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Mastering Intelligent Resistance: How do you manage collaboration and innovation?

Incoming ideas

Obstacle, roadblock, stick-in-the-mud, complication, hindrance, negative-nelly, barrier, obstruction, wet blanket, non-collaborative, hurdle.

What are … things I don’t want to be seen as?

Especially in a fast-moving, ever-changing, innovation-rich entrepreneurial environment. The subject of teams not “engaging” with the new ideas our clients excitedly take back to their offices comes up a lot in workshops. A LOT.

From where I sit (with my team member glasses on), it’s a total head-scratcher. Strategically thinking through all possible impediments to reaching a desired result is the main responsibility of any project manager, after all.

At the bottom of my favorite Strategic Coach tool, The Strategy Circle, is a quote from Dan Sullivan that reads, “All those things that seem to oppose our goals are actually the raw material for achieving them.” If you’re approaching new projects from this mindset, obstacles should be valued … celebrated even! And so should the people delivering these precious morsels of “intelligent resistance”!

So, why is this typically not the case?

I believe that being great at maneuvering through all the setbacks that can accompany any new project is only one half of the equation. There needs to be a certain attitude that accompanies this amazing “strategery.”

Here’s how I see it:

For Team Members:

  • Be open: New ideas are your best friend. They give you a chance to stretch your legs and show what you’re made of. But as much as you feel like you’re just doing “your thing,” launching right into the obstacles straight out of the gate may give the impression that you’re just not interested. Take some time to marinate in the idea before you share your amazing insights.
  • Be excited: If you’re excited about these new projects, it keeps the momentum and motivation high. Nobody wants their ideas to be greeted with big sighs and eye rolls. Truth be told, you may not be sure about the idea in the moment, but I’ve always found that people are more receptive to suggestions if you’ve supported it at the outset.
  • Be confident: Be clear and direct about your recommendations when it comes to implementing these new ideas. Your entrepreneur relies on your wisdom. Just be sure to communicate your suggestions in a respectful, intelligent, and collaborative way.

For Entrepreneurs:

  • Be open: Nope, this is not a mistake! This goes for entrepreneurs as well. You need to trust that your team is there to support and protect your blind side. Any recommendations they present are a result of some serious strategizing on how to best implement your amazing ideas.
  • Be supportive: Give your team the freedom to play offense without fear of having to defend their decisions. Empower them! Not only is it how they’ll grow, you’ll also see an increase in productivity and confidence.
  • Be clear: The more intentional you are about your vision in the beginning, the more equipped your team will be to develop a plan, make decisions, and pull together the right resources to produce stellar results.

So, bring on the obstacles … er … intelligent resistance!!

Getting to the idea. Illustrated by Hamish MacDonald.

Illustrations by Hamish MacDonald.

About the Author

Cathy is the lead program designer for The Strategic Coach® Program and directly supports Dan Sullivan and Babs Smith in her role as Innovation Manager. She has a huge capacity to take many variables and make them all fit together elegantly and simply. The more complex the situation, the more she’s in her element. Cathy is a wealth of creativity, support, and humor that makes our Program, and our company, better.

Profile Photo of Cathy Davis