When a “No Brainer” Isn’t

As a leader, it can be frustrating when something seems like a “no brainer” to you, and yet some portion of your team seems to dig their heels in and resist. Are they intentionally just trying to be difficult? How could they not see what is so clear to you? Do you have the right people on the team? Oh, and one more question . . . did it ever occur to you that they might be asking the same questions about you?

More often than not, the issue is not a matter of intelligence or commitment or intentionally being difficult (okay, occasionally, but let’s not automatically go there) . . . it is simply that you and your team member may be coming at the issue from a different perspective. There are a few steps you can can take to see if this might be the case.

1. Identify the perspective are you making your decision from. Is it a business decision? A mission decision? A decision influenced by your board or one or more other stakeholders? If you find this hard to answer, write your justifications for the decision on a piece of paper. Seeing something in black and white can sometimes bring a level of clarity that is harder to recognize when you are debating things in your head.

2. Consider the issue from a different perspective . . . even if you think it is a less relevant perspective. It may be less relevant to you, but is it for your people? Is your decision driven by your unique position in the agency? Are you taking variables into consideration that your people may not be? Conversely, are they looking at potential impacts of the decision that you are overlooking? How might their past experiences shape their point of view?

3. Ask your people why they are resisting. It is amazing how much you can learn by asking rather than telling. If you have considered the issue from a different perspective, ask your staff if that is the source of their resistance, or if it is something else. Even if your assumption in incorrect, the fact that you are trying to understand makes it more likely that your people will share their perspective. (FYI, this is a seek to understand moment, not a means of gaining tactical advantage . . .)

4. Reconsider your position based on this new information. You may or may not change your decision, but understanding where people’s resistance is coming from helps you frame your final decision in a way that recognizes the perspective of others. When people feel heard, they are more likely accept the ultimate decision and also to share their perspective in the future.

When your people resist the direction you are going, you have a choice to simply push harder, or step back and look for the source of the resistance. Which is more effective in the long run? No brainer.

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