Your plan to achieve your desired strategy is in place. The goals are clear. The scorecard is in place. The lead measures are prioritised and accountability is understood within a regular meeting rhythm for the team. BUT, there are a couple of team members who still don’t seem to follow through…
In most teams there are often one or two people who appear incapable of change. They show difficulty in aligning to the team plan. They may say they are on board, however their behaviour shows you they are not “on the bus”. As a leader, this can be extremely frustrating.
Through our work at Lighthouse, we have experienced three categories of “resistors”: the “Stone-Waller”, the “High Performing Inconsiderate” and “The Creative”. The “Stone-Waller” can’t get past the old ways of performing tasks, objects to most new initiatives and their immediate response is “No”. The “High Performing Inconsiderate” achieves impressive results, however due to their cunning and strategy, their route to success may cause mistrust in a team, and it is forever difficult to pin them down. “The Creative” is good for a period, however their commitment is often short lived as they change tack, moving the goal posts to suit themselves in order to play with the shiny new projects. In addition, they may be too future oriented and hover above the “sleeves rolled up” requirement of what needs to be done now.
It is very easy to fall into a “they should” attitude as the Leader. “They should be following through”, “they should have been more proactive” and “they should be on board”. Whilst it is normal to think this way, it rarely gets you anywhere. A more constructive path is to explore what is behind their resistance; what is underneath their “stuck” position and therefore preventing them from positive movement forward.
Robert Kegan, a Harvard Psychologist, provides great insight into this issue. Kegan researched and reported on resistance to change. His research involved a group of medical patients who were informed they would die if they did not take a specific drug. When followed up after six months, a significant portion of the group reported that they were not taking the medicine. When bewildered interviewers asked the patients why they weren’t taking the drug, despite being aware of the fatal consequences, the researchers discovered an unexpected response. The participants didn’t want to be perceived as being old…
Kegan concluded that individuals can have hidden competing commitments they are not aware of, connected to their sense of identity and values which prevents them from doing what they know they should.
Let’s consider how this plays out for all of us in our personal lives;
- We should exercise more, but we don’t consider ourselves as athletes
- We should stop drinking as much, but underneath we value fun more
- We should be more disciplined in managing our money, but we value freedom more
- We should communicate more with the team, but underneath we value our personal achievement more
In a team, it all appears as a lack of accountability, however, underneath it is in fact a lack of awareness. An awareness of what they fear will happen if they focus on something else. An awareness of what is obstructing their growth, their ability to progress to the next level. You can’t make a choice without awareness. You certainly don’t get a change of behaviour, because there is no responsibility. They are taking responsibility to protect themselves and do what they value, not what you want them to do as the leader.
There is no change without Conversation!
The great change leaders invest time in the conversation. They are not only able to help the individual see what is holding them back, but help them see how they can get more of what they want with a slight redirection.
An example of this is helping the team leader see that their fear of failure is preventing them from setting goals for the team. But by actually setting goals for the team, they will reduce their chance of failure.
Let’s apply this to the resistor categories. The “Stone Waller’s” need to be aware of their fear of not being capable, not smart enough, not being in control. For this group, the leader should redirect towards to where you can assist them to build capability, what knowledge they can leverage and what they can do to be more in control.
The “Inconsiderate” needs to be aware of what is a bigger priority for them. They fear they may lose out, not be respected, be disadvantaged personally. Whatever is specific for them needs to be redirected to how they generate more respect, how they earn more $, get more personal kudos which will align with the communication and sharing you look for as the leader.
The “Creative” needs to be aware that the freedom they yearn for or their preference to find new ways can be enabled by achievement of short term goals. That discipline to some key focus areas creates the freedom to explore the new.
The creative title provides the answer. Take the hidden and shine the light on it to make it visible and then point the torch to where they can take it next. To evolve the business, we need to evolve as leaders. To evolve as leaders we need to help evolve our people. This is your responsibility as the leader. Perhaps this responsibility could be the hidden resistance for you?
This article was written by Peter Nankervis, Managing Director, Lighthouse Leadership Strategy and Training and forms the 3rd in this series of articles on successfully achieving strategy. Previous articles in this series: Why is the follow through so poor? and The four keys to maximise your execution.
Lighthouse’s purpose is to spark an evolution in leadership. We know that having an aligned and disciplined leadership team are key ingredients to achieving your strategic objectives. For more information on our approach to Leadership Team Strategy, please visit our webpage. Please get in touch with us if you would like to have a confidential discussion on how you can implement these principles with your leaders. Phone 02 9091 0305 for Sydney or 03 9563 6628 for Melbourne.