In her book, Spiritlinking Leadership noted clinical psychologist, Dr. Donna Markham, OP, encourages leaders to recognize manifestations of resistance. She then offers strategies for leaders to work through resistance. Here are three signs of resistance, which Dr. Markham identified.
Projection is attributing something unwanted to another. Often circumstances or situations beyond one’s control are blamed for things. In mission development efforts, this can be manifested by blaming the economy, for example. Because we become, angry, frustrated, and fearful, we resist looking for alternative solutions and new strategies.
As leaders, we try to engage others in our department or organization to create new strategies. According to Markham the resistance centers around owning a new course of action. If we participate in new strategies and they do not succeed, then whom do we blame but ourselves?
Doing and Undoing
Dr. Markham describes this basically as a fear of making a mistake. In mission advancement, it can manifest itself as analysis paralysis. We just need one more set of metrics before we decide a direction. We have to run just one more test before we launch this program. We just need to bring in one more expert to advise us. We need to revisit this plan just one more time or reconsider our decision because another piece of new information that might be relevant has surfaced.
In the end process, instead of action, becomes the end in itself. There is always one more reason to wait before taking action. This may manifest itself at any administrative or management level.
Dr. Markham sees this resistant behavior as an attempt to avoid change by tightening controls and increasing demands of accountability. The focus is on, in her words, “the here and now” rather than on strategies for the long-term.
In mission development, this can manifest itself in the demands for more and more reports, which often restate the same information. It can lead to micro-accountability, requiring daily reports on how each minute of the day has been spent, which can actually reduce productivity in the workplace.
In its worst form, it can lead towards an emphasis on legality and erode personal responsibility and trust. One worries more about getting caught breaking a rule rather than advancing the mission.
Rather than ignoring resistance or fighting it, Dr. Markham suggests that the leader takes responsibility to help the organization, office, department or team work through it. She suggests a four-part process:
- Identify what is happening in the group.
- Explore motives: Why is this happening now?
- Identify the implications to the organizations regarding what is happening.
- Seek a commitment to action: What are we willing to do about this together?
In order to strengthen our abilities as leaders to work through resistance, Dr. Markham makes a number of suggestions. Here are two worth considering, perhaps.
- Identify specific resistant behaviors in one’s self.
- Identify some processes and procedures that might need to be abandoned in order to move more proactively forward.