Yes, it’s a longstanding reality TV trope.
But you might say something like this to yourself when encountering resistance to change. You might reassure yourself with these words when you’re feeling opposition to your agenda as a leader:
I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to make a difference!
And it’s true: It’s our job to make a difference, not to make people happy.
Or is there more to it?
I get a little uneasy when I hear people talking about staff resistance as a badge of honor, as a sign that we’re making things happen.
I think resistance is inevitable, but it’s not always a good thing. We have to look at the kind of resistance we’re facing.
Are people resisting:
The specific change that’s being implemented?
The way the change was brought about?
The pace of change?
Being pushed into something they feel unprepared for?
The leader’s personality?
Here’s the kind of resistance I’d be proud to create by bringing about a positive change:
The resistance that comes from thinking we’re doing just fine, from believing that an encore performance of last year will do just fine.
Most of the educators I’ve worked with aren’t resistant to change per se. They’re just resistant to the pace of change.
It’s easy for us to overlook this problem as leaders, because much of the burden of change—say, learning a new curriculum—falls on teachers. We have to provide support and keep up with the changes, but our learning curve isn’t nearly as steep, so we tend to underestimate the cognitive load and workload placed on our staff.
We have to realize that change often involves asking people to stop doing something they’re good at, start doing something they’re not good at (yet), and still get good results along the way. This is hard, and it’s our job to make sure we’re setting our staff up for success.
But we also have to realize that the preferred rate of change for a lot of people is “zero.” And plenty of other people would prefer to have their changes arrive at a rate of one every five years or so.
Our challenges are much more urgent, and it’s our job to make sure change doesn’t take forever. But it’s also our job to figure out why and what people are resisting, so we can make progress instead of just enemies.