I was talking with a client today and learned a great way to respectfully deal with someone who refuses to join the team on a goal. Assuming this person is good for the team overall and is normally a helpful contributor, this approach has worked for him.

After all the input, the issues, the data, and concerns have been addressed most people will find something to grab onto and embrace The Plan. However, sometimes there is that one person who still thinks it’s a bad idea. My client said he invites them to talk and simply acknowledges their resistance, then asks what it will take for them to not sabotage the rest of the team. That’s it. They agree on basic terms and get it in writing if necessary.

The resistor feels heard, respected, AND is on notice that The Plan will carry on without their support — like it or not. However my client says he doesn’t need to threaten, just lay down professoinal boundaries of behavior in a relationship. He also keeps an eye on the person and looks for ways to draw them in without drawing attention.

Over time, this person can still play a role in providing feedback on how things are going, especially if there is a gap in The Plan somewhere. Better someone on the inside than your customers (or competitors). In the end my client tries not to take it personally — it’s just part of working with people in a climate of high expectations. This resistor may become and suporter next time. At least for now their potential negativity has been neutralized. And sometimes that’s enough.

Life is a team sport. Even the resistors have a place in the line-up.