Pushing Back Against Resistance

Pushing Back Against Resistance

June 22, 2022

Leadership is all about movement – moving your team or organization from one idea or project to the next, one goal to the next, one level to the next. Your job as the leader is to generate and maintain momentum.

Sooner or later, you’re bound to encounter some resistance in keeping that momentum going. So, what do you do?

First, recognize the reason for the resistance.

Rick Maurer, an expert at organizational change, identified three basic reasons for resistance in his book Beyond the Wall of Resistance (2010). According to Maurer, either:

  • They don’t get it
  • They don’t like it
  • They don’t like you.

These days, there is a fourth reason: They have change fatigue.

Since March 2020, most businesses have been in an almost constant state of change or flux. From the first pivot during the early days of lockdown to the great return or great resignation of 2022, you and your team have been adjusting and adapting almost all the time. As one of our clients puts it, “the status quo these days is that there is no status quo.”

Once you figure out the reason for the resistance, it’s time to push back and push through the resistance to accomplish the desired change.

Many leaders make the mistake of assuming all resistance falls into the first category. They believe if they just explain more or train more, sooner or later everyone will follow along. This works if the problem is lack of information or understanding, but it can make the situation worse if the issue falls into one of the other three categories.

When the issue is that the team members don’t like the proposed change, no amount of training or explaining will secure real buy-in. This is the time for engaging the team in mutual exploration to discover what alternative approaches to meeting the goal are more acceptable. As the leader, you may need to give up “doing it my way” for “getting it done.”

When the issue is that they don’t like you, it’s important to work at establishing or re-establishing trust before pushing toward the goal. Don’t think that all the process or relationship stuff is a waste of time…it’s time well-spent if it gets your team on board.

Finally, when the resistance comes from change fatigue, it’s important to examine whether the change you are asking for is essential at this time. Is it something that can wait until you give your team a chance to catch their breath? This is a time to do what you can to restore resilience in your team. Provide extra support and flexibility or declare a moratorium on big adjustments for a while.

Every leader encounters resistance.

Successful leaders know what to do to counteract it.

Keep the momentum going in your team by understanding what type of resistance you are facing. Then, do the right thing to move past it.