The Tandem Effect – A Supporting Factor for Overcoming Resistance in Role Transformations

Resistance V – Old Habits and Comfort Zones

It is well-known that falling back into old habits is easily taking place when changing behaviours. Still, leaving your comfort zone in order to learn new ways of behaviour is necessary. This comes with “a temporary loss of security”. Often you do not even realize that you are falling back into old habits. Also, it is unlikely that people you are working with give you feedback about this. To them it is natural to ask you for things you always did, inviting you to fall back into old habits. As a tandem you have a simple way to avoid this: observe each other and provide feedback.

We regularly pair up in meetings and coaching sessions. While one of us is actively participating, the other is observing the situation. Subsequently we sit together as a tandem and talk about the observations. We don’t just talk aboutthe observations regarding people we were working with, but also the behaviour of the active tandem partner. The observer gives direct feedback regarding old habits and successfully changed behaviour. Together we reflect on that feedback and match the observations against our goals and expectations.

You want your tandem partner to openly talk about things that you did not do well. This is helping you to see patterns you have to work on. It is not intending to judge the value of your work. Still, critical feedback can hurt. It needs a stable relationship based on trust. It is therefore critical to build up confidence in the tandem before going that deep with your feedback.

Summary / Key Learnings

Changing the meaning and responsibilities of an existing job role comes with internal and external resistances (uncertainty, need of feeling valuable, acceptance by others, disbelief, old habits, and comfort zones). Overcoming these is essential. So far, executing such a transition as an expert role tandem has been very helpful to us. Our most important learnings in our tandem are…

  • … invest into a shared understanding and vision of the new role
    Take enough time with your tandem partner to build up a shared vision and understanding of the new role. This is the solid base for the upcoming changes. It has been more motivating to us than personal thoughts about the new role. Quarterly offsites helped us to build that base.
  • … invest into social bonding and trust
    Invest time as a tandem to build up social awareness and trust. This helps a lot when the transition gets into rough waters or  critical feedback has to be given later on.
  • … go step by step
    Consciously decide your next small changes to implement regarding your daily business. Do it often.
  • … don’t stop talking about the transition
    Tell your colleagues about the role transition. Share your vision and goals and thoughts. Explain the reason for the change. Explicitly talk about what is going to change next, and what isn’t. You should do this as a tandem, as well as individually. Remember: you must over-communicate.
  • … be approachable to others
    Listen a lot. Be approachable for your colleagues. They will likely need to talk about their doubts and worries. Your empathy and appraisal helps them to deal with that.
  • … generate value for others
    Look out for situations in which your new role is of value for others. Try to maximize time you spend in these situations. Make use of the different expertises you got within the tandem. Your colleagues will notice the value and start talking about it. This is marketing for your new role and it comes for free.
  • … strive for unity
    Your relation to your tandem partner should be as strong as possible. She/he is your best friend, giving you strength to keep going, listening to your doubts and appreciating your efforts.
  • … tell stories of success in public
    Let people know what improved and how working in a tandem is more effective than having two people working side by side. Convincing others leads to higher acceptance and strengthens your self-believe.
  • … keep each other accountable
    A good way to do that is shadowing your tandem partner and giving feedback regularly. Be critical if your partner falls back into old habits and appreciative when the new role becomes visible.

Thanks for reading this article. I really hope that our experiences are of value for you.

And most importantly: Thank you Frieda for being my tandem partner!

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