Beware calm waters; silence is not always compliance

Getting people on board with a new initiative does not mean getting rid of resistance. Resistance is a normal and healthy response to change. Our goal needs to be surfacing any resistance so we can deal with it effectively. In essence, resistance is like the ocean; sometimes you can see the danger above the surface and sometimes you get caught unawares by the strong currents below. When the ocean is stormy and wild waves come crashing down, you can see the situation with the naked eye; you can see what you are dealing with. Even though the situation might be intense and overwhelming, at least you have the opportunity to take calculated risks and you know where you stand.

When the water appears calm on the surface, it’s a different story altogether. The appearance of the water can give you false confidence about your ability to swim in it. You might naively rely on just the strength of your swimming ability, not thinking you might need extra support or different equipment to stay afloat. Strong rips can carry you out to sea or suck you under. You might even have to deal with some scary sea monsters along the way! The danger with calm water is you never really know what you are dealing with and this can make safe swimming very difficult.

Resistance works in the same way. The more loud, obvious and overt the resistance the easier it is to deal with; you know it’s there and you know what you’re facing. Also resistance that is more visible is (generally) less troublesome in the long run. When people feel moved enough to voice their resistance they usually want some kind of resolution. This means they are motivated to want to engage and work through the resistance to get a good outcome. Loud resistance comes from a passionate stance on something and once the conversation can begin, the resistance can be addressed. So beware calm waters and bring on the waves!

Anneli is an accomplished leadership speaker, mentor and co-author of Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders. She is currently working on her next book, ‘Decoding Resistance: The real reason people won’t do what you want’, a practical guide for increasing buy-in, reducing push back and navigating the daily barriers that impact influence, engagement and change.

Leading change program - transforming resistance to results.

Want more from Anneli? For leaders of change initiatives who need to deliver - on time and on budget, this program supports leaders to effectively diagnose and understand the resistance of key players that could jeopardise the project’s success. This is not about project management; it’s about people management - strategies for engagement, effective change communication and how to get key players on board, to keep the project on track.

Contact Anneli today to find out how.