- by Simon Harris
- May 20, 2023
- 3 mins
As managers and leaders, driving and supporting change is a critical part of the role. When we go about making change, we can inadvertently subvert the process and slow things down. Worse, we run the risk of losing the trust and confidence of the very people we need to enact not just the current, but future change as well.
The hard work is rarely the change itself. The hard work is developing the trust and understanding to make the change in the first place.
When most of us experience what we perceive as resistance to change, our initial response will be to lean into what Adam Grant calls Preacher mode–“they don’t understood how right I am!” If that fails, we’ll become a Prosector–“I’ll show them how wrong they are!” If things get out of hand, and we realise that we’re “losing” the “argument”, we might turn into a Politician–“maybe I need them to like me more?!” If none of that works, we become frustrated, judgemental, angry, and start to blame, at which point we might withdraw and find someone else who is more “willing” to help.
I know this because it was exactly how the majority of my interactions used to go.
What many people perceive as resistance to change is actually discord: between the therapist and the client; between the coach and the player; between the manager and the report; between the executive and the company. When you’re trying to evoke change in someone and you feel they aren’t responding, stop pushing for change and get back to strengthening the relationship before trying again.
Research also shows that self-efficacy is a significant predictor of change success, and that what we perceive as resistance, may actually be ambivalence. People who have been a part of failed change in the past have mixed feelings about their ability to enact change in the future. This experience of failure leads to a lack of confidence in the themselves and the system. When planning change, ensure people feel empowered, have agency, know what good looks like, and understand what might be holding them back from playing a part in their own journey.
Relying on a few “willing” people to drive change and “tell others what to do” may seem like a fast track, but it can be frustrating, exhausting, risky, and unlikely to generate long term improvement.
Scaling change through others requires effort to empower and give people agency. It requires engaging and listening and taking into consideration that you might be “wrong,” and that even when you’re “right,” that you took the action you did after considering their perspectives.
Most people want to improve, know that improvement requires change, and want to take an active part in it. Engage with them early and often, be explicit about what is known, and what is still to be worked through, and help them understand for themselves how to use their own skills to drive the change you want to see.
UPDATE: Catching up on my reading and unsurprisingly, Ray Grasso recently posted on a similar topic. Go check it out.