Generally in Finance & Accounting we want to help our organisations make better, more sustainable decisions. In fact we pride ourselves on presenting our ideas clearly and logically but sometimes our insights and expertise seem fall on deaf ears. Why?
If you’ve ever found yourself in this position, you know, where no matter how rationally, accurately and completely you present the data, the numbers and your recommendations, leaders and mangers can give us what’s known as Resistance.
The tell-tale signs of resistance
Resistance doesn’t always happen, but when it does it can be frustrating and puzzling, after all we have the best interests of our organisations at heart. For instance we find a way to improve margins by reducing the levels of concessions we give to customers, but the impacted leaders and managers appear stubborn and irrational even though it’s aimed at improving the business’ bottom-line performance. Resistance can be subtle or obvious, but in general terms accountants and finance professionals (myself included) can be so oriented towards the technical elements of our roles, the data, facts, completeness, logic, etc. that we’re perhaps not as in tune when it comes to perceiving emotions like resistance.
Regardless you’ll know when you’re facing into resistance when:
- You end up simply presenting the data and justifying the recommendations more loudly and more forcibly;
- You become impatient with the decision-maker’s asks for more detail, moralising or questioning of your methods: “What does the pricing and product teams think?” “Did you involve Marketing when doing your model assumptions?”
- You get agreement from the decision maker that they would like to go ahead with your ideas but the timing is a little off or they don’t have enough time to implement it;
- You keep getting told our models and projections are impractical (emphasis on lack of practicality), idealistic, too intellectual or an academic exercise. This could be a precursor to an all out attack on your integrity (as accountants this is difficult not to take personally) “You have to understand that …”; and
- You get silence or “I’m not surprised”, silence or lack of objections does not imply consent.
The key to understanding resistance is that it’s not a reflection on the conversation we’re having with managers and leaders on a logical, rational and objective level, rather it’s an emotional reaction that’s happening inside of them. It’s a natural reaction by some being when they’re being helped to face up to difficult organisational problems that might mean they lose some of their hard won control or increase their vulnerability because they’ll have to take an unpopular action, confront some reality they’ve been avoiding.
To overcome resistance
If you’ve identified a problem to solve it may mean the manager or leader has not been able to solve it themselves, that’s not to say they are not smart enough, rather they might be too close to it to see it clearly. So despite there being a need for your help, and you may even end up having the most amazing insights that can solve the problems, and you may even have the influence to get a seat at the table with the appropriate decision-makers, you might still find that resistance, if not properly overcome will, prevent you from making an impact, adding value. So five steps you can take to overcome it are:
- Accept resistance can happen but not always, don’t take it personally;
- Be aware of it, see bullets above and really listen to what your gut feeling is telling you about what someone is really saying;
- Ironically it’s true purpose is to initiate a learning process to help you and the decision-makers move forward on the right things (more effectively);
- Your job is to help leaders and managers to verbalise their resistance into neutral language so that it can be overcome and value created for the business (i.e. if a decision-maker exhibits low attention or energy you might say to them “You look as if you have other things on your mind and have low energy for this project”).
- Shut up and let the leader or manager respond.
- BONUS: Sometimes the conversation might still get caught up on what is wrong, at reasons for being right about problem, instead ask for solutions to move things forward or if you’re feeling brave, “Are we here to solve a problem or create a new future for ourselves?”
These are some very practical steps to help you overcome resistance so your insights can really make an impact. That’s why we bring guest mentors on to our Strength in the Numbers Show to share with you their hard won lessons and practical steps they have found have worked for them to have a fun rewarding and successful career in accounting and finance.
So what techniques would you recommend to overcome resistance and increase your impact in the business? Or what steps would you take yourself?