Unfortunately, fingers are/were occasionally (often?) pointed - usually outward. Very few own their own contribution to the turmoil. It was always someone else's fault for the pain - for the hurt. Those with parliamentarian prowess flexed their muscles to make sure things went their way. Those with personal agenda were sure to jump to the microphone while so many sat and watched. People I love and respect were feeling pushed, bullied, ignored, disrespected and so much more. In the midst of it all, we ignored our own rules for the benefit of personal agenda. Those with a view to larger issues, the "big picture," beyond the rules of Robert were frustrated even as they failed to offer the necessary clarity and structure necessary to help the gathered body do what they needed to make good decisions.
In all of that, I was struck with a different "big picture" issue. The reality of change.
I don't pretend to have "THE" answer to what was going on. I don't presume to think that this is sole reason that our gathering this year was filled with so much angst, so much dissension, so much heartache. But I do think it's worth spending some time reflecting on the dynamics of change and how it impacted this year's gathering. This year, we changed many things for our gathering. We changed location. We changed our voting method. We had new leadership. We dealt with new housing, new ways of finding meals, new parking... lots of new things. Change itself unsettles us, particularly change that is imposed - change that comes from outside. And all of this is happening in the context of a culture that has changed DRAMATICALLY around us. This year's Episcopal Address only revealed the tip of the iceberg in terms of the changing landscape of religion and church in New England.
In the midst of all of the change we were experiencing, we were asked to make significant decisions about our future: closing a camp, closing churches, resolutions and motions and suspensions of rules and all the rest while we were experiencing so much more. Issues related to change.
Ken Blanchard has spent a lifetime looking at how organizations operate - what makes them operate well - and what can get in the way of optimum performance. This article highlights 7 dynamics in play with change. I have my own take on how these 7 things showed up in our gathering, but I offer them without interpretation at this point. Maybe it can be a beginning of a conversation. I've copied the article below, but here's the link to the article itself. I wonder if reflecting on the dynamics of change alone might bring us to a new place of conversation - of being able to offer grace to each other - of bringing us back to a common purpose.
Seven Dynamics of ChangeWhatever the kinds of change that people encounter, there are certain patterns of response that occur and re-occur. It is important that change leaders understand some of these patterns, since they are normal outcomes of the change process. Understanding them allows leaders to avoid over-reacting to the behaviours of people who, at times, seem to be reacting in mysterious, non-adaptive ways.
Ken Blanchard, well known management consultant, has described seven dynamics of change designed to help managers better address employee reactions to change. They are worth summarizing here.
People will feel awkward, ill-at-ease and self-conscious
Whenever you ask people to do things differently, you disrupt their habitual ways of doing things. This tends to make people feel awkward or uncomfortable as they struggle to eliminate the old responses and learn the new. Think back to your own experience and you will discover this theme. Whether it be learning to use a computer, the first time picking up your infant, or dealing with a new reporting relationship, recall the self-consciousness that you probably felt. People want to get it right, and fear that they will appear inadequate.
People initially focus on what they have to give up
Even for positive changes such as promotions, or those that result in more autonomy or authority, people will concentrate on what they will be losing. As a change leader you need to acknowledge the loss of the old ways, and not get frustrated at what may seem to be an irrational or tentative response to change.
People will feel alone even if everyone else is going through the same change
Everyone feels (or wants to feel) that their situation is unique and special. Unfortunately, this tends to increase the sense of isolation for people undergoing change. It is important for the change leader to be proactive and gentle in showing that the employee's situation is understood. If employees see YOU as emotionally and practically supportive during the tough times your position will be enhanced and the change will be easier.
People can handle only so much change
On a personal level, people who undergo too much change within too short a time will become dysfunctional, and in some cases may become physically sick. While some changes are beyond our control, it is important not to pile change upon change upon change. While changes such as downsizing bring opportunity to do other positive things, the timing of additional changes is important. If you are contemplating introducing changes (that are under your control), it may be a good idea to bounce your ideas off employees. A good question to ask is "How would you feel if....."
People are at different levels of readiness for change
Some people thrive and change. It's exciting to them. Others don't. It's threatening to them. Understand that any change will have supporters and people who have difficulty adapting. In time many people who resist initially will come onside. Consider that those people who are more ready for the change can influence others who are less ready. Open discussion allows this influence process to occur.
People will be concerned that they don't have enough resources
People perceive that change takes time and effort, even if it has the long term effect of reducing workload. They are correct that there is a learning time for most change, and that this may affect their work. It is important for change leaders to acknowledge that this may occur, and to offer practical support if possible. In the downsizing scenario this will be even more crucial, since resources themselves are cut. Consider following the downsizing with a worksmart process, whereby job tasks are
reviewed to examine whether they are still necessary.
reviewed to examine whether they are still necessary.
If you take the pressure off, people will revert to their old behaviour
If people perceive that you are not serious about doing things the new way, they will go back to the old way. Sometimes this ill be in the open, and sometimes this will be covert. While Blanchard uses the word pressure, I prefer to think of it in terms of leadership role. The leader must remind people that there is a new course, and that the new course will remain. Coaching towards the new ways is also important.
It is important for leaders to anticipate and respond to employee concerns and feelings, whether they are expressed in terms of practical issues, or emotional responses. When planning for, and anticipating change, include a detailed reaction analysis. Try to identify the kinds of reactions and questions that employees will have, and prepare your responses. Remember that the success of any change rests with the ability of the leaders to address both the emotional and practical issues, in that order.