​​Overcoming the 6 Sources of Resistance Part II


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You're listening to the School Leadership Reimagined Podcast, episode number twentyone.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...

where we rethink what's possible to transform your school. If you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now, here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey Builders, welcome to episode 21 of the School Leadership Reimagined podcast. I’m your host, Robyn Jackson and today, this is part 2 of a 2-part series on How to overcome the 6 sources of resistance.

We learned last time that if you really want to not only overcome resistance but turn resistance into commitment and buy in, then the first step is you need to understand the 6 sources of resistance and what’s behind each one. You see, people get stuck at one of these 6 layers of resistance and as long as they are stuck, they cannot make the changes you are asking them to make. If you understand what layer of resistance you are dealing with, then you can speak directly to that layer of resistance and get them unstuck, on board and moving towards big, meaningful goals.

Also in part 1, we looked at the first 2 layers of resistance which have to do with resistance to the problem you are trying to solve. The first layer was not admitting that there is a problem. People get stuck here either because they can’t see the problem or because they see the problem but are afraid to admit to it because they fear they will look bad or be blamed.

The second layer of resistance is feeling that the problem is out of their hands. This happens when people will admit that there is a problem but they think that there is nothing they can personally do about the problem. By the way, if you haven’t listened to part 1, go back and listen to that episode too. I’ll link to it in the shownotes.

Today I am going to talk about the other 4 layers of resistance which are really about the solution. These 4 layers of resistance are really about people pushing back because they don’t agree with your solution or because they are afraid of the change you are asking them to make. I am also going to give you a cool freebie you can download at the end of this episode with all 6 layers of resistance so that you can keep it as a handy cheat sheet.

Now as I go through each of these layers of resistance, I’m going to explain what’s behind each layer and then I’ll tell you exactly what you need to do at that layer to turn that specific kind of resistance into a huge opportunity to get real buy in.

That way, when you hear an objection, you can pinpoint what layer of resistance it belongs to, and you’ll know exactly how to respond to that objection and get that person on board without wasting a whole bunch of time arguing, or getting sidetracked by stuff that doesn’t really matter but keeps you distracted from what you really need to talk about. 

But before I dive in, I want to invite you to join me at Builder’s Lab 2019...

which is happening January 28-30, 2019. Here’s why I LOVE Builder’s Lab. All too often, you go to a conference and you hear some great speakers, attend some great sessions, get all fired up to make a change in your building when you return. And then you come home and get slammed with all the stuff that was waiting for you and poof, there goes your fire.

There’s a reason why that happens. It’s because while you learned some great things, you didn’t stop and take what you learn and create a clear plan for how you would implement what you learned when you got home.

Well, we’re not going to let that happen to you at Builder’s Lab. It’s very practical, very hands on so that right away, you can start using what you learn. I’ve had people learn something in a session at Builder’s Lab, then during the break check their email and see that there is some fire happening back at their school and take what they learned in the last session and use it to write an email that handles that fire before it got out of control. Done.

Plus, the last day of Builder’s Lab, we are going to spend the entire afternoon creating your personal 90 day plan. I am going to take you step by step through the process so you will have a solid, airtight plan that you will not only be excited about, but that you will actually put into place immediately even before you get back to school.

Not only that, I am going to check in with you AFTER Builder’s Lab is over to make sure that you stick to your plan. You see, because we keep Builder’s Lab really small and intimate, you and I will have bonded over the three days we spend together and by the end, I’m going to be even more invested in your success than I already am.

So if you really want to take action this year but you’re already stuck, or you’ve got big goals for your school and you want to learn how to make those big goals happen this year, won’t you join me for Builder’s Lab 2019. You can find more information and get your tickets by going to mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab.

Okay, let’s dive in...

Layer 3: Arguing that the proposed solution cannot possible yield the desired results/outcomes

This layer of resistance usually shows up when people agree on the problem but don’t agree on the solution. So for instance, yes, everyone agrees that we need to raise test scores but some people think that we need to do that through more rigorous instruction while others think, no differentiation is the answer, and still others think that all we need to do is get the students more motivated to take the tests.

Everybody is trying to convince everyone else that the other solutions are flawed and won’t work and that their solution is better. When people get here, they get stubborn and a lot of times they won’t listen or hear anyone else out. What’s even worse as that as the arguments get more heated, people start to take things personally, they start getting emotional, they dig their heels in further.
Big obstacle right?

Here’s the opportunity. When you meet resistance around the solution to the problem, get everyone together and create a list of criteria for what would be considered a good solution.

For instance, if you are trying to improve test scores, you might agree that the right solution has to actually produce significant and steady gains in student achievement without creating too much extra work for teachers or involving drill and kill. Whatever. The point is, you come together as a group and you agree on what a GOOD solution looks like first. Then you weigh everyone’s solution against your criteria and collectively determine which solution would be best. By having a set of criteria we all agreed to, you mitigate the risk of the discussion becoming personal. Instead, you can have a practical, logical discussion and come to consensus.

The next layer of resistance is related to this one. It’s the

Yes, but… layer. This is where people argue that your proposed solution will lead to negative effects

For instance, you may propose that teachers increase rigor but some teachers argue that more rigor will be too hard for students and their students will give up after a while. Or, they may worry that more rigor will be more work for teachers. Or they may argue that if they spend more time going in depth in their lessons as rigor demands, they won’t be able to get through their entire curriculum. You get the point. This layer of resistance is where people agree that yes we have a problem and it needs solving. They may even agree that rigor is the answer. But, they worry that making a change like that to instruction is going to have some real negative consequences.

Sometimes, In our haste to get buy-in quickly, we might try to address one concern or make a small adjustment to our plans, and then move on, but that would be a mistake. If you do not address every objection raised at this stage, the solution will seem inadequate, or worse harmful. There is no getting around it: We must spend as much time and effort as it takes on this layer or we will not get full buy in.

That’s one of the reasons why I build a “yes, but…” section into most of my books and into all my workshops. I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t deal with the “yes, buts…” directly, you will get stalled or shut down altogether.

Now “yes, buts…” can show up in a couple of ways. Sometimes they show up because even though we’ve agreed that the solution is a good solution, people are worried that they are going to have to give up something or face a negative side effect if they implement the solution. Think about teachers who believe in differentiation but worry that it is going to be more work for them. Or teachers who believe in more rigorous instruction but it’s going to mean that they have to give up some of their favorite assignments because they are not rigorous enough.

Other times “yes, buts…” show up because people think that there is something blocking them from actually implementing the solution. So a teacher might believe in differentiation but feel that they can’t implement it because they are missing a key resource. Or they might believe in rigor but feel that the mandatory test preparations for the state test syphon away all their time and leave little time to do work that is more meaningful.

Both types of “yes, buts…” can be overcome by taking a step back and explaining why.
And here is the real opportunity. A lot of time people get caught up on the details of the change we are asking them to make and lose sight of why we are making the changes to begin with. That way, when they have to give up something, they can understand why they are giving it up and can focus on what that something better is that they are getting in exchange. Explaining the logic behind our decisions is not only helpful in convincing people that the changes we are asking them to make sense, it also empowers them to find creative solutions to their obstacles. If people understand why we want them to do something, what each step is aimed to achieve, and why they need to do it before moving to the next step, they will be in a much better position to improvise when they meet obstacles.

Okay, so far we’ve dealt with resistance around whether we have a problem, whether we can solve the problem, whether the solution is a good solution, and we’ve dealt with the yes buts. The next two layers of resistance are around implementing the change.

Layer 5: Raising obstacles that will prevent implementation

You run into this layer of resistance whenever people believe that the risk involved in making the change you want to make is just not worth it. As long as the other party believes the risk is not worth it, we are in trouble.

So for instance, maybe your teachers believe that their lessons should be more rigorous and they have even agreed to attempt more rigorous unit plans. But the moment you come into their classroom for a formal observation that’s tied to their evaluation, they revert to teaching the way they have always taught. The risk of “failing” an observation is just too big for teachers to take the chance to teach using the new rigorous teaching strategies they’ve been working on.

Here’s your opportunity. You need to find ways to lower the risks or at least create safety nets.

You know, one of the things I teach at Builder’s Lab is how to move people through transformation process. We teach you a 6-part transformation process that helps you implement big changes and make them stick.

One of the things I always stress as that as you are moving people through each stage, they are going to face new risks and that if you want people to not only buy into each new stage, but be successful at each stage, you have to mitigate their risks and give them a safety net.

So let me give you an example of what I mean. I was working with a school recently and they are moving out of the Explore stage where they work with teachers to identify the right problem to solve and to come together and agree on a solution. In this school’s case, they agreed to really focus on more rigorous instruction and they are working through our Rigor Staff Development Kits this semester in their PLC’s to learn how to create rigorous unit and lesson plans and how to implement more rigorous instruction.

But naturally because this is all new to the teachers, they are a little nervous. Their big question is, “look, you say that I should explore this process and figure out how to make it work for me but what happens if my administrator comes in while I’m doing all this exploring?”

Good question right?

And the answer is already baked into the Transformation process. During the explore period, teachers are free to try the strategies they are learning in their PLC’s without penalty of evaluation. Now the Explore stage doesn’t last forever. At some point they will get to the evaluation stage but by the time they get there, they will have had plenty of time to practice in a non-evaluative environment, gotten non-evaluative feedback, and honed their craft so that when they are actually evaluated, they are ready.

So you need to mitigate risks for folks to help them feel safe enough to actually implement the changes that they agree are the right changes to make. That way, you not only get buy in, you empower people to implement your solution successfully.

Okay, one more layer of resistance and this one is a real doozie...

Layer 6: Social and Psychological Barriers

Now I’m gonna be honest with you. No matter how much work you put into dealing with the other layers of resistance, there will be some people who still resist, not because they object to the change we are asking them to make. They might resist because they have personality traits that make them more prone to resist change. They may feel pushed out of their comfort zone and resist the uncertainty. They may resist because of social pressure or because they conform to social norms that our solution challenges, or because they may be grappling with personal issues.

Now there is a reason this layer of resistance is last. That’s because most of the time, we jump here first and start blaming our resistors --he’s just stuck in his ways, or she’s just such a nasty person. She never supports anything we do.

But in most cases, that’s just not true. Usually people don’t resist you because they are just mean or crazy or whatever label you’re into using. Most of the time people resist change because of all the reasons we’ve discussed so far.

Now that’s good news because there is something you can do about those reasons for resistance and it’s fairly straightforward.

But there are times when the heart of another person’s resistance has nothing to do with the change we are asking them to make. Sometimes they are resisting because of something inside of them.

That doesn’t mean that you go and write them off however. If you run into this layer of resistance, the best thing I know to do to overcome this type of resistance is to understand that person’s will driver and feed that person’s will driver.

Now I go into depth about how to do that in Episode 5: How to Motivate Anybody and it’s actually one of our most popular episodes ever. So, I encourage you to check that out to learn how to overcome this layer of resistance.

But what I will say now is this. Just because you run up against internally motivated resistance doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. Nah, nah, nahhh. You have a real opportunity here. I find that most people who resist at layer 9 will tell you exactly how to overcome their resistance and get them on board if you listen closely for their will drivers. From there you just feed their will drivers and usually you can get them motivated. So again, if you haven’t listened to Episode 5 yet, I encourage you to go back and listen to it and I’ll also put a link to it in the show notes.

Let's Recap

There are 6 layers of resistance:

  • Layer One: People don’t believe they have a problem.
  • Layer Two: People may believe that they have a problem but think the problem is out of their hands.
  • Layer Three: People agree on the problem but don’t agree on the solution. 
  • Layer Four: People agree that yes we have a problem and it needs solving but they worry that making a change like that to instruction is going to have some real negative consequences.
  • Layer Five: People believe that the risk involved in making the change you want to make is just not worth it.
  • Layer Six: People resist because of something inside of them - uncertainty, out of their comfort zone, or personal issues

I want to leave you with one final caveat and it’s really important.  When we say we want Buy in we have to mean it. That means that once people buy in, they own a part of the change as well. People don’t invest in something they don’t feel they can own.

So, you’re going to have to share ownership here, I mean really share the ownership of our change with others. You can’t just pay lip service to it. We’ve got to aside our egos and learn to welcome inquiries and objections. We have to encourage folks to ask questions and speak their minds so that we know what they are thinking. It means that when people ask questions, we have to genuinely answer them and it also means that we may to go back and clarify the missing details their questions raise. In addition—and this is the key to the whole thing—we have to evaluate their objections objectively. You can’t take objections personally. Keep an open mind. You might just find that at least some of their concerns hold water.

If we accept their reservations and ask for their input of how to overcome them, we give them control over current decisions and future actions. The more we acknowledge their (valid!) reservations and incorporate their suggestions into the change plans, the more it will become their change too. 

Again, I hope today you’ve begun to look at resistance to change a little differently. Instead of seeing it as an obstacle, I hope that by peeling back the layers of resistance, you can find opportunities at each layer to secure real, lasting buy in and help everyone take ownership over the changes you are trying to make.

Okay, now before we go,

I want to remind you about Builder’s Lab 2019. If you are facing some push back this year, or you are about to embark on a big change and you want to avoid as much push back as possible, bring what you’re working on to Builder’s Lab and I’ll show you the exact steps you need to take overcome that push back and get your change off the ground this year. R

emember, Builder’s Lab is a small, intimate intensive where you can get coaching and support and personal attention so it’s the perfect place and time to step away from your busy school for a few days and get some perspective and support while you still have time to implement the changes this school year.

You bring your biggest challenge to Builder’s Lab and  together we’ll come up with a solid plan to help you implement the changes you are trying to make and get everyone on board and invested. Visit https://mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab/ to get your ticket today.

Next week...

Now remember this season is all about turning your biggest obstacles into your biggest responsibilities. So next time, I’m going to talk about an obstacle we almost never discuss. It’s burn out and it’s secretly killing our motivation and sapping our energy and keeping us from making the big difference we were called to make.

Here’s the thing, burnout is a sneaky little bugger. In face, many of us are burned out and we don’t even realize it. So next time, I’m going to share how to detect the first signs of burnout, and here’s the cool think, I’m going to show you how to turn your burn out into something that not only gives you tremendous clarity about what you are being called to do, I’ll show you how to turn your burnout into one of the biggest energy boosts you will ever experience. Plus, I’m going to get really personal in this episode and talk about how I struggled with burnout and how I leveraged it to make one of my biggest career moves in my life.

So join me next time where we are going to learn how to handle burnout #LikeABuilder.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads visit https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/

School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build a master teachers.