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Episode 21: Managing Resistance to Mandated Training

May 17, 2022

How do I bring out the best in an employee who has been mandated to a program of professional development — and they absolutely do not want to engage.

This sounds like an “eat your vegetables” kind of moment. Am I right? When I first hear this question a knot in my stomach forms >> mandated training just goes against my grain.

Yet, when I settle myself down a bit. I know of several situations where I am a firm believer in mandated training. Let me reflect on three of them . . . 

  1. Safety – You just can’t opt out of this kind of information that could save your life or the life of another person. In this case I would be an advocate for mandated training.
  2. Legal - Some churches and nonprofits can get themselves into a mess because they didn’t know what they were supposed to know. Mandating this kind of training may be the only way to emphasize its importance because it will never feel immediate until it’s too late.
  3. Skills development – This third one is probably a little “on the fence” for me. What if you have someone on the team who doesn’t have a particular skill that the job really needs. If their job is at risk and it's a critical skill you might need them to develop to do the job.

Let’s say this third situation is your dilemma. What can you do to reduce resistance?

What is the Invitation Behind the Mandate?

As a leader we are often the instigators of decisions so we see it deeper. We’ve had more time to let it “soak” in. You might need to give them the same “on ramp” and time that you have had to see the need and soak in the impact. That’s the invitation behind the mandate. Max Yoder in Do Better Work says,

People don’t change when they are told to. They change when they're inspired and motivated to.”

What is the source of their resistance?

If you decide to dig into the resistance, you might find a key to unlock the resistance and bring out their best – even if it’s mandated training that they absolutely do not want to engage. Download a list of questions to brainstorm ways to get below the surface and gain insight into the resistance.

Discover their learning style

People do learn in different ways. I recently did a blog series on different ways we like to learn based on our Myers Briggs Personality Style. Some people are more hands on, others more academic, others learn better with others, still others might be interested in some kinds of content and disinterested in other kinds. Check out more in the Learning Styles Blog Series. If you know their learning style you could look for ways to supplement the mandated training or adjust the training in ways that might connect to how they like to learn. 

Sometimes you can't manage resistance…

Even if the conversation doesn’t lead to less resistance, you’ve still planted a seed that may have an impact even if it wasn’t readily received. The best you can do is keep the conversation going. 

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