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Friday, August 21, 2009

Handling Resistance

Handling Resistance? From whom?

Well, in life, it could mean dealing with resistance from anyone. In a business setting, it could be one of your team members. It could be your boss or a colleague.

If you are trying work down a specific path or build on a idea and you receive resistance, you have several options, don't you?
  1. Give up. It is an option, but if you feel strongly or passionately about your cause, it might not be your first course of action.
  2. Push back. When resistance is applied against you, you can apply and equal and opposite reaction. Wear the other party down. It may be effective at times, but not the wisest choice of action if you want any kind of buy-in from others.
  3. Determine the cause. I like this one. When you are met with resistance regarding an idea or action, you can try to figure out why the resistance has appeared. One of the best ways to find out is by asking questions. Try to get to the root cause.

This reminds of me of a story; yes, another military story. When I was a young lieutenant, I had to take turns performing extra duties with the other junior officers: Duty officer, Pay officer, and Report of Survey officer, to name a few. My first time as a Report of Survey officer, I met with a lot of resistance. You see, a Report of Survey is completed when some equipment is destroyed, damaged, or lost and the Army is trying to figure out if someone is responsible. This way the Army can determine appropriate actions like remedial training, punishment, and/or reimbursement. In this particular case, a sergeant was "signed for" a gunner's quadrant, a tool used to determine the proper elevation that artillery would use when firing against a target. The quadrant was destroyed and no one knew how it happened. There were denials all around. Since the sergeant was signed for the equipment, and there was no evidence as to how the quadrant was destroyed, I determined that the sergeant should pay. The sergeant resisted me because he said he hadn't destroyed of his people had done so accidentally. That was most likely true, but like I said, I couldn't prove it. What I could prove was that the sergeant had not kept proper control of the item. The proximate cause, or root cause, regarding his efforts to secure the equipment was the real issue.

In trying to overcome resistance, what's the root issue, the proximate cause, for it? Ask why the other person doesn't want to go along with your idea. Get specific. Ask what is good about your idea (what they like or, at least, can live with) and what is unacceptable. Keep peeling back that onion until you get to the proximate cause. You may find that it's just one little kernel of disagreement or it's something small that you can fix.

By determining the root cause,

  1. You can properly address it with facts and information.
  2. Help the other party feel better about the idea
  3. Let the person know you value their thoughts and concerns (you may make an ally).
  4. Move forward.

My last boss was an expert at determining the proximate cause of resistance, handling the real objections properly, and then moving forward with most everyone feeling good.

What have you done when you encountered resistance? What other ways do you think would be appropriate for overcoming the objections you experience?

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