Help Your Team Grow By Not Listening To What They Say

As a leader or team lead, have you ever been in the position to facilitate a change? An improved process, a new system, a change in procedure. Did you get resistance from your team or a person about this change?

Have you heard, “I don’t want to”? Or “I’m not going to”?

You just might be able to turn that around if you don’t listen to what they say.

The words they use more often than not don’t represent the real issue. The words sound like they are being obstinate, willfully defying your request out of malice, stubbornness, or something stuck in their crawl.

But what if that wasn’t the case?

What if the true statement were: “I don’t want to …. because I don’t think I can.” What if they don’t know this is the reason behind their resistance?

Stay with me for a minute:

  • We have millions of bits of information assaulting us all day, every day
  • To filter all that data down into understandable pieces, we delete, distort, or generalize. We take a boulder and make a recognized pebble.
  • Think of a boulder as a bit of external data. Internally, we go at it with several chisels. These are thoughts, beliefs, values, identity, behaviors, skills, experiences, reactions, attitudes, memories, language, and more. We whack the heck out of that boulder using all these chisels to break it down to a pebble we recognize.
  • We’re made up of a big ol’ pile of pebbles – our foundation for how we act and see ourselves/the world.
  • Our chisels are not the same size.

Your person may have a massive “I’m not smart enough” belief chisel. It overshadows all the other chisels. This means that every boulder you throw at them will be shaped primarily by that chisel.

Any change is going to be met with resistance. Because behind the defiance is fear. Fear of looking stupid, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. But the first and strongest reaction is simply no.

They may not know their own real driver because that pebble is buried at the very bottom of their pebble pile.

So how do you help them help you?

With a beautiful dance of communication. The steps are: go general, go detailed, and back and forth we go.

Don’t challenge, it will raise their defenses and shut down communication. Start by asking their thoughts. Start with the problem this new process is going to fix. What do they think of that problem?

  • Go detailed. How has it been detrimental to their work, performance, customers, team, etc.? How has it affected them personally?
  • Go general. Can they remember another time when there was another hindrance in the process? How did it impact the work?
  • Go detailed. With that other issue, how was it resolved? What was put in place? What kind of changes were made? How did they integrate those changes into what they did?
  • Go general. How did it make their job easier? How did it improve performance, service, quality, etc.?
  • Stay general. If we could make that same type of transition, wouldn’t that be helpful? Do you see any connection between this process and the last successful one?

The issue could be they don’t think the solution will work because of their expertise. Listen. You might get valuable insight to improve the process.

When you can guide them to see another time when they did, it will help get that pebble out of their shoe and step forward.

This is a free-flowing conversation. Be engaged. Be interested. listen and watch for verbal/nonverbal. Follow your intuition to pick up the revealed threads. You’re not going to get it right every time. You’re not going to make a 180 change every time.

You may have to respectfully say, this is how we’re going to do it.

Even so, with these conversations, you’ll prove you’re listening, they’re important, they’re heard, and they matter. You will also learn something.

That’s the real win-win.


I help amazing people get career happy and client-centric companies stay true to brand.

Coaching: Career, Business, Life

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All opinions and views expressed in this article are my own unless attributed. They’re pretty spot-on (because I’m obsessive about career topics and communications). The humor sprinkled in is Mr. B approved, my dog who thinks I’m hilarious (and not because I’m his meal ticket).

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