Dealing with Resistance

Don’t be disappointed when no one hip-hip-hoorays or throws a party for your new initiative or idea. It doesn’t matter that you’ve done everything the books, academic models and consultants told you to do.

Engaged and enthusiastic sponsors? Check.

On time, under budget? Check.

Communication with key influencers? Check.

Talented team? Check.

Kids playing tug war pulling ropeSomewhere down the line, you will run into human roadblocks – people who aren’t so excited for whatever you’re proposing. It may not look like hostile, in-your-face, undermining resistance. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll come across subtle, apathetic, non-compliant resistance. The kind of resistance that surfaces as ignoring emails, blowing off meetings, nodding yes but meaning no.

Expect it and be ready.

How to Move Past Resistance

Don’t take it personally. Your change initiative is super important to you. But people are busy with their own day-to-day demands and your agenda may not be their top priority.

Listen. Take a step back, stop talking, ask questions and listen. Step out of the echo-chamber of your team and listen to those who don’t see things the same way you do.

Understand what’s behind the push-back. Gather the facts. Are people aware only of the what and when of the change, but not the why? Do they feel they’re losing something? What do they fear? Put yourself in their shoes.

Try a different way. Don’t be so in love with your project plan and approach that you aren’t willing to change it up. Resistance is important information. Use it and do better.

Hold up a mirror. Objectively assess what happened. Instead of excuses or blame, think about what you did or didn’t do to contribute to the resistance.

Resistance is a time to regroup. Plowing through or ignoring resistance won’t make it go away.

When understood, resistance is force that can boost your ideas and actions.

This quote, which is said to come from artist Maya Lin, captures it best:

“To fly we have to have resistance.”


Marta Steele is a partner @People_Results. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.