28 Feb Is there such a thing as too many questions?
In Part 3 of our series on Managing Resistance, Ellie Pietsch explores how effective change leaders manage questioning as a form of resistance.
Enlisting the support of your team is critical to making change happen. Increasing the capability of your team members to adapt means that they are more likely to adopt the new reality more readily.
Speed is of the essence since every moment spent resisting change results in less energy available for creating the future you have envisioned.
As a change leader, your challenge is to redirect this wasted energy towards something constructive. Redirecting of efforts and energy can only be done when you can readily anticipate, identify and manage the various types of resistance that may present during your change journey.
In this article, we’ll explore resistance which manifests as questioning.
You’ve identified a need for change to keep pace with competitors that are investing in new technologies, or perhaps external forces are disrupting the whole industry.
Whatever the case, you believe something needs to change. You’re not exactly sure what this means, but you want your team to be involved in the process. You raise the topic during an informal conversation in your weekly meeting.
Immediately, you’re met with a barrage of specific and detailed questions.
“When is this going to happen?”… “Who will lose their jobs?”… “Who ordered this change?”… “Who will oversee the project?”… “How much will it cost?”… “Why?”… “What authority do we have to do this?”… “Didn’t we try this five years ago and fail?”
The immediate and relentless questioning can give the impression that people are on the front foot, attacking your idea. You may feel judged, and that your team is asking these questions to raise obstacles and avoid looking at the problem you’ve identified.
Your initial response may be to feel discouraged. After all, you were simply trying to engage your team in the process and keep them informed. It can be disheartening to face questioning, as it might feel like your team has already decided your idea is not going to work.
It boils down to your perceptions of resistance. Rightly or wrongly, you can draw one of several conclusions:
- The questioning is an attack;
- Your team is judging you; or
- They are putting up barriers.
However, the reality may be different. Questions can often be a signal of a deeper curiosity or wanting a plan to succeed by looking at ways it may fail. Consider the following questions:
- Is your team naturally curious?
- Are they comfortable chatting with each other and brainstorming solutions?
- Do they enjoy the opportunity to thrash out a problem together?
- Have they been involved in other change projects in recent memory?
- How did these change projects go?
Perhaps this “resistance” is, in fact, the beginning of the robust and rigorous debate that will help you understand the complexity of your change project and contemplate impacts that you weren’t aware of initially.
It can be easy to judge others harshly when you feel under attack from a barrage of questions. A wiser course of action is to take a beat to reframe your thoughts. This way, you can clear yourself of any knee jerk responses to the questions.
Taking a non-judgemental approach to each question can help your team redirect that initial energy of resistance towards the proposed change and reframe those obstacles as challenges they can help you to overcome.
There are some ways to help you pause at that moment and consider a few behavioural approaches that may help you respond to the questions:
- If your team members are driven by curiosity, rather than solution-oriented outcomes, consider revising the way you involve them, breaking it down into digestible pieces. Explain this meeting was to discuss the “big picture” and then only loop them in for changes to each part of the process.
- If they enjoy solving challenges as a group, set up a forum for in-depth discussion with regular touchpoints to ensure they are involved in each step of the change.
- If they have been involved in other change projects, consider the success of these. Your team could be excited about the new idea but are skeptical it might never take off. A tactic for combatting this is to encourage further discussion on why past projects fail to give them confidence these will be addressed in any future change project.
We can help you manage resistance and become a more effective change leader. Get in touch with us regarding the Change Leadership Series. In our next article, we’ll consider how Resistance as Stonewalling may show up in your team, and some tactics that will help you address this.
If you’d like to develop your change leadership skills or find out more about managing resistance to change in your team, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles in this series: