Resistance can take many forms. People are complex and so are their reasons for not doing what you want. As a result we tend to oversimplify why people are resisting by explaining the reason from our own experience. We take the surface behaviour we see and treat it as the real substance behind the resistance, which is not always the case.
For example your team member doesn’t want to move desks. On the surface you think they don’t want to lose their seat with the good view and are kicking up a fuss in order to keep their prime position, but when probed you find out that sitting where they are lets them hear the discussions of their co-workers in the neighbouring team. This gives them useful information they can’t otherwise get access to in regular conversations with them. Your team member doesn’t actually mind changing desks and couldn’t care less about the view, but they want to remain plugged in to the informal communication network that helps them do their job better.
Knowing what’s going on below the surface makes overcoming resistance much easier. In fact, sometimes when you dig below the surface you realise there actually isn’t any resistance in the way you imagined. The resolution doesn’t always require a battle plan; sometimes a simple conversation is enough.
When we tackle resistance based on surface behaviour rather than the substance that sits underneath, at best, we are in danger of handling resistance that may not even exist and, at worst, we could be applying a band aid fix that provides only temporary relief. It’s like getting a headache and immediately reaching for head ache pills. Until you know why you got the headache in the first place the pill will only provide temporary relief; it won’t prevent the headache from coming back again.
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.