Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with a leader who was expressing some frustration he was feeling regarding his team. Specifically, this leader saw opportunities to not only make more efficient, but to make more effective some of the decision-making activities his team was engaging in on a day to day basis. These activities and decisions have a significant impact on the broader business and this leader was excited about the changes he was putting into place. They were logical, they were grounded in a strong business case, and it was easy to track their impact on the business to ensure desired results. It all seemed so perfect for this leader. And yet, in spite of all of this, his team was reluctant, at best to adopt the changes. In fact, some of the team actually resisted the changes, either directly or indirectly.
People Don’t Like Change
This leader had taken great pains to establish his business case with the team and to show them all of the reasons why these changes were the right direction to go, and yet they were still unmoved. In his frustration and with a degree of exasperation he eventually just reconciled in his own mind that the resistance he was seeing was just a reflection of that old adage that people don’t like change. With this, he simply kept reinforcing his message and decided that things would likely improve with time and the team would eventually come to see things the way he did. Unfortunately, they didn’t come to his side and the leader gradually capitulated to the momentum of the team and he directed his focus elsewhere.
This is not an atypical situation for those of us in leadership roles. We are in these leadership positions for a reason, and we feel that the decisions we make and the initiative we seek to implement are all logical, well-reasoned, and in service of the greater organization or else why would we pursue them, right? And when others on our team do not seem to see things the way we do, it can be very frustrating to say the least.
Match and Pace
However, thanks to Winnie the Pooh, there is a way out of this frustration. As Pooh said, “you can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you, you have to go to them sometime.” In this case, Pooh’s words reflect an approach for influencing others and for building buy-in from others around your ideas called “match and pace.”
When a leader can pause any advocacy efforts for their own initiatives long enough to genuinely step into the world of those for whom they are trying to influence, a new perspective is established.
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This approach requires that the leader be willing to go to the team as opposed to asking that the team come to them. When a leader can pause any advocacy efforts for their own initiatives long enough to genuinely step into the world of those for whom they are trying to influence, a new perspective is established. This new perspective allows the leader to have greater empathy and insight for the various needs, motives, and other factors that may be at play for an individual as it relates to that individual’s decision to buy-in or not. This is the “match” part of match and pace.
With this perspective and insight into those you seek to influence, leaders can then begin the process of gradually “pacing” them forward toward the desired destination. This pacing involves taking incremental steps as it relates to removing perceived obstacles and providing necessary support resources as needed to help people gradually start walking with you. With patience and intentionality, leaders can then bring people to their corner of the forest.
Meet Others Where They Are
So as leaders think about any changes they seek to implement, in addition to being sure they have made a strong business case for such changes, they will also need to remember that they can’t simply ask others to come around to their way of thinking, but instead they have to be willing to go meet others where they are and walk alongside them to the desired end point. Remember what Pooh says, “you can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you, you have to go to them sometimes.”