Change is always challenging because it shakes the status quo. During planning and execution processes, any attempt to change the existing condition would likely result in various pros and cons. When the people involved are showing a strong con, it is said that they are “resisting.” The forms of resistance may be of any shade, ranging from indifference to going on a strike.
When resistance occurs, “us” versus “them” narratives start to emerge. Those who support change become “us” and those who oppose change are called “they.” It is as if the organization becomes a boxing ring with two different boxers. You’re either with “us” or with “them.”
A good leader understands that “us” versus “them” is merely a creation of the mind. With this being said, we can reframe it and make it productive.
First things first, “us” versus “them” is not about who is right and who is wrong.
It is also not about being in different teams, because we all are on the same team. “Us” and “them” is about different approaches in seeing a phenomenon, and it is a positive thing. The more perspectives a team can see, the better prepared it is to tackle future challenges.
Second, “us” is a sub-team that supports the change, “them” is a sub-team that guards the existing stance.
Take it with a grain of salt that both “us” and “them” are attempting to move forward, despite the differences in perspective. The “guardians” provide the “change supporters” a glimpse into their arguments on why the change might not be favorable. It is the kind of “balancing act” that change makers need, so they can be alerted of various blind spot issues that may hinder a smooth execution.
Third, embrace both sub-teams and rename them “participants.”
This effort is key to building the much-needed common ground and mutual understanding that both sub-teams are not rivals nor enemies. They are all participants in the change team. Thus any ideas presented are considered constructive for the progress.
Fourth, the leaders should agree with each other and that no sub-team is asking for “permission” from the other.
The leaders set the tone of the change. Thus they must be on the same page on issues and progress on the right track together. With this mindset, they can work together with both sub-teams with an understanding that they are on the same team, thus “no permission” is required when approaching a milestone.
Fifth, when the resistance is likely unproductive, dig deeper.
When the resistance is not about “guarding” the condition, but more likely about dissolving the organization, find out the actual motive. Sometimes, when a change occurs, and chaos follows, those with ulterior motives find a good timing to strike. This may include business espionage by competitors.
At last, change management requires an in-depth understanding on handling differing ideas and arguments with consensus and positive or neutral narratives. Encourage people to remind themselves that they are all on the same team. However, when resistance is too negative, investigate further, as it may be a sign of a more sinister motive, such as business espionage.
ABOUT JOSE J. RUIZ
Jose Ruiz serves as Alder Koten’s Chief Executive Officer providing vision, strategic direction and the roadmap for the executive recruiting firm’s future. He is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures. An important part of his time is spent on research work focused on organizational effectiveness centered on leadership and culture. Prior to joining Alder Koten, Jose was a Principal with Heidrick & Struggles’ Global Industrial Practice based in Houston, TX and Monterrey, Mexico. His professional experience also includes leadership positions in engineering and operations management for manufacturing organizations in the US and Mexico. This experience includes serving as vice president and general manager at Holley Performance Products. Jose serves on the board of Shelmex and on America’s Council of the Association of Executive Search Consultants where he also chairs the Boutique and Independent Search Firm Forum.
Jose holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Gonzaga University and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and electrical engineering from the Instituto Technologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. He is fluent in English and Spanish.
Jose can be reached at jose.ruiz@alderkoten or at his office in Houston +1 (713) 476–9000
ABOUT ALDER KOTEN
Alder Koten has recruiters and research teams in Mexico and the United States. The firm was founded in 2011. Its headquarters are located in Houston and it has offices in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City with partner firms in New York, Boston, Chicago, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom. Alder Koten recruiters serve multiple industries including automotive, building products, construction & projects, consumer markets, energy & chemicals, equipment & industrial products, financial services, life sciences, medical devices, maquiladora, mining & metals, professional services, renewable resources, technology, and transportation & logistics. The firm is a proud standing member of the Association of Executive Search Consultants. The Association of Executive Search Consultants was founded in 1959 as the Association of Executive Recruiting Consultants (AERC) for the dual purposes of creating a professional association for the most competent and reputable search firms, and for providing clients and prospective clients a means by which to differentiate qualified and ethical practitioners.