When I ask groups to tell me what first comes to their minds when they think about change, resistance is always on that list. And their thoughts about it aren’t positive – in fact, I used the word “fear” in the title purposefully. Resistance is typically seen as a negative occurrence and as something to avoid, deny or downplay as much as possible.
The truth is that resistance isn’t to be feared and isn’t a “bad” thing at all. Resistance helps us make sure that all the perspectives have been seen (is it really healthy for everyone to agree 100% with every change you propose?), and proves that people care (resistance takes effort and wouldn’t you rather have resistance than apathy?)
Resistance is real, natural and not really so bad at all.
These are reasons enough not to fear resistance, but here I want to share an even bigger reason, beyond the powerful ones I have already highlighted.
Here are three facets of this fact worth considering and rereading whenever you are experiencing resistance . . .
All BIG ideas are resisted. You don’t have to be much of a history buff to know this is true. Every big invention had naysayers. Every major advancement had nonbelievers. And those inventions, advancements and ideas all had a champion, a leader, a creator who saw something, shared something and persevered through the resistance to create something of great value. Almost by definition, no new idea exists without resistance. So if you are facing resistance, congratulations! You are challenging people’s comfort zones in ways they hadn’t yet considered. You might be on the road to something BIG!
All BIG ideas are inherently risky. While there are few guarantees in life anyway, when proposing, suggesting or advancing a new innovation or idea, there is definitely risk. After all, it might not work. If we knew it would work, it would likely have already been tried (and succeeded). While people have different levels of risk tolerance, everyone has concerns about risk. “What if this happens, what if that happens, how do you know it will work?” These are resistance questions born of risk aversion. So your innovation or idea has risks (and people are happy to explain them to you)? Great! You might be on to road to something BIG!
Not everyone will (initially) see what you see. Your perspective allows you to see something others don’t see. It is your job to help them see it – to communicate your vision and direction, to help others see the benefits and possibilities you see. Until they see it, they will be concerned and worried and therefore resistant. It doesn’t mean you are wrong and they are right. It is a message to you to help them see what you see. If people can’t see what you see your vision may (as yet) be too big for them. It is a clue for you to expand their vision and help them see what you see. You might be on the road to something BIG!
So where does that leave us as leaders?
- If you are experiencing resistance, be encouraged, not disheartened – hopefully the facts above help you see that.
- You have a responsibility to hear the resistance and understand it (after all, there may be truth and value in the perspectives you hear inside the resistance). This will help you improve your vision and your plan and increase the likelihood and speed that you garner the support of those resistors.
- Being open and listening doesn’t mean you must give in. If you are truly on the road to something BIG, you must persist using the resistance rather than giving in to it.
As a leader, you must have your eye on the future. And you haven’t been placed in a leadership role to maintain the status quo, but to create a bigger, better, more beneficial future. So remember that resistance is naturally occurring when change is suggested. And if you don’t ever experience any resistance, you aren’t doing the job that has been entrusted to you.
Finally remember that resistance is “proof” that you are thinking about the future in big and bold ways – and that is part of your job.