In my previous article, I describe the importance of not attacking a change agent, but instead taking steps to manage the change, not the change agent. Many managers receive “feedback” that is resistance to change, and then turn around and give that feedback to the change agents, implying that the manager doesn’t actually want the change agent to instigate the change.
The first five steps to this were: 1. Listen 2. Document the issue 3. Track the issues. 4. Delay in responding to them 5. Look at the issues as a team.
Today, I provide tips on what to do next:
6. Communicate your findings – the more targeted the better
You typically know the source of the resistance/complaint. You tracked it, right? Now you can respond directly to that person. Explain what you did (discussed it as a team) and what you plan to do (keep going with the change, most likely). I am not a fan of communicating broadly the list of concerns and the responses, because it is somewhat akin to public feedback. By communicating broadly, you are trying to adjust the thinking for a specific person via communicating with a broad group. This creates unintended consequence of changing the broad group’s thinking when it isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s better to circle back to the person who expressed the concern in the first place. If there is a network of people who believe the same thing, that person then gets to address the results.
Many managers are in the position of instigating and overseeing change on the team, with the intent that this change improves how things are done and obtains better results.
But managers can quickly fall into the trap of resisting the change they instigated by reacting negatively to the ramifications of change, and seeking to eliminate all resistances (a.k.a., complaints) to the change.
They do this by treating incoming complaints of the change agent as a performance feedback opportunity to the change agent. This implies that the change can occur and without resistance and essentially undermines the change effort. This is a wrong assumption – it’s like assuming that there is no resistance when you start a car and move forward.
So here’s what to do when someone on your team resists change:
Allow the person to hear out the person’s issues with the change. The only action is to listen to the issues or complaints that the person has. Instead of responding to the issue, listen to the issue. Say, “Thank you for expressing your concerns.” Add some empathy, “I understand that this can be difficult.”
2. Track the concerns
To prove that you are listening, actually write down the concerns. Write them down in front of the person expressing them. Tell them that you are writing them down. Say, “I appreciate your taking the time to express these concerns. I’m going to make sure I have your concerns tracked, is that O.K.?”
3. Put the concerns in a central location
You probably aren’t the only one receiving complaints. Upon the first complaint, this is your clue that there may be more. Find a place for others on your team to document them. Put them in the same place.