I have a big weakness. I know it and it got the best of me this a.m. I am very short and impatient with new idea laggards or as Seth Godin put it the “resistance.” I inappropriately tore into someone this a.m. who I felt was being a resistor and it wasn’t fair to them.
I have been working an initiative at work that is different, it is outside the norm. It leverages new tools, communication approaches and engagement. I have been working it since March. The process has been painful in many ways. I’ve encountered the resistant at multiple different stages. The people who say, “I don’t get it,” “Have you gotten executive approval?” “This isn’t going to work.” “It’s too risky, what if people do this and that with it.” ” We can’t do this because . . . ” I am continually having to address these people and it makes it hard to be successful in introducing new things. I really struggle with the people who ask these questions and make these types of statements. I see them as being in the way.
The resistance, as Seth Godin calls it, is that part of our brain that wants to be safe, it avoids change, follows the rules and likes the status-quo because it’s predictable.
Seth describes the resistance at work in his book Linchpin like this:
You work with people who are totally at the mercy of the resistance. They assist the devil by being his advocate in meetings. They follow the rule book, even parts you didn’t know about. They love what worked before and fear what might be coming.
He’s right and I don’t handle these people well. My personality is like that of a shark. Not the aggressive nature, but the metaphor by which sharks must keep moving to breathe. Sharks need to keep water moving through their gills in order to breathe. If they stop moving, they run the risk of suffocating. In this manner, I am a lot like a shark. I breath progress, and momentum. I can’t stand the feeling of stagnation. I need things to keep moving.
I bit this persons head off today because I felt like they were being the resistance. It felt like they were slowing things down. They asked me one of those fear based questions. They asked if we had approval and support from another group. It didn’t feel as if it was asked in a way that suggested they were looking to help the effort or improve on it but rather to control the effort. I didn’t handle it well.
I apologized both on the phone and in a separate email. Regardless of his question, I was wrong to respond the way I did.
That being said, moving forward I need to be more cognizant of how I engage with the resistance. No one ever wins by trying to “stamp” out the resistance. It takes tact. Tact, currently I am not very good at.
Selfishly, I wish I didn’t have to deal with it. I wish the resistance would flip the switch and start from the positive, what could be gained, how things could be better, etc. I wish the resistance could see they have more to gain than lose by moving forward, by change.
The biggest irony in this tale, is much of the early resistance has come back and said they were wrong and they like the new effort and the value it is providing. This is always nice to hear. But man, it would be so much nicer if the fight just didn’t have to happen. Until then, I need to get better at managing the resistance, because fighting it just doesn’t work.
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- Lessons Learned from Seth Godin – Sources of Insight (sourcesofinsight.com)
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- Book 67: Linchpin (mootbox.com)