Sign - Door Blocked!

A locked door is a sign of resistance.

Over the years I have collected a set of questions that are useful to determine whether resistance is festering below the surfaces or is raging out of control (whether obvious or not).  They are a mixture of closed-ended questions, open-ended questions and questions that elicit stories.   A sample of questions that I ask managers and leaders include:

Questions to Leaders or Managers

  1. Are absences increasing?

There are numerous reasons why absences might be increasing, none of which are good news for any process change. The question will expose whether the manager is aware of what is happening in the team.

2. Are people arriving or leaving at different times than before or differently than expected?

Changes in behavior are a direct reflection of changes in beliefs and values.  Negative changes (arriving later and leaving earlier) reflect a reduction in morale and reduced productivity.  

3. Does your team(s) appear to be spinning its wheels?

Follow-on: Have you held an impromptu retrospective with your team?

Looking busy but delivering little or no work product is a direct reflection of a broken process.  One passive aggressive approach to resisting change is doing precisely what has been asked in an overly precise manner which reduces effectiveness.  A leader that has not held some form of retrospective may also be resisting change.

4. Are team members just doing their own thing without much core direction or purpose?

Team members that are out for themselves will generate more turf battles and complaints about behavior (both the manager and to people management departments).

5. Can you talk about your team’s morale and motivation?  Ask for specific examples.

Under-motivated or low morale teams will find it difficult to deliver consistent value and quality. The description of the team you get will paint a picture of a group of people just going through the motions.

6. Is the organizational change consistent with your (the leader’s) values?

Follow up: Ask for examples of how leader’s behaviors have changed since implementing the organizational change.

Follow up (or substitute): How has your leadership changed since adopting the organizational change?

Values and behaviors that are inconsistent can lead leaders and teams to abandon changes, act out, and/or lead to lower morale, productivity and quality.  This question can help identify whether leaders see the changes they have been asked to implement are consistent with the world view.

7. How are you measuring change?

This question often requires a deep discussion of what is being measured (if anything).  As Paul Gibbons in The Science of Successful Organizational Change that the impact of most organizational changes are rarely measured and if they are it is only by measuring what is easy (if at all).

8. Imagine how you see progress being made without the organizational change? (suggested by Christine Green (IPbyGreen)

Alternative:  Tell me how you see your role changing by next year if this change is successful.

Both of these questions are designed for the leader(s) to envision the future. You can soften the question by a hypothetical leader or team.  Resistance is often easier to spot by getting people to describe the future.

As we noted in Asking Questions: A Coach’s Super Power or Kryptonite. “Questions are not an end in their own right.”  We ask questions to get an answer.  The answer to a question can inform the coach and more importantly it can help the person answering understand themselves and their team.