This is a guest post by Martin Lanik, author of THE LEADER HABIT.
When you propose a change or new strategy to your team, do people openly resist your ideas? Do you have trouble articulating the improvements the change will bring? Are you unable to come to an agreement with particular team members?
As a leader, you must be able to bring your people on board to make change happen. But change is never easy. People tend to avoid it whenever they can and resist it when they can’t.
Being skilled at overcoming resistance will enable you to effectively align teams with organizational strategy, increase customer satisfaction, and implement new systems and processes. If you don’t address sources of resistance early on and show people that you’re on their side, their negativity can spread. What started as a single resistant individual can grow into an entire resistance movement.
Fundamentally, overcoming individual resistance means eliminating people’s reluctance to change by addressing their fears and objections and convincing them to take actions. In our extensive research and testing of nearly 800 executives for my book THE LEADER HABIT, my team and I discovered that there are four behaviors that effective leaders practice when they overcome resistance. They:
- Explicitly address people’s fears and reluctance by acknowledging their negative emotions and helping them to name those emotions.
- Sell people on the benefits of change by highlighting how they will personally benefit from the change.
- Facilitate the discussion to mutual agreement; periodically check the understanding of all parties involved and summarize what has been agreed so far during the discussion.
- Convince people to take action by highlighting shared goals.
Once you understand that these four behaviors are the key to overcoming resistance, you will need to internalize them for yourself, turning them into habits. Based on our finding that it takes 66 days to turn a behavior into a habit, here are four simple exercises that will help you develop this skill:
Exercise #1: Address fears
Resistance usually comes from strong negative emotions, such as when people feel threatened by change or fearful of it. Acknowledging negative emotions and helping people to name them is an effective way to overcome resistance.
Get in the habit of asking about people’s fears and reluctance using this exercise: After noticing even the slightest resistance, ask a question to learn about the person’s concerns by saying, “Can you tell me what about this may not feel right to you?” For example, a colleague may show slight resistance in the form of an “I agree with you, but …” statement, and you could ask, “Can you tell me what about this doesn’t feel right to you?”
Exercise #2: Highlight benefits of change
On the rational level, resistance may come from misunderstanding the change or from a lack of awareness of its benefits.
You can practice selling individuals on the benefits of change using this exercise: After identifying a procedure that you need to change, ask yourself, “How will people benefit from changing this workflow?” Write it down in one sentence. For example, the benefit of streamlining your quality assurance process would be that employees have fewer checklists to fill out, resulting in less required overtime.
Exercise #3: Find two areas of agreement
You must demonstrate to the other person that you are on his side, not his enemy.
Practice this exercise: After starting a conversation, focus on finding two areas of agreement. Summarize each one as soon as you discover it by saying, “It seems to me that we agree on … Is that correct?” For example, you could agree that you are both committed to addressing the issue under discussion, and you both want to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the problem.
Exercise #4: Identify and highlight shared goals
It is easier to overcome resistance if you can convince people that an action is linked with their goals. Use this exercise to practice identifying shared goals: After finishing a meeting, write down one goal that you share with the other people involved in the meeting. For example, your shared goal could be to have a smooth product launch, or to satisfy your customers.
By practicing these exercises, you will enhance your ability to overcome resistance – thereby strengthening the organization’s ability to boost innovation, build a culture of continuous improvement, refocus the organization on new markets, and implement new organizational strategy.
** Adapted from The Leader Habit: Master the Skills You Need to Lead in Just Minutes a Day (Amacom) by Martin Lanik. Copyright (c) 2018. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Martin Lanik is author of the business bestseller The Leader Habit and CEO of Pinsight. His habit-forming leadership training focuses on 5-minute practice sessions woven throughout the day. Martin’s research-based formula has helped thousands of high-potentials, managers, directors, and executives in 30 countries build stronger leadership skills. More than 100 companies – including AIG and CenturyLink – have implemented his programs, which have been featured in Forbes, Chief Executive, Chief Learning Officer, and Monster.com. Martin holds a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Colorado State University. Learn more at www.pinsight.com