Are you for or against?

Article by , June 25, 2018

I try to take a 30-minute walk every morning between 9 and 12. This is partly because I know it’s good for me, partly because I enjoy it, and partly because – as a self-employed consultant with the freedom to set my own schedule – I can.

Right at the beginning of my route I pass a street lamp, and today I noticed there was sticker attached to it, upside down at around shoulder height. I angled my head for a better view and read (translated from the original German), “Against patriarchy and penis-centricity.” Now, as a middle-aged man, I don’t feel qualified to debate the merits of that particular cause… However, I do feel qualified to ask why on earth you would choose to be against the status quo, rather than for a better solution?

We see the same knuckle-headed thinking being played out time and again in our society as change comes, and people take the easy option of resisting it, rather than trying to influence it in their favor. Uber threatens to put taxi drivers out of business? Taxi drivers react by shouting, complaining and blockading the streets, which succeeds only in costing them money, inconveniencing their own customers, and making Uber an even more attractive option than it was before. (Yes, I am aware that some city legislators have banned Uber as a result of taxi driver protests. What can I say? Dumb and dumber.)

Tackle change with value

The value-focused approach to change is not to resist it, but to propose a better solution. What the taxi drivers could and should have done is organized themselves to fight back constructively. For example, they could have co-funded a campaign to promote licensed taxis as the superior option in terms of any number of potential value elements – reliability, speed, punctuality, service, friendliness, safety, luxury, and so on.

And of course, similar situations are being played out every day in boardrooms and on factory floors across the world. An exciting new initiative is dismissed because scoring points against a colleague at a high-profile meeting is more important than the long-term success of the company. Employees down tools to protest against an increase in working hours, rather than finding ways to work more efficiently so that the increase isn’t necessary. You get my drift.

When faced with a difficult issue or an inevitable change, I advise my consulting clients to try and be ‘for’ solutions rather than ‘against’ problems. It’s a more positive and constructive position that has a much greater chance of success. I certainly know from my own career that had I chosen to complain rather than innovate in the face of inevitable and constant change, I would have been out of business a long time ago. Instead, my results usually improve significantly over those of the previous 12-months.

This week, think about this:

Identify a situation you are facing in your organization that is currently being defined negatively or defensively. Then, consider how you could reframe the discussion in a positive, solution-focused and opportunity-oriented way.

One department is holding out against a proposed office reorganization? Ask them for ideas about a better solution that will retain all benefits of the proposed change for the rest of the company.

A new sales person is causing uproar among the old hands by outperforming them all with smart new approaches? Encourage her colleagues to use the situation as a learning opportunity that can help them skyrocket their own results.

If they rise to the challenge and come up with great answers, everyone wins.

If not, they may have to learn the hard way that resistance to change for its own sake is usually a dead end.

If you want advice on a change issue in your organization, contact me today.

I hope you are able to end your week on a positive!



Copyright Hamish Mackenzie 2018