3 Ways Leaders Create Change Resistance

Leading a change is different than a basic process or tacking your “to-dos.” Change requires a commitment and belief. It takes hearts and minds.

As much as we want it to be, change isn’t a command-and-control effort cascading its way through the hierarchy level by level. Lasting change moves through an organization or community like a virus person by person.

I’ve researched the behaviors and habits essential for starting a successful change as shown by people I call Wave Makers. Interestingly, some of the very behaviors and habits that derail a change are those we associate with being a strong leader.

Here are three familiar ways you can unknowingly develop change resistance within your team:

1. Having All of the Answers

Often we earned our reputations and progressed in business because we are problem solvers. We know how to get things done. Yet, this complete self-reliance and desire to know everything makes others more spectators than contributors. Real changes need participation and engagement from more than you. You can’t do it alone.

Jonathan Morris, of Young Presidents Organization, shared that the kiss of death for your change is showing up to a discussion with, “Good news, everyone. I have all of the answers!” It’s the quickest way to shut down the room. Even if those words aren’t used, this signal is sent by not listening, not involving others and only allowing time for approval not participation.

Inviting others to be part of your change or wave — especially at the beginning — will not only make you smarter, but it also will become “our” wave, not just “your” wave. Change leaders are comfortable moving forward even without all of the answers.

2. Being Right Is the Goal More Than the Ultimate Impact

Wave Makers have adaptable persistence — the ability to keep going while adjusting as they learn more. I think of this quality like a child in a maze at the playground who wants to get to the other side and keeps testing and trying new ways until he or she gets there.

When you dig a little deeper, you see that a big influencer of that persistence is that Wave Makers aren’t focused on personal recognition or being right. They want the bigger prize — the change and impact at they see on the horizon. As a result, they don’t see a setback as a personal failure or a hit to the ego, but more something to learn from and manage around. When setbacks become personal it’s easier to give up too soon.

In a recent New York Times article, Thomas Friedman shared why Google values people who learn from failure. Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, told him, “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure. They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’” As Friedman wrote, “You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.”

3. Searching For Perfection

A change or wave moves through others. Searching and waiting for the perfect plan creates two problems. One, it keeps others outside until the plan is ready to be unveiled. Secondly, a change hasn’t been done quite like this so new information will require updates and changes.

The desire for perfection can be the culprit behind the need for continuing to plan. Yet, that day of knowing everything will never come. There is a difference between perfection and excellence, because waves require quick action before there is the perfectly defined solution.

If you have perfectionist tendencies, remember that change is about incremental progress, not one big perfect event.

Brett Hurt, Wave Maker and co-creator of Bazaarvoice, shared his view on starting. He said, “You’ve got to get going. Surround yourself with other people who are incredibly passionate about your cause, and move. If you have a dream, you have to get moving or it’s never going to happen. Now, if I’m looking to invest in an entrepreneur, for example, I’m looking for motion — someone who is really going after their dream and is passionate about it. They can approach it differently than me or have a different personality than me, but they have to be going after it. Let’s get going. If you really believe in it, why not? Why aren’t you moving?”

As you kick off your next change or wave, remember that what works beautifully in managing a process or your ongoing work may create hard resistance. A wave is different. You can’t do it alone.

About the Author: Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human capital consulting firm she founded in 2004, and the author of Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life. She will be a guest on the December 17th #TChat Show from 7-8 p.m. ET.

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