“What do you know to be absolutely true in this moment?”
Asking this question is pivotal when people are stuck or resistant in their thinking, according to Marcia Reynolds, author of The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.
It’s a natural reaction to resist change, but left unchecked, our emotions can create blind spots and inertia. As a leader, you need to break through these blocks if you want your team to commit to moving forward during times of transition or uncertainty.
This is accomplished through first acknowledging what’s triggering the resistance and then asking clear questions that make people stop and examine their own thinking. You might ask, “It’s unfortunate you don’t know what will happen next, but based on what you do know, what do you think you need to do either for yourself or the company?”
We learn better from self-discovery than from others telling us what to do, so practicing this technique and the following steps will decrease the time it takes for your team to move from change resistance to change acceptance.
4 steps for successfully managing change
- Inquire about how they feel and show you understand. Ask about the desires, disappointments and fears they’re expressing. People need to feel their concerns are important before they’ll be interested in exploring what’s next. Don’t discount what’s at the source of their feelings. Use your emotional intelligence to help identify what they think they’re losing as a result of the decision to change.
- Use reflecting and questioning to help them explore their limiting thoughts. You can’t help people step out of their boxes until you help them see the box they’re currently in. Respectfully and gently inquire about how they see their role, what they fear could happen if they acted differently, what they doubt will occur, and what they think they’ll not be able to do. Acknowledge their views before asking them what else could be possible. Allowing them to think out loud will help them explore, examine and hopefully change their beliefs and behavior.
- Quiet your judgmental brain. Refrain from jumping in and giving advice. You role is to function as their thinking partner in this conversation, not as their leader or mentor. When you ask good, authentic questions that make people stop and think about their thinking, they’re building on what they know instead of hearing what you know.
- Make sure there’s a plan or commitment for what’s next. Ask them to specify what they will do and when. Even if they say they have to take some time to think about what they’ve discovered, ask how they’ll do this. Always end with a clear and encouraging next step.
Your employees want you to be authentic and caring more than they need you to be perfect – your sensitivity and concern will set the tone more than the exact words you use.
Following the process helps people feel cared for and respected, which opens their brain to learning and seeing the world around them in a new way, more easily accepting the changes they face.