A Gem from Noah Fleming – Dealing with Resistance
As my consulting practice continues to grow, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with privately-held mid-market firms doing a few million in annual revenues, to larger companies doing over $2-5BN annual. I’ve also been lucky to work with a number of publicly traded companies and massive global brands over the past couple of years. One of the common themes I’ve had to deal with in many of these organizations–regardless of size–is the sentiment that “This too, shall pass.”
You see, a lot of people within these companies have seen new initiatives come and go over the years, so there’s often a natural reluctance when somebody new arrives advocating an approach that’s different than, “The way things have always been done.”
We’re also usually asking those same people to do more work, and engage in new activities. That’s not always fun when you’ve become comfortable with doing things one way over the past ten years and in some cases many more. Not everyone likes it when a calm boat changes direction into unchartered waters. So we’ll often find people who will give new initiatives some excitement at face value, but under the guise that, “This too, shall pass.”
How do we combat such a feeling? You’ve likely made investments that have passed. If it’s happened more than once, then it’s no wonder your people think this way. The challenge is that we’re often talking about initiatives, engagements, and interventions that are required–or that are desperately needed to meet the desired outcomes and reach new levels of success.
This is the reason why I often tell my clients up front that people are going to complain. Some will fight the change tooth and nail. Some will just choose not to comply. Some may try and dissuade others, and there will be a natural tendency to allows things to fizzle out and flow back to status quo. But we can’t allow this to happen. We have to be ready for this and have consequences for noncompliance. We have to be ready to deal with dissent quickly. And sometimes, this means things are going to get harder, and tougher decisions will need to be made before things get any easier.
If something new isn’t working, then, by all means, be ready to pivot, and pivot quickly, but allowing your people to dictate strategic direction is a recipe for failure–especially if you’ve made an investment in that direction.
You also need to be willing give new efforts the time of day. I once had a client that two months into a twelve-month project expressed concerns that things weren’t moving fast enough–but then I politely explained how far we had come in 60 days. We had reversed about ten years of inertia and had seen great results in that short time. He got the point (and is still a happy client.) That’s because what we put into place wasn’t allowed to pass, and it was eventually embraced.
Stay the course.
Because it’s up to you to show your people that the necessary and required initiatives are here to stay.
And all those naysayers, the ones not taking part, the people treating this as a short exercise, well they too shall pass…..through the doors, on the way out, when they see times have changed.
The best way to combat this is to be crystal clear with your team about what the expectations on them are for the new initiative, and to monitor them and provide feedback on their adoption (or lack thereof) as frequently as possible.
I’ve seen clients do weekly status updates, and in many places, I recommend a daily check-in for the first two months of any new initiative.
Whether it’s picking up the phone to call three past clients a day, or doing three new role-play exercises a week, communicating expectations of activity and expressing praise or displeasure as needed is incredibly important.
Your Challenge This Week
Ask yourself the following questions:
Can you think of an important initiative that isn’t being treated with the level of importance you think it should have?
Are you leaders doing enough to get your people to commit and follow through?
What steps could you take to improve activity and the expectations of activity?
What steps do you need to take to show your people that you mean business, and effort in new areas isn’t a choice–but a requirement?