In many of my speeches I ask audience members to tell me what they think when they hear or see the word RESISTANCE. I receive answers such as: negative, unwanted, bad, slows things down, troublemaker, opposition, defiant or struggle. One time, a woman answered, “Necessary.”
She was right. Resistance is not only good, it’s necessary. Oftentimes executives begin executing their strategy and they might not know all the answers about what’s going on in their organization. They may overlook something or may not have considered an important prerequisite. Somewhere in the organization, there is someone who has overlooked something and not considered an important prerequisite. On the surface, this person might be thought of as a resister, yet they hold one of the keys to the leader’s success.
In one transformation in which I was involved, the leaders overlooked an important infrastructural requirement. They did not realize it until they took the time to speak with a group of employees previously considered “problematic.” Together, they identified the problem and implemented a solution.
Seek out resistance in your transformation. Here’s a simple outline to follow:
- Actively seek out those in your organization who are resistant to your transformation. Start with your immediate leadership team. Ask them about pockets of resistance. Go deeper from there.
- Ask don’t tell. When you find your resisters, now is not the time to advocate your cause as it will only turn people off. Start by asking questions to dig into their resistance. Be careful with asking WHY questions as these sometimes convey judgement. One of my favorite questions is “What are we missing?”
- Identify and document. List concerns, issues and risks that surface. Do this in front of the resisters, showing them that you are actively listening and genuinely concerned.
- Follow through. Nothing kills credibility like telling your employees that you’re going to do something, and then you don’t. Close off each of the items that surface, and report back about the disposition and progress. For items requiring a longer resolution time, add them to the project plan and ensure resolution.
- Enroll the resisters. I have found that those who are resistant often become your most passionate supporters. Give them a meaningful role during the transformation. One client gave them a role as spokesperson. There are few opening lines more powerful than, “I used to think this wasn’t a good idea, but I changed my mind when….”
By following this simple five-step approach, you will fuel your transformation to move along faster, and enroll employees whose enthusiasm and passion for the change will help enroll others throughout your organization.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,