Price Pritchett said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” It doesn’t always feel that way, especially when you’re the one introducing the change. As leaders we see the possibilities, the potential and the prize at the end of the change. But it’s not always so easy for followers to see what we see.
While we think of the Critical response as the most dangerous, I believe there is a second type of change reaction that is actually a bigger threat to the change process: The Cautious reactor. We typically call them mid-adopters. They aren’t “critical”, they’re just hesitant, reluctant and uneasy.
Here’s the trouble, many times they don’t speak up. When we introduce change the Cautious reactor responds with silence, passive questioning and even a seemingly positive head nod. But deep down they’re not bought in. The leader who cannot “read the room” could be in danger. At least the Critical responder is verbal and you know where they stand. But the Cautious responder may unwittingly lead you to believe they’re with you all the way, when in fact they are not.
A wise leader has a sense of when people are with him. He takes the time to ask the right questions and to probe thoughts. He puts his finger on the pulse of their hesitancy. Instead of fearing it, he engages it and learns from it. And in doing so the Cautious responder offers us a gift. He gives the gift of understanding. In Proverbs 2:2 Solomon advised, “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding.” The word “incline” in Hebrew is natah, which means “to stretch”. When introducing change we must make sure we don’t run ahead to quickly but take the time to ask questions, listen, process and allow the voice of the Cautious Responder to “stretch” our understanding. Their perspective could help take our idea from good to great!
Don’t forget the middle adopter represents around 60-70% of our followers. If we fail to get the majority of our followers excited about the change then there is a high likelihood things will not turn out as we plan
How well are you listening to what’s not being said?