The obstacles you will face as a leader are not physical impediments, but the responses of some of the people around you whose lives are being changed. If you pay attention you will see the obstacles coming and be able to take action to avoid running into them or being stopped by them.
According to Dr. James Belasco, “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” Large changes, like moving from where your team is now to where your vision will take them, require giving up a lot. Remain calm when people challenge your vision. Recognize that it isn’t personal; it is a natural response to change.
There are four responses that emerge in an attempt to stop or slow down change. Your particular plan for continued success will differ slightly for each of these four responses but your theme will remain the same: focus on your vision. Automobile industry pioneer Henry Ford had this same idea in mind when he said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
The first response to change is fear of failure: In this response, there will be doubt cast over the possibility that your vision will work. Comments will be made about your vision and your ability to deliver your vision. You can recognize this response by comments such as “This has been tried before and it didn’t work,” or “He has never led a group this large, I am not sure he can do this.”
When this response occurs, don’t spend your time debating when comments are made; instead invest your time achieving your quick wins, one at a time. There is no better way to remove doubt or fear than through the observation of success.
The second response to change is forced failure: In this response, there will be action taken to impede any progress on your vision and derail the train of success you have set in motion. This response can come in the form of intentionally missed or incorrectly completed assignments. You may also see that one or more people will refuse to agree on the next steps, but instead will want to debate the solution endlessly.
Take each person responding in this way aside and discuss their response one-on-one. Acknowledge and validate their fear of the change that is occurring, and reassure them that your vision will create success for everyone, including them. Finish the conversation by reaffirming your commitment to your vision with a promise to not let their actions interfere with the success of the rest of the team. Once your team knows that you are committed to their success, they will commit to your vision.
The third response to change is false friendship: In this response, your attention will be drawn to other activities in an attempt to take the focus away from your vision. Statements that start with “Let me tell you as a friend” or “No one can do this as you can” are frequently meant to divert your efforts to areas away from your vision.
Your time is limited and should be invested in achieving the purpose and vision of your team. If the suggestion or request does not bring you closer to success, return your focus to your vision and proceed. Don’t let flattery cause you to forget your focus.
The fourth and final response to change is false facts: In this response, your intentions will be challenged through statements that misrepresent the truth in order to convince others not to follow your vision. For your vision to be successful, your team must believe in your intentions. Your team will turn to you for an answer to these claims.
Do not argue or spend time trying to prevent these challenges from occurring. Instead admonish the challenger and demonstrate your intentions by recounting the success of the team and moving forward to further success. The proof of your character comes through in the lives of those on whom you have an impact.