4 Powerful Responses to Resistance
One of my embarrassing leadership blunders was allowing passion and vision to blind me to the interests of others. You either agreed with me or you were a roadblock.
Sadly, my strategy was to convince everyone I was right. Just lovely!
Leaders who need to be right:
- Invite resistance.
- Judge others by conformity.
- Use coercion to get what they want.
Forward movement eventually encounters resistance. People don’t get it, don’t like it, don’t want it.
Your response to resistance determines how far you go.
Leadership-entitlement is the destructive belief that leaders deserve unquestioned obedience. “Do what I say because I’m the boss.”
Entitled leaders struggle with followers who have minds and hearts.
Successful leaders find ways to move forward with people who think for themselves.
Resistance is an invitation to understand another’s perspective not an indictment of your leadership. The message of resistance is understand me, not pressure me.
Pressure escalates resistance until someone eventually gives in. Those who give in are close to giving up.
Successful leaders learn to pull-with not push-against.
You can’t motivate. You can influence.
“Get past this notion that motivation is something that one person does to another…,” Daniel Pink, author of, Drive, referring to a conversation with Edward Deci.
4 Powerful responses to resistance:
#1. Humility rather than entitlement.
- Remain open hearted.
- Drive toward organizational objectives.
Humility without drive is apathy. Drive without humility is arrogance.
#2. Transparency about goals.
- My goals are ….
- What are your goals?
- What’s important about what you want?
#3. Candor about the brutal facts.
- What’s frustrating about this?
- How are we pulling in different directions?
- How do your goals and my goals align?
#4. Kindness during interactions.
- What am I doing that blocks our connection?
- What can I do to make you feel supported?
What strategies do you employ when you encounter resistance?
Bonus: Daniel Pink on taking perspective (1:25):
The book Daniel mentioned in the interview: “To Sell is Human.”
Nice topic and something I see a lot.
I would humbly suggest adding respect the to the 4 (now 5) responses. Perhaps covered by your other headings and I suggest it captures it better. When we respect others we invite their viewpoint from a position of collaboration not defence which adds to not detracts from the interaction.
Thanks Rob. Respect is such a great word. It takes on a special meaning and power when there is tension.
All suggested responses- humility, transparency, kindness and candor are great. I do not see anything beyond these. All the interconnected and needed at the same time. However, I find humility is the great element that opens the way. I appreciate your point, humility without drive is apathy and drive without humility is arrogance. It is really true. Humility is the sign of great human with knowledge and wisdom. Knowledgeable people without wisdom show their arrogance and hence lack humility.
So, I think, responses to resistance is more about self awareness. People with greater self-awareness can respond better than others. Similarly, wisdom quotient is more powerful than knowledge alone. When we invite the feeling of entitlement and rights, then we tend to show our arrogance.
As always, I believe, leadership is always about others. They create platform to grow all.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. I’m so glad you brought self-awareness to the conversation. Arrogant people aren’t self-aware. They are actually disconnected. Working toward self-awareness through reflection, for example, is one way to step toward humility.
Dan, great point: “Arrogant people aren’t self-aware. They are actually disconnected.” This is a form of narcissism. This type of leader wants a follower to be an extension of his or her own ego, and that’s not a relationship. It’s a failure to acknowledge the identity or full person-hood of another. I agree with Dr. Gupta that knowledge is not wisdom without humility. Without humility we can’t experience empathy. Without empathy, we can’t experience community.
Sometimes visions are a bit clouded and need a little clarity from “others” so we can see the entire picture through the clouds not in the clouds. When I speak of others I seek their experiences compared to my experiences with intent on promoting a clear and understandable approach to our goals for everyone including myself, because sometimes I don’t see the whole picture either.
Thanks Tim. Profound. We typically see others through our own lens. It takes intention to step out of our own experiences and see the whole picture. Even when I try, I find I’m only marginally successful. My cloud gets in the way!
We also need to ensure we consider the point of view of the recipient, most often the resistant receiver. Ask yourself … From what perspective are they seeing our communication / message. Often, if we take the time to appreciate their perspective then we understand where our own communications have “potentially” been misunderstood allowing for personal learning and growth as a leader. Plus we often see ways to reclassify our communication to improve the influence it perpetuates.
Awesome! All of the above. I would have to say humility and kindness lead the pack and pave the way for the others.
Jerry, the type you mention responds well to flattery. They also take your good ideas and claim them as your own, so think of some strategic kernels of wisdom to drop in their path for them to pick up …it could change them. Accept that they are here to stay and plan accordingly.
JUST had a conversation about this very topic this morning. So here’s a follow-on question for you or the group:
How do you deal with a leader above you that doesn’t believe any of this?
Resistance is a key topic in change management. As leaders, we need to understand that different people will react to change differently and change at different rates; we need to respect each person’s rhythm. With change comes loss, fear and incertainty – no wonder people will express resistance! Leaders need to make room for the expression of these feelings, be able to acknowledge them, talk about them and explain the benefits of the new vision to each person (what’s in it for them?). If done well, the toughest resistors will become the biggest advocates!
Most of the time, “change management” is a complicated way of saying you need to find a way to tell people that they have to do more with less for the same or less reward, and/or that you need to fire 10% of them. Can you explain why you are suprised that turkeys are not great enthusiasts for Christmas?
What strategies do you employ when you encounter resistance?
I ask the question “Why?” Funny the very words that created problems for me in school (but why), are the same words that help me understand and resolve issues now – oh and learn a lot along the way.
This is a great methodology for applying Covey’s Effective Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Thanks for sharing!
Love the connection you make between leadership and sales here. Imagine what would happen if all salespeople were Leadership Freaks! What a great way to allow people to buy instead of being sold.
The first response to resistance (humility) that you list I believe is essential. When we allow pride to interfere with our learning it can be so destructive. Thank you for putting it at the top of the list. All the others are essential as well. Thanks for sharing.
Humility allows for association, it bridges the gap between you as a leader and the people you are leading. Its the first step to learning your environment, in terms of the people you are leading. Unless you understand the people you are leading; their culture and they see your attempt and feel they can associate or relate with you, you’ll always face resistance or be misunderstood.