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Back to the Future: Steve Hansen on Resistors

Steve Hansen shares his thoughts on how to handle resistors, people who go against your culture. 

**This is video is part of a six-part video series, featuring Steve Hansen talking about leadership throughout his coaching journey. To view all the videos in this series, click here. 

What are resistors? 

Resistors are people who resist alignment. They might be people who openly disagree or challenge you. They can also be people who seem like they are aligned to you and the team, but when: 

  • Pressure comes; 
  • They don’t get what they want or what they believe they deserve; 
  • The team hits a speed bump; 

they start to push back, or they start to question the plan or the vision.  

As a coach, how do you work with resistors? 

Steve Hansen’s first point is coaches need to expect them. If coaches expect there to be some resistors, then they can plan for that eventuality. A couple of examples from Steve Hansen’s coaching process that he shared were: 

1| Set clear behavioural expectations 

The example given was the expectation that if someone wants to whinge about something they need to “whinge up” rather than “whinge sideways”. Coaches should be clear and consistent with what behaviours aren’t acceptable within your environment 

2| Use and set challenges 

Challenges can be a motivator for people and can help them move past resisting and help them realign to the wider goal. Spend time helping the resistors understand the challenge and how they can help the team achieve it, and their role within the challenge. 

3| Be clear on your identity 

Spend time discussing who you and your team represent, and what that means to the group. Depending on your coaching context, that could be their families, a school, a club, a region or even New Zealand. Try to dig into this to outline the attributes or characteristics that underpin the people you represent.  

4| Encourage everyone to discuss the inconvenient facts 

Steve Hansen defines inconvenient facts as the things you don’t want to talk about, but they are there, the unsaid truths. By discussing these, coaches can get down to the ‘nitty gritty’ of why the resistor may actually be resisting, and you can then help them move on from that feeling. 

What if they resistors keep resisting? 

Steve Hansen states “the coach’s job is first and foremost to see if you can change the man”. Coaches should do everything in their power to try and connect with the resistors, understand what is going on with them, and work with them to realign into the wider team. 

Read: Hey Coach, what’s your stance on second chances? 

The adage Hansen then shares is 

“If you can’t change the man, then change the man” 

What this means in each coach’s context is clearly different than the All Blacks environment. But it’s an important point to remember, ultimately the resistors need to be the ones to change their behaviour. Coaches can only create the environment, connect with them, try to understand them and work with them as they try to realign. If they aren’t willing to do this, then you may need to speak with their parents, their teachers, or others to try something else, or ask them to come back once they are ready to buy in to the wider team’s vision. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Plan for resistors by having some key expectations in your team’s environment 
  • Work with anyone who is resisting to try and understand why they are 
  • The coach’s job is first and foremost to see if you can change the person to help them realign and stop being a resistor. 

View more of the Back to the Future Series with Steve Hansen below: 

Part 1: Steve Hansen on Innovation 

Part 2: Steve Hansen on Vulnerability 

Part 3: Steve Hansen on Motivation 

Part 4: Steve Hansen on Alignment 

Part 6: Steve Hansen on Leadership 

Image Credit: James Coleman