You’ve designed a new initiative. The initiative will rocket you from the doldrums to your vision. Yet, staff resists the change. They’re not holding a sit-in in your office, but they might as well be.
Staff pushback persists because rewards for resistance exist. Some rewards are spontaneous and simple, such as conserving energy. Others reflect complex behavior patterns, perhaps springing from long-ago staff-management shuffles.
What can you do to change pushback into momentum?
First, don’t give in. When staff holler and you drop back, you reward resistance. You teach that opposition works.
Instead, show the truth. Staff resistance generates more work for everyone. “Everyone’s inviting three people,” you reply to a complaint. “Let talk about whom you’ll invite and how.” Plus, you add, sharing the work, “I’d like you to share what you discover at Monday’s staff meeting.”
Don’t stop there. Digging in your heels without adding value breeds revolution. Consider the “why” behind the complaints. Then use this added value to strengthen the initiative. Keep digging around your initiative until you uncover staff wins.
Then get those benefits in the light. For instance, you announce that anyone who joins your legacy society attends legacy events as guests. Non-legacy staff members, of course, continue to work the event.
Remember when your teacher put gold stars on your papers? Teachers gave gold stars to students who excelled. Like your teachers, award “gold stars” to those who excel at your initiative. For example, a staff member brings in a research article that supports the initiative. Please give them a gold star, that is, a shout-out at your staff meeting.
Imagine you’re working on an exciting new initiative. When you arrive at your office, the staff is eager to tell you about their successes. You can turn pushback into momentum. Don’t give in. Add value. Pass out gold stars.
Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.
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