“Resistance is futile” the saying goes. But in my line of work, resistance is ever present. While leaders I work with fully understand the benefit and business development training provides their teams, when it comes to the individuals being trained…that’s another story. So, how do you work with them to overcome their resistance so that they get the full benefit of what you are providing for them?

The first step is to bring them the training as an opportunity. If they see it as an obligation, you are bound to get resistance. For each team member, tailor how you communicate the training to them so that they see the value in it for themselves, the team and the company (in that order!). Create an atmosphere of partnership wherein you are both concerned about their growth, advancement, and development as a leader. When people have a sense of “ownership” of training, they are far more likely to get value from it.

The next step is anticipating who may put up the most the resistance. Hopefully, you know your teams well enough that this should be a pretty quick analysis. Once you’ve ranked your team from most-to-least likely to resist the training, schedule time to speak with those least likely. Why? First, you get to test out some of your reasoning for the training without much pushback. Second, you are building consensus. When you already have team members on board and even advocating for the training, it will be harder for those leaning in the other direction to voice their resistance.

But they will! So the last step is to anticipate what the main reasons are that someone may resist the training.  While reasons may vary greatly, what I’ve found over the years is that there are three common “buckets” that the resistance fall into:

“I’ve had development training before. It’s all the same and doesn’t work.”

I got this from a potential client for whom I was offering my services to develop his team. “See that book over there,” he said, pointing to a book that was holding his office door open. “That’s the last guy who tried to sell me on training.”

I paused. Took a breath. And said, “Oh…you’ve got to tell me what happened!” And he did. The “last guy” came in and offered an off-the-shelf, generic program that did nothing to demonstrate that he had any knowledge of his potential client’s industry or issues. It was just his version of a mousetrap and in the end, no one bought into it.

Have the same conversation with your team member. Find out about the last few training experiences he had. What happened that had him homogenize training into an attitude of “it’s all the same?” When you dig in deeper, you are likely to discover that at one point, he was receptive to business development training but was turned off by several bad experiences. This is your opening to say, “What if the training was specifically tailored to our department, our industry, our needs and the challenges that have kept us from growing even more than we have? Would that be something you could see value in?”  Right there….you’ve just started the partnering I mentioned above and given him an opportunity instead of a directive.

“I don’t need to change.”

Variations of this theme are rampant, especially with those who you might consider “C” players on your team. The “A” team? They are always looking to develop, learn new ideas, and improve how they serve clients. So, this should be a red flag right off the bat. Perhaps this person is right. She may never change and therefore, you are about to waste resources and time trying to make it happen. Could be that it’s time for her to explore other career options. But if you see some potential, you can address this pushback directly.

“As you know, the challenges our clients face are changing all the time. Let’s go through them together and see where you think we can improve to address them. Ok?”

What she needs to understand and accept is that if your company doesn’t adapt to the ever-changing business landscape, your service or products will become commoditized and a competitor will eat your lunch! Everyone on your team should have some degree of constructive paranoia so that they are vigilant about putting their best foot forward at all times.

“I don’t have time for this.”

Yes. We are all busy. But that’s no excuse for not making time to improve. Retreating is healthy. Most people are out there doing their own thing. It’s important, from time to time, to bring everyone together to share what’s working, collaborate on new ideas, and bring rigor to your new business development issues.

To the person who has “no time,” you can say, “I get that. But how confident are you that everyone on our team is speaking in one voice about our value proposition? Maybe you are delivering it perfectly but, others have adapted it to their situations. This diluting of the brand, as a whole, could be why we aren’t growing our business at the level we all want. Can you see the value of a re-set here?”

In the end, you are the boss and can make everyone participate in development training.  But that will only get you so far. Anticipating the resistance and having measures to counter it will go a long way towards achieving the training and growth goals you want.

What are the reasons your teams have given for resisting training? How did you handle it?  – SG