7 Responses to Reasoned Resistance
The line between bold and foolish is often determined by success or failure.
Fearful organizations are full of people who know why it’s better to stay the same.
Remarkable success requires boldness, but bold leaders fail more.
Subtle opposition to change:
Critics and opponents use questions that sound like concern. I remember a secretary who said, “When I don’t want to do something, I ask lots of questions.” She uses distraction and foot dragging to escape change. Her questions seem like concern.
Cowardice comes disguised as wisdom in top-down organizations that automatically punish failure. Fearful leaders say, “It seems like a good idea,” but won’t commit.
Cowardly leaders support risk-takers and punish them when they fail.
Self-protective career building:
Career builders protect themselves by hanging back until success seems assured. They speak opposition privately in after meetings.
The difference between average and exceptional begins with boldness.
If you don’t feel afraid, you aren’t leading. Leadership requires courage. The more courage you display, the more courage you inspire and the more resistance you invite.
The cure for cowardly resistance is hope. Exploring cowardly resistance validates cowardice. The solution to reasoned resistance is forward-facing exploration.
7 responses to reasoned resistance:
- Tell me again why this idea won’t work. Reasoned-resistors won’t open their hearts until they feel heard.
- What are we missing? What am I missing?
- How might we test these ideas in an acceptable way?
- What makes staying the same better than trying something new? How might we answer your concerns?
- I see what we can’t do. What can we do?
- What happens if things stay the same?
- Next year at this time, what will we wish we had done? Not done?
Leaders who push back on reasoned resistance, without exploring it, create more resistance.
What behaviors exemplify fearful organizations?
How might leaders respond to reasoned resistance?
“Cowardly leaders support risk-takers and punish them when they fail.”
How do I encourage acceptable risk-taking where the cost of experimentation isn’t too high?
Perhaps stated another way, how do I encourage a sense of trying to fail early and fast before getting stuck in the mode of “I’ve invested so much now – this *must* work at all costs”
Thanks Mark. What a great question. I like the “what are we learning” approach to failure. In addition, I think, developing several options for a step forward helps people stay open. When there is only one option, we begin defending that option and our creativity tends to close down. Creating several options for the path forward and then choosing one helps relieve pressure. We don’t work on THE solution. We work on A solution.
What comes to your mind?
“Exploring cowardly resistance validates cowardice.” Dan will you please explain a little more what you mean by this?
Thanks Dr. Cheng. Great question. My premise is that hope not reasoned argument answers cowardly resistance. With that in mind, we give too much power to cowardly arguments when we try to answer them with logic.
The purpose of cowardly resistance isn’t to figure out how to move forward it’s to justify the status quo. I think of reasoned resistance as resistance that comes from someone who is willing to move forward but has some reasons why moving forward is troubling.
I’m glad you asked. What are you thinking?
i so agree with you
There’s so much in this concise piece that I’d like to jump all over (in the best sense of joining you), but I’ll confine myself to two brief remarks.
A bit of background first. For the last several years we have been doing research into the usual behaviors and personal needs – I did not say “temperament” for a reason – that distinguish succesful turnaround pastors from their nonturnaround colleagues. We’ve been able to identify seven statistically significant differences between the two groups, with a high degree of confidence.
So change leadership is near and dear to our hearts. Now, for my comments on your post:
One of the primary distinguishing differences between the two groups is verbal dominance. Effective change leaders tell rather than suggest. They give clear, concise and unmistakable direction as to what they want done. The ineffective leaders are verbally recessive. So your comment that “fearful leaders say, ‘it seems like a good idea’ but won’t commit” is absolutely spot on. Verbal dominance by itself is a primary sorting tool for churches that are lookinig for an effective leader to guide them off the plateau or pull them out of the death spiral.
I would add two more “responses to reasoned resistance.” One is based on our research and the other is based on our review of the literature on change leadership / change management / change theory.
8. “Let’s take time to think this through before we make a final decision.”
One of the most surprising findings in our research is that the most effective leaders, contrary to the popular myth of the rapid-fire decision maker, is that they take a lot of time to make decisions. They gather sufficient data (without getting bogged down in a never-ending quest for more), they evaluate the options, they seek advice, and they spend time staring out the window. In contrast, the less effective change leaders tend to make snap decisions, they are uncomfortable with ambiguity and they want everything boiled down into the simplest possible statement of the problem.
9. “Tell me what you’re afraid of losing.”
This is based on our review of literature in this field. At the risk of playing the role of the small boy with a large hammer, I’d venture to guess that somewhere on the order of 80% of all change resistance (the Pareto principle at work) is based on the fear of loss.
Since this is an emotional reaction rather than a rational response, you cannot argue people out of it. You have to deal with irrational fears of this sort by listening to them. Very often, when people have (1) given voice to their fears and (2) feel that they’ve been heard, that’s sufficient to deflate the resistance.
Thanks for this post. A valuable contribution.
Thanks Bud. It’s great to learn about your research.
One thing that really resonates with my journey is the idea of taking time to make good decisions but NOT getting bogged down. I find this to be a challenging tension. I’ve spend plenty of time on aim aim aim aim…. A few years ago, I started asking, “What’s keeping us from making a decision right now?”
Thanks for jumping in.
A great article and a very valuable follow up comment. Thank you both.
The following quote is so very, very true: “Leaders who push back on reasoned resistance, without exploring it, create more resistance.” If it’s ‘reasoned,’ that deserves exploring – even if the reasoning is extremely questionable!!!
Lack of communication and fear are the greatest contributors to organizational failure. It requires deliberate culture-shaping to prevent such failure. The people within an organization need to feel safe and valued which requires open lines of communication. The leaders are responsible for shaping the culture and setting the climate for success.