“So, what do you guys think?”
Every leader has faced the silence after that question, followed by the barrage of reasons why the new idea, plan, or initiative won’t work. Whether it’s with volunteers or paid staff members, leaders engaged in organizational transformation regularly encounter doubt, fear, and resistance to the new idea.
What Not to Do
First, what a leader cannot do—push forward like nothing ever happened, like no objection was ever made or no doubt ever surfaced. Sometimes, the leader can be so confident in himself or in the idea that he does this without realizing it. Instead, a redemptive leader slows down, steps back, and really listens to what’s going on behind the doubt and fear. Thinking like a leader means developing situational awareness that allows you to reduce unintentional and intentional instances of steamrolling over the team.
At the same time, the opposite is also true. You can’t simply cave in when objections or doubts surface, giving up because someone raised an issue or noticed a deficiency in the plan. After all, the first draft is never good enough.
So, what’s a leader to do when the team says it can’t be done?
Try to Understand the Opposition
As you respond to doubt, it’s important to question your own assumptions. First, assume you can learn something new if you listen, instead of thinking the team just doesn’t get what you’re saying. Second, assume the team is trying to make sure the organization stays on the right track, rather than assuming they are undermining your authority. If either assumption turns out to be untrue, there are deeper issues that must be resolved (that’s a different blog).
As you seek to understand the reasons for the opposition, several questions help you zero in on the issues behind the issue. Why does the team think the way they do? Could they be right? What’s the root of their response—emotional or logical? Is there an issue behind the issue? What’s the historical roots behind the opposition?
As you interact with the team member, you have a choice in the power style you employ. You can embrace assertive power, where you go on an all-in sales drive to get your idea across. Or, you can employ receptive power. Receptive power is not an oxymoron; instead, it’s the power you wield by genuinely listening and hearing the concerns and doubts from the people on your team.
Incorporate Valid Objections
As you genuinely understand where the doubt comes from, you might determine in the end that there is something to their argument. In that case, it’s important to adjust your plan. This will take more time and effort than you want to expend, but in the end the results are often worth it. Leaders tend to be impatient, wanting everything changed yesterday. But sometimes, slower is faster. Sometimes slowing down to get the plan right before you roll it out to the entire congregation or organization might take longer in the short term, but in the long view it will save you time. Imagine the time you might waste having the scrap the entire plan or ministry and start over because you refused to slow down and adjust along the way. Sometimes, slower is faster!