How Can Introverted Leaders Address Resistance?


I am delighted to share this guest post from S. Chris Edmonds, author of the new book, The Culture Engine  Chris is founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group, an organizational culture consulting firm. He is also a key consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies.  

Here is the Amazon review I wrote of Chris’s book: “When I ask my clients about their organization’s vision and values many are clueless. This terrific new book is the way out of that dilemma. Chris Edmunds has laid out a clear and beautifully articulated framework based on his concept of an Organizational Constitution. He takes the mystery out of strategic planning, provides impactful case studies and draws from his deep experience with a breadth of different organizations. I will be recommending The Culture Engine to leaders at all levels who want a way to strengthen themselves and their culture.”

One of the most challenging aspects of implementing changes is dealing with resistance. Yet we also know it is a healthy dynamic that helps us to crystallize our arguments and engage others in our efforts. I have found that quiet influencers and introverted leaders use their keen listening skills and focused conversations to persuade others to get on board with changes.

Check out these action steps in Chris’s guest blog post below:

How Must A Leader Address Resistance? 

By S. Chris Edmunds 

Unfortunately there is not a “values alignment pill” on the market. I keep telling my pharmaceutical clients that there’s a gold mine out there if they could craft such a pill! No such luck at this point in time.

The following approach works very well. It is a direct, firm, and encouraging approach. It aligns perfectly with the “define the way,” “model the way,” and “align the way” phases of implementing your organizational constitution.

First, don’t take the resistance personally. These players don’t “have it out for you” – they just don’t want to go where you’re asking them to go. The resistance is not about you – it’s about them.

Second, your job is to present what you’ve heard and observed in a calm, non-blaming, non-judgmental manner. You’re presenting factual information. You’ve seen their misaligned behavior, you’ve received feedback from others about their misaligned behavior, and you’re presenting those observations in a factual manner.

Don’t focus on their attitude or beliefs – that’s a difficult row to hoe. Their motivations are certainly interesting but they are not relevant. In essence, you don’t care what they believe! Their observable, tangible, measurable behaviors are relevant – and it’s those resistant behaviors you want to change.

You need to present the information on their behavior so that the listener – the resisting leader – can understand that their behavior has been noticed and it needs to change.

Third, you need to understand their perspective. You can listen without agreeing with everything someone says. Give them a forum for expressing their concerns and/or fears about this change. Reflect on what you’ve learned from them, helping them feel heard.

Fourth, you can’t budge – every leader must be fully on board, fully and consistently in the upper right quadrant of the performance-values matrix. You can communicate to them that the rules have changed. You can explain how there’s a new standard in place, for both performance and values – and that all leaders must be credible role models.

You need to tell them that you won’t let them off the hook. Values alignment is non-negotiable.

You must express, clearly and succinctly, that you expect values alignment from all department leaders and team members. There’s no “kind of values alignment” space to hang out in your department. People either demonstrate values alignment or they don’t.

(Just like there isn’t a “kind of pregnant” space. Either you are or you’re not!)

Finally, your job is to give the resistant leader a chance to align to your organizational constitution. If they agree to embrace your valued behaviors, map out a plan for them. Be specific about the behaviors you expect. Be specific about the behaviors you will not tolerate. Gain their agreement on the values standards. And, explain what will happen if they do embrace your organizational constitution (continued meaningful employment) and explain what will happen if they are unable to model the valued behaviors.

You will basically serve as a “values accountability coach” for the resistant leader.

The “logical consequence” of the resisting leader’s failure to embrace your organizational constitution is that they must be “lovingly set free.” They will have to find somewhere else to work, since they’re unable to deliver the values expectations and performance expectations that you now demand.

What if they don’t agree to your plan? What if they don’t see values alignment as important – and they choose to ignore your organizational constitution? If they choose to ignore your values and behaviors, they’re not a willing partner of yours in this culture refinement.

If they can’t fit in, you must help them out – out of the organization. You’ll do so kindly yet firmly. You’ll say, “This is no longer a good fit for you or for us. Let’s work together to transition you out of the team as quickly and smoothly as possible.”

You won’t judge their choices, and you won’t budge on your demands for values alignment.


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