No I don’t know where the statement or song lyric originates but it perfectly sums up how I feel about change. You have to get off your ass and lead it – don’t expect it to manage itself. You just have got to keep on doing the right thing rather than just talking about it and doing nothing, or finding excuses. That means Leading the process and disrupting resistance.
Two Types of Resistance
Passive and active resistance are the barriers that stop you Leading change. Most people who oppose change are passive, and say one thing but think or do the opposite of what is required. Active resistance is easy to deal with because it’s out in the open – but most is private and occupies too much time on the grapevine. The majority of change is passive and negative. People hide it – voice it privately to like minded people but put on a public face of being in full support of whatever it is you are trying to improve.
Nature of resistance – what to look for
The nature of resistance is that, generally speaking, we do not experience it actively and publicly. Its presence is often displayed covertly, even passively. If resistance was displayed in a very forthright manner we could deal with it logically, the same way we would deal with most problems. But resistance often shows up in different and unexpected ways. You may have many staff involved in a change project who are making all the right ‘approving noises’ but underneath this exterior face of compliance lurks other dark forces in terms of personal motivations and agendas.
Say one thing, do another
If you are going through any major change now, you will be able to identify those who passively resist those who speak their mind. For instance, in the average organization, I know that the population in the overall management group may tell you they are 100% committed, but they are not. The management group may be as little 15-20% who demonstrate a positive commitment, with ‘early adaptors’ wanting to move forward but being held back by their colleagues who are not advocates for any form of improvement beyond their current comfort zone.
This is an exercise for you. Consider if people fall within the following categories. The first three categories below only occupy about 6-10% of the average management group in organisations.
Type 1: Change champions – very few managers reflect this style – 1-2%
Type 2: Early adapters – they take a little longer to come on board but they are positive 2-3%
Type 3: Late adapters – longer to join the group 5-8%
Type 4: Fence Sitters – One day they are for it next day they are against it. They have to be continually convinced that it’s the right thing to do. This is where the majority fit – maybe 50-70% of the organisation
Type 5: Resisters – for whatever reason they do not commit, are pessimistic, and do little to demonstrate real support - maybe 10-15%
Type 6: Saboteurs or Terrorists – actively fight against the changes – maybe 2-3%
So how does your organization stack up? Are you one of the lucky few who have a group of managers thirsty to lead and implement change, or are you limping behind, peopled by managers who are pessimistic, negative and waiting for others to take action?
Change is after all about managing personal motives and agendas
We often find that an organisation’s senior managers commit to change but don’t do it 100%. Instead, they commit to what suits them and their own agenda. Well sorry, that’s not what it’s all about. Maintaining and enthusiasm for change even when the going gets tough is what characterises management teams who lead successful organizations. You cannot be luke-warm to change, either you are for it or you are against it. There is no in between state. It’s a lot liking being pregnant – either you are or you are not.
Tough Love – You have to Lead change
Without Leadership there is no change. Commitment as a process is all about navigating a steep learning curve. Some days the journey will be positive and pacey, you visibly see progress and you are making forward leaps. Other days you seem to be wading through treacle, and on other days you are taking steps backward. You can only lead the process. You either lead change or you don’t. You cannot administer yourself through the process.
Stop talking a good game – do something that makes a difference
Only recently I have been working with several organisations’ top teams asking them to commit and take well thought through and brave action. When you want to measure Leadership, commitment don’t ask for opinions and support you ask them to do things and demonstrate their commitment with action that moves you forward.
I love it. Too many talk, few act. Set action plans and monitor the heck out of them. Do not reinforce bad or non-compliant behaviour with indecision. Use sanctions. Why set boundaries and new behaviours and then ignore poor performance. It does my head in. Find managers doing the right thing and reinforce good behaviour. Deal with poor performance. If you are endorsing poor performance, and psychologically setting even lower performance standards, that will become the norm that others can follow.
Resistance to Change
You know, I am often asked to design and deliver a change strategy but before I can do it I have to deal with resistance to change and get some movement in the management group, starting from the top. You have to move their mindset from ‘stop and prevaricate’ – to ‘decide and act’.
All people are Boss Watchers
We forget that others watch and observe what the management group commit to doing. People focus not on the words and management mantra, but the deeds that flow from leaders and managers.
Accept that Resistance will be the ‘Norm’
It will be the norm but don’t accept it as the norm. Reframing the concept of resistance as ‘natural’ is a good way of looking at it. Consider ‘resistance’ as a form for positive change. If you can predict ‘how’ people will resist the flow of your good ideas from theory to practice, then you may be in the process of formulating a blue print for change and Leading for the future. More importantly, you want to develop a strong and powerful Leadership process and programme, and please make sure it is tailored to your organisation and the particular demands and constraints of the business.
Be brave and reject standard Leadership programmes
Reject the off the shelf package. You have to identify the behaviours currently displayed and those you want to see practiced in the future. Then devise strategies to close the gap. All change depends on behaviour, so it’s a good idea to start with behaviourial change. We can enable you to do that.
If you want to find out more, have a look at this article published in the Chartered Institute of Management Services Journal 2015 entitled “Without Leadership there is no Change” – here is the PDF download below. And if you want to find out more email me direct Philip@philipatkinson.com
One final comment – one CEO asked me for a piece of advice for Leading change. I was happy to supply the answer. “Start sooner”