In This Issue:
Coping With Imposed Change | The Heart of Change | Recommended Links

Our Current Projects
• Coaching leaders in two changing non-profits

• Supporting and teaching public sector managers as they guide organizational change.

• Teaching university managers how to lead teams

• Leading strategic planning and board development in three non-profits

About Our Work

As some of you experience belt tightening, you are reconceiving service delivery as offices are consolidated, people are let go or their hours are cut. Some folks have new responsibilities that remain ill-defined during sudden transitions. As the organization shifts, you and your managers take on double roles as change agents and receivers of change.

How do you help the people you lead at the same time you are struggling to cope?

Build your peer manager group. Clients tell me it is a relief to talk with peers about what this dual role is like. Start the discussion by inviting responses to one of the quotes below. Then ask how the following five items resonate with your peers:

  1. Your internal response to the changes may or may not align with your responsibility to move ahead. In addition, you are coping with others’ psychic and emotional responses
  2. You, your unit or division may have new responsibilities to learn. In addition, you are involved in planning, guiding and/or responding to others’ shifts in position or responsibility
  3. Because revenues, grant awards, or government budgets have shrunk, changes came suddenly and from the outside. At the same time that you lack information and/or a full plan, people look to you for a plan and lots of information
  4. Various employees are affected differently by position and structure changes;  everyone does not have the same challenges or react the same way
  5. As a response to sudden change, lack of information, and/or not being able to plan, some employees question their trust in your leadership.

Search for choices. I ask managers to pick items that ring true and brainstorm choices about what they can do in the face of these dilemmas. Some choices do not remove the dilemmas, but they do relieve the stress of feeling boxed in.

Reframe your thinking. I notice three pitfalls in hard times: blaming, thinking in absolutes, and reducing choices to an either/or duality. As you know, blaming wastes organizational health like a cancer. If you outlaw it, it festers. Instead, openly say that blaming is natural and then invite the group to talk about what results from blaming.

Absolutes sound like, “it’s never been this bad” or “we’ll never give good service again.” The trouble with absolutes is that they easily become self-fulfilling prophesies.

In hard times, either/or thinking often pits the past against the future: “Either things are as they used to be (that is, better), or they are worse.” Framed this way, the future is grim.

Instead, search for continuity between past and future. Think of times when you and others in your organization have successfully met challenges. Tell each other these stories. Then ask, what made these successes possible? How could these elements of success help you now? This sequence of questions uses “appreciative inquiry’ to suggest choices for finding pathways to the future.

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"It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions... Change is situational... Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal."

William Bridges
Managing Transitions, Making the Most of Change

"Changing behavior is less a matter of giving people analysis to influence their thoughts than helping them to see a truth to influence their feelings...the heart of change is in the emotions."

John Kotter
The Heart of Change

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Recommended Links
• Seminar: The Strategic Leader: Organizational Performance from the Center Out [ ]

• Appreciative Inquiry [ ]

• Strategic Planning Guide for Leaders of Small Organizations, a guidebook by Merryn Rutledge [ ]

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Copyright (c) 2009 Dr. Merryn Rutledge.
Summer 2009 • Volume 12 • Number 3

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ReVisions, LLC connecting leaders to plan strategy & facilitate change
  • Enhanced management practices, decision-making, and team involvement
  • Planning
  • Leadership coaching
  • Skill-building that brings vision to action

Dr. Merryn Rutledge, Principal
ReVisions LLC 233 Van Patten Parkway Burlington, Vermont 05408

Ph.: (802) 863-7084
Fax: (802) 860-7183

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