Whether you want to take this change journey or not, if it is a big change, you will find yourself resisting.
Whether it was your idea or not, if it is a big change, you will find yourself resisting.
Whether you see this as a negative change, or as a positive one, if it is a big change, you will find yourself resisting. Ditto for those around you who are affected by the change.
And, sometimes our strongest resistance (often expressed as “I can’t…”, see below) arises with the changes that are most important to us.
The truth is, resistance happens. It is a part of the change journey.
We have talked about this a little bit in earlier posts; let’s dive into it deeper today.
While it can take many forms–from gossip to work slowdowns, from subterfuge to immobilization–at its root, resistance is the result of unwillingness and/or inability.
It is easy to understand resistance when you (and/or others) see the change as negative. But why do we resist changes that you initiate, that we think are good ideas…or even true imperatives? The answer is actually pretty simple. At some point we begin to resist because we find out what the cost of the change is really going to be. (The cost might be financial, but it is generally much more. It might include a cost in prestige, or in relationships that have anchored you for years, or time, or in having to let go of other things you want to do, etc.)
When I first began training in change many years ago, Daryl Conner provided important guidance that I still use today. “The cost of the status quo must be significantly greater than the cost of the transition, or you will start the change journey but will not complete it.”
With this in mind, it is critical that as you prepare for your change, you not only look at the opportunities that it offers if you are successful. You also need to be very honest with yourself and others about the cost of making the transition…and the cost of not doing so!
Resistance’s other root cause is ability. You just may not have the skills or other resources that you discover you need if you are to be successful. Skill development may require training (if you need to do it yourself), or hiring others to perform the needed tasks. Either way, once again we are back to cost.
Finally, if you need other resources (whether that be equipment, or facilities, or software, or…), there will be a cost. Either you find, free up, or in some other way obtain those resources, or you redefine the change to something that is achievable with the resources that you do have.
There is one more important note about ability. Often you will hear, or you may even be the one saying, “I can’t…” Don’t take “I can’t” at face value! All too often, what it really means is, “I won’t.” “I can’t” is about ability. “I won’t” is about willingness. When faced with a really difficult task, “I can’t do it.” may actually be offered as the rationale for not having the courage to do it.
All too often, we see resistance as a sign of something going wrong. It isn’t. Resistance during major change is inevitable. Something is going wrong if you don’t see it, don’t feel it. Either the change is not really moving forward, or the resistance is playing out underground.
Surfacing resistance, and being clear about the willingness and/or ability causes that underlie it, will help you to continue to move the change forward. Ignoring it, or treating it as a distraction, will leave you short of achieving the change you have set our for yourself.
What is your experience with resistance?