When Your Team Resists Change, It’s an Opportunity for Ownership
You’ve noticed a problem, spent the last four days meeting with finance, strategizing, and building an action plan. You’re energized about what your team will achieve, your boss and peers are on board, and it’s time to meet with your team to roll out the new process. You share the details, all the benefits, and next steps. But it feels like your team resists change.
Your enthusiasm is met with quiet reluctance. Then your team brings up three different operational challenges and two reasons your customers won’t like it. Why can’t they understand the benefit and just move forward?
4 Things to Do When Your Team Resists Change
The resistance to change frustrates many leaders, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, the resistance you feel often means there’s an opportunity to create buy-in and ownership that will help you build a courageous culture (download your free courageous cultures white paper here). Here’s how to do it:
1) Avoid Labels
It’s easy to label people who raise objections. But they’re not necessarily lazy, stuck, negative, or even “resistant” (despite the title of this article).
Rather, they’re normal and human. Resisting change actually makes a lot of sense. After all, if what you did yesterday worked–it got you through the day, alive, fed, and healthy—why spend energy to do something differently? That’s a waste of time—unless there’s a good reason.
2) Start with the Problem
If you’re like most leaders, when you see a problem, you move to solutions as quickly as you can. Then you go to your team with a solution. It’s natural, but when you do this, you deprive your team of the understanding and connection that helped you arrive at the answer you’ve brought them.
Without that same connection, of course they won’t feel the same way you do. One way to solve this challenge is to start the conversation with your team by identifying the problem.
Eg: “I was looking at the numbers and we’re seeing a steady decline in re-enrollment.”
Then pause, let the issue sink in. If you have a team of introverts, give them time to think about the issue.
3) Ask for Their Thoughts
Once you’ve shared the problem and given them a moment to reflect. Ask for their thoughts. This helps anchor the problem in their thinking. They explore the consequences and how it interacts with other issues.
Change always starts with desire or dissatisfaction. By introducing the problem and letting it sink in, you’re creating the same emotional connection that helped you move to action.
When your why is bigger than your won’t, you will.
4) Ask for Their Solutions
As the team discusses the issue, they are likely to start asking about solutions.
When someone says, “What do you think we should do?” Resist the urge to answer. Instead, continue to ask for their ideas. They may come up with ideas you haven’t considered—or they may arrive at the same solution you’ve thought through.
But now there’s a crucial difference: they own it.
And if they can’t come up with any reasonable solutions, your ideas now have a hungry audience.
It may feel like this process takes extra time—and it does. It’s 15 or 30 minutes of time that prevents days, weeks, and even months of procrastination and foot-dragging. The team owns the problem and the solution. They’ve connected to the why and are ready for action.
This small investment of time overcomes some common reasons people resist change. A few notes:
1) If you suspect an individual is resisting because they will lose something (status, money, comfort) you will need to address that separately. Maybe there is a bigger “why” available that makes the trade-off worth it. Or, it may be an unavoidable consequence of a changing world. Don’t overlook these personal losses – they are real and if left unaddressed, make you look inhuman.
2) Sometimes you need to move quickly. The more you connect with your team and connect them to the why behind the change, the more buy-in you’ll have for the times you need to say “trust me and we’ll discuss it later.”
We’d love to hear from you – what’s your best practice to help teams navigate change?
In this wide-ranging interview, David and his guest, Dr. Kathleen Allen, explore how to grow change in ways that make it last, why survival of the fittest is a mistake, and how you can use nature as inspiration to lead in ways that will get better and more lasting results. Be ready to take notes – there are so many valuable questions you can use to have lasting influence.
Leading is tough enough without ignoring these critical truths.
“I wish someone would have told me some of this before I started leading. Life would have been so much easier. I bet my team wishes I knew it too.”
We hear this sentiment after almost every leadership workshop or keynote speech we deliver. And we get it – we wish we had access to all these leadership tools and strategies earlier in our careers. That’s why we built them, and are so passionate about sharing.
But you know as well as we do, leading well isn’t JUST about mastering tools and techniques. It’s a mindset.
So today we bring you six leadership realities we wish we learned sooner.
6 Leadership Realities to Ground Your Leadership
1. Everyone is a volunteer.
Control is an illusion. You don’t control anyone or anything except for yourself. Everyone you work with chooses what they’ll do and how they’ll do it. Yes, your team is paid and if they choose not to perform at a certain level, they can lose their job – but that’s still their choice.
When you remember everyone is a volunteer you know that the effort you want your people to give is their choice. Sure, you get to influence that choice. When you recognize that everyone chooses what they do, it transforms their work into a gift, and that changes everything.
2. You’re in the hope business.
This is one of the most neglected truths about leading a team. Leadership is the belief that if we work together we can have a better tomorrow. Together we can do more, be more, and add more value to the world.
That’s a big deal. It might be the biggest deal of all.
And some of the time your team will be stressed and discouraged, your job is to help them find the hope.
Without hope, you’re done. When your team has hope, you have a chance.
3. Change isn’t a choice.
When you’re leading you’ll never have it handled.
There are moments of dazzling teamwork where everyone aligns and you achieve more than you ever thought possible. But next week, one of those team members moves away or technology changes or your competitor does something different that you can’t ignore. Now you’re working hard again to create the next future.
Leadership is a journey where are no final destinations. At some point, you will leave your team – hopefully, in the capable hands of leaders whom you’ve invested in and developed. In the meantime, whatever you did last week opened the door for the new challenges and change you will face this week.
4. Effective or right?
Many new leaders (and more than a few experienced leaders) get stuck because they cannot see past their own “rightness” and do the things that will help them achieve results and build relationships.
“Why should I have to tell them again…I said it once.”
Yes, you did – three months ago. People have many priorities competing for their attention. If it’s important, communicate it multiple times in multiple ways.
“Why should I encourage/thank them? they’re just doing their job.”
Yes, they are. Yet people are more engaged when they feel appreciated and are seen as a human being, not just a cog in a machine.
“Why should I hear opposing viewpoints? I’m an expert in this subject and I’ve looked at all the options.”
Yes, you are and we’re sure you did a thorough analysis, but if you want your team to be committed to the idea, their voices need to be heard. Besides, you might be surprised by someone else’s perspective.
If you want to achieve results and increase your influence, look for places where you’ve clung to being “right.” Then let it go…and choose to be effective.
5. Harder isn’t smarter.
“Work smarter, not harder” is a cliché for a reason. More effort isn’t always the answer. Twelve hour days filled with back-to-back meetings may feel busy, but they’re not healthy, strategic, or ultimately productive.
When you’re leading, creating time to think and get perspective will often be far more valuable than pouring in a few more minutes of sweat equity. Once you’ve got motivated people and clear shared expectations, the changes that will do the most good often aren’t more effort, but better systems.
6. You are not alone.
Too many leaders suffer in lonely silence. You don’t have to. In fact, leading by yourself will limit your career and influence.
Effective leaders connect with people. Connect with your colleagues and invest in one another’s success. Connect with your team and they’ll make you better. Connect with mentors or coaches to grow. Connect with a community of leaders for support and encouragement.
When you build on a strong foundation, leading is more rewarding and you’re more effective. Leave us a comment and share a foundational truth or mindset that has served you well.
Change is Inevitable, Strategic Change is a Choice
It’s a hard truth that confounds many leaders: continued success requires continued change.
But change isn’t easy. For most people (and therefore most of your team) it’s more comfortable to do what you did yesterday than to do something new today.
One of the critical roles every leader plays is to help their teams to navigate change successfully. Not just change for the sake of change, but strategic change that achieves breakthrough results.
Transforming results requires every heart and brain working together. Change requires confidence and inclusion, not selling. When you take your audacious vision and make it feel real, practical, and achievable, your team will be energized and ready for what’s next.
1. Establish a clear vision
Be crystal clear about what you want to accomplish. Communicate and reinforce your vision through every medium possible. When you’re sure everyone’s got it, communicate even more. It’s important to explain the reasons behind a change as well as to identify the specific behaviors you need from employees in each role.
2. Be honest about the benefits
The notion that all that employees care about is WIIFM—what’s in it for me?—is BS. Sure, employees want to know what’s in it for them. They equally want to know what’s in it for you and for their customers.
It’s not enough to be clear about the “What?” – they’ve got to know the “Why?” as well. In the absence of information, people often jump to the most pathological conclusion. Leave out key information and they fill in the blanks with assumptions (e.g., “the next thing you’ll do is downsize.”) They want to know that you’ve thought this through with your brain and not just your pocketbook.
3. Start small
Don’t advocate for an idea or change that’s half-baked or full of flaws. Test it first with a small group, take their feedback seriously, and get it right. It’s tough to regain credibility. “Oh yeah, I admit it stank before, but now it’s better,” only leaves people wondering why some bozo made a choice to sing praises for an idea, system, or process that was full of problems in the real world.
Even if it looks great on paper, your boss is sold, and it worked well in the IT war room, field test the change first.
Yes, this takes time. Go slow to go fast.
Take the risk of making some waves to make it easy for your team. You might be slower out of the gate than others, but when you get it right and everyone owns it, you’ll sustain your results and be ready for the next change.
4. Establish easy-to-access listening posts
This is perhaps the most important part. Really listen to what your people tell you. Respond to feedback with solutions, not selling. When you fix something, communicate it back using the 5×5 method – 5 times, 5 different ways. Ask, “How can we address this and make the change serve its purpose?”
5. Leverage reluctant testimony
Share as many testimonials as you can, especially from people who were doubtful at first. Get your most excited employees showing how your new idea, system, or process changed their world. Your most influential stories will come from the least likely suspects: the sales guy who never bothered with this stuff before, the new rep who’s now running circles around the old-timers because she uses the new system, the supervisor who got his entire team (including the union steward) performing acrobatics with the new process.
6. Involve the team in key decisions
No one wants stuff done to them, or even for them. With them goes a lot further. Ask employees, “What’s working well and how do we leverage it? What enhancements do we need? Where should we head next?” All these questions go a long way. Include employees by involving them in your change efforts.
Leave a comment and share with us your best leadership strategy to help your team navigate change.
I (David) first met Ilja when we both happened to be visiting Manhattan. He had just released his latest book on change and I was sharing a leadership keynote with a business headquartered in Long Island. On a chilly spring evening, we shared drinks on a roof-top patio overlooking the Empire State building and talked about his favorite places in Germany, changes in the world economy, and leadership. Ilja invited Karin and me to join him in Phoenix, AZ as his guests for the National Speaker’s Association Council of Peers Award for Excellence gala (it’s like the Academy Awards for professional speakers) and we look forward to reconnecting in Singapore where the three of us are presenting at the same conference. As an expert in change and change management, Ilja embodies his message with an energetic, upbeat, and positive response to whatever comes his way.
A while ago, I read an interview with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, where he made a fascinating observation. He said: “Today, mankind produces more information, data and ideas than from the stone age until the year 2003 together.“ And he nailed it with that statement. Because the changes around us are getting more and more intense. Everything changes. Permanently. The economy, the organizational structures in our companies, our very own working space. As a keynote speaker and change coach, I have the privilege of working with a lot of awesome organizations. And it doesn’t matter which industry I look at, whether it’s a big brand or a small company with just a hundred employees. There is one thing they all have in common: The rules have changed and constant change has become the new normal.
Click on the image for more information about Ilja’s book.
The Rules Have Changed
Especially disruptive technologies, the demographic trend and the digitalization are the main reasons that markets change dramatically and the customers are behaving completely different than they used to do just a few years ago. And that means that our ability to deal with this new complexity around us will be the most important factor if we will still be successful in the future or if we become obsolete. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about change for change’s sake, but about change with a purpose. Change with intention. Change to reach your goals, to become more profitable and to grow as a person. In the upcoming years, nothing will be more important, than to adapt to these new circumstances.
Use Your Mindset as Your #1 Asset
What does all that mean to your jobs as a leader? First, you need to quickly adapt to all of the changes going on around you and adjust your own mindset. Even more importantly, you need to lead the changes in your team. Organizations only change when the people change. And it is your job to make sure they do. Not by telling them or giving orders, but by reaching their hearts and leading with your actions. And believe me, I know what I am talking about. In my own career, I started out as the youngest store manager in Germany’s largest department store corporation and overall, I was responsible for ten different stores all over the country. Back then, not only did I have to deal with tough competition, changing markets and the upcoming phenomena of online shopping but also with a huge crisis within the company itself. Locations were shut down, profits were decreasing and thousands of employees were facing the fear of unemployment. During these tough times, I learned the biggest lesson of my life: Change is not what happens around you, but how you deal with it. It is your mindset that makes all the difference. Your attitude. And after all, the culture in your organization. Let me share one of my deepest beliefs with you: A company culture of openness, flexibility, and courage beats every sophisticated business strategy by far. Because there’s one thing you can be sure of: If you are good, your competition will copy everything. They will copy your products, your prices, maybe even your marketing. But they will never be able to copy your culture.
Create a Culture of Change in Your Company
In my book “Think it. Do it. Change it.”, I explained how to develop this special attitude of change. If you know how motivation really works, why the fear of going new ways is actually your best friend, and how to use your own uniqueness to lead the changes in your company, your community and most importantly, in your family, you will be able to make a huge difference. At the end of the day, dealing with change is a mindset. A certain way of thinking, deciding and taking action, that we have to adjust not only once, but on a daily basis. The more you use that special attitude, the sooner you will develop strong habits. And that’s important because changes never happen overnight. They are a process with successes and failures. With ups and downs. You have to work hard to make it happen every single day. Isn’t it true? It’s never the one with the best abilities who wins, but always the one who is well prepared, the one who takes massive action and changes actively. Because under the same circumstances it’s always the attitude, the mindset, the company culture that makes all the difference in the world. So dream big. Act bold. And you will get the results you want.
Winning Well Reflection
We were struck by Ilja’s observations that “organizations only change when people change.” As leaders, it’s all-too-easy to fall into the “they-game”e.g. I’ll lead well … when “they” get their act together… when “they” fix the problem … when “they” give us a better system. But that’s not leadership. Leaders take responsibility and create the change that needs to happen. We love the way Ilja reminds us that “change is a mindset” – you often don’t know what you’ll show up to – but you have 100% control over how you show up.
Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about Vision and Strategy. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month, we turn our focus to Building Productive Workplace Relationships. Submissions due February 12th– new participants always welcome, please us this form.
In the post, You are enough, Lisa Kohn fromThoughtful Leaders Blogreminds us that vision and strategy are only effective when we come from a position of strength, and why we should therefore give up trying to prove anything to anyone, and more importantly, to even yourself.Follow Lisa.
Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.
LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center! shares that body language plays an important role in leadership success. Many entrepreneurs and business owners focus on verbal skills, but they fail to realize there are two conversations going on when they meet another person. The first conversation is the one where words are used to convey information; while the second one broadcasts thoughts, attitudes, and emotions through the body. If we are unaware of the non-verbal messages we are sending, the second conversation could undermine the first one. Follow LaRae.
Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. June’s Festival is all about change and transitions. We have a record line-up of impressive thought leaders. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx for their awesome pic (see right). Follow @joy_guthrie. A special thanks also goes to LGL intern Ben Evans.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” –John F. Kennedy
Jeff Miller of The Faithful Pacesetters brings us An Agent of Change. We all think things are always getting worse…don’t we? John the Baptist knew that Jesus would bring a better future for all people of the earth. Leaders can also provide an improved future for others by promoting the proper changes needed. Follow Jeff @JeffJayMiller
David Dye of Engage! brings us How to Stop Burning Emotional Energy. Your body turns over 98% of its atoms every year! Change is a constant, but how we react to it is a choice. In this article, David shares a practical tool you can use to reduce and eliminate wasted change-related emotional energy. Follow David @DavidMDye
Managing Through Career and Life Changes
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs
My German Father-in-law would call trying to fix this negative workplace, Furzen gegen den Donner, farting against thunder. I’ve got to admit, the description I got on the other end of the phone was pretty bad: little to no recognition, development, or teamwork combined with long hours, limited resources, lots of finger-pointing, and the uncertainty of a new acquisition and consolidation.
When my caller tried to get a hold of a list of the company values, no one seemed to know where to find them. The veterans knew they existed, somewhere they were as opaque as the vacation policy no one took seriously.
Leaders were fleeing this negative workplace every day. And yet this LGL member was staying, and pulling people together to improve the scene (which had nothing to do with his day job). Why?
“I used to feel like I needed to get out of here, but now I’m so excited to be part of the solution. it’s fulfilling to see progress. I know I may lose my job in a year or so, but for now, this feels like important work.”
Important work indeed. The world needs people who dive deeper to change a negative workforce. It’s far easier to run away. Here are some tips that can help. Please add yours to the list.
How To Be A Positive Force In A Negative Workplace
Ask Why They Work – In this negative environment, this may seem obvious: “for the paycheck, stupid”. But take it a step further. Do they work to support their sick mom? To pay back student loans? To save for their children’s education? Because they enjoy helping customers? Because? Reconnecting to the purpose of work can help make the smaller annoyances less frustrating.
Call It What It Is – When you see negative thinking or actions, talk to the person privately to call it out – particularly if other leaders are involved. When negative attitudes and talk are all around, it’s tempting to ignore it. Raise the bar and change the conversation.
Rise Above The Drama – Refuse to get sucked into the rumors and gossip. Respond to your team’s concerns with transparency and candor. Be the one people know they can trust for a straight answer.
Find Kindred Spirits – The truth is not everyone is negative, although it can feel that way at times. Look around and find other folks trying to change the scene for the better. There is strength in numbers.
Create A Cultural Oasis – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to fix the overall culture. Start with your own team and do what you can to make it feel better to come to work. See: BYOO: Build Your Own Cultural Oasis.
Find Reasons To Celebrate – With all the negativity, it’s easy to overlook the good. Go out of your way to recognize and celebrate small wins. Substitute weak phrases like no problem with more enthusiastic recognition power words.
See Barriers As A Challenge – Encourage your team to embrace the problems they are seeing as challenges to learn and grow from. Recapping learning along the way helps them feel a sense of positive momentum even during the most challenging times.
Laugh More – I had one colleague who would respond to the ridiculous political nonsense by reminding us it’s all comedy. Stepping back and recognizing how ridiculous some behavior is creating a healthy distance from which to respond more appropriately.
Hold Deeper Developmental Conversations – In periods of uncertainty, people yearn for a sense of control and connection. Take your developmental conversations to the next level. Ask your team and your peers about their hopes and dreams, what motivates them and what scares them. Show up as a real human being caring about other real human beings.
Weak leaders stay the course to save face. Afraid of looking silly, dumb gets dumber. Strong leaders eat crow for dinner (tastes like chicken).
When You Must Change Direction
You’ve taken a strong stand, rallied people around your vision, and worked hard to engage their hearts and minds. You’ve got momentum.
But life’s messy. Circumstances change. New information. Changing dynamics. Competing pressures. You can change your mind without looking foolish. In fact, changing course elegantly builds credibility.
How to Change Your Mind
Be Honest – Start with yourself. Understand what you’re changing and why. Be clear about what’s changed the information, the circumstances or just your viewpoint. Be sure you can explain it to yourself first. If you were wrong, that’s okay. Be ready to admit that.
Communicate – Be honest with others. Be straightforward. If you were wrong, say so. If circumstances changed, explain the dynamics. Use this as an opportunity to model and teach leadership.
Say Thank You – Thank them for their commitment and support. Acknowledge effort, and explain why it’s not wasted.
Engage – If venting is necessary, take a minute. Address concerns. Explain more.
Communicate Consistency – Remind them of what hasn’t changed. Vision. Core values. Teamwork. Works great as a conversation.
Solicit support – Describe the new vision. Ask for support. Describe specific behaviors.
Trust me. I’ve learned this one the hard way. Sharing too much may make you feel better, but the stress multiplies as it rolls downhill. Resist the urge and learn to become a buffer.
“Sadly most organizations seemed to have embraced chaos and called it a good thing for an organization. One example is the rising number of job descriptions that include “tolerance for ambiguity’ as a necessary skill. Let me be clear: chaos is never a good thing for an organization. While the world is fluid, and increasingly so, this is no excuse for ambiguity and chaos in organizations. Rather than asking your workforce to accept and develop a skill set around coping with chaos, you should be doing everything you can to reduce the chaos to begin with.”
Have you made a New Year’s resolution? I am always astounded at how many folks tell me that their resolution is “the same as last year.”
It’s often the same with our leadership. We read the books, we take the course, we build our action plans. We keep working on the same stuff, it gets better for a while and then we hit a snag. Perhaps we revert back to our old behavior. That’s when the real work begins.
“If you call failures experiments, you can put them on your resume and claim them as achievements”
Hmm… Perhaps we are going about it the wrong way. What if instead of a New Year’s resolution, we approached 2013 as an ongoing experiment toward what we are hoping to become.
What struck me most in terms of application to leadership was the concept of “being the scientist and the subject.”
Whether working to lose weight or changing your leadership approach, it’s not about following someone else’s diet or following the steps outlined in a leadership course.
Instead what works best is trying something new and carefully paying attention to how that worked adjusting and trying again.
The changers we studied discovered what worked for them through a scientific process of trial and error. They didn’t get it right the first time. in truth, when people are struggling with tenacious habits, few ever do. Instead they took two steps forward and one step back — and sometimes the reverse. But they had a skillful way of learning from their setbacks so that their plan evolved in a deliberate direction. They snipped a little here and added a little there. They tried a new technique, observed, learned and tried again. Day by day, week by week, they moved forward until one day their plan addressed all of their unique challenges– and they succeed.
Change Anything author Kerry Patterson and team go on to share how identifying critical moments, vital behaviors and understanding the sources of influence can all inform this personal experiment.
“If you want to succeed, you’ll have to give up the hope of simply being the subject of some smart person’s discovery. You’ll have to be both the scientist and the subject– in search of the most important science discovery of all: how to change you.”
How can you “turn bad days into good data?”
When your resolution becomes an experiment, even mistakes can be progress.