Have you had a team member that was reluctant to move forward with a new program or plan? And it wasn’t the normal naysayer or the daily dissenter – it was your loyal, dedicated team member. Maybe it was even the one person on your staff who is always on board and supportive.
In the excitement of new initiatives, we can assume that the problem is with those who don’t share our enthusiasm. We can easily think, “What is wrong with him? Why isn’t she running with this? Why don’t they see the benefits?” We’re tempted to explain again all of the reasons why ours is such a phenomenal plan.
Even when we’ve done our due diligence, sometimes we still get ahead of ourselves or miss an important detail. A loyal supporter who is slow to embrace the change may have insight we need to hear. Yet many employees don’t feel comfortable disagreeing with their leaders. They may question their own hesitation, fear being wrong, and say nothing. But they just can’t seem to get on board.
Perhaps like some of you, I’ve occasionally focused more on convincing than listening. In one particular situation, one of my team members who was typically very supportive and positive, was hesitant about a contractor we had hired. I thought we needed the outside perspective and additional resources the contractor provided. Eventually my employee took over the project with much better results than we experienced with the contractor. I would have been wise to fully explore his hesitation much sooner.
If we are met with reluctance, what are some options for us as the leader of the team or organization?
We can remain confident that we are on track and move forward without complete buy in. An employee with less experience may not be able to conceptualize the end result. For some people, the pieces begin to fit together when the puzzle is partially completed. For others, change is difficult. Even positive changes require time for them to adjust. Pacing the implementation of the new initiative may be the solution.
Or we can probe a little deeper into the resistance. We can ask more questions with a genuine desire to understand, and a willingness to hear sincere objections. We will need to make it a safe conversation for the employee who doesn’t like disagreeing or fears disappointing us. We can assure the employee that we welcome input, and we will listen and carefully consider his or her opinions and objections.
One aspect of crisis prevention is to keep asking at every step along the way, “What could possibly go wrong? What are we missing? What could backfire?” Dreamers and visionaries often see only what could go right. That’s the wonderful balance of a diverse team! We need the idealist, the realist, the “jump in and get it done” people as well as the “let’s wait and evaluate” team members.
It can be a very wise investment to keep humbly asking the right questions to get to the source of reluctance. What we learn could be a gift that allows us to sidestep a land mine, readjust our timeline, or tweak the plan so we are on the very best path for success!
Executive Search Manager
Last week, I traveled from Colorado to Missouri along I-70. While passing a number of well-run city manager’s cities along my route, and in between watching the weather radar through the majority of Kansas, I noticed an interesting billboard.
The sign advertised a store named Yarns, and the message read, “2nd Friendliest Yarn Store in the Universe.”
Maybe the advertising is genius; after all, I am still pondering it a week later. But, I was struck by two words. First of all, comparing your business to the entire universe is lofty. But, second and most importantly, I was surprised with satisfaction and boastfulness of being second – and not just second best, the second friendliest.
Perhaps it was the proximity to my graduate alma mater, but the billboard made me think of the book, Small Giants, where Bo Burlingham explores notable companies that have chosen to remain small. Mr. Burlingham states, “It’s an axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, a small number of companies have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do…creating a great place to work…providing great customer service…making great contributions to their communities…and finding great ways to lead their lives.”
In the book, Mr. Burlingham analyzes the leadership characteristics, rationale, and turning points behind each of the fourteen “small giant” companies that he studied. Generally speaking, the leaders of each company had a choice – time and time again – and chose to stay small and create a really good product and organization that focused on the values of the company.
Your community may not be an All-American City, the largest in the metro, the highest property value, or whatever value you may place on being the biggest; however, you have a choice – time and time again – as the leader of the community to focus on the quality of your organization and your community. You have the ability to build something really great, no matter of size or prestige of your community. You can do good each day and impact the lives of your employees and your citizens.
Being a small giant allows you to define success and work to obtain it – perhaps, even by being the second friendliest yarn store in the universe.
Executive Search Manager