How to lead when your team won’t follow

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

All leaders know that not everyone is willing to follow a directive without question. Some are simply skeptical of the ideas being put in front of them. While many times this situation can lead to a healthy office debate, it can occasionally bring a team's work to a complete halt.

A recent article on explained how good project managers can use their leadership skills to overcome the most stubborn forms of employee resistance.

Contributor Will Yakowicz notes that change is difficult for many people, especially those who are used to a certain way of doing things. New and more efficient business processes may seem strange and clunky compared to the existing methods employees are familiar with.

He quotes author John Maxwell, who writes that leaders should remember the "20-50-30" principle. 

"As a rule of thumb, 20 percent of your people will support your efforts to initiate change, 50 percent will be undecided, and the remaining 30 percent will resist you," Maxwell writes. Instead of focusing on skeptical non-believers, he suggests working to win over those who are on the fence, then using that majority to help make the initiative a success.

It is also important to be forthcoming with your team about the problems ahead. "Remind people of the rewards of change but don't gloss over the difficulties," says Maxwell. At the same time, be sure to spell out "the benefits that lie just around the bend." Maxwell adds.

New Leaf's program, "Managing the Project's Organizational Context," explores the details of how projects interact with organizational change efforts. In addition, you can read our free white papers on a variety of project management topics, or take our QPM quizzes to earn PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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