Do you work with people who seem stuck or “resistant”? If so, try these 5 powerful leadership strategies.

1. Look Forward/Look Backward

Ask the person to look at what life was like prior to the current problem. Exploring this will identify their potential motivators. Also, look forward to goals and plans, and explore how the current behavior “fits” with these goals.

For example, ask:

  • What was life like for you before this became a problem?
  • Tell me how you see your life two or three years from now?
  • How might this affect your goals or plans?
  • What kinds of things did you do with your time?
  • What things do you miss?

2. Explore Values and Discrepancy with Current Behavior

A conflict with values is often the strongest motivator for change. Chances are, if you don’t understand why someone isn’t changing despite many consequences to their behavior, this is what’s going on.

For instance, if you suffer many financial hardships yet don’t change, you may be motivated to make a change when you see the negative consequence for yourself and others in your work or personal life.

This sometimes happens when a person values other things in their personal/professional life more highly than financial security.

In cases where there is a discrepancy, you can explore the person’s values and how they don’t match their current behavior by asking:

  • What is most important to you?
  • How does your ______ (undesired behavior) affect the things in your life that you value?
  • When you look at your life/work, what are you most proud of and least proud of?

3. Consider Pros and Cons (Decision Balance Sheet)

You can help a person weigh the costs versus the benefits of the behavior. This will reveal their ambivalence and move in the direction of positive change.

Examples of questions to ask with this strategy include:

  • “What are the good things about _____ (undesired behavior) and what are the not-so-good things?”
  • “When you look at these lists of pros and cons, what do you think?”

4. Importance/Confidence Ruler and Scaling Questions

This is a tool to identify a person’s current readiness to change. It assesses potential motivators.

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You ask a person to choose a number between one and ten to describe the level of importance they see in changing their behavior.

Then you ask the person to place themselves on the scale in terms of the confidence they perceive in their ability to make that change.

Examples of scaling questions include:

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most important and 1 being the least, how important is it for you to make this change?
  • If the person chooses a 4, follow-up with the question, “What puts you at a 4, and not a 3 or a 2?” Asking this question encourages talk about “change” rather than talk about more-of-the-same.
  • On that same scale, how confident are you in thinking that you can make a change in this behavior if you decided to?

5. Exploring Extremes

Rather than arguing for change (which often causes the person to argue against it), you ask the person to consider, “What is the worst thing that could happen if you continue with your current behavior?”

In essence, you are aligning with or coming alongside the individual instead of taking the other side. You can also ask, “What is the best thing that could happen if you changed?”

You may notice that each of these strategies involve asking powerfully transforming questions. My approach to working with leaders has always involved asking the right questions.

You can find many more of these transformational questions in my book “Leadership Success in Spite of Stress”.

How Do You Handle Different Values?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Barbara Jordan
Barbara is an author, speaker, and leadership coach. Sign up to receive the ezine “Success Tips for Busy Leaders” or sign up to receive a free sample chapter of Achieve Success In Spite of Stress. Connect with her via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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