3 Surprising Ways Leaders Create Change Resistance

Leading a change is very different than other work. Change takes hearts and minds before a process can change or the new product is realized.

Individuals join in, bring their own ideas and share why the change matters with others in their circle. Change isn’t a command and control effort cascading its way through the hierarchy level by level, it moves through an organization or community like a virus person by person.

I’ve spent the last couple of years researching the behaviors and habits essential for starting a successful change or people I call Wave Makers. Interestingly, some of the very behaviors and habits that derail a change are those we associate with being a strong leader.

Change isn’t a command and control effort cascading its way through the hierarchy level by level, it moves through an organization or community like a virus person by person.

Let’s look at three familiar ways you can unknowingly develop change resistance within your team when:

1. You have to have all of the answers.

Many of us earned our reputations and progressed in business because we are problem solvers. We know how to get things done. Yet, this self-reliance and desire to know everything signals that others are spectators, not contributors. Real changes need participation and engagement from more than you. Observers won’t work.

Jonathan Morris, of Young Presidents Organization, shared that the kiss of death for your change is showing up to a discussion with, “Good news, everyone. I have all of the answers!” It’s the quickest way to shut down the room. Even if those words aren’t used this signal is sent by not listening, not involving others and only allowing time for an approval not participation.

Inviting others to be part of your change or wave—especially at the beginning—will not only make you smarter, but it will become “our” wave not just “your” wave. Become comfortable moving forward even without all of the answers.

Real changes need participation and engagement from more than you. Observers won’t work.

2. Being right matters more than end result.

I found that Wave Makers have adaptable persistence – the ability to keep going while adjusting as they learn more. I think of this quality like a child in a maze at the playground who knows they want to get to the other side and keeps testing and trying new ways until they get there.

When you dig a little deeper, you see that a big influencer of that persistence is that Wave Makers aren’t focused on the personal recognition or being right. They have their eye on the bigger prize – the change and impact at they see on the horizon. As a result, they don’t see a setback as a personal failure or a hit to the ego, but more something to learn from and manage around. When setbacks become personal it’s easier to give up too soon.

In a recent New York Times article, Thomas Friedman shared why Google values people who learn from failure. He said, “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure. They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’ ” You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.”

When setbacks become personal it’s easier to give up too soon.

3. Searching for the perfect plan.

Remember a change or wave moves through others. Waiting for the perfect plan creates two problems. One, it can keep others outside until the plan is ready to be unveiled. Secondly, a change hasn’t been done quite like this so new information will require updates and changes.

The desire for perfection can be the culprit behind the need for continuing to plan. Yet, that day of knowing everything may never come. Know the difference between perfection and excellence, because waves require quick action before there is the perfectly defined solution.

If you have perfectionist tendencies, remember that starting a wave is about movement and progress, not one big successful event.

Starting a wave is about movement and progress, not one big successful event.

Brett Hurt, Wave Maker and co-creator of Bazaarvoice, shared his view on starting. He said, “You’ve got to get going. Surround yourself with other people who are incredibly passionate about your cause, and move. If you have a dream, you have to get moving or it’s never going to happen. Now, if I’m looking to invest in an entrepreneur, for example, I’m looking for motion—someone who is really going after their dream and is passionate about it. They can approach it differently than me or have a different personality than me, but they have to be going after it. Let’s get going. If you really believe in it, why not? Why aren’t you moving?

As you kick off your next change or wave, know that what works beautifully in managing a process or your ongoing work may be create hard resistance. A wave is different.  You can’t do it alone.
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Copyright: designpics / 123RF Stock Photo

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults and the author of the recently released Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life. She and her team advise clients such as PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, Frito-Lay, McKesson and many others on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations. Previously, Johnson was a Senior Executive at Accenture and held numerous global leadership positions, including Global Leader for talent and careers and Chief People Officer for one of the largest divisions. Patti is an instructor on Leading Change for SMU Executive Education and an instructor for the Bush Institute Women’s initiative, a selective program that includes women from around the world. She has been featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, MONEY Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Entrepreneur, Working Mother, and many more. She was selected as an ongoing expert contributor for SUCCESS Magazine.

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