When I Insist, You Resist. How Not To Create Engagement

On the one hand, the old line, ‘organizations are full of people anxious to be told what to do’ may still be true. Organizations are also full of people resenting hierarchy, or at least, wishing there was less of it, especially the hierarchy that generates politics.

I Insist_You resist
So, here’s how you’re going to do it…

The hierarchical types usually ask, ‘Why won’t they do what I tell them?’

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could issue clear goals and direction and that they could be well understood? Ideally we could then let people get on with things and be totally engaged in making it happen. But, life and the organization are not that simple.

We’re not talking about bringing social justice to organizations. Nor about the few folks do like being ordered around.Command, insist, resist

The one thing we can take for granted is that if we want to create engagement, this line matters:

When I Insist, You Resist.

While the thinking about applying the idea comes from the likes of Steve de Shazer’s therapy and coaching, it applies equally to management and leadership.

So, when we do know where the organization, or the team is headed it’s increasingly important to create employee engagement, transparency, etc. How do we avoid resistance?

Here’s some practical Solution Focused principles and practices to overcome your insistence and their resistance by getting people engaged from the start:

Slow the Pace 

– It’s counterintuitive, but this will always speed things up.

Develop a deeper understanding

– Help them understand the direction and thereby understand more yourself.

Avoid being the expert who knows exactly what needs to be done

– The people doing the work need to figure out for themselves how it will get done. Besides, collectively they may know more than you! Assume they are the experts – even though they may not know it.

Seek details

– Not just about the obstacles, but what’s already working. Then, how they see direction being implemented.

Find the compelling reasons for change

– Help them see for themselves why the change/direction is necessary, plus how they will get there.

Establish mutually agreed upon goals for change that will bring the project goals to life

– Besides the big picture, how they will get small implementation steps and momentum happening.

Go on. Give it a try!


Employee dis-engagement strikes!

Just as we move to closing the gap between management and employees along comes  ‘right-to-work’ legislation.  Is it a sledgehammer or a new dawn of opportunity?

To some this is the inevitable outcome of workers helping themselves to unsustainable compensation, healthcare and retirement. To others it’s an indictment of lazy management practices for agreeing to contracts they knew couldn’t be sustained. To those most affected by the legislation, it’s a drastic reduction in their lifestyle. To legislators, it’s tough medicine that will prove effective in the end.


Unknowable unknowns

The legislation may stave off the fiscal cliff of payments that cannot be met and possibly keep jobs from going to low-cost labor countries. But what about the unknowable unknowns that will arise as a consequence of what some may call hysterical action? What will the worker organizations do to avoid reacting hyper-emotionally and ineffectually?

When anger rises, think of the consequences. Confucius

Both sides in the story are acting like victims, making arbitrary choices. They become the architects and constructers of their own feeling of anger and helplessness.

How do we manage this dramatic change? How do we re-engage people? How do we move from helpless to hopeful?

Maybe we have to change the questions we ask.

Questions for the legislators:

What works about your workforce? What are the benefits of engaging them in meaningful work practices that make them a contributor to the economy?

Suppose your legislation works for the people who elected you, what will be happening to make their lives better?

Questions for the worker organizations

What works about you as workforce? What are the benefits of engaging in meaningful work practices that help make you a contributor to the economy?

Suppose you are now competing successfully with other countries for work on merit and earning a competitive wage, what will you be doing to make that happen?

Why ask these questions? So that we can help both sides re-engage to see what they have in common and what they want to have happen.