Managing Change

115: Revisiting Decision-Making: Do you really understand the conversation you’re in?

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Last week’s conversation on turning leaders into guides inspired us to revisit the Teibel Decision-Making Model in the light of helping guides facilitate decision-making without authority. How do you help those empowered and accountable for change move through difficult decisions without skin the game yourself? This week we walk through the model through this lens and post the key question plaguing so many teams focused on change: Do you really understand the conversations you’re in? The projects you’re accountable to deliver? Why your institution needs you where you are, doing what you’re doing today? 

This week on the show, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright revisit the Decision-Making Model with an eye on those charged facilitate change, without authority or accountability to make change themselves. 

Photo Credit: “Tongji University Library” by Matthias Ripp (Creative Commons)

145: Engaging in Failure and Creativity with First American's Chad Wiedenhofer

How do you get people to engage in a conversation around failure? According to our guest, “you can see in organizations where iteration and the failure that might come with it is accepted as something that can be positive, and something that can help us get to the destination we’re trying to get to.” Creating a culture of iteration, and adapting toward a state in which you see failure as growth is a challenge, but one worth taking. SVP of First American Education Finance Chad Wiedenhofer joins us today to talk about iteration and growth.

118: Building the Organization you Want with NACUBO's Sue Menditto at the 2015 Planning and Budgeting Forum

On September 28th the NACUBO 2015 Planning and Budgeting Forum kicks off in Austin, Texas and today Sue Menditto — NAUCBO’s director of accounting policy — joins us to help us gear up for the conference with a discussion about crafting the organization you really want.


85: Loki's Wager — Building Trust through Difficult Negotiations

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In Norse mythology, Loki was the trickster. In one of his particularly sticky exploits, he wagered his head with a group of dwarves and lost, creating a wonderful metaphor describing the complexities of difficult negotiations for us today known as “Loki’s Wager.” 

Seemingly impassable problems are common in the boardroom. But in most cases, such challenges stem from weak trust and a poor culture around handling conflict. Astute leaders know that the great benefit of team work is leveraging different perspectives toward big problems. To do so requires reframing the intractable, and moving beyond Loki’s most frustrating wager. 

This week on Navigating Change, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright discuss Loki’s Wager, and share insight that can help to adjust our natural assumptions around conflict, trust, and the ground rules required for an effective problem-solving and decision-making engine at the negotiating table. 


Photo Credit: Inspired by Escher by Morgan Paul

83: Growing Independent School Biz Officers with NBOA President Jeff Shields

We’re thrilled to welcome NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shield to the show this week. Jeff has worked tirelessly to ensure that this upcoming annual meeting is the best yet, and shares not only a fantastic origin story of the association, but offers welcomed insight around the importance of the business officer in the tight knit independent school community, and the challenges they face in collaborative work across their campuses. 

68: Linda Penland talks Shared Services, Communication, and Unimarket NOW!

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Howard Teibel will be joining the ranks of presenters at the Unimarket NOW user conference in Nashville October 22-24. To help us get ready, event co-chair Linda Penland joins us today with all the details. Linda has been a Unimarket customer since she lead the project to roll out shared services at her own institution, Creighton University. Today on the show, we talk about the challenges of such an audacious project, the hard work of communication and establishing cultural buy-in to new processes, and building excitement and momentum around important ideas. 

61: How to get the most out of the NACUBO 2014 Annual Meeting

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We’re gearing up for the NACUBO 2014 Annual Meeting in Seattle coming July 19-22. As usual, the NACUBO team has built an incredible catalog of events and learning opportunities and we’re trilled to be a presenting part of it. This week on the show, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright walk through the key strengths of the event, from developing new business officers and helping to cultivate a culture of collaboration across campuses, to their leading voice in public policy around higher eduction. 

This year, Howard will be co-facilitating a presentation on strategic communication with past Navigating Change guests Kelly Fox and Greg Lovins. Together, they’ll lead a discussion on the power of not only sharing a deep understanding of complex financial information, but sharing that information with campus stakeholders in a way that drives strategy across the institution.  

58: Balancing Culture and Innovation Part 2

Listen to Balancing Culture and Innovation at Chautauqua with Deborah Sunya Moore on Navigating Change The Education Podcast

Following up on our conversation with Deborah Sunya Moore from The Chautauqua Institution last week, we’re picking up this conversation around the constant balancing act between building and celebrating a strong culture, and innovating in new areas and directions. The big question: no matter how much we personally celebrate the importance of change, how do you cultivate a culture of change when members of your community do not share your beliefs? This week on the show, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright share insights around building a culture that anticipates and celebrates change and innovation while embracing the legacy of their institutions.


57: Balancing Culture and Innovation at Chautauqua with Deborah Sunya Moore

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Taking on new challenges forces us to re-evaluate existing processes in new ways. This shake-up can introduce discomfort and confusion, par for the course in a change initiative, ultimately all for the reward of greater efficiency, productivity, and affinity. These challenges are magnified when your institution boasts a legacy over 100 years strong. Our guest, Deborah Sunya Moore, serves as associate director of programming with The Chautauqua Institution, an arts and education community in New York on a consistent march to balance innovation and change with the expectations of guests who have been attending Chautauqua for generations. This week on the show, Deborah Sunya Moore joins Howard Teibel and Pete Wright to share how the Chautauqua Institution balances change with culture year after year. 

49: Trust, Change, and Transitioning to Shared Services

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A recent news item cropped up in the Chronicle pointing to a brewing rift between administrators and faculty over a transition to a shared services model. We’ve discussed shared services often on this show, both as a challenge for change agents and an accommodation toward financial sustainability. This week on the show, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright discuss the issues surrounding shared service model specifically, and offer insights for making the transition in a way that helps all constitutes move through the change process smoothly. 


45: Guest Andrew Menke on Leadership and Change at New Hampton School

Our special guest Andrew Menke serves as head of New Hampton School, an independent school with a nearly 200-year legacy in New Hampton, New Hampshire. The school is a model of “talent and shared purpose,” according to Menke, and he’s leading a cooperative of administrators, faculty, and staff working hard to reshape an education landscape.

38: Movers of Rocks: Becoming a Leader of Change

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Becoming a leader of change is about far more than effective project management skill. It’s a unique and delicate art that must balance the processes that support complex organizational systems with the diplomacy to unite groups around big initiatives. This week on the show, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright share thoughts on becoming Leaders of Change as Howard prepares for his presentation on this subject at the National Business Officers Association Annual Meeting this March in Orlando.

37: Setting Standards & Managing Expectations

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The result of bringing together terrific individuals into a team can be a fantastic, productive foray into high calibre collaboration. Over time, we see formerly high capacity teams begin to fray at the edges, and defining clear standards and expectations both inside the team, and across teams and departments, can help to offset challenges. This week on Navigating Change, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright discuss the frustrations that come with accountability, standards, and managing clear expectations across teams. 


35: A hybrid approach to organizational change

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Working with a consultant on your change initiatives — internal or external — requires a shared understanding of expectations. But more important is a clear understanding of what it is you need your consulting partner to deliver. This week on Navigating Change, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright discuss the role of the consultant, the importance of "hired experience," and what it means to partner with an outsider when your internal environment is one of significant complexity. 

32: Dealing with Irrational Anxiety on Teams in Transition

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When we're faced with jarring change — new role, new boss, merged organizations — we are often dealt with a complex individual emotional response. That response is magnified when it comes to team performance, but often for all the wrong reasons. This week on Navigating Change, Howard Teibel and Pete Wright take on the anxiety that comes with big change, and discuss how team responses can impact the transformation you're striving for.

23: Facing Finance Organizational Challenges at the Individual Level

Listen to Facing Finance Organizational Challenges at the Individual Level on Navigating Change The Education Podcast

Following up on our conversation around reflections on NACUBO 2013, we're digging into issues facing the finance organization on today's show. While we hit on the three key points around relationship building, communication, and what it means to be a leader, the real secret lies somewhere in keeping touch on the role of the individual as a seed for change. Join Howard Teibel and Pete Wright for a conversation on change and the challenges facing today's finance organizations this week on Navigating Change!

22: NACUBO 2013 Annual Meeting Reflections

Listen to NACUBO 2013 Annual Meeting Reflections on Navigating Change The Education Podcast

We're back from the NACUBO 2013 Annual Meeting — and what a terrific week it was! Howard Teibel is back with a review of key learnings and an assessment of the evolving direction of the organization. Did NACUBO make good on their renewed focus on Innovation in Higher Education? Listen in this week for our take!


20: Change, complexity, and preparing for NBOA 2012

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This November, I'll be heading to Chicago for the National Business Officers Association (NBOA) 2012 Strategic Leadership Conference. In brief, this is a conference dedicated to the people charged with moving our schools forward in times of great challenge and increasing complexity, with integrity and fiscal stability. I love this topic. 

I'll be taking the stage twice in Chicago, both on Monday, November 5. Mark your calendars: 

  • 8:30 - 10:00 am: Change Leadership: How Change Management Impacts Real Change 
  • 1:00 - 2:30 pm: Learning How to Brainstorm and Map Organizational Process and Structures

I thought it might help to share some of the background to these topics with you in advance, to give you some insight into the kind of work I've been doing that has brought me to this place, and to the structure I'll be sharing with you. This post is the first of three to come over the next week in which I'll discuss the nature of change and the impact of on our schools. In addition, the current episode of my podcast offers a brief summary of my role at NBOA this year. I encourage you to check it out—it's only about 10 minutes long. 

My perspective begins with two fairly simple observations on groups, and how groups deal with complex change.

Observation #1: It’s uncertainty—not change—that makes us crazy

It’s not change that people have an issue with—it’s uncertainty. As a leader, think about your experience delivering tough news to your teams; bad news is almost always better than uncertain news, because bad news is concrete. It opens the door for action. With uncertainty, we are hardwired to anticipate the worst. Rumblings about a new leader in our midst, financial challenges, suggestions of reorganizations—this is just the sort of news that cultivates the environment of uncertainty and sends our teams to pieces.

There are those who have learned to welcome uncertainty. They know that uncertainty is fertile ground for the seeds of new ideas. But most of us don’t have that gene, and don't feel empowered when we can’t see the end of the tunnel. Instead we fall somewhere on a spectrum that leads from shock, through denial and confusion, down the road to frustration. Empathy within this dynamic is core to our role as leaders in our organizations. Being a leader in a volatile situation or crisis is about learning to anticipate where this uncertainty will occur for our teams, steering clear of mob mentality, and facing difficult truths with clarity and confidence.

Observation #2: Innovation & Blame

When asking and tough questions of our teams and organizations risks the status quo, it’s often easier to let circumstances dictate outcomes.

We are generally troubled by innovation and the challenges that come with it in the organization. We accept the value of innovation but don’t want to be the ones to innovate. If we innovate, we get to own the success or failure that comes from it. Ownership is scary.

Even with an increasingly public discourse on tuition increases, lack of financial aid, and loss of state aid—creating a climate of indefinite instability—we’re still waiting for answers that aren't coming. That’s because the answer doesn’t lie in a box that someone else hasn’t yet opened. It lies in getting a collective perspective of administrators, faculty, alumni, students, and key stakeholders, and asking questions that uncover the problem—not just the problem as we think we understand it. The answer lies in innovation.

Because innovation is scary, it is a breeding ground for blame. Tuition shortfall? Clearly that must be a finance department issue, so we'll blame them. Enrollment is sluggish? Clearly the admissions department is not pulling its weight, they're to blame. Academics, facilities, administration—we can find reasons to saddle each with the blame for something. But our better selves know that blame is counterproductive. The sooner we find a systematic fashion for getting the very best of each group to solve our collective issues together, the sooner we will begin to craft a foundation for strength and growth.

19: Helping Employees Embrace Change

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Howard Teibel

Howard Teibel

Originally published in HRHorizons for the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), Helping Employees Embrace Change, outlines the key elements that cause fear and confusion in team members when confronted with significant change, and how that individual frustration directly impacts success of organizational change initiatives. Howard Teibel offers a framework for positive change, offering the techniques your organization can impliement to turn natural confusion into a positive learning and growth opportunity.

This week on the Navigating Change Podcast, join Howard Teibel and Pete Wright for a discussion on the change framework introduced in the article, and the importance of building a positive change environment.

Helping Employees Embrace Change

What happens when anticipated change becomes your worst fear?
— Howard Teibel, "Helping Employees Embrace Change"

Halfway through my most recent talk at a higher education conference, I told the attendees that I wanted the first three rows to move to the back of the room and the last three rows to move to the front. After a brief pause of bewilderment and disbelief, attendees started gathering their belongings to move. That’s when I announced: “You don’t have to move. This is only a test.” The imaginary pitch forks aimed at me transformed into a collective sigh of relief.

For most of us, something routine like picking a seat at a conference entails a simple calculation: Sit in the back if you want to sneak out or text without being seen; sit in the front if you want to be actively involved in the discussion; or sit in the middle if you want the benefit of both those options. Whenever you ask someone to get out of their comfort zone—such as moving to a different seat—the reaction is often as predictable as it is humorous: Are you kidding? Why? I’m not moving.

Those same responses tend to surface whenever a system implementation is announced. Consider also the common reaction when word comes down that a restructuring will take within your division or perhaps organization wide. In both cases, internal emotional chaos ensues.

Is it possible to help ourselves and others relate to big changes in a way that empowers a positive reaction, even when the change appears on the surface to be negative? How can we learn to shift our mental framework from thinking about the bad things that might happen to envisioning the opportunities we can create for ourselves and others?

Three Common Reactions to Change

First, consider three different reactions to change.

1. Cool ambivalence. Sheila has been working for her college for the past 18 years. Coming to work one morning she discovers an e-mail from her associate dean describing a plan to restructure the department, along with some changes in management. A consultant would be helping with the process. The rumors start buzzing, as staff members attempt to interpret the hidden meaning behind the announcement. Most of Sheila’s coworkers are 10 to 20 years younger and have little experience with change in the workplace. Sheila, on the other hand, recognizes this as something she has been through many times before. Over lunch she proceeds to share her perspective with coworkers to alleviate their fears about how wide-sweeping the change will likely be and suggests they not worry about much actually changing. This is simply someone’s latest “great idea” that they will need to weather.

2. Irrational anxiety. Bob, an IT manager, is responsible for the human resource and financial systems used across the campus. He has been in this role for two years, having worked his way up the organizational chart during the past 10 years. During a staff meeting with the head of the department, Bob learns that the university is looking for a new strategy to replace the constant upgrades and patches needed to keep these systems current. A task force has been assembled focused on exploring ways to significantly improve efficiency in IT, specifically in the areas Bob supports. Upon hearing this news, his first thoughts are that his own job is in jeopardy. He proceeds to e-mail every colleague in the department detailing how bad this change will be. Within a week, half of the staff members in his department think they are in danger of losing their jobs. Two months later Bob is still talking about how bad the change will be, and his department remains in a state of high anxiety.

3. Positive purpose. Joan joined the human resources department three years ago and enthusiastically wants to make a difference in the university’s hiring practices and processes, bringing to bear her unique perspective and success from her previous institution. Within six months Joan discovers how difficult it is to integrate new practices among her coworkers. Despite the skepticism she has encountered—including from her boss—Joan is determined not to give up trying to initiate positive changes. Every time someone tells her why something can’t be done, Joan listens and then shares her vision for a different way to consider the issue.

Sheila, Bob, and Joan reveal distinct reactions people can have when facing change. Sheila’s tenure at the college makes her resilient, but also ambivalent and unenthusiastic. Bob is waiting for the next shoe to drop—and in the meantime is stirring up anxiety among his coworkers. Joan not only ignores the negativity of others, but continues to offer ideas for making positive changes for her department and the institution.

What causes people to have such varied reactions in the face of change? Different life experiences, a perceived lack of options or fear of loss, and poor self-esteem or low confidence are among the many factors that may contribute to how an individual reacts to something new or different. How can we improve our personal reactions to an anticipated change and help others do the same? Often, the problem is not change itself but the ambiguity that change creates. Marilyn Ferguson, author of The Aquarian Conspiracy, may have characterized it best when she said:

“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear… It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.”

Change forces us not only to recognize that we can’t rest in our comfort zone, but also to confront the fact that we might not be able to look forward sufficiently to see where we will land. Any change requires venturing into that middle place and looking for some hint of light at the end of the tunnel.

Taking the Positive Approach

"With a new governor, a new board of trustees and the reality that we are now a tuition-dependent institution, our organization needed help embracing change. I was looking for a way to help our managers and staff understand that personal responsibility for navigating change in our professional lives is a key component of a high-performing team,” says Bob Shea, vice president for business affairs at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI).

This need led Shea to offer a workshop to his division focused on learning to better accept and embrace change. In reflecting on the workshop, Shea noted that the people who benefited most from the workshop were those who brought a certain perspective to the experience. “The common thread among those who found it most useful were those having an open mind and some level of optimism for the future.”

One CCRI staff member who participated in the workshop recognized that she needed to adjust how she viewed work challenges. Terrie-Lynn Bell, media specialist in the IT department, had felt overwhelmed by the learning curve of her work and didn’t think she knew enough to do her job well. She was concerned she wouldn’t be able to resolve certain issues on her own, especially with regard to helping faculty with technical issues in the classroom.

Among the insights Bell took away from the workshop were the need to bring a positive attitude to each new challenge and to surround herself with others who also have a positive outlook. Getting on the negative bandwagon only spreads those negative vibes to others, and that can impact your own progress and success, observes Bell, who interacts frequently with students and faculty in her job. “If you struggle, they struggle. If you’re comfortable, they’re comfortable. If you laugh, they laugh.”

Four Rooms, Four Views

While most of us are hard-wired to seek what is within our comfort zone (e.g., a particular seat in a room), and while some of us are able to let the ambiguity of something new roll off our shoulders, there is a common cycle we all go through in times of real change. During the workshops at CCRI, attendees were introduced to the four-room model of change developed by Swedish psychologist Claes Janssen, which allowed them to identify where they were within the institution’s change cycle and became a useful mechanism for beginning to feel a greater sense of control for taking positive action.

The four rooms of Janssen’s model are contentment, denial, confusion, and renewal. The four-room model can be applied to any type of change—a reorganization, a potential layoff, or watching your child head off to college. Let’s use the implementation of a new hiring system to consider this model.

Contentment room. Within the workplace, a very familiar example of traveling through the four rooms is evident when an institution rolls out a new technology campuswide. Before the current system is shut down and the new system is up and running, most of us are in a place of contentment. Logging in, processing a transaction, and logging out is second nature—something we could almost do in our sleep.

Denial room. Then on a Monday morning you go to process a new transaction and nothing is the same. Yes, you received training on the new tool, but let’s be honest: Does anyone really pay attention until they have to do something for real? By the time you’ve reminded yourself how to log in to the new system, you could have processed the entire transaction and gone to lunch using the old system. It doesn’t take long for a sense of frustration, anger, and desire for the old system to return. In the denial room, you longingly look back and want to forget the reality of the change.

Confusion room. Most of us do need time to vent our frustrations, blame management, or get over our initial discomfort. Yet, at some point we must move on and “get with the program.” The sooner we recognize that no one is listening to our complaints and the new system is here to stay, the more quickly we can enter this third room. At this point we’re not completely ready to let go of the past, but we start to make greater efforts to get through the change. (This is also that middle place described by Ferguson, where we can’t bring back the past, but we don’t yet see how we’re going to end up in a better place.) Confusion itself is often misunderstood. This is an emotional state that actually signals the beginning of learning and the foundation for accepting something new. The next time someone shares with you how confused they are, respond “that’s fantastic.” You may get some odd stares, but what we’re really saying when we’re confused is that we’re trying to learn how to do something. We’re using our energy to look forward versus looking back. Getting to this room is a key milestone in navigating change.

Renewal room. As the confusion starts to wane and we develop a greater comfort and confidence with the new system, we find ourselves admitting that maybe the new way is better than the old way. This is when we enter the fourth room, and with it comes a sense of relief and satisfaction for having successfully tackled the change. In some cases, renewal may not last long before the cycle begins again—especially when it comes to perpetual technology upgrades.

Dealing With Big Amorphous Change

What happens when an anticipated change becomes your worst fear? For many in the workplace, that fear is losing one’s job. Immediately after the financial crisis of 2008, Brown University faced a 25 percent reduction in its endowment. Senior leadership took this as an opportunity to look for ways to streamline work, including not filling vacancies, providing for early retirement, and weighing potential layoffs. Brown leadership recognized this would be a challenging time for its people.

With a goal of helping the larger organization deal with the need to significantly reduce costs and potentially reduce head count, Karen Davis, Brown’s vice president for human resources, seized the opportunity to provide leadership for those who needed help adjusting to the ambiguity of what the future held. “In the early days of the financial crisis, we knew that it was likely going to have a significant impact on our bottom line as well as on jobs. However, we weren't sure of the size of the impact, nor could we predict what our comprehensive response strategy would be,” says Davis.

What Brown’s leaders did know was that the university was in for a period of dramatic change—something that typically does not come easy in the higher education environment. That convinced Davis of the need to help prepare the university community for change. “Our hope was to channel the collective worry into something more positive for individuals as well as for our community overall.”

Davis and her team focused on helping the larger organization deal with facts in a way that empowered them to take action rather than cause additional anxiety. The university sponsored a series of change-management workshop designed in conjunction with Brown’s Center for Learning and Professional Development, led by Judy Nabb. The workshop provided a forum for employees to articulate fears and concerns (personal as well as work-related) and to share them with colleagues. The workshops also provided an opportunity to learn new strategies for dealing with uncertainty, for pushing through change, and for taking control of one’s work life. Over the course of eight months, more than 260 Brown employees took advantage of the workshop experience.

According to Davis, the impact was positive and dramatic. Many employees benefited immediately from simply having a safe forum in which to express concerns about their jobs; the effect of the downturn on their families, friends, and neighbors; and even about Brown’s future. The relief many workshop participants felt after these conversations allowed them to focus on what they could do to prepare for the future, both personally and professionally, notes Davis. Ultimately, this led to a better understanding of university concerns and greater commitment to helping address the institution’s financial challenges rather than resisting the changes required to tackle them head-on.

As Michelle Venditelli, one Brown workshop attendee, stated: “There was a great sense of unease during that time, and I found the focus on change in this workshop experience very helpful. It gave me great tips for how to deal with stress on a personal level, but also helped me be better equipped as a manager to deal with the stress that my staff were feeling.”

Much of that spirit carries on today as the university community continues to deal with the fallout from the financial crisis and several significant leadership changes, new programmatic priorities, and external political threats, says Davis.

Unlearning and Relearning

Futurist and author Alvin Toffler once stated that the illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those who can’t read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn, and relearn. That remains a prophetic statement for the period of accelerating change facing many higher education institutions today. Unlearning is about allowing ourselves to go through the full cycle of change—from contentment to renewal. Personal power resides with our ability to recognize what is in front of us and to be willing to push through our own denial and confusion to reach that light at the end.

So, the next time you go to a workshop, consider changing your seat after the break. You might find a small power in shaking up your vantage point and in not waiting for someone else to tell you to move.