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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
April 18, 2005
Volume 40, Number 9

Leaders need to support LINK changes

By Fred Youberg

We are depending on our executives, administrators, managers and supervisors to help our faculty and staff adjust to the changes that Project LINK brings.

Although much lip service gets paid regarding change management, too often, it is seen as the responsibility of some other group. The literature on change management, however, reveals two potent forces for helping people deal with workplace changes – a consistent message of support and vision from top executives and knowledgeable and involved managers or supervisors.

People go through three stages as they transition and leadership needs are different for each. In the Endings Stage, people naturally focus on what they have to give up rather than being thrilled about the prospects of an uncertain future. During this stage, which can resemble grieving, good leaders listen. They provide opportunities for people to talk about what’s going on and they help people remember underlying reasons for the change.

The second stage is the Neutral Zone. It can be a chaotic time when the old ways no longer exist and the new ways are still unfamiliar. It can also be a very creative time. Knowledgeable leaders assure their people that this stage is normal and that “it too shall pass.” They reinforce that going back is not an option and keep people focused on the ultimate goal. They acknowledge that productivity may decrease before the new skills are mastered and are willing to adjust expectations accordingly. They encourage people to experiment with new ways and they provide opportunities for people to talk about the changes.

In the third stage, called New Beginnings, people are adapting and good leaders make it easy for them to embrace the new ways. They celebrate small victories. Their words, deeds and actions consistently reinforce the new way of doing things. New expectations and reward structures are created that support the change and they help people “own” the change by ensuring that everyone has an active part in the transition.

This summer, we will again offer our workshop “Project LINK: Managing the Change and Transition” for university leaders. I encourage all of you who want to better serve your staff to attend.