Either way, decide. Because either way, you’ll be happier than you would be if you simply stay perpetually frustrated.

What Do You Think?

What have you learned about what do you if you want things to change but no one else does?

Scroll down and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

7 Things You Can Do If You Want Things to Change…and No One Else Does


  1. Letting Go to Win | Laura Dickey on December 15, 2014 at 10:01 am

    […] never easy to change. I read an article this week about things you can do with change even when you’re faced with those who […]

  2. Brent Dumler on December 15, 2014 at 9:22 am

    The ‘change yourself’ point can be so powerful. One thing I’ve found challenging with this one is also taking a step back to honestly look at the proposed changes from the perspective of those voicing concerns. It may not change my direction as a leader (or it may), but it usually changes my approach to the changes.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 15, 2014 at 10:16 am

      Appreciate the Brent. It’s always harder to look in the mirror than out the window.

  3. John Berry on December 15, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Carey, thanks for your words and wisdom. Good stuff as always.

    CJ, been there brother. Been in your shoes and now as a family pastor I am on the other side of it too. Best thing and most effective thing I’ve done and others have done to me is lean into your staff more. In essence show them that you care more about them, the vision of the church and the ministry there. More than your own agenda. Most leaders who are guarded (mysterious and in ministry) have been simply burned or hurt before by a “non-staff” leader. Once they understand you heart for their vision and it is in line with theirs they will begin to give you freedom and understanding. After all, you are leading a ministry as a volunteer at a church you must care about. Remind yourself why you are at that church, serving that group of people and that community. Communication is the key. If you love them and the ministry you are a part of then share that passion with them in love and concern. You aren’t alone CJ.

    Not sure is if you want to share this but I remember a podcast with Andy Stanley where Clay Scroggins discussed ‘How to lead when your not in charge.” Great stuff along the same line.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 15, 2014 at 10:17 am

      That’s a great podcast John! Thanks for your comments and encouragement.

  4. Greg on December 12, 2014 at 6:50 pm


  5. Top 3 | Brian Suman on December 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    […] 7 Things You Can Do If You Want Things to Change…and No One Else Does  “So what do you do if you want things to change and pretty much no one else does?Your team doesn’t appear to be listening. The leaders or board above you are opposed. The culture in your organization is stale. That’s a tough situation in which almost every leader finds themselves from time to time.” […]

  6. Mike Berry on December 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Good stuff Carey!

  7. CJ on December 12, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Awesome Post Carey! What advice can you give to someone who is leading a large group within the Church, but is not paid staff? I work a job 9-5 outside the church so I’m never there for the daily interaction with the staff to see what the leadership it casting as far as vision. My wife and I sort of have an “island” feeling when it comes to our role in the church. We love what we do but no one ever checks on us, ask for updates, or shares vision one on one. Were also never apart of any staff meetings. I tell myself it would be different if we were there on staff but its very much a family ministry from the top down. Any advice? Thanks!

  8. […] Carey Nieuwhof suggests a seven-point strategy. […]