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Embracing Resistance

When I look back on mistakes I’ve made over my career, I find the same scenario repeated with embarrassing frequency: another manager opposed change that I was trying to implement, and I saw him or her as my enemy. This is top of mind this week after rereading a lecture by Susan Skjei of Naropa University, where I recently completed a course called “Authentic Leadership.”

One of Susan’s points is that all change provokes resistance. If there is no resistance, chances are the change is either illusory (a repackaging of the status quo) or bound for failure.

In other words, resistance is not only natural, it’s a signal that we’re on the right path. It’s our friend. It’s an enabler. It’s something to embrace.

Instead of resisting resistance, as I have done too often in my past, Susan argues that we should view it as a positive step towards meaningful change, providing critical information about the change process. The goal, she says, is to reduce resistance by reducing the cost of change for those involved. What is it they fear? By listening, observing, and learning, the leader can find the keys for making change less threatening … without watering it down. Better yet, the resisters may be seeing something important that the leader missed, providing an opportunity to collaborate and ladder up to an even better solution.

For me, this insight is a game changer. What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Embracing Resistance”

  1. Mark,

    This is truly “thinking outside the box.” It is basic human nature to get defensive whenever we face resistance. I’m just as guilty as most other B2B marketers. Your (Susan’s) take on this is a refreshing change and made me sit up and think. You are right, we would get a lot more accomplished by embracing resistance instead of resisting it. A lot easier said than done but your post is a great start. Thanks for sharing this.

    Regards,
    Achinta

  2. mpfriedman says:

    Achinta – thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate your support.

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