Thursday, February 16, 2017

Great Chaos Precedes Great Change

Change is uncomfortable. Many people like things the way they are and are hesitant to quickly buy into the idea that we need to start doing our jobs differently to accommodate to shifting contexts. However, change is inevitable and, if navigated gracefully, can result in tremendous progress. Organizations are inherently groups, and in groups there are stages of change. Tuckman’s model (Tuckman, B., 1963) proposes the following stages (and these are fluid): forming, storming, norming, and performing. Roll with the punches and remember that often great chaos precedes great change.




1.     Establish a shared understanding of your organization’s vision.
As the policy advocacy intern at NAMI Wisconsin, I have witnessed several different perceptions of what our main purpose is from staff members. Just last week, a group of NAMI members from various affiliates across the country submitted a letter to the national office requesting that we revisit our roots of advocating for the most disenfranchised members of the mental health community- the individuals who live with severe and persistent mental illnesses as opposed to this idea of “everyone has mental health”. I have witnessed this mission creep firsthand and its effects on how motivated staff are to fulfill their responsibilities.

2.       Ask your staff what they need and provide it
What makes your agency a great place to work? Why do people seek out employment with you? What do your staff members expect from you as a leader and the organizational culture as a whole? Identify the needs of everyone with and collaboratively work to meet those needs.

3.       Understand how you, as a leader, are perceived and make adjustments to your style accordingly
As mentioned in A Look at How Employees See You, leaders should adhere to the “platinum rule”: do unto others as they want to be done unto.” People are motivated by their own needs which include different styles of communication, interaction patterns, esteem, time needs, and psychic fears or goals (Johnson, C.) To understand your own leadership style, ask yourself the following questions: What is my predominant style (directive, participatory, or delegative)? What are my managerial flaws or weaknesses? What are my strongest competencies? What emotional intelligence attributes are my strongest? (Brody, 2005)

4.       Share the leadership
Delegate, delegate, delegate! This is something I learned as a young girl by watching my mother give everyone responsibilities in our youth programming at church. She always said you need to make people feel important if you expect them to get anything done. I’m sure there is more academic research that provides evidence for this, but it boils down to making people feel like what they do matters. Plus, this takes responsibilities off of your hands. You do run the risk of over-delegating and having too many people “in charge”, but if done tactfully this can be incredibly helpful and people will be more willing to make the necessary changes.

5.       Never underestimate the power of relationships
In addition to making people feel like their work matters, it is essential to remind them that they inherently matter- that your organization would not be the same without them. In my role as president of my undergrad’s University Chapter of TWLOHA, I would be sure to schedule one-on-ones with all of my executive board members as frequently as possible. People need to be heard, and sometimes it takes some coaxing to get their perspective when they don’t freely share it in large meetings where there is pressure to. You can then implement ideas gradually and staff will be more invested in the bite sized changes being made.

Brody, Ralph, and Murali, Nair (2005) Effectively Managing Human Service Organizations, Third Edition, Sage Publications


Johnson, Cecil. Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram

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