More about Resisting Change
In the last installment about people who resist change, we talked about the Detractor and the Shield. Today we are going to talk about 2 more archetypes: the Holdback and the Pacifist.
The Holdback is a potential high-value asset to the organization. She is either very tuned into the process and how it could be made better, or she is highly tuned in to the people and politics, and could lead them to success. The problem with the Holdback is that she simply won’t engage in high gear. Most Holdbacks I have worked with worry about putting a target on their heads. They worry about their future and their place in the organization. Usually, this concern is unfounded, but they worry anyway. You might be dealing with the Holdback if she is checking with you on every decision. The Holdback can lead, but doesn’t.
Getting the Holdback turned into a highly productive agent of change is important. The Holdback has the ability to be an accelerator and you need all of those you can get. A good strategy for the Holdback is empowerment. Start simple. When the Holdback checks with you on a decision, ask what she thinks. As long as the decision is reasonably sound, tell her it sounds fine, go forward. After a few of these, when you generally trust her judgement, you can give some more authority. Instead of asking what she thinks, tell her that she can handle it any way she wants, just focus on achieving the desired result.
Finnaly, if there is a fear of repercussions for a bad decision, address it head on. Reassure the Holdback that the focus is on the results, not on assigning blame. There is a great audio clip from Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) about conducting autopsies without blame. As a leader, you must convince your team that you are running a blameless organization. Removing fear of reprisals will accelerate the effectiveness of the team dramatically.
Formal Steps for the Holdback
If there is still hesitation to take initiative, you can use a formal tool for delegating decision making authority. Organizational speaker Eric Coryell covers this well in his presentation about creating accountable teams. The person or team makes a list of every decision that they can think of. Once they have the list, sit down with them and classify each decision as a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 decision:
- You want to make that decision, so the team needs to bring it to you
- They can make the decision, but check with you first.
- They make the decision, but let you know after the fact.
- They decide, you do not need to be involved at all.
Typically, the Holdback will be quite surprised at how few Level 1 and 2 decisions there are. The list can, and should, evolve over time. This is a very effective tool for clarifying the lines of decision making authority. It jump starts the Holdback’s confidence and provides assurance about the unwavering support, even when a decision goes south.
The hallmark tell of the Pacifist is the silent nod. The Pacifist has no intention of changing anything he is doing. However, he buys time for the status quo by letting you believe he is on board. The Pacifist agrees with you very quickly, doesn’t ask any questions, and is generally trying to end meetings as soon as possible. He doesn’t engage in the process. When the meeting is over, the Pacifist goes right back to “the way we do things here”.
Dealing with the Pacifist is difficult. This is a situation of non-engagement, and getting to the facts in that situation is a challenge. Do not assume you are dealing with a pacifist right out of the gate. If you suspect there is a Pacifist in your midst, lead with direct questions to uncover reality. He may claim to be on board and willing to try anything as a defense mechanism. In those cases, propose your plan, if there is not an absolute willingness to give it a wholehearted attempt, then you likely have a Pacifist on your hands.
The key point for Pacifists is not to let them remain in a leadership position with regards to the project. The Pacifist will very politely doom you into an abyss of poor results. All the while, he blames the system, the plan, or anything else that takes attention away from the non-engagement. One strategy is finding a more willing participant from the Pacifist’s department. Tell the Pacifist that he will still be kept informed of the progress, but that the other team member will be responsible for the day to day business of the project.
In the final installment of this series on resisting change, we will discuss the Fortuneteller.