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Ideas for Leaders Merryn Rutledge, Ed. D.,
Principal, ReVisions LLC
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Current Projects

• Teaching Management of Change, University of Vermont MBA course, June, 2011.  Register at: http:// learn.uvm.edu/ courselistsummer/ course.php?term=201106 &crn=60385
• Guiding an IT department in clarifying decision making
• Teaching strategic leadership to public sector managers

• Herb Stevenson’s article at http://www. cleveland consultinggroup. com. Look for "Paradoxical theory of change.”
• Rick Maurer’s book Beyond the Wall of Resistance, Bard Press, 2010. See also his website: http://www. beyondresistance.com/
• Introduction to Everett Rogers’ pioneering work, The Diffusion of Innovations. See the podcast at http://www. askaboutchange. com. (Search for Rogers.)

ReVisions LLC Is...

• Connecting mission and results
• Employee engagement strategies
• Strategic planning
• Coaching
• Managing change

http://www.revisions. org/ about.php

Resistance to Change

In my work guiding change, I have noticed a tendency for people in organizations to describe the difficulties of making change as “resistance to change.”  

When it is put this way, resistance is a vague force that needs to be fought or pushed back.  We may feel resentful or angry about “resistors,” as though they are simply unreasonable.  A leader who is driving change may feel like the CEO who once said, only half joking, “be reasonable; see it my way!”

Seen in these ways, resistance—or even the whole change initiative—becomes a battle among opposing forces.  When people are bracing for a fight, they gird themselves with the armor of defensive reasoning and try to wear “opponents” down with strong-armed (and usually reason-based) persuasion. 

Unfortunately, this way of framing resistance does not help build support and commitment.

What if we were to see resistance as valuable information? As author Rick Maurer puts it,  “resistance protects us from harm....From the vantage point of the person resisting, caution is absolutely the right course of action.”  

Framing resistance as valuable information transforms our challenge. Instead of opposing resistance, use it as an invitation for discovery.

  • • What is this resistance about?
  • • What is the perceived harm?
  • • What are you asking people to give up or let go of?
  • • How are people feeling, and what does this suggest about your message and actions? (Reasoned arguments will not reach or change these feelings.)
  • • As a leader, do you have people’s trust?

There are hard questions—and the answers may contain treasures.

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Making Meetings Memorable

When David Straus tells facilitators to “harness the power of group memory,” he’s urging us to display our notes during meetings so that participants use them to improve their deliberations. Facilitators write on flipcharts because we want everybody to be able to track the major points that lead to clear agreements and decisions.

But when some people attend by Skype or phone conference, taking notes on the web—in Google docs, for instance—gives virtual participants full access to the meeting.

There are challenges to using technologies like Google docs.

  • • When you use such web-based tools, virtual attendees may experience delays in what appears on their screens. My clients say these delays are tolerable. It helps to ask people to refresh their screens often.
  • • Projecting Google docs to a screen can shift the focus from the human interaction to the notes. Try angling the meeting or conference table so the screen is slightly off to the side—just as one might place a flipchart stand at an angle to a table. As a meeting leader, I have to work harder to capitalize on the power of group interaction.
  • • Because meeting notes are displayed so prominently, some group members will have a tendency to wordsmith. Encourage the group to agree upon the purpose of notes. For instance, if you are brainstorming, people should understand that on-the-spot editing is not useful. If the group is working to create the main points of a proposal or plan, people should understand that the notes are meant to capture main points. As I write, I frequently ask, “Is what I’ve captured a fair record or paraphrase?” The question checks my accuracy and also reminds people that what is important is the heart or gist.
  • • The meeting leader splits his/her attention by typing while guiding the group process. One solution is for the meeting leader to get better at scribing; this is what trained facilitators do when we are using flipcharts, after all. A second solution is for the facilitator to teach someone else to take notes the way a good facilitator does.
  • Even though tools like Google docs are not ideal, there are advantages:
  • • More people can participate fully. I served on a board with a person whose disability made it hard for her to get to meetings. She was at a disadvantage even calling into meetings. Had we used Google docs, she could have fully participated from her home.
  • • It saves money when every single person doesn’t have to be in the room. I am working on a project where a group member joins us from the West coast. Without using audio and visual technologies, she could not attend bi-weekly meetings.
  • • When the meeting ends, notes are already typed and easy to edit. Saving time saves money.

In planning and problem solving meetings, notes ARE the collective and collected memory that helps group members focus and think. All team members should literally be on the same page.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Dr. Merryn Rutledge.
Early Spring 2011 • Volume 14 • Number 1

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ReVisions LLC connecting leaders to plan strategy & facilitate change

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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