Career advice: How to outwit a peer who is undermining you
By Liz Reyer / Minneapolis Star Tribune
Q: I’m in charge of a team tasked with implementing a new corporate strategy. I’m running into a peer who seems to be trying to undercut my efforts. How should I handle him?
A: Influence him all you can, and build a strong coalition to support you.
The inner game
It would be easy to get distracted by your emotions in this situation. You’ll be more successful in thinking through a strategy and achieving your desired outcomes if you’re calm. So, start by taking some time to breathe and get centered. If you’re angry, now’s the time to release it, or at least set it aside so it doesn’t interfere.
Also easy, and dangerous, is to view the situation from just your own point of view. Instead, take a 360-degree look, adopting the perspective of all the key stakeholders. The stakeholders? The corporate sponsor (this may be the CEO or other senior executive), other leadership, your fellow team members responsible for adoption, the peer who is resisting the change, and, of course, you. For each stakeholder, answer the questions:
— What do I want from this new strategy?
— What do I lose if it goes through?
— What do I have to do to be successful?
— What am I afraid of in this situation?
If this sounds like a lot of thinking, it is … and it’s important. So take the time to really work through it. Have a paper and pen around to map out your insights. Once you’re done, you’ll have a solid understanding of the drivers and leverage points of the people around the table on this project.
Finally, consider whether you’ve done everything necessary to have the broader team’s backing, and also whether the dissenter has some good points that you can build on.
The outer game
First, if you feel like the team may not have your back, take action. It’s about communication, speaking one-on-one with each stakeholder to get the team behind you. Think positive here and focus on their needs and your ultimate business goals, rather than explicitly complaining about the resistor. If you need specific support from them and have not been clear about it before, now’s the time. Also solicit information about any reservations or concerns they have so that you can address them proactively, which will also limit your peer’s ability to develop a coalition opposing the initiative.
Next, set up time to talk with your peer. Be prepared to talk about the big picture, why you are asking for his positive engagement, and the backing others are offering for the project. Also be ready to listen to his perspective and give him some wins if some of his points would legitimately strengthen the project.
If you’re able to bring him on board, great! But your efforts to influence him may not be enough. At this point you’ll need to know what consequences are available for people who are resisting the corporate change. This is likely above your pay grade, so work with your boss and/or the corporate sponsor to clarify this.
The last word
A strong project is the best defense against an underminer, so put your main focus on building your coalition for change.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.