It sounds strange but we do need resistance if we want to change. Resistance is that force which pushes against moving ahead. Yet without resistance we will unlikely go forward. Positive resistance to change uses force to propel us forward, negative resistance to change uses force to push us back or hold us in a place where we don't move forward or backward. During the change process there is always force to push us forward and counter force to push us backward or to remain in a static position.
Whenever we problem solve we also experience force and counter force, because solving problems is all about change. A problem is usually something that gets us stuck in time and somehow we need to resolve it in order to move forward.
When we attempt to resolve problems we often use "push" force to move forward and when there is resistance, a counter force or push back, we attempt to remove the resistance by more push force. This pushing may erupt into physical clashes or angry outbursts. Great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, based on Gandhi's example, changed the resistant dynamic by countering physical push force with peaceful "pull" force.
Our sphere of influence isn’t like that of Gandhi or King, but it is important none the less. Most of us are wrapped up in small to medium size businesses or organizations where people often resist change. Resistance to change plays out when a new leader enters an organization with a different vision for its success than the prevailing one; or when there is a slump in the marketplace and drastic change strategies are needed for the business to survive; or when an organization's Board gives direction to shake up the organization because in its view the organization is stagnant, atrophied or no longer meets current market place realities.
One approach to resistance is the use of "dictatorial" push force. In such instances we hear statements, often based on fear tactics, that go something like this: "you better change or you no longer work here," or, "let's move resisters to innocuous positions," or, "let's make things as uncomfortable as possible so that people leave." This method is based on dual thinking: it's "my way or the highway." In essence it's an either-or proposition. There's no third way - there's no breakthrough thinking about alternative ways to deal with resistance.
It appears from a distance that this type of dictatorial force is emerging within in the Trump administration. The same "push" force is experienced in smaller organizations where employees are displaced or moved out in an undignified manner. In these situations I have even heard language similar to that used in war such as, "they are casualties" or "we have a lot of collateral damage."
There may be times, however, when the force of "push" is necessary. In these circumstances "push" methods should maintain the dignity and respect of those being pushed while at the same time maintain the integrity and ethical standards of those doing the pushing. One CEO I know calls this "benevolent" force.
In a previous article I suggested that the skills for breakthrough thinking as it pertains to problem solving include empathetic listening, patience and dialogue. These same skill sets are also key to implementing "pull" strategies.
My preferred approach views resistance as an opportunity to find a third path arising not as an either/or choice, but as a way to resolve the problem using a balanced push-pull force. A balanced approach suggests combining the "benevolent push" force with the "pull" force ,or, using them in "tandem." However, there are situations when it's best to use the forces separately. In other words, I mostly "pull", other times I benevolently "push" and still others I use "push-pull" forces in tandem. Moving through resistance in this way isn't easy but it does generate positive engagement and buy-in from those affected with far fewer "casualties," while at the same time supports the dignity, respect and integrity of everyone involved.
Questions to ponder: Do you understand "push" and "pull" as methods of "force" when dealing with resistance? What is your experience regarding "push" and "pull" forces when you encounter resistance in resolving organizational or personal problems? Should we use "push" and "pull" methods deferentially? Are there times when "push" should be the preferred method of force? If so, how should we use it?
Let me know what you think.